Film Screening: Under the Willow Tree: Pioneer Chinese Women in Canada

Tuesday, May 25, 2021 from 11:30am-1:00pm ET

A rich and little-known part of Canadian history unfolds through the stories of the first Chinese women to come to Canada and of subsequent generations of Chinese Canadian women.

It is an amazing tale of courageous women who left behind their families, knowing they would never see them again and of girls who were shipped off to the New World to marry men they had never met. These are the women who fought against the many forms of racism they faced in Canada while, at the same time, challenging sexism within their own communities. By passing on language, culture, and values to their children, these women defined what it means to be Chinese Canadian. Beautiful old photographs from family albums, the recollections of seven women who grew up in Canada in the first half of the 20th century, and the memories of narrator and director, Dora Nipp, whose grandfather came to Canada in 1881 to build the railway, create a remarkable story of stunning impact.

This film is 51 minutes.


The film screening will be followed by a Q & A panel.

Xing Fan (she/her)

Associate Professor, Centre for Drama, Theatre, and Performance Studies
University of Toronto

Dr. Xing Fan is Associate Professor and Associate Director, Graduate, at the Centre for Drama, Theatre, and Performance Studies at the University of Toronto. She is a specialist in Chinese drama, theatre, and performance culture. Her broader research interests include practice and aesthetics in Asian performance, historiography, inter-cultural collaborations, gender and performance, sound studies and theatre, and pedagogy. Dr. Fan is the author of Staging Revolution: Artistry and Aesthetics in Model Beijing Opera during the Cultural Revolution (HKUP 2018).

Amanda Ann-Min Wong (she/they)

Master of Arts Student, Cinema Studies Institute, University of Toronto

Amanda Ann-Min Wong (she/they) is a Toronto-based film director, writer, sound artist, and musician. Her work explores themes of loss, nostalgia, and memory, as well as finding purpose and community through the arts. She is also currently completing her M.A. at the University of Toronto’s Cinema Studies Institute.

Her short films have screened internationally; nominated for awards such as the Golden Sheaf Award at Yorkton, a Best Canadian Short Award at VAFF, and the Iris Prize in Cardiff, Wales. She has also previously worked in television research and production.

In her free time, Amanda loves rocking out with her all-queer East Asian band, cutsleeve, whose debut EP the parts we could not abandon was released in 2020 to critical acclaim.

Lisa Rose Mar (she/her)

Associate Professor, Department of History
University of Toronto

Lisa Mar specializes in modern Canadian and U.S. immigration and ethnic history, especially the experiences of Asian Canadians and Asian Americans. Her research focuses on Chinese Canadians and Chinese Americans, their relations with their neighbours, and connections between global and local multicultural experiences in Canada. Mar’s first book, Brokering Belonging: Chinese in Canada’s Exclusion Era, 1885-1945 (Oxford University Press, 2010), exemplifies her blending of Canadian and Pacific World Studies by tracing how community leaders’ political struggles to represent Chinese Canadians’ concerns to Canadian institutions revealed a Canada deeply embedded in a Pacific World that joined China, the United States and the British Empire.

Mar is currently working on two book projects: an historical study of ethnic Chinese Confucianism in Canada and the United States during the 19th and 20th century, and a comparative history of Chinese in Canada and in the United States during the Second World War.

Lesley Mak (she/her)

Assistant Dean & Registrar, Lawrence S. Bloomberg Faculty of Nursing
University of Toronto


Lesley Mak is a second-generation immigrant and settler on this land. Her family hails from Macau and mainland China and has ancestry that links back to Iron Staff Mak 600 AD. Her passions include Blue Jays baseball, playing softball and making whole cloth quilts.

Currently she is the Assistant Dean and Registrar at the Lawrence S. Bloomberg Faculty of Nursing. Previous leadership roles include Associate Director, Academic Program Services for UofT’s Rotman Commerce programs and Assistant Director, Student Experience and Teaching Development at UofT’s Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering. Her ethos of collaboration, strategic system development and mentoring in every moment, permeates her work as a leader and community member at the University of Toronto.

Registration closed

Format: Film screening and Q & A
Platform: Virtual – Zoom
Audience: Open to students, staff, faculty, and external community

If you require accommodation, please email Saimah Baig and we will work with you to make appropriate arrangements. Live captioning will be available to all participants during the session.

For any other inquiries about this event, please contact Aamer Esmail.