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Joseph Yang

February 3, 2019

Joseph Yang (Yang Zu-wu) died on Feb. 3 in his Carmel home, which he named Deep in White Clouds. He was born Christmas 1928 in Xinmin, Liaoning Province, China during the warlord era.
His first memories were of the explosion of a Japanese bomb and hiding underground. He grew up under Japanese occupation, the Soviet onslaught and the civil war that ensued. At 17, he fled on foot, clambered aboard refugee trains, boats, swam swollen rivers to escape Communism, (which had stripped his family of its land and property and evicted his grandfather to beg in the countryside.) In Canton, Joseph was dragooned by the Nationalists and shipped to Taiwan. Later he taught school to aboriginal children in the remote mountains of Taoyuan.
After being transferred to Taidong city, he met and fell in love with the teacher Laning Lin. They married and together set off for college in Taipei. Xuan/Belle was born to them in 1960. The family of three moved to Tokyo where Joseph earned an MA in international relations at Meiji University. Under the auspices of the 1965 Hart-Celler Act, he brought his family to the United States, settling in Carmel, CA.
Joseph and Laning opened an antiques and art gallery in which Joseph showed his paintings and wire art. His nom de plume was He Fei—Crane Flying. His prodigious knowledge of history was sought by many.
In 1986, Joseph sent Belle to study art in Beijing and on her return after the Tiananmen Massacre, she wrote and illustrated three non-fiction books on Joseph's life and times: "Baba: A Return to China Upon My Father's Shoulders", Harcourt Brace; "The Odyssey of a Manchurian", Harcourt Brace; "Forget Sorrow", WW Norton and Company, and many children's books based on his childhood memories.
In his last days his skin shone with an ethereal glow noted by his friends, nurse and family. He asked Belle and Laning to light a single stick of incense on his death.
His daughter is proud he never capitulated to ascendent authoritarian China. His paintings, poems and calligraphy will be collected by UC Santa Cruz. He is represented by Hauk Fine Arts in Pacific Grove.

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