From Cantonese to Mandarin: Mrs Fung and the changes in the Chinese community.

Monday May 14th, 2012 by 2 Comments

Photos from the Fung family’s restaurant  東方 Orient Express. I was keen to meet with members of Sheffield’s established Chinese community, to hear their perspective on the changes in the city over the years. After eating in Orient Express with Linna Wei, I spoke to the owners and found out that this family restaurant is run by the sons of Susan Fung, who herself has been living in Sheffield for over 50 years.

Mrs Fung migrated to England with her family when she was 9, they ran a laundry in Scarborough for several years before moving to Sheffield. Her father’s Uncle and his English wife set up the first Chinese restaurant in the city, from their front room in Attercliffe.

Mrs Fung started her own restaurant on London Road in 1962, and in 1965 moved to a 200-seater restaurant on Matilda Street ‘where people used to queue up on a Friday and Saturday night’. They kept this restaurant for 40 years, enjoying retirement for the best part of a decade before finding the premises for Orient Express. Mrs Fung’s sons are in charge of the restaurant although she is there most days; ‘if I’m at home I’ll just fall asleep’.

Mrs Fung’s family are Cantonese and she spoke to me here about the changes in language and cuisine that have resulted from the increased number of students from mainland China:


Mrs Fung with her son David, and grandson Reese.

It was fascinating to chat with Mrs Fung and to hear a little about her family history and although it’s just an introduction to the established community through one family, I felt it important to show. On a personal level it also firmed up some ideas I’ve had about extending this project in the future, working with different groups within the Chinese community, both in Sheffield and further afield.

2 Comments on “From Cantonese to Mandarin: Mrs Fung and the changes in the Chinese community.”

  1. 1 Jack said at 11:19 pm on May 14th, 2012:

    I always went to the Oriental Express for dinner, because I found the Noodles with Braised Beef Briskets very delicious. This dish reminds me my days in my home town, Guangdong, where Cantonese is mainly spoken. Other than the food, what keeps me going there is the feeling like home. As Mandarin has been popularised in P.R.China for more than 50 years, I am surprised that Cantonese is so popular in Chinese communities here in UK. Story about Mrs Fung’s family brought me a lot of thoughts. I wonder how they could survive in a country with completely different language and culture in the old days;how they feel being minority in Britain;how they think of the soaring number of students with the same skin colour with them, speaking their familiar mother tongue and another ‘new’ branch of Chinese language.

    Besides, what arouses my curiosity is the wall painting on the wall inside the restaurant. The mountain with snow-capped peak should be Yulong Mountain in Lijiang, Yunnan, and the lake should be Heilong Tan.( Why did Mrs Fung and her sons choose this as interior decoration for the restaurant? Is it simply because the scenery is beautiful, or does it mean anything to them? I’m going find it out before leaving UK back to China.

  2. 2 Olli Warelius said at 7:43 am on May 26th, 2012:

    wonderful post.Never knew this, regards for letting me know.