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Prominent Chinese Roots in Libourne

Viceroy LEE Hung Chang (1823-1901) and his older brother Viceroy LEE Han Chang (1821-1899), great, great, great grandfather of Cherise MOUEIX.

Emperor Guangxu (1871-1908), nephew of Empress Dowager Cixi.

Cherise MOUEIX's maternal great grandfather (seated) LEE Kuo Cheng (1879-1919). Her grandmother is on the extreme right in the front row. The young man standing on the right is Cherise Moueix's great grand uncle BIEN Po Mei, the first Chinese graduate student from Brown University. This picture was taken in the United States of America.

Empress Dowager Cixi (1835-1908), the real power behind the dragon throne. She put her younger sister's son, Emperor Guangxu, under house arrest until death claimed him (reputedly poisoned by Cixi).

Cherise MOUEIX photographed in April 2010 outside the offices of Etablissements Jean-Pierre Moueix, the wine negociant company owned by her husband Christian MOUEIX.

Cherise MOUEIX was director of an art gallery in Paris where she met Christian MOUEIX in 1992. The couple live in Libourne.

Clara Koo CHEN, mother of Cherise MOUEIX, worked for 30 years with the World Bank, also in Washington DC. She retired in 1987 as the Planning & Programming Officer in one of their largest departments. Today, Clara Koo Chen lives in Napa Valley, not far from Dominus, the winery of her son-in-law Christian MOUEIX.

Story And Photos By Ch'ng Poh Tiong
Black And White Photos Courtesy Of Clara Koo Chen

Lovers of Pomerol, and of Saint-Emilion too, probably are not aware that the main centre for the trade of those great Right Bank Bordeaux wines is Libourne. And if they did and were visiting the town for the very first time, would probably be surprised by how such a laid back place in France can be instrumental in dispatching some of the most prized, and priciest, wines to the great cities and restaurants around the world.

If Libourne's importance to the trade in Pomerol and Saint-Emilion wines is not a commonly known fact, the next one is practically a secret.

On the fringe of the town, in one of the quietest, but also one of the most beautiful, homes in Libourne, there lives the great, great, great granddaughter of Viceroy LEE Han Chang (1821-1899).

Lord Lee was a relative by marriage to the family of Sun Chia-nai, tutor to the ill-fated, reform minded Emperor Guangxu (1871-1908), nephew of Empress Dowager Cixi (1835-1908), the real power behind the dragon throne who put her younger sister's son under house arrest until death claimed him.

Lee's younger brother Viceroy LEE Hung Chang (1823-1901), Grand Secretary of China for 25 years, was effectively that country's Prime Minister except he was even more powerful than that because he was also involved in the military and navy and was China's chief foreign policy spokesman during his time in office.

Both brothers passed some of the highest levels of the Imperial Examinations when they were in their 20s, and Lee Hung Chang was admitted to the prestigious Hanlin Academy.

Lee Hung Chang's (Wade-Giles translation) name is today written as Li Hongzhang. In earlier Chinese history books, he is portrayed unfavourably and even regarded as a traitor because, as Grand Secretary of China, he was the one to have to sign all those unequal treaties the country entered into because of the weakness of the Manchu Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) in its sunset years.

There has, however, for some time now, been a reappraisal of Lee's legacy. Considerably more positive, Marquis Lee (and, posthumously, the title Earl, the highest given to Han Chinese by the Manchus) is now credited with being a reformer who tried to modernize the Chinese military, navy and industry along Western lines. Indeed, he is, these days, referred to as 'the first man to advocate the open-door policy in China'.

Li's former residence in the centre of Hefei, capital of Anhui, is one of the province's top tourist attractions, and proudly exhibits photographs of visits by some of the top brass of China's present government.

As for his elder brother Lee Han Chang, Viceroy of both Kwantung (Wade-Giles translation) or Guangdong, and Kwangsi (Wade-Giles translation) or Guangxi Provinces, he was the great, great, great grandfather of Cherise MOUEIX (nee Chen), wife of Christian MOUEIX, Chairman of J. P. Moueix (the negociant house founded by his father Jean-Pierre Moueix on the Quai du Priourat, Libourne), proprietor of estates including Chateaux Hosanna, Magdelaine and Belair-Monange in Bordeaux, and Dominus in Napa Valley. (The Moueix family also owns an important collection of modern and contemporary art).

Born in America, apart from her prominent Chinese roots, Cherise Moueix also has some other very illustrious ancestry.

Her maternal great grandfather KOO Chen Fu (1875-1935), although of more modest means than his wife SUN To Kang (1871-1944), was a man of letters and founder and principal of China's first women's 'normal' school. Koo also insisted that all his daughters, like sons, be well educated. This was a very progressive view for a Chinese of his time.

As for Cherise Moueix's maternal great grandmother, the Sun family was immensely wealthy. Not only did they send many of their male offsprings to study in America, the Suns open the first mechanized flour mill in China, owned a coal mine outside Tianjin and also owned a private bank in Shanghai.

Then, there are the more artistic relations. Cherise Moueix's maternal grandmother LEE Chia Jung (1899-1977) was a gifted calligrapher and painter of Chinese art. She was also a talented amateur singer of Chinese opera and, some times, took to the stage in both Washington DC and Taiwan.

Perhaps the most illustrious member of Cherise Moueix's more recent family tree is her maternal grandfather.

KOO Yee Chun (1900-1992) was a graduate of the prestigious Beijing University and garnered three graduate degrees within three years in the United States, a Master's degree in economics from Ohio State University, a Master's degree in accounting and also an MBA from New York University. Upon returning to China, he taught at the highly regarded Tsinghua University in Beijing.

Later, Koo joined his mother's family bank in Shanghai. He later became head of the Kwangtung (or Guangdong) Provincial Bank where he had a brilliant career including lending money to farmers, a move that was considered revolutionary in those days.

When the Japanese invaded, Koo joined the Kwangtung provincial government of the day as Minister of Finance for the province. Although the title is very grand, the conditions, brought on by the war, were basic to the bone. Koo's young family lived in wood cabins without any electricity, plumbing or heating.

Such was the adulation Koo Yee Chun engendered amongst the local Cantonese people, that on his 40th birthday, employees of the five organizations he headed queued for miles to wish him longevity.

In 1940, with the war still raging on, Koo was appointed head of the Farmers Bank in Chungking, the war capital of China. He also selflessly took on several other roles, including as one of two Under Secretaries of Finance.

Koo Yee Chun's contribution to the larger financial world took on an international complexion in 1944 when, representing China, he attended the Bretton Woods Conference which, of course, led to the formation of the IMF or International Monetary Fund.

He was a member of the IMF's first board of Executive Directors in 1946. In 1950 Koo became Deputy Treasurer and then Treasurer in 1953 until his retirement in 1966.

On a less exalted scale but surpassing almost the 23 years her father spent at the IMF, Clara Koo CHEN, mother of Cherise Moueix, worked for 30 years with the World Bank, also in Washington DC. She retired in 1987 as the Planning & Programming Officer in one of their largest departments.

Today, Clara Koo Chen lives in Napa Valley, not far from Dominus, the winery of her son-in-law Christian MOUEIX.

On her paternal side, Cherise Moueix's grandfather, CHEN Chieh (1889-1951), served as China's ambassador to pre-war Germany and Latin America at-large. Upon his death, Juan PERON (1895-1974), President of Argentina, accorded Chen a state funeral as a gesture of their personal friendship.

With a family history so very colourful, Cherise Chen, as she was then, met Christian Moueix in late 1992.

"We first met in Paris. I was then the director of an art gallery and, one fine day, this tall Frenchman walked in and asked a few questions about some American artists that he was not familiar with. In the course of our conversation, I, in turn, asked about some French artists I wasn't too knowledgeable about."

The two discovered they shared common passions for the arts, architecture and champagne and, at the end of 1994, they tied the knot, their marriage vow facilitated by silky bubbles and velvety Pomerol.

No wonder Chinese people all over the world love the wines of Bordeaux.

All Rights Reserved · The Wine Review · 2013