“My Story” by Tai-Ling Wong, Head of Retail Services for USC Pacific Asia Museum Store


“If I could do it, you can do it!” This was from my long-time friend Leslee. We were talking on the phone shortly before I was to leave on an architecture and gardens tour of Japan with my parents. Leslee had lived in Japan for a year or so, and was encouraging me to do the same. Since I was already going to be there, I might as well stay for a while, teach English to pay for food and lodging. Thus far my farthest travel experience had been family car trips to San Francisco.

But by the end of the tour, I had decided to take Leslee’s advice. Later, through her family’s L.A. Asian antiques store contacts, I was able to work for about a year at Rakuyo Shoten, under the kind tutelage of elderly Uyeda San who ran the lovely shop in Kyoto’s rustic antique store area. Here I learned to recognize Japanese blue and white or multicolored Imari porcelain ware and to love and appreciate Oribe ware with its characteristic loosely painted deep green and brown hand painted designs.

It was again Leslee who recommended me when the museum was looking for a manager of their store.  She figured the combination of my art school background, years of retail experience, plus five year sojourn in Asia would give me a broad experiential background that could be brought to good use in the museum store.

So, here I am over 12 years later. Still enjoying introducing people to various Asian cultures through the items that I’ve had the pleasure of hand-selecting for the store.

Please come and visit our unique store, just in time for holiday shopping. And I’ll tell you lots more stories about all of our special pieces.

— Tai-Ling Wong


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