Poy Gum Lee

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Poy Gum Lee
Born1900 (1900)
Died1968 (aged 67–68)
Bakersfield, California
NationalityAmerican, Chinese
Other namesPoy Lee, Lee Poy Gum,
Jinpei Li
Alma materPratt Institute
Parent(s)Lee Yick Dep, Ng Lan Yin
PracticeYoung Men’s Christian Association’s China Building Bureau, New York City Housing Authority
BuildingsChinese Consolidated Benevolent Association
ProjectsSun Yat-sen Mausoleum, Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall

Poy Gum Lee (Chinese: 李锦沛; pinyin: Lǐ Jǐnpèi; 1900–1968)[1] also known as Poy Lee, Lee Poy Gum and Li Jinpei was a Chinese-American architect. Known for his Art Deco buildings with Chinese architectural influence or "Chinese Deco", many of which were located in Shanghai and Chinatown in New York City.


Born January 1900, the eldest of 15 children to Cantonese parents Lee Yick Dep and Ng Lan Yin (also known as Ng She).[2][3][4] He grew up at 32 Mott Street above the family store in the Chinatown neighborhood in New York City.[5][4] During World War I, he served with the United States Army.[6] He attended Pratt Institute, graduating in 1920 in Architecture. Lee took architecture extension classes at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1921 and later at Columbia University in 1922.[2]

By 1923, Lee and his family moved to China where he worked on various architecture projects and earned him admiration for his work.[2] In 1926 he married Pansy Choye in Shanghai.[2] He worked as an architect in China for 25 years.[6] Hired by the Young Men’s Christian Association’s China Building Bureau, he worked on 11 buildings for the YMCA and YWCA in China and also working on the Sun Yat-sen Mausoleum (1926-1929) and Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall (1929-1931).[2][6]

During World War II, the Japanese seized his home in Shanghai and left his family impoverished.[1] After the war, with his wife and three children moved to the United States.[1] He worked primarily in Chinatown in New York after his return to the U.S. and worked with the New York City Housing Authority.[1] Some of the postwar projects he worked on included; Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association building in New York City (1959), On Leong Tong Merchant’s Association building (1948-1950), Kimlau Memorial Arch - a Chinese American WWII Monument in Kimlau Square (1962), and Pagoda Theatre (1963).[7]

He died on March 24, 1968 in Bakersfield, California at the age of 68.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Kahn, Eve M. (2015-09-10). "The Architect Poy Gum Lee Finally Has a Retrospective". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2017-05-10.
  2. ^ a b c d e Nellist, George Ferguson Mitchell (1935). Men of Shanghai and North China: A Standard Biographical Reference Work. The University Press.
  3. ^ Prengel, Kate (2016-03-02). "The Architect Who Melded Tradition and Modernism in New York's Chinatown". Hyperallergic Magazine. Retrieved 2017-05-10.
  4. ^ a b Chinese Style: Rediscovering the Architecture of Poy Gum Lee 1923–1968, September 24 2015 - January 31, 2016 (PDF). New York: Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA). 2015. Retrieved 2017-05-09.
  5. ^ Van Norden, Warner M. (1918). Who's Who of the Chinese in New York. University of Michigan. Retrieved 2017-05-09.
  6. ^ a b c d "Funeral Scheduled for China Architect Poy Lee". Bakersfield Californian News. 1968-03-26.
  7. ^ "Chinese Style: Rediscovering the Architecture of Poy Gum Lee, 1923-1968". Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA). 2015. Retrieved 2017-05-10.

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