Monday, August 22, 2011

The Canadian government has approved a coat of arms for all people with the surname Wong. The Wong family coat of arms will be unveiled on Aug. 13. It's the first time the Canadian Heraldic Authority has officially endorsed a coat of arms for a Chinese-Canadian family association.

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WINDSOR, Ont. — Most coats of arms don’t feature a panda.

In fact, here in Canada, there’s only one that does: The recently formalized Wong coat of arms, meant to represent anyone with the last name Wong in Canada.

“I think it’s cool,” says Windsor resident Raymond Wong. “I think it’s an honour to be one of the Wongs.”

Despite Wong being among the 10 most common Chinese surnames in the world, Raymond says he still feels kinship with all those who share his last name.

“It’s kind of a tradition to the Chinese. When people bump into each other on the street, the first thing they would like to find out from each other is ‘What’s your last name?’” said Raymond, a 47-year-old Chrysler executive.

It’s that sense of kinship that ultimately led to the Wong coat of arms. The project is the work of the Wong Association of Ontario, based in Toronto.

Caroline Wong, a spokeswoman for the group, describes it as a family association with the goal of raising awareness of what Wongs have contributed to Canadian society.

“It’s something that actually brings people together,” she says. “People connect with the last name, even though it’s common.”

But one doesn’t simply make up a coat of arms. There’s a process — and rules to be followed.

“There are a series of heraldic conventions, and many of them go back to the Middle Ages,” said Forrest Pass of the Canadian Heraldic Authority.

In order for a coat of arms to be recognized by the Governor General, petitioners must contact the Canadian Heraldic Authority and work with them in designing the coat of arms.

Pass said it cost the Wong Association of Ontario about $3,000 to go through the entire process, which began in 2009. Two years later, it’s finally official: the Wong coat of arms will be celebrated with a presentation ceremony Aug. 13.

Pass said it’s definitely the first in Canada to feature a panda — not to mention the Chinese writing, dragon and phoenix. “We were dealing with a lot of new ground.”

Facing the panda is a polar bear. The panda’s pickaxe symbolizes the history of Wongs who came to British Columbia in the late 19th century to work the gold fields. The polar bear’s hammer symbolizes the Wongs who worked on the national railway.

Caroline said the idea was to combine Chinese elements with Western ones. “It’s about the Wongs being in Canada.”

Raymond’s only complaint with the Wong coat of arms is that he believes the panda and the polar bear should switch places. “They should flip the two animals. The east meets the west, so the panda should be on the right-hand side, when you think about it.”

Windsor Star
© Copyright (c) The Windsor Star

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