From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia - View original article
|This article does not cite any references or sources. (August 2012)|
Hop Sing was the fictional Cartwright family's cook on the US television series Bonanza which ran on the NBC network from 1959 to 1973. US born actor Victor Sen Yung played the character, who was a Chinese immigrant.
A servile character named Hop Sing first appeared as a laundryman in 1876, in Bret Harte's play Two Men of Sandy Bar. Folklorist Wolfgang Mieder cites his comically accented Pidgin English diction as the likely source for the proverbial ethnic slur, "No Tickee, no Washee". Although in his considerably toned down reincarnation as a TV character, the character of Hop Sing still incorporated some Chinese-American stereotypes, such as being a servant (an economic niche also shared by African Americans in the American South), he is not commonly cited as an offensive use of an Asian (known as Oriental at the time) character. The Chinese were historically marginalized in the labor market of the American west into niches where they would not compete with Caucasians. Marlo Thomas was also cast as a Chinese person in one episode, and other prominent Chinese-Americans would also be cast on Bonanza.
During the western's fourteen-year run, just two episodes centered around the character. The first episode, #316 was "Mark of Guilt" which dealt with Hop Sing absolving Little Joe of a murder charge via the ancient science of fingerprinting- or (as Hop Sing referenced) "chops". The second episode, #404 was "The Lonely Man", which chronicled legal biases against Asians, when Hop Sing unlawfully gets engaged to a white woman.
However, throughout the series Hop Sing was an influential character to the Cartwright household. The Cartwrights considered him more family than employee, with Hoss virtually in tears when he threatened to resign after an argument with Ben. Several occasions show Hop Sing's commitment to the family equally strong; he willingly held a captured thug prisoner while the Cartwrights sought his employer. Ben ordered the criminal shot if he and the boys did not return before sunset...with Hop Sing only happy to oblige.
He was also famous for giving back any guff thrown to him, such as dumping cold water on an overly demanding visitor's head or ordering the family to clean the floor after their trailing mud on it. Although typically used for dialect comedy, Hop Sing's presence was often a source of common sense.
In 2001-02, the character was revived in David Dortort's PAX-TV prequel, Ponderosa. The depiction of Hop Sing here, played by Gareth Yuen, was quite different from the original series, where he was sometimes used as a comic figure wielding a butcher knife. The glaring pidgin English was replaced with a softer, wiser delivery. Hop Sing was depicted as a trusted family counselor and herbal healer.