Ling was born in Sacramento, California. Her mother, Mary Mei-yan (née Wang), is a Taiwanese immigrant from Tainan, Taiwan, and formerly served as the head of the Los Angeles office of the Formosan Association for Public Affairs. Ling's father, Chung Teh "Douglas" Ling, is a Chinese immigrant, born in Hong Kong in 1937. Her paternal grandmother was born on Labaun, Singapore. Her paternal grandfather, who was from Guangzhou, Guangdong, was one of the first Chinese students allowed to study in the United States in the 1930s. He received his graduate degree from New York University and an M. B. A degree from University of Colorado. He struggled to find a job in the United States and eventually opened the first Chinese restaurant in Folsom, California.
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