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Rediscover the Fading Memories – The Early Chinese Canadian Christian History

An Introduction

Much have been written on Chinese-Canadian history, particularly on the topic of the Gold Rush, Chinese labourers and the building of the Canadian Pacific Railway, head tax and voting issues, racial discrimination, Chinatowns and Chinese “social evils.” While Jiwu Wang wrote an excellent historical survey titled, “His Dominion” and the “Yellow Peril”: Protestant Missions to Chinese Immigrants in Canada, 1859-1967, which added a significant contribution to a neglected area of history affecting the life of Chinese Canadians, more Chinese Canadian Christian stories needs to be recovered in order to illustrate the social dynamic of religious life affecting Chinese Canadians in the early days.

3CLN - Anglican Archives (1)Rev. H. P. Hobson, 1st Rector of Christ Church Cathedral and a baptismal class ca. 1890.
Lyndon Grove Collection, Vancouver Public Library.  Used by Permission, Courtesy of the Anglican Archives, Diocese of New Westminster and the Ecclesiastical Province of British Columbia and the Yukon

The Christian Church, a primarily “white” institution during those days, went against the predominant social ethos and touched thousands of lives of Chinese immigrants and their children, primarily through education. The aspirations of the Christian Church was to integrate rather than segregate the “Orientals” into the Canadian society, to make them good citizens of the kingdom in heaven and on earth, and to “civilize” them through the ethics of the Western Church. As a result, many Chinese immigrants and their children who had been denied of their rights to be educated and to practice as professionals, received opportunities to break through the stereotypic fate as labourers and advance in their educational and career paths through their relationship with the Christian Church.

The church continued to play an important role in the lives of the Canadian-born generation, making it possible for bright Chinese women to enter university and professions.

(“Family, Work and Survival: Chinese Women in Ontario,” Polyphony (2000), p. 39)

This project explores stories of such transformation – how Christian beliefs and ministry of the Christian church to the Chinese immigrants and their children influenced immigrant lives and opened up vast opportunities for them to receive quality education, to gain an access to Western cultural life, to move beyond their social confinement and integrate and succeed in the Canadian society. The scope of this research covers mainly the pre-1940 era. Among this group of Chinese-Canadian Christians, we witness the birth of pioneer Chinese-Canadian pastors, doctors, nurses, military leaders, University professors, scientists, politicians and beyond.

重尋褪色的回憶 – 早期加國華人基督徒歷史

geoge_lim_001Students and Staff at Latimer Hall, about 1912-13. Used by permission, courtesy of Anglican Church of Canada Archives.

在加拿大華人歷史的檔案中,有關淘金熱、華工與太平洋鐵路建設、人頭稅、選舉權、種族歧視、唐人街與華人社會等議題已有不少的出版。Jiwu Wang 之佳作:《神權與黃禍:基督教向加拿大華人的宣教事工1859-1967》(譯名) ,為加國華人基督教歷史提供了一個全面的概覽,填補了加拿大華人歷史中被忽略的一頁,但更多加國華人基督徒的故事仍有待重尋,以說明社會與宗教的互動關係如何影響早期加國華人的生活。



「家庭、事業與生存:安省的華裔婦女」Polyphony (2000) 第卅九頁


3CLN - Chinese Presbyterian Archives (Vancouver) (4)Girls’ Class, 1930s
Used by Permission, Courtesy of Vancouver Chinese Presbyterian Church