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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
基督教會座堂的首任牧師賀卜臣與華人洗禮班合照。大約攝於1890年。
由加拿大聖公會珍藏圖書館提供及允准使用

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.
Latimer堂學生與職員合照,約一九一二至一三年
加拿大聖公會珍藏圖書館提供並允准使用

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。

昔日的基督教會雖是以白人為主的組織,但與當時對歧視東方人的社會思潮立場相反,透過提供教育影響了千萬華裔移民及其後代的生活。教會的心願是將這些「東方人」融入而非與加拿大社會隔離,透過西方基督教的倫理價值來提升他們的道德文化水平,幫助他們成為屬天與屬地的良好公民。許多加國華人及其下一代本無機會接受主流教育及任職專業,結果,因與教會的關係,能破繭而出,在教育及職業上爭取到卓越的成績。

「教會繼續對本地出生的下一代發揮重要影響力,以致出色的華裔婦女有機會受高等教育及任職專業。」

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

本研究計劃旨在探討此等蛻變的故事,展示基督信仰與基督教會如何影響早年移民的生活,為他們開啟多方面的機會接受優質教育、接觸西方文明、突破社交局限,得以融入主流社會並取得卓越成就。內容主要覆蓋一九四零年代之前的加國華人教會歷史。在這群加國華人基督徒當中,我們見證了加國華人牧師、醫生、護士、軍事領袖、大學教授、科學家、政治家等先鋒人物的誕生。

3CLN - Chinese Presbyterian Archives (Vancouver) (4)Girls’ Class, 1930s
Used by Permission, Courtesy of Vancouver Chinese Presbyterian Church
一九三零年代女童班
照片由溫哥華華人長老會提供並允准使用