Wong Chin Foo
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Wong Chin Foo (Chinese: 王清福; pinyin: Wáng Qīngfú; 1847-1898) was a Chinese-American activist, journalist, lecturer, and writer, one of the most prolific Chinese writers in the San Francisco press of the 19th century. Wong, born in Jimo, Shandong Province, China, was among the first Chinese immigrants to be naturalized in 1873. Wong was dedicated to fighting for the equal rights of Chinese-Americans at the time of the Chinese Exclusion Act. Nowadays Chinese-Americans consider Wong as the Chinese "Dr. Martin Luther King" because of Wong's tremendous efforts and huge sacrifices to defend Chinese-Americans' honor in that difficult time.
Wong was born in 1847 to a well off family which soon lost its money during the Taiping Rebellion. In 1861, he was taken in by a missionary couple, and was baptized into the Baptist faith and came to the United States in 1867. In the following years he studied at a preparatory school in Washington, D.C. and University at Lewisburg (later renamed Bucknell University) in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania in 1869-70.
Wong returned to China in 1870, after he studied and traveled in a lot American cities. "He personally thought he would never see America again. If he did, he was very much mistaken." In 1871, Wong married Liu Yu San who was a student at Eliza Jewett Hartwell's mission school in Dengzhou. Wong took a new name Wong Yen Ping (Chinese: 王彦平; pinyin: Wáng Yánpíng). Wong worked for a short time in the Imperial Maritime Customs Service in Shanghai. He was dismissed and went to Zhenjiang where he found a job as an interpreter in Customs House. While he was working in China, Wong was excommunicated from the Shanghai Baptist Church.
In his spare time, he advocated to set up a civic improvement organization for spiritual and moral uplift, also for social and economic changes as well as for political reform. He advocated to experience and absorb western culture. Meantime, Wong contributed a lot of effort for prohibition of opium. Wong was also involved in subversive, anti-government activity. One of activities was known as the Zhenjiang Incident. Using his position in the Customs House, Wong organized the importation of foreigners and weapons. Wong claimed that he had planned the "Overthrow of this corrupt Chinese government". His anti-government activities finally got the Qing government's attention which put a reward on his head. Wong fled China leaving his wife and child behind.
He then moved to Japan and (in 1873) back to the U.S. where he became a citizen in 1874. In the U.S., he lived mostly in the East and Midwest, traveling and lecturing. During this time anti-Chinese sentiment was rampant. Wong represented Chinese culture, defending Chinese from charges of godlessness and depravity, false allegation of debauchery, even Chinese food.
Wong organized the Chinese community for political and civil rights, he organized the first association of Chinese American voters and also established the Chinese Equal Right League which united the Chinese Americans to fight against the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1892. In 1896, he attempted to create a new political party which could represent Chinese Americans, then corresponded with Sun Yat-sen to propose a Chinese revolutionary junta.
Wong established the first Chinese-language newspaper East of the Rockies, the Chinese American. He crusaded against vice in Chinatown, survived from several assassination attempted by gangsters and earned conviction for libel of a gangster leader. On the other hand, Wong brought a Chinese theater in New York, established a language school and briefly opened a Confucian temple.
In 1898, he left the United States for a family reunion in China. In Hong Kong, he applied for a United States passport, which was issued but quickly revoked on orders from the State Department in Washington. When he proceeded to Shandong, he died of heart failure in Weihai.
Chinese American Activism
Wong founded the country's first association of Chinese American voters in 1884, and the Chinese Equal Rights League to campaign against the U.S. policy of Chinese Exclusion in 1892. Wong "had clearly begun to grasp the importance of pressure politics and coalition-building." Wong organized a group of Americans with a vested interest in the Chinese goals who were unlikely to make their voices heard in Congress. The Chinese Equal Rights League sent letters to the press like the North China Herald (a newspaper for Americans in China) to push more pressure on the Congress committee. On January 26, 1893 Wong testified in front of a committee of the Congress as the president of the Chinese Equal Rights League. At the beginning, Wong did a great job to defend Chinese Americans as law-abiding, wealthy and good mannered people. However, Wong failed in the give-and-take that followed with members of the committee, including Geary who originated the Geary Act. Despite that Wong didn't win in the testimony in Congress, Wong's effort had great positive effect on his cause. Three months after the hearing, Secretary of the Treasury Carlisle approved modifications to the government's procedures for enforcing the Geary Act.
Wong founded a weekly newspaper, The Chinese American, in New York City in 1883. His work was published in periodicals including the North American Review and Chautauquan. When a visitor to a saloon in New York's Chinatown accused a Chinese grocery of handling small cats and rats, Wong offered $500 reward for anyone who could prove that Chinese ate cats or rats, an offer which was not taken up. The incident provoked Wong into writing an article on Chinese food for the Brooklyn Eagle which offers a rich description of Chinese cooking, in which he says "chop soly", that is, Chop Suey "may justly be called the national dish of China" (though it is not the dish usually called Chop Suey in the United States).
His 1887 essay "Why Am I a Heathen?" explains his rejection of Christianity in favor of traditional Chinese beliefs; it prompted a response that same year, "Why I Am Not a Heathen", written by his fellow Chinese immigrant Yan Phou Lee, a devout Christian.
Wong went up repeatedly against anti-Chinese activist Denis Kearney, heckling him and at one point challenging him to a duel, and giving Kearney his choice of weapon: chopsticks, Irish potatoes, or Krupp guns. He was a supporter of Sun Yat-Sen's revolutionary message.
- "Chinese American Hero: Wong Chin Foo", AsianWeek (AsianWeek), retrieved June 19, 2014
- Seligman, Scott D. "Wong Chin Foo Chronology"., reprinted from Seligman, Scott D. (2013). The First Chinese American: The Remarkable Life of Wong Chin Foo. Hong Kong University Press. pp. xxi–xxii. ISBN 9888139908.
- 王凡 (Wáng Fán) (2014-05-17). "王清福：华人马丁·路德·金 (Wong Chin Foo: The Chinese "Dr. Martin Luther King")". 羊城晚报 (Yangcheng Evening Newspaper). Retrieved June 19, 2014.
- Johns, Heather. Bucknell archives reveal rare photo of first Chinese American. Bucknell News. May 02, 2013. Accessed 2013-05-04.
- Seligman, pp.27-37.
- 王凡 (Wáng Fán) (2014-05-21). "王清福，生于清道光二十七年（1847年）。他在国内曾用的名字是王彦平、王缓祺，王清福应该是他受清政府通缉第二次到美国后才启用的名字。". 羊城晚报 (Yangcheng evening newspaper) Retrieved June 21, 2014. (Wong Chin Foo was born in 1847. Two of his used name were Wong Yan Ping and Wong Yuan Qi. Wong Chin Foo should be the name he used after he went to the U.S. the second time and was wanted by Qing government.)
- 王凡 (Wáng Fán) (2014-05-21). "根据美国报刊报道得知，王清福后来似乎组建了一个反清组织，并通过海外关系从国外购买了一批枪械。但这批枪械在运往中国通过海关时被清政府发现。". 羊城晚报 (Yangcheng evening newspaper) Retrieved June 21, 2014. (Based on the report of American newspapers, Wong was involved in subversive, anti-government activity. He organized the importation of weapons, which soon got the Qing government's attention.)
- [Yung et al. 2006], editors' note p. 70.?
- "Wong Chin Foo". HistoryGrandRapids.org. Grand Rapids Historical Commission. Retrieved 29 May 2014. Facsimiles of Wong Chin Foo's naturalization papers and newspaper articles about his activities.
- Seligman on P55
- Seligman on P89-P251
- Seligman on P89-P283
- Seligman, Chronology, p. xxvi.
- Hsiao, Andrew (1998-06-23). "100 Years of Hell-Raising: The Hidden History of Asian American Activism in New York City". Village Voice. Retrieved 2014-05-29.
- Seligamn on P209
- Seligman P210
- Andrew Coe, Chop Suey: A Cultural History of Chinese Food in the United States (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009), p. 152-53.
- Wong Chin Foo (July 6, 1884). "Chinese Cooking". Brooklyn Daily Eagle. p. 4. Retrieved June 13, 2014.
- [Wong Chin Foo 1887], passim
- [Yan Phou Lee 1887], passim
- Seligman, Scott D., The First Chinese American: The Remarkable Life of Wong Chin Foo (Hong Kong University Press, 2013).
- Wong Chin Foo, "Why Am I a Heathen?" North American Review 145.369 (August 1887), reprinted in Judy Yung, Gordon H. Chang, and Him Mark Lai (compilers and editors), Chinese American Voices (University of California Press (2006). ISBN 0-520-24310-2), p. 70–78.
- Yan Phou Lee, "Why I Am Not a Heathen: A Rejoinder to Wong Chin Foo" North American Review 145.370 (September 1887), reprinted in Judy Yung, Gordon H. Chang, and Him Mark Lai (compilers and editors), Chinese American Voices, University of California Press (2006). ISBN 0-520-24310-2, p. 79–85/