A lifetime of collecting comes together in the Chung Collection
September 7, 2019
By Vancouver Sun |
Wallace Chung’s story reflects the Chinese experience in Canada in the 20th and 21st centuries.
Wallace Chung started building a model of his favourite ocean liner in 1960. But he didn’t finish it until 2017 — 57 years later.
What happened? Life. Dr. Chung raised a family, was a surgeon and professor at UBC, and assembled one of the great collections of historical items in Canadian history.
His focus was initially Canadian Pacific steamships, which he became enthralled with as a boy in Victoria. But it soon encompassed the Canadian Pacific Railway, Chinese-Canadian history, and B.C. history.
Some of the stuff he has defies belief, like the bill of sale from the first property sold to a Chinese person in Canada in 1858.
The document not only pre-dates Canada becoming a country, it even pre-dates the B.C. mainland becoming a Crown colony on Aug. 2, 1858.
Vancouver Island was a separate entity at the time: the document is headed “Vancouver’s Island Colony.”
“(Chang Tsoo) arrived in June, 1858 in Victoria, and bought 14 lots there on Cormorant and Fisgard streets, which became the centre of (Victoria’s) Chinatown,” he relates. “When they came, the newspaper had an article about it. They said, ‘We haven’t seen a Chinaman in Victoria up ‘til now. But things have changed. He’s here with us and pretty soon we’ll have a new vocabulary, such as ‘wantee washee.’”
He laughs at the racist rhetoric.
“They didn’t know he was a millionaire who made his fortune selling supplies and goods to miners in the California gold rush. When that died down, he was looking around where he could make more money. Suddenly, he sees a newspaper article, ‘Gold found in the Fraser (River).’ So he took a boat right up to Victoria, and bought those lots, and I’ve got the bill of sale.”
One of the lots in the 1858 sale was where Chung’s father had a tailor shop in Victoria — and that’s where Wallace Chung was born.