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Chapter Summaries

Chapter I: The Arid Land of Heathenism (1847-1867)

In which young Wong Sa Kee is given over by his aged and destitute father to Christian missionaries in Shandong to raise, receives a Western education and is baptized as a Christian.

Chapter II: An Abbreviated American Education (1868-1870)

In which Wong sails to the United States, attends two American colleges, gets his start as a lecturer and returns to China without completing his studies.

Chapter III: The Timber From Which Conspirators Are Made (1871-1872)

In which Wong marries and fathers a child, joins the customs bureaus of Shanghai and Zhenjiang, is excommunicated from the Baptist Church, runs afoul of Imperial authorities for revolutionary activities and flees for his life.

Chapter IV: Soiled Doves (1873-1874)

In which Wong helps rescue Chinese girls sold into prostitution in America, begins a lecture tour, becomes a naturalized citizen and has a liaison of his own with an American prostitute.

Chapter V: A Hare-Brained, Half-Crazy Man (1873-1874)

In which Wong is accused of fraudulently posing as a Chinese envoy and denounced by Chinese officials, and in which a Manchu prince demands his extradition to China.

Chapter VI: America’s First Confucian Missionary (1874)

In which Wong defends Chinese from charges of godlessness and depravity and proclaims himself the first Chinese missionary to the United States.

Chapter VII: A Most Delightful Dish of Chow Chow (1875-1879)

In which Wong lectures throughout the East and Midwest, falls in with New York's Theosophists, takes aim at the Christian missionaries in China and is excoriated by them in return.

Chapter VIII: A Terror to the Chinese Community (1879-1882)

In which Wong begins to speak out on the "Chinese question" and partisan politics, clashes with members of Chicago's Chinese colony, is nearly assassinated, flees to Michigan and returns.

Chapter IX: The Chinese American (1883)

In which Wong relocates to New York and establishes the first Chinese language newspaper east of the Rockies.

Chapter X: Wiping Out the Stain (1883-1885)

In which Wong defends the Chinese community against false allegations of debauchery, and in which his crusade against vice in Chinatown earns him a conviction for libel.

Chapter XI: I Shall Drive Him Back to His Sand Lots (1883)

In which Wong challenges – and bests – Irish-American demagogue Denis Kearney, the symbol of the “Chinese Must Go” movement in the United States.

Chapter XII: Pigtails in Politics (1884-1886)

In which Wong organizes the first association of Chinese-American voters and announces that all American Chinese are being recalled to their motherland.

Chapter XIII: Chop Suey (1884-1886)

In which Wong begins an effort to bring Chinese theater to New York, establishes a language school, studies law, works as an interpreter and introduces American readers to life in China and Chinatown.

Chapter XIV: Why Am I A Heathen? (1887)

In which Wong launches a frontal attack on Christianity and Christendom in a major article and garners a firestorm of opposition from many quarters.

Chapter XV: Fifty Cents a Pound (1887)

In which Wong protests the Canadian government’s assessment of a $50 head tax as a condition of crossing the border.

Chapter XVI: The Chinese in New York (1887-1889)

In which Wong debates Denis Kearney, builds relationships inside and outside of New York’s Chinatown and addresses American audiences through writing and public speaking.

Chapter XVII: I Have Always Been a Republican (1888-1889)

In which Wong tries twice to secure a government job and endorses Benjamin Harrison for president in a new Chinese weekly newspaper.

Chapter XVIII: I’ll Cut Your Head Off If You Write Such Things (1888-1891)

In which Wong clashes with the Chinese underworld in his quest to rid Chinatown of vice, a reward is offered for his murder, and he acts, at his own peril, to save a young girl who had been sold into slavery.

Chapter XIX: The Only New Yorker Without A Country (1891)

In which Wong is denied a passport by the U.S. government and is arrested for illegal voter registration, tried and acquitted.

Chapter XX: The Chinese Equal Rights League (1892)

In which Wong organizes and energizes a political organziation to fight new burdens imposed on America's Chinese by the Geary Act.

Chapter XXI: Is It Then a Crime to Be a Chinaman? (1893)

In which Wong testifies before Congress - perhaps the first Chinese ever to do so - and confronts the Congressman who created the Geary Act, and in which the law is challenged in the Supreme Court.

Chapter XXII: An Ardent Worker for Justice (1893)

In which New York's Chinese Theatre is established, Wong seeks justice for a clansman in Chicago, a second incarnation of the Chinese American is published, and Wong gets a close-up look at Chinese participation in the World's Fair.

Chapter XXIII: False Starts (1894-1895)

In which Wong enjoys a brief career as a Chinese Inspector for the Treasury Department and goes into a short-lived partnership with a Chinese physician.

Chapter XXIV: The American Liberty Party (1896)

In which Wong attempts to create a new political party, publishes his fourth and last newspaper, and briefly opens a Confucian Temple.

Chapter XXV: A Letter From My Friends in America (1894-1897)

In which Wong opines on the Sino-Japanese War, corresponds with Dr. Sun Yat-sen and announces plans for the establishment of a Chinese revolutionary junta in Chicago.

Chapter XXVI: Citizenship for “Americanized” Chinese (1897)

In which Wong receives his first word from his family in China in a quarter century, re-establishes the Chinese Equal Rights League and spearheads an effort to lobby Congress for citizenship rights for Americanized Chinese.

Chapter XXVII: When the World Came to Omaha (1897-1898)

In which Wong competes to construct the Chinese Village at Omaha's Trans-Mississippi International Exposition and wins a consolation prize, tries to bring his son to the United States, is jettisoned by his business partners and is jailed for contempt of court.

Chapter XXVIII: I Do Not Like Chinese Ways, Nor Chinamen Any More (1898)

In which Wong sails to Hong Kong, attempts to collect monies due him, is issued a United States passport that is soon withdrawn, takes ill, returns to Shandong for a final family reunion and dies.


The Remarkable
Life of 

Wong Chin Foo


Wong filed a Declaration of Intention to become an American citizen in Grand Rapids, Michigan on April 3, 1874. He was one of the first Chinese in America to do so.

 Yung Wing, one of the first Chinese diplomats ever posted in America, saw Wong as a usurper. The two crossed swords more than once during Wong's career.


Wong spent several years traveling around the United States lecturing on China and the Chinese people. This advertisement for a lecture appeared in the Quincy, Illinois Daily Herald on February 19, 1878.

The Newark, Ohio Daily Advocate and many other newspapers around the nation ran a story about the new political party Wong tried to launch in 1896 with a sketch that made him look decidedly Caucasian. This image appeared on July 24, 1896. 


Wong had a hand in acquainting Americans with Chinese food in the 1880s. He was the first to introduce "chop suey" to American readers. This article from the Summer, 2014 issue of The Cleaver Quarterly includes some of his descriptions of Chinese ingredients and dishes.

© 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021 Scott D. Seligman