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Quotations from Wong Chin Foo

On Being a Confucian Missionary (1874)

“I have the honor to be the first missionary from China, but I hope that I may be followed by others abler than I am, and that you will embrace the religion, for none better can be found.”

On Chinese as Idol-Worshippers (1876)

“The Chinese no more worship idols than the Catholics who bow to a cross with an image on it. So in China the temples are filled with images which represent to their minds a certain idea, as the idea of a cross represents the sufferings of Christ. Depend upon it, my friends, no form of any kind can save a man.”

On China's Scientific Contributions (1877)

“Chinamen are not ignorant heathens, and were not so thousands and thousands of years ago. They invented some of the most useful sciences of civilization; for example, the art of printing with movable types; also, engraving was first invented by the Chinese; they were the first to invent the mariner’s compass; the first cannon, the first suspension bridge, and the first marble structure, as also the first civil force and the first school. All these were originated among those heathens.”

On the Anti-Chinese “Rat Libel” (1877)

“I never knew that rats and dogs were good to eat until I learned it from Americans.”

On Dueling Anti-Chinese Demagogue Denis Kearney (1883)

“I would give him his choice of chopsticks, Irish potatoes or Krupp guns.”

On Wong's Chinese vs. Denis Kearney's Irish (1883)

“I belong to the most ancient empire on this globe. You, by your own statement, belong to the most dependent and ill-treated nation of serfs ever deprived of its liberties. The flag of my country floats over the third greatest navy in the world. Yours is to be seen derisively displayed on the 17th of March in the public streets and triumphantly hoisted on an occasional gin-mill. The ambassadors and consuls of my nation rank at every court in Europe with those of Russia, Germany, England and France. Those of your race may be found cooling their heels in the lobbies of any common council in which the rum-selling interest in politics predominates. The race which I represent is centuries old in every art and science. That of which you are the spokesman apologizes for its present ignorance and mental obscurity with the plea that your learning and literature are lost in the mythical past.”

On American Politicians (1884)

“You must remember that the politician who lords it over you to-day is an arrant coward, and trims his sails to every breeze that blows. When you don’t vote and don’t wish to vote, he denounces you as a reptile; the moment you appear at the ballot box you are a man and a brother and are treated (if you consort with such people) to cigars, whiskies, and beers.

On the Opium Trade (1887)

“When the English wanted the Chinamen's gold and trade, they said they wanted to 'open China for their missionaries,' and opium was the chief, in fact, only, missionary they looked after, when they forced the ports open. And this infamous Christian introduction among Chinamen has done more injury, social and moral, in China than all the humanitarian agencies of Christianity could remedy in 200 years.”
On Being Refused a U.S. Passport (1891)

“I have just discovered that I am the only individual in New York that has no country. The very thought of it knocks all the light and hope out of a fellow. A man without a country, kicked out of China, disowned by the United States, and all for what? . . . Has the Federal government of the United States the right to make a law which would be retroactive, as in this case, to strip me of my citizenship and franchise?”

On the Liberal Spirit of Massachusetts (1892)

“Thank God there is one spot in this great republic where its people are brave enough to stand up for principle and for oppressed humanity. Once more it is the fellow-citizens of the noble Sumner, the illustrious and immortal Garrison, to be in front. Whenever the honor of the nation is at stake, or the cause of human liberty is involved, the noble sons of Massachusetts can always be depended on to defend them.”

On Equal Rights for America's Chinese (1893)

“As residents of the United States, we claim a common manhood with all other nationalities, and believe we should have that manhood recognized according to the principles of common humanity and American freedom.”

"We, therefore, appeal for an equal chance in the race of life in this our adopted home – a large number of us have spent almost all our lives in this country and claim no other but this as ours. Our motto is: 'Character and fitness should be the requirement of all who are desirous of becoming citizens of the American Republic.'”

On the Geary Act of 1892 (1893)

“Is it then a crime to be a Chinaman? Shall I be dragged from my bed at midnight because I shall refuse to be photographed? No, I will not be photographed against my will like a criminal. I would be hanged first.”

On Chinese Enfranchisement (1896)

“We want Illinois, the place that Lincoln, Grant and Logan called their home, to do for the Chinese what the North did for the negroes.”


The Remarkable
Life of 

Wong Chin Foo

Wong was one of the few northern Chinese in America, and was proud of it. He often expressed a dim view of his Cantonese brethren, who made up most of America's Chinese population, but still fought for their rights.

Wong went up against Rep. Thomas J. Geary, the architect of legislation that extended the Chinese Exclusion Act and added additional restrictions on America’s Chinese, when he testified before Congress in 1893.

Wong was almost certainly the author of the 1893 Appeal of the Chinese Equal Rights League to the People of the United States for Equality of Manhood. Few Chinese wrote English as eloquently as he did.

The Rev. Matthew Tyson Yates, the Baptist missionary who helped Wong get situated in Shanghai in 1871 and from whose church Wong was excommunicated, eventually became one of his harshest critics.

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