Canadian Genealogy · Chinese Culture · Chinese Genealogy

Wing Sang: a house of memory

In 2017, JJ Lee and I were touring Chinatown. He seemed to know everyone and everything, reconstructing from memory the stores and families who had been. We stood in front of parking lots, condo towers, and coffee shops and imagined the gleaming neon of restaurant signs, the sounds of night clubs, and the windows hung with roast pork. We walked from Jackson to Abbott, up Pender and down Keefer. We talked about history and gentrification, about the Chinese owners’ struggles to remain, and about how Chinatown was more than a place: it was the heart of Chinese Canadian history. As we slowly walked past 51 E. Pender, I touched the walls of Wing Sang, the historic home of my ancestors.

This is a story about a building and how it anchors memory.

The Wing Sang Company, 1889

The Wing Sang Company (司公生永) was founded in 1889.

When Yip Sang (1845-1927) began construction in 1888, Vancouver had been incorporated for two years. Chinatown, located on the shores of False Creek, was a swamp of heavy industry with a gas works plant, a mill, a woodyard, and a coal dump. Dupont (now East Pender) was a muddy road flanked by closely built wooden structures, and like every Chinatown of the era, at extreme risk of fire. When it was completed in 1889, the tall brick structure was the first of its type, a testament to faith in Chinatown’s future, despite the passing of the Chinese Immigration Act, 1885.

photo, Wing Sang & Co, Yip Sang family
Yip Sang with five adult men and six children in front of Wing Sang & Co, 29 Dupont Street, between 1889-1901. © Yip Family Archives. All rights reserved.

Chinatown’s Expansion (1901-1912)

The Wing Sang Company was the centrepiece of Yip’s vision for Chinatown. Looking at building permits issued to the Wing Sang Co. from 1901-1912, the company applied for permits totalling $209K ($5.6M today) to develop, expand, and upgrade properties on Dupont, Carrall, and Keefer. Here is an illustration of the block bordered by Hastings, Columbia, Dupont, and Carrall Streets which shows Wing Sang at 51-67 Dupont and the other properties Yip owned, in full or in part, by 1907.

Map of Yip Sang's properties
Theoretical map of Yip Sang’s properties / Wing Sang properties, based on 1912 Goad’s fire map and Yip’s testimony from Royal Commission into Chinese riots, 1906. © Linda Yip. All rights reserved.

For Wing Sang, Yip embarked on the first of several expansions in March 1901. The $10,000 permit issued to architect Thomas Ennor Julian for developing District Lot 196, Block 13, Lots 23, 24, and 25 would result in Wing Sang growing to encompass 51-67 Dupont Street. At least two further expansions by 1912 would add the six-storey residence and warehouse at the rear, together making the complex at Wing Sang.

From Dupont Street to Pender Street East (1903-1908)

In 1903, Vancouver rezoned and the Wing Sang complex once located at 29 [-43?] Dupont Street became 51-69 Dupont Street. In June 1907, Pender Street was extended and connected to Dupont. Pender Street became Pender Street West, and Dupont Street became Pender Street East. Wing Sang’s address changed to 51-69 Pender Street East.

Wing Sang’s people

By looking at available censuses and city directories, we can take a peek at who called Wing Sang “home.” In the 1921 census there is Yip Sang, his fourth wife Chan [Chin] Shee, and thirty four others. Charles Yip Quong, jeweller, and his wife, Nellie Yip Quong, midwife, are there. Earlier records show cousins Charlie Yip Yen and Yip On, customs interpreters, living at Wing Sang.

The Yip family remembers the three floors of residences, each floor built for the three wives of Yip Sang: Dong Shee, Wong Shee, and Chin Shee, and their families. (First wife Lee Shee died in 1885.) My father, Cecil Wing See Yip, was born at Wing Sang in 1922, the year before the Chinese Exclusion Act. For years, the walls protected him, filled with his brothers and cousins, and there were always enough heads for a soccer game before dinner.

In Paper Shadows, Wayson Choy wrote:

At Wing Sang, there were numerous front, side and back staircases to climb, and multiple household kitchens to visit for what seemed like endless treats. Some pantries were small enough to contain only a hotplate and cupboards; others were much larger than our own kitchen: the one built for the preparation of banquets was at least ten times the size of our own tiny scullery. There were bedrooms of every size and condition; what I assumed were playrooms, but probably were storage areas, filled with mysterious boxes smelling of camphor, and oily machinery that had moving arms, iron chairs with hooks, and iron wheels; and rooms with padded doors I was told were forbidden for children to enter. From some rooms came the sound of a Victrola playing big band music. A king and queen lived here, I thought.

Wayson Choy, Paper Shadows, pgs. 28-29.

Wing Sang through the decades

Sadly, over time the building grew derelict. Preserving historical artifacts is a costly endeavour and a building is a very large artifact. Keeping up with the taxes alone was onerous. In 1945, the final year of World War II, the City of Vancouver charged Wing Sang $1743.57 in property taxes ($27,233 in 2022). By 1949, the tax bill was ten percent more.

I heard the roof leaked and pigeons roosted in the upper floors. The future of Wing Sang looked dire. The Vancouver Museum collected pieces including the Wing Sang ticket counter.

Wing Sang ticket counter, Vancouver Museum, 2008. © Linda Yip. All rights reserved.

Then two events happened which changed the course of history: Drs. Wallace and Madeline Chung bought all the papers, and Bob Rennie bought the building. More than that: both the Chungs and Rennie made major investments in our collective history, the Chungs by funding the Chung Collection at the University of British Columbia; and Rennie by restoring and preserving Wing Sang.

In August 2008 the Yips had a reunion. Rennie had hoped Wing Sang would be ready in time for the party, but construction delays and planning permits make a mockery of deadlines, and so Rennie did the next best thing: he organized a hard hat tour. (I still have my hat.)

Chronology

Here is a brief timeline of significant events in the history of the Wing Sang Company:

  • 1889 – Yip Sang establishes the Wing Sang Company
  • 1901-1912 – Yip Sang expands the property which becomes at once store, warehouse, and China style family compound
  • 1901-abt. 1980s – the Yips live communally at Wing Sang
  • 1999 – Drs. Wallace Chung and Madeline Chung donate their vast collection of Chinese Canadiana to the University of British Columbia, with funding for archival work
  • 2004 – the Yip family sells Wing Sang to Bob Rennie, a developer, for CAD$1M
  • 2004-2008 – Rennie spends quadruple his budget of $5M to restore the buildings, and invites 375 Yip descendants on a tour
  • 2014 – British Columbia apologizes for “racist discrimination” against its Chinese pioneers and sets in motion policies to make amends
  • 2018 – Vancouver and the province jointly commit to establish a museum, and to seek UNESCO World Heritage designation for Chinatown
  • 2022 – BC announces its funding of $27.5M to purchase and maintain Chinatown’s oldest building to house the new Chinese Canadian Museum

Wing Sang is chosen to house the new Chinese Canadian Museum

On Friday, February 11, 2022, British Columbia and the City of Vancouver delivered on their joint promise to fund a new Chinese Canadian museum with a promise of $27.5M to the Chinese Canadian Museum Society for purchase, planning, and operations. Bob Rennie is contributing a further $7.8M and challenges other stakeholders to invest in our history.

The committee chose Wing Sang at 51 E Pender Street to be the new museum. This iconic building, the first of its kind in Chinatown, the mythical touchstone of dreams for so many immigrants, and my family’s historic home, will now be the house of our collective memories.

Thank yous

I feel like an Oscar winner, trying to decide who to name of all the thousands whose work came together to enable a story like this one. At the risk of missing someone, I will try to keep this brief. To the Chinese Canadian Museum Society, I am forever grateful to all of you for what you have accomplished. To Bob Rennie, Dr. Wallace Chung, and Dr. Madeline Chung: thank you for vision and commitment, backed by serious funding. To Chelsea Shriver, archivist at the Chung Collection, thank you for your expertise and help. To JJ Lee, thank you for our day in Chinatown. To Catherine Clement, thank you for the coming 1923 Chinese Exclusion Act exhibition. To everyone who has reached out to me since Friday, thank you for sharing my joy. And finally, thank you to my Yip clan, from our most distant ancestor through 葉春田 (Yip Sang) and 隗氏 (Chin Shee) down to me, I would not be here but for you.

References

Sources

1901 Canada census, British Columbia, District No. 1 Burrard, Sub-district 17: Vancouver City, p. 27, image no. 307 of 543, households nos. 240-241, lines 26-47, households of Charlie Yip Yen and Yip Sang, images on Ancestry.com.

1921 Canada census, British Columbia, District No. 22, Sub-district 61: Vancouver, p. 29, image no. 30, household no. 225, lines 9-42, household of Yip Sang, image on Ancestry.com. Charley Yip Quong and Nellie Yip Quong are Household No. 226, lines 36-37, and while they are listed with their own household number, in reality they lived on the Yip Sang/Wing Sang Company compound at 51-63 E. Pender Street.

1923 Chinese Exclusion Project (https://1923-chinese-exclusion.ca/the-project/ : accessed 13 Feb 2022). The brainchild of curator Catherine Clement, this important exhibition will collect, commemorate, and exhibit the artifacts of the Chinese Immigration Act, 1923, aka the Chinese Exclusion Act.

The British Columbia Mercantile Agency, 1892, 58 Cordova Street, 1892, Vancouver, BC, telephone 159, [images online], image no. 133 of 139, pg. 64 listing for Wing Sung & Co., merchants, Dupont [no street number provided], Victoria, British Columbia, [images online], FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org : accessed 8 Feb 2022), citing British Columbia Mercantile Agency, Internet Archive, 2020; FamilySearch microfilm no. 14385. Likely to be Wing Sang & Co., assessed a “B” credit rating meaning “Pays Well. Worthy of Credit,” one of only two Chinese businesses deemed creditworthy in the guide.

Chinese Canadian Museum Society (https://www.chinesecanadianmuseum.ca : accessed 13 Feb 2022). Founded Mar 2020, board members include John Adams, Claire Avison, Christina Chang, Tung Chan, Guo Ding, Brian Jonker, Imogene Lim, Burton Lee, Alan Lowe, Ted Lee, Raymond Louie, Fred Mah, William Ma, Brian McBay, Sandra Singh, Grace Wong, Randall Sun-Kue Wong, Sunny Wong, and Henry Yu.

“Chinese Canadian Museum to Open in Historic Building in Vancouver’s Chinatown,” CBC, February 11, 2022, https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/vancouver-chinese-canadian-museum-1.6348823.

Wayson Choy. Paper shadows: a Chinatown childhood. (Vancouver: Penguin Canada, 1999). For Choy’s full story about Wing Sang, see pages 26-29.

Wallace B. Chung and Madeline H. Chung, “The Yip Family and Yip Sang Company,” City of Vancouver tax statements 1945 and 1949 for lot 23-25, block 13, DL 196 , University of British Columbia Rare Books and Special Collections, 1956 Main Mall, Vancouver, BC, V6T 1Z2, phone (604) 822-2521.

“Condo King Rennie shows off Chinatown digs,” CTV Globe Media, 9 Aug 2008, Linda Yip Private Collection, Saskatoon, SK.

“Historical Vancouver Building Permits: Heritage Vancouver Society,” [database lookup], Vancouver Building Permits: Historic Transcribed Searchable Data (http://permits.heritagevancouver.org/ : accessed 13 Feb 2022). A total of 46 permits for Wing Sang, Yip Sang, Yip Mow, and Charlie Yip Yen were transcribed and analyzed for this piece.

JJ Lee, The Measure of a Man: the Story of a Father, a Son, and a Suit. (Vancouver: Penguin Random House, 2012). This touching memoir of JJ Lee’s time with Bill and Jack Wong of Modernize Tailors will have you by turns laughing and crying. It was shortlisted for the Governor-General’s prize. In 2017, JJ Lee introduced me to Erin Templeton, then owner of the building once owned by the Wongs.

“Government of British Columbia Apology,” Province of British Columbia (https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/governments/multiculturalism-anti-racism/chinese-legacy-bc/government-of-british-columbia-apology : accessed 13 Feb 2022).

“Many New Building: Wing Sang Has in View Large Block,” Vancouver Daily World, 25 Sep 1902, pg. 1, cols. 7, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, [digital images], Newspapers.com (https://www.newspapers.com: accessed 4 Oct 2021). Reports Yip Sang spent $20,000 on a block on Dupont Street the year previous.

“Nellie Yip Quong House,” Places That MatterVancouver Heritage Foundation (https://www.placesthatmatter.ca/location/nellie-yip-quong-house/ : accessed 13 Feb 2022). 葉光屋 Nellie Yip Quong House, commemorating Granny Yip, née Nellie Towers.

“New thoroughfare from east to west,” The [Vancouver] Province, 22 Jun 1907, pg. 26, cols. 1-2, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, [digital images], Newspapers.com (https://www.newspapers.com: accessed 12 Feb 2022). Discussion of new extension of Pender Street, and move to rename Pender, Dupont, and Princess streets to a common name.

“Vancouver’s Chinatown 1889,” Vancouver Chinatown 1886-2011, map of Vancouver’s Chinatown, Chinese Canadian Heritage Fund and Simon Fraser University (https://www.sfu.ca/chinese-canadian-history/vancouver_chinatown_en.html : accessed 3 Sep 2021).

“Wing Sang Building,” address 51-69 E. Pender St., Vancouver Heritage Foundation (https://www.heritagesitefinder.ca : accessed 12 Feb 2022). States the the 1901 extension was the work of T.E. Julian, and that the 1912 extension added a six-storey residence and a warehouse.

Graham Yip and Jeffrey Yip, History of the Wing Sang Building, 2008, presentation to Yip Family, Linda Yip Private Collection, Saskatoon, SK.

City Directories (1888-1908)

Searching for Chinese in city directories can be challenging. Chinese may or may not be listed in the Names or Street sections, or may be segregated in a separate section at the back of each city’s listing. Notes on presence or absence of listings are included with each citation.

Canada, “British Columbia City Directories,” Williams Vancouver City Directory, 1888, Vancouver Directory, British Columbia, [images online], NIL for Wing Sang, NIL for any Chinese, Vancouver Public Library (https://bccd.vpl.ca : accessed 12 Feb 2022), citing Williams’ British Columbia Directory, 1882-1883, K.T. Williams, Victoria.

___ Williams BC Directory, 1889, Vancouver Chinese Directory, British Columbia, [images online], pg. 536 listing for Wing Sang & Co., Dupont [no street number provided], Vancouver Public Library (https://bccd.vpl.ca : accessed 12 Feb 2022). Listed in Chinese section only.

___ Henderson’s City of Vancouver Directory, 1890, Vancouver Chinese Directory, British Columbia, [images online], pg. 66 listing for Wing Sang & Co., merchants, Vancouver Public Library (https://bccd.vpl.ca : accessed 12 Feb 2022). Listed in Chinese section only.

___ Henderson’s British Columbia Gazetteer and Directory, 1891, Vancouver Directory, British Columbia, [images online], image 185 of 421, pg. 336 listing for Wing Sang & Co., merchants, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com/: accessed 5 Sep 2021). Listed in main and Chinese sections.

___ Williams Illustrated Official BC Directory, Part 2, 1892, Vancouver Directory, British Columbia, [images online], pgs. 816, 1023b listings for Wing Sang & Co., mrchts, 29 Dupont, Vancouver Public Library (https://bccd.vpl.ca : accessed 12 Feb 2022). Wing Sang is listed in both Names and Streets sections. There is no Chinese section in this directory.

___ Williams Official BC Directory, 1894, Vancouver Directory, British Columbia, [images online], pg. 568 listing for Wing Sang & Co., 29 Dupont, Vancouver Public Library (https://bccd.vpl.ca : accessed 12 Feb 2022). Neither Yip Sang nor Wing Sang are listed under Names section.

___ Williams Official BC Directory, 1895, Vancouver Directory, British Columbia, [images online], pg. 493, listing for Wing Sang & Co., 29 Dupont, Vancouver Public Library (https://bccd.vpl.ca : accessed 12 Feb 2022). Neither Yip Sang nor Wing Sang are listed under Names section.

___ Vancouver City Directory, March 1896, Vancouver, British Columbia, [images online], pg. 51 listing for Wing Sang & Co., 29 Dupont, Vancouver Public Library (https://bccd.vpl.ca : accessed 12 Feb 2022). Neither Yip Sang nor Wing Sang are listed under Names section. 

___ Henderson’s British Columbia Gazetteer and Directory, 1897, Vancouver Directory, British Columbia, [images online], pg. 698 listing for Wing Sang & Co., merchants, 29 Dupont, Vancouver Public Library (https://bccd.vpl.ca : accessed 12 Feb 2022). There are no listings by Street.

___ Henderson’s British Columbia Gazetteer and Directory, 1898, Vancouver Directory, British Columbia, [images online], pgs. 411, 643 listings for Wing Sang & Co., merchants, 29 Dupont, Vancouver Public Library (https://bccd.vpl.ca : accessed 12 Feb 2022). Neither Yip Sang nor Wing Sang are listed under Names section. Chinese section at the end.

___ Williams Official BC Directory, 1899, Vancouver Directory, British Columbia, [images online], pgs. 695, 723 listings for Wing, Sang & Co., general marchandise [sic], 29 Dupont st., Vancouver Public Library (https://bccd.vpl.ca : accessed 12 Feb 2022). Yip Sang is not listed by name in the Names section.

___ Henderson’s British Columbia Gazetteer and Directory, 1900-1901, Vancouver Chinese Directory, British Columbia, [images online], pgs. 683 and 953 listings for Wing Sang & Co., merchants, 29 Dupont, and pg. 953 listing for Yip Sang of Wing Sang & Co., pres. Chinese Board of Trade, Vancouver Public Library (https://bccd.vpl.ca : accessed 12 Feb 2022). Chinese section at the end.

___ 1901, Vancouver Chinese Business Firms Directory, British Columbia, [images online], pg. 557 listing for Wing Sang & Co., merchants, 29 Dupont, pg. 812 listing for Wnig [sic] Sang & Co., importers and wholesale merchants, 29 Dupont, and pg. 812 listing for Yip Sang of Wing Sang & Co., pres., Vancouver Public Library (https://bccd.vpl.ca : accessed 12 Feb 2022). Chinese section at the end.

___ 1902, Vancouver Chinese Business Firms Directory, British Columbia, [images online], pg. 530 listing for Wing Sang & Co., merchants, 29 Dupont, pg. 792 listing for Wnig [sic] Sang & Co., importers and wholesale merchant, 35 Market Alley, Vancouver Public Library (https://bccd.vpl.ca : accessed 12 Feb 2022). Chinese section at the end.

___ 1903, Vancouver Chinese Business Firms Directory, British Columbia, [images online], pg. 537 listing for Wing Sang & Co., merchants, 51 Dupont, pg. 850 listing for Wing Sang & Co., merchants, 51 Dupont, Vancouver Public Library (https://bccd.vpl.ca : accessed 12 Feb 2022). Chinese section at the end.

___ 1904, Vancouver Chinese Business Firms Directory, British Columbia, [images online], pg. 910 listing for Yip On, of Wing Sang & Co., secretary Chinese Board of Trade, 29 Market Alley, Vancouver Public Library (https://bccd.vpl.ca : accessed 12 Feb 2022). Chinese section at the end.

___ 1905, Vancouver Chinese Business Firms Directory, British Columbia, [images online], pg. 66 listing for Wing Sang & Co., merchants (51 Dupont), pg. 487 listing for Yipyen Charlie, H.M. customs interpreter (51 Dupont), pg. 488 listings for Wing Sang & co., merchants (51 Dupont), pg. 488 listing for C. Yip Yen, interpreter C.P.R. [no address listing], Vancouver Public Library (https://bccd.vpl.ca : accessed 12 Feb 2022). Chinese section at the end.

___ 1906, Vancouver Chinese Business Firms Directory, British Columbia, [images online], pg. 76 listings for Wing Sang & Co., merchants (51 Dupont), Long Wo, cigars & tobacco (53 Dupont), May W. Compau (59 Dupont), Loy Tai & Co., Chinese merchants (61 Dupont), Georgie Osborne (63 Dupont), pg. 662 listing for Wing Sang & Co., merchants, pg. 660 listing for Yipyen Charlie, H.M. customs interpreter (51 Dupont), Vancouver Public Library (https://bccd.vpl.ca : accessed 12 Feb 2022). Chinese section at the end. May W. Compau is likely May Won Cumyow.

___ 1907, Vancouver Chinese Business Firms Directory, British Columbia, [images online], pg. 149 listings for Wing Sang & Co., merchants (51 Dupont), Long Wo, cigars & tobacco (53 Dupont), Vacant (59 Dupont), Tai Loy & Co., Chinese merchants (61 Dupont), Vacant (63 Dupont), pg. 849 listing for Wing Sang & Co., merchants (51 Dupont), Vancouver Public Library (https://bccd.vpl.ca : accessed 12 Feb 2022). Chinese section at the end.

___ 1908, Vancouver Chinese Business Firms Directory, British Columbia, [images online], pg. 295 listings for Wing Sang & Co., chinese merchandise (51 Pender E), Long Wo, cigars & tobacco (53 Pender E), Yuen Mun & Co grocers (59 Pender E), Mun Yuen Co grocers whol & retail (61 Dupont), Chinese (63 Dupont), pg. 1056 bold listing for Wing Sang & Company, Importers of Chinese Merchandise & Japanese Dry Goods (51 Pender E), phone 312, Vancouver Public Library (https://bccd.vpl.ca : accessed 12 Feb 2022). Chinese section at the end.

19 thoughts on “Wing Sang: a house of memory

    1. Me too! I have high expectations for the museum. The space is beautiful – it will be up to the curators to take full advantage.

      1. It certainly will be interesting to see what they do! And hopefully by 2023, the world will be well-ensconced in its new normal so most people will feel comfortable visiting.

  1. Wow! You did a mountain of research on the Wing Sang Building, and boy did it pay off! I am so happy for you, especially since you are part of the Yip Family. I’m sure your research helped the Museum and its funders make the choice to invest in this wonderful site!

    1. Hi Paul, thanks you. You’re very kind to say so. I hope I helped influence the decision to choose Wing Sang but the heavy lifting was done by others.

  2. Hi Linda, this is fascinating history about the Wing Sang Company in Vancouver.

    My Great Grandfather, Cheo CHIN, owned the Wing Sang Company store in Seattle and was a well-known merchant in that city. https://chineseexclusionfiles.com/2021/07/ https://chineseexclusionfiles.com/2021/05/

    The Wing Sang Company was also well-known in Sydney, Australia where I live.
    https://www.heritagecorridor.org.au/places/the-wing-sang-co-buildings-sydney

    Was the Wing Sang Company a franchise (otherwise the term ‘franchise’ didn’t exist in law), or did the Chinese merchant in each state/province/country have naming rights / trademark rights to the Wing Sang brand during the late 1800’s/early 1900’s?

    Kevin Lee

    1. That is an excellent question, Kevin, and one I’ve also pondered. I don’t know the answer. We’d need a partnership agreement to prove it. I’ve located records which suggest Wing Sang’s real estate investment subsidiary was the Lun Yick Company, incorporated in Vancouver on 13 Mar 1905 and capitalized for $100K. Yip Sang’s partner was Charlie Yip Yen. Wing Sang balance sheets from 1923 show only Vancouver-area properties. Wing Sang’s Chinese name was 司公生永.

      I think Yip Sang stayed away from doing business in the United States. He visited Seattle only once, this man who made several trans-Pacific crossings. I theorize the chilling effect of the Chinese Exclusion Act kept him away. That having been said, I am only reading Wing Sang’s English-language financial records, so am willing to entertain the idea Wing Sang had American and Australian connections, in addition to the fabled Hong Kong office.

      1. Hi Linda,

        I suspect there’s only a history of the Wing Sang Company / Wing Sang & Co. in each state/provincial/country jurisdiction. Even though the word “Company” or “Co.” appears in the name, it’s not what we think of as a corporation today. In other words, there was no parent entity with subsidiary entities, or directors at each store.

        In other words, the Seattle store was set-up by my Great Grandfather, Cheo Chin, along with other Chins or Chans from Mi Kong, Hoi Ping, as a partnership of 12 people. I’ve checked with the Seattle, Washington State’s company registry and they’ve confirmed that the Wing Sang Company / Wing Sang & Co. in Seattle was a Partnership. The U.S. Immigration Records inside the Chinese Exclusion Act file of Cheo Chin at the National Archives also confirms the Wing Sang Company / Wing Sang & Co. as a Partnership.

        In Sydney, Australia, it was a Partnership of 7 people set-up by Ma/Mar and the Choys from Zhongshan. I note on their website:-
        “The founders of the Wing Sang, who came from Zhongshan, later established major department stores (Sincere, Wing On and Da Sun) in Hong Kong and Shanghai in the 20th century.”

        Hong Kong & Shanghai had separate operations because the Chinese men came from Zhongshan.

        In Australia, Sydney’s Chinatown, the Chinese men also came from Zhongshan. Their Certificate of Registration #1041 & 14709 appears on the website https://www.heritagecorridor.org.au/places/the-wing-sang-co-buildings-sydney

        In contrast, the Seattle store was set-up and operated by Chinese merchants from the Hoi Ping & Toisan districts.

        Kevin

      2. Pardon me while I get lost for ages in the HeritageCorridor.org site… thank you for sharing the link and your insights.

      3. In regards to the discussion of the Wing Sang Co.s in Vancouver, Seattle, and Sydney, it may well be that the name may have a fortuitous meaning that was independently adopted by the different entrepreneurial groups. How does Wing Sang translate? If you were to web search “Good Fortune Chinese Restaurant” or “Golden Dragon Chinese Restaurant”, you’d probably find listings from Wichita to Nairobi; all independently owned, unless it’s a cover for KFC.

      4. You can see the naming conventions across other ethnic restaurants as well, e.g., hundreds of Thai restaurants named “Sawatdee.” It wasn’t until I travelled through Thailand I realized Sawatdee means hello.

      5. Chris,

        With the Wing Sang store in Seattle, it’s hard to say if it’s fortuitous with the naming because my Great Grandfather, Cheo Chin, didn’t mention in documentation how he came up with it in November/December 1909. However, I suspect he got inspiration from the several trips he made back to China, via British Hong Kong, in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s.

        The Wing sang store in Sydney was definitely inspired by the name of the store in Hong Kong. It means “Eternity” in Chinese.

        It appears all jurisdictions were separate. You could register the name “Wing Sang Company” or “Wing Sang & Co.” in Canada, USA, Australia, British Hong, and Imperial China / the Republic of China, without being sued by owners in other jurisdictions.

        Kevin

      6. For Yip Sang (葉生), he may have wanted to replicate the 生 in Wing Sang (司公生永). Or perhaps it’s the other way around: in naming his company, he took on the name of Yip Sang, leaving behind his humble birth name of 業春田 (green leaves, spring, field). “Eternal” is a good name for a Chinese enterprise, being one of the significant values of long life, good fortune, and prosperity.

  3. I am absolutely thrilled and delighted about developing the Wing Sang building into the new home of the Chinese Canadian Museum. As you and many others have said, this is so appropriate. The generosity and magnanimity of the Drs. Chung and Bob Rennie are to be lauded. I am curious though about the connection, if any, “lo fahn” Bob Rennie has to Chinatown to underlie this benevolence. Maybe this is not the right place to ask, but I figured if any one knows, it would be you, O Learned One.

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