Ah Quin

16 September 2019
Image of Ah Quin taken from the Museum of Chinese in America’s (MOCA) core exhibition, curtesy of the San Diego Historical Society

Ah Quin (1848-1914) was an exceptional figure during the early days of Chinese immigration to the U.S. He kept a journal and as a result left behind a wealth of firsthandaccounts about life during that time. Born in Guangdong, Ah Quin received an English mission education in Canton before being sent to California by his family in 1868. He worked a variety of odd jobs including houseboy and cook across San Francisco, Santa Barbara, and Alaska, continuing his religious studies and learning merchandizing along the way. In Alaska, Ah Quin cut off his queue, marking his commitment to making America his home.

Ah Quin’s education and bilingualism opened many doors for him: he worked as a labor broker for the California Southern Railroad in San Diego for five years before branching out into merchandising and real estate. He became a respected leader within the San Diego community, earning him the unofficial title of “Mayor of Chinatown.” Between 1877 and 1910, Ah Quin kept a lengthy diary spanning ten journals in which he described his daily life, largely in English. In addition to these written records, the Quin family has maintained a strong oral history of Ah Quin’s life throughout the generations. Ah Quin’s legacy not only richly portrays the experience of Chinese in America around the turn of the 20th century, but demonstrates the importance of social and personal memory in preserving marginalized histories.

阿坤(谭聪坤Ah Quin 1848-1914)在中国移民美国的初期是一位特殊的人物。他写日记,因此留下了大量关于那段时期生活的第一手资料。阿坤出生于广东,1868年被家人送到加州之前,他曾在广东接受过教会英语教育。他曾在旧金山、圣巴巴拉和阿拉斯加做过各种各样的零工,包括做家仆和厨师,同时一边继续他的宗教研究,一边学习做买卖。在阿拉斯加时,阿坤剪掉了自己的辫子,标志着他把美国作为自己的家的决心。

阿坤的教育背景和双语能力为他打开了许多大门:他曾在位于圣地亚哥的加州南部铁路公司(California Southern Railroad)做过五年的劳工经纪人,之后涉足销售和房地产领域。他成为了圣地亚哥社区受人尊敬的领袖,并赢得了“唐人街市长”的非官方头衔。1877年至1910年间,阿坤写了冗长的日记,用了10本日记本,其中大部分都是用英语记录的日常生活。除了这些文字记录以外,阿坤的家族世世代代都传承着关于阿坤生活的翔实的口述历史。阿坤的遗产不仅丰富地描绘了20世纪之交中国人在美国的经历,而且表明了社会和个人记忆在保存边缘化历史方面的重要性。

Countdown to the TCS NYC Marathon on November 3, 2019: 216 Days.

2019年是美国第一条横贯大陆铁路建成150周年,为了纪念第一批华人来美建设这条铁路所做出的巨大贡献, MOCA将其2019 TCS NYC Marathon的活动命名为 MOCA Spike 150 – Running Forward With Our Stories! 鼓励大家通过马拉松公益跑,全国线上接力,以及一天一个故事的方式讲述150个华人的历史故事,敬请大家持续关注, 讲出华人自己的故事,回顾过去,立足现在,展望未来,共同书写美国历史,使之更加充实完整。

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