Here is the only known first-person account from a Chinese worker on the famously treacherous parts of transcontinental railways that spanned the North American continent in the nineteenth century. The story of those Chinese workers has been told before, but never in a voice from among their number, never in a voice that lived through the experience. Here is that missing voice, a voice that changes our understanding of the history it tells and that so many believed was lost forever. Dukesang Wong’s written account of life working on the Canadian Pacific Railway, a Gold Mountain life, tells of the punishing work, the comradery, the sickness and starvation, the encounters with Indigenous Peoples, and the dark and shameful history of racism and exploitation that prevailed up and down the North American continent. The Diary of Dukesang Wong includes all the selected entries translated in the mid-1960s by his granddaughter, Wanda Joy Hoe, for an undergraduate sociology paper. Background history and explanations for the diary’s unexplained references are provided by David McIlwraith, the book’s editor, who also considers why the diarist’s voice and other Chinese voices have been silenced for so long.
About the authors
Born in China in 1846, Dukesang Wong saw his magistrate father poisoned, and his family honour destroyed, in 1867, the year his diary begins. He travelled to North America in 1880, after several years of trying to scrape together a living in war-torn China, landing in Portland before making his way north to work in British Columbia on the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway. He eventually settled in what is now known as New Westminster, working as a tailor, and was able to bring his bride to Canada from China. Together they had eight children. Dukesang Wong died in 1931. Selections from his diaries were translated in the mid-1960s by his granddaughter, Wanda Joy Hoe, as part of a university undergraduate paper.
"[The Diary of Dukesang Wong] puts a human face on the thousands of Chinese who came to Canada in the 19th century and gradually managed, by dint of sheer determination and hard work, to make themselves good lives."
—Asian Review of Books