說歷史,它在行!——華人生活博物館

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1993 / 11月

文‧鄭元慶 圖‧鄭元慶


它不像一些著名的博物館,把收藏的古物都供在玻璃櫃內,只能讓人遠觀。

這間名叫「京華莊」的博物館既「人性」又生活化,可觸摸、可近觀,還保留了百年前在美華人的生活情境。不但當年的裝潢、坐椅、廚具依舊,甚至連捕鼠器、痰盂、藥舖都完好如初。對華人子弟而言,此處真是個可供學習、溯源的寶山。


從美國奧勒岡州西邊森林滿布的波特蘭市出發,穿越中部夾帶冰雪的隘口及高地,就可來到東邊滿地枯黃的岩石區。

如果在黃昏時刻,驅車進入百餘年前華人聚居的強地市(John Day),可以看見路旁農地的灑水器噴出晶亮剔透的水珠,在夕陽下化成一道長長的彩虹,像在訴說此地也曾有過璀璨的往昔。

的確,強地也像許多早期西部小鎮一樣,從發跡到消逝都有著類似的命運。當小鎮也隨著華人散去,即將成為廢墟之際,幸好當地為了紀念華人的貢獻,將一座原由兩位華人經營的京華莊公司,稍加整修,以完整的樣貌,呈現舊日華人的生活情景,使參觀者得以藉此引發思古之情。

因淘金而成的小鎮

據研究華人在美歷史多年,在奧勒岡路易士.克拉克學院教授亞洲歷史課程的鮑羅博士表示,淘金熱是在西元一八四八年從美國西岸的加州開始,而後傳到愛達荷州。一八六二年則在奧勒岡州東部峽谷溪附近發現金礦,消息傳出後,吸引許多淘金客趕來一圓發財夢。

當年白人淘金客多住在峽谷市一帶,美國政府不准在當地建立中國城,因此約有六百多名華人淘金客就在離市區幾英里外的強地溪邊聚居,稱為下城,隨後才以溪流命名,改叫強地市。

美西的淘金潮,像強力磁石般吸引了太平洋彼岸的華人,飄洋過海尋找生命的新契機。當時的中國正是滿清末年,許多廣東、福建居民來到強地。其中,又以廣東人最多。

京華莊博物館原來的兩位主人翁——王樑和海應,就是在這波淘金熱潮時遠渡來美。

鮑羅教授曾花了幾年的時間,在強地實際訪問當地人士,寫成以敘述京華莊兩位主人和當地華人歷史的專書,名叫「強地的中國醫生」,書中對海應和王樑有深刻的描述。

海應醫術遠近馳名

海應的宗族對清廷的暴政很反感,家族中有五位叔伯在一八七○年代到美找出路。一八八○年捎信回家,表示他們日子過得很好,加上西部開拓需要人手,建議海應也來美國。

當時海應已有一子一女,於一八八三年隨父到華盛頓州,並於一八八七年轉到強地市。由於缺乏文字資料,後人對海應如何學習中醫望、聞、問、切的把脈本領,和調劑、煎藥的過程並不清楚,有人說他在家鄉已學習醫術,另有一說則指他是跟隨當地的老中醫學習。

當時海外華人靠辛勤工作維生,生不得病,怕身子一虛就無法養家活口。早期有很多華工因隧道倒塌或受重傷而殘廢,而別人又不能照顧他們,這些華工為了不拖累他人,最後只好服毒自殺。

當海應這位中國醫生出現時,該地華人有如大旱時,得到了甘霖。

王樑則於一八八二年到強地,他個性開朗且學習能力甚強,到一八八七年時,已能說流利的英文。後人在清理他的遺物時,曾發現有些英文名著,如狄更生、莫泊桑的小說等,並有英文字典。

由於喜與人接觸,加上有良好的語言能力,又樂於幫助華人處理英文書信事宜,王樑很容易就在當地建立起好的名聲,經商業務因而蓬勃發展,他還是東奧勒岡州的第一位汽車經銷商呢。

王樑與海應認識之後,即英雄相惜地合作,創出一番事業。海應的英文不很好,也不會騎馬、開車,所以外出應診時,都由王樑駕馬車、開車接送;當對象是白人時,王樑還充當翻譯。

打破白人樊籬

由於當時美國的醫學並不發達,很多醫生半路出家,甚至從書本上依樣畫葫蘆治病,很多人請西醫治病得靠運氣。

鮑羅教授認為海醫師最大的功勞可說是打破華人與白人間的隔閡,當地有位牧場主人,其子因上臂受傷而惡化為敗血症,又因西醫診斷錯誤,以致病情加重。

牧場主人見愛子生命垂危,又聽說海應醫術高明,也顧不了他是中醫或西醫,即延請他來看病。海醫師在牧場花了六天六夜的時間,終於使病人渡過危險期。

而另一位牧場女主人也有類似的遭遇。

經過了這些事件,海醫師成了專治疑難雜症的名醫。此後,不但華人請他看病,也有更多的白人找他醫治,連原來對華人不友善的白人,也因此改變了對華人的刻板印象。日後當全美出現激烈的排華風潮時,在奧勒岡東部卻是風平浪靜,甚至有許多北加州的華人,逃到奧勒岡州避難。

因金盡而沒落

當王、海兩人的事業蒸蒸日上之際,華人卻因強地的黃金淘盡,工作機會愈來愈少,而逐漸遷至波特蘭等大都市。

一八九六年,聯合太平洋鐵路修築到附近的普萊市,那時只要能越過藍山就可到強地市。但這條路線卻因需要穿過隧道及跨過河谷,經費甚鉅,最後只好繞道別處,使得原有機會東山再起的強地,從此無法翻身。

一九四○年代,此地已剩下廿位華人。王樑死於一九四○年,留下將近九萬美元的財產。

海醫師於一九五二年過世,雖有兒女在中國大陸,卻因當年中共與美國關係不佳,使得他們留下的財產不能由子女繼承,最後只好全數交給州政府。州政府整修他的故居,在一九七七年以博物館型態開放供人們參觀,由米肯海默老太太擔任館長,負責解說及管理。

最像堡壘般的公司

這間京華莊博物館,四周牆壁全由石塊砌成,厚約卅公分,僅留小出入口和小窗,從外面看有點像座刀槍不入的城堡。

為什麼把房子蓋得如此「固若金湯」?據鮑羅教授研究,除了要防止劫匪入侵之外,可能在當時還提供新移民暫時食宿的服務;又為了在「排華法案」通過後,避免移民局和司法人員進入抓人,而蓋得異常堅固。

另有傳說是,在京華莊裡有賭博行為,曾有白人賭客因鬧事而被華人打傷,另有人在那裡抽鴉片:為防止這兩件違法事件可能帶來的刑責,才將房子設計成這樣的。

也幸好它十分堅固,才能保存到現在,成為博物館。

博物館長、寬各約廿乘十公尺,外觀十分樸實,也沒有裝飾,玄關區有幾個展示櫃,放著以前華人工作用的工具,如鋸子、鐮刀等。

右側有幾張翻拍成的照片,包括海應和王樑兩位主角。由一張全景照片可看出當時京華莊的活絡熱鬧,外面空地上還停了一輛汽車,可能就是王樑送海醫師四處出診的交通工具。

桌上擺有一本剪貼簿,貼著報導博物館的各種剪報,還有光華雜誌提供的中藥照片和文字資料,顯示館長的仔細用心。

較令人驚訝的是,有一些老舊的支票也在展示之列。米館長表示,支票是在海醫師的床舖下找到的,金額從五十分到幾百美元都有,合起來有二萬三千美元。這筆錢在當時一定有極高的價值,可能是賭博的債款。為何海醫師不把支票兌現,則已成歷史懸案。

集中藥材之精華

左轉第一個房間左邊是廚房,右邊則擺了一張上、下舖。大概是年代久遠、日積月累的關係,四面牆壁、天花板和桌椅都被薰成近乎黑色,深沉樸拙,甚有歷史感。

廚房鐵製大灶供奉灶神牌位,顯示華人也把當年中國的信仰帶了過來。這裡正是海醫生煎煮中藥之處,遙想當年病患絡繹不絕,火爐常旺的盛況,至今只餘冷灶留守,令人欷歔。

餐桌上擺著碗筷,只是不知誰來晚餐?櫥櫃上放了一罐罐的調味料,還有一九二○年的兩壇酒,想必早已是陳年醇酒,比XO還好喝哩。

緊靠著上、下舖的牆面貼滿了從二、三十年代印刷品上剪下來美國的模特兒照片;床頭則擺個捕鼠器。

再進去就是京華莊的精華地帶,左邊是藥舖、右邊是產品陳列處。

藥舖彷彿當舖一樣,藥師從旁邊進出,正面玻璃到頂,僅留個小洞送出藥包。

桌面上有對熊掌,乍看之下有點令人心驚,或許在說明食補、食療也是中華文化裡重要的養生方法。

櫥櫃上一個個藥罐、藥包,外面寫著中文藥名,這些藥材總共有五百種左右,其中有一半是人們所認識且知道用途的。當時看病,一定是把脈、看病、開處方、煎熬成汁等順序作業,一氣呵成。

對面貨架上的陳列品更是琳琅滿目,樣式極多,有南北雜貨、酒類等。在旁邊的儲藏室裡,還有從一九三○年代保存到現在,遠自中國大陸、日本和其他國家運來的貨品,連箱子都還沒打開。

醫師來來往往的影子

最後一個房間是海醫師的臥室,這裡從未整修過,完全是當年的模樣。佇立在門前,閉上眼睛,依稀可看到海醫師來來往往的影子。

繞了一圈,加上解說,更能明瞭當年此地兩位主人的心血,也十分惋惜強地市華人已全部離開,否則此地將會是他們後代子孫最好的生活教室。

而全美恐怕也找不到這樣能使舊日現的華人博物館了。

後記:五年前,光華收到美國奧勒岡州強地市博物館米館長的來信,想要索取某期光華刊登有關於中醫藥材的圖片和療效解說。基於傳揚中華文化的理念,本刊當然樂意提供這些資料;同時在編輯部的線索庫中,留下一個有關海外華人的有趣題目。

今年,光華編輯一趟美國之行,終於將這個留了五年的線索,變成了報導。

〔圖片說明〕

P.90

由昔日京華莊公司和中藥舖,到今日的博物館,它的外觀與內在依舊令人動容。

P.91

鳥瞰強地小鎮。

P.91

海醫師曾是遠近馳名的中醫師,連許多白人都從遠道來向他求醫。

P.92

保持原貌的廚房,昔日常用來煎煮中藥材。

P.93

陳年醇酒的味道一定不下於X.O.。

P.94

從架上陳列的各式南北貨和中外物品,可窺見京華莊公司往日的規模。

P.95

京華莊自行印製月曆當贈送品,這是一九二三年所印的月曆。

P.95

滿清時代所用的銅錢,目前甚為少見。

P.96

四周貼著海報和報紙的床舖,也算是歷史的見證。

P.97

捕鼠器就放在床頭邊,莫非當年鼠患猖獗?

P.98

海醫師的臥房未經整修,後人曾在床底下找到二萬三千美元。

P.99

熊掌曾是中國傳統的藥材之一。

P.99

藥舖存放總數約五百種藥材。

相關文章

近期文章

EN

Living in the Past--A Museum of Chinese Life

Cheng Yuan-ching /photos courtesy of Cheng Yuan-ching /tr. by Robert Taylor

Unlike some well-known museums, it doesn't enshrine its exhibits in glass cabinets where one can only peer at them from a distance.

This museum, called the "Kam Wah Chung Company," is very "human" and close to life, and one can touch things and took at them close up. It preserves a picture of the life lived by Chinese people in America a hundred years ago. Not only ornaments, furniture and kitchen utensils from those days are on show; even a mousetrap, a spittoon and a complete herbal pharmacy are there, looking as good as new. For people of Chinese descent, the museum is a real treasure-house in which they can study and trace back their roots.


Setting out from the city of Portland in the thickly-wooded western part of Oregon in the USA and crossing the snowy passes of the central uplands, one arrives in the rocky, arid eastern part of the state.

Driving at dusk into the town of John Day, which was a center of Chinese population over a hundred years ago, you can see the crystal-clear drops of water sprayed by the irrigators onto the fields along the roadside turned by the setting sun into a long avenue of rainbows, which seems to tell of a glittering past.

Indeed, from its boom days to its decline, John Day has shared a similar fate with many other towns of the old West. But luckily, just as the little town was about to fall into ruin as the Chinese left it behind, the State took over and renovated the Kam Wah Chung Company, which had originally been run by two Chinese, in order to commemorate Chinese people's contribution and give visitors a taste of the past by presenting a picture of the life of the Chinese in bygone days.

A town born of the Gold Rush:

Dr. Jeffrey Barlow, Who teaches at the Department of Asian History at Oregon's Lewis and Clarke College, has been researching the history of the Chinese in America for many years. He tells how the Gold Rush began in 1848 in California on America's West Coast, and later spread to Idaho. In 1862, gold was found near Canyon Creek in Eastern Oregon. When news of the discovery spread, it attracted many prospectors pursuing dreams of riches.

In those days, the white prospectors mainly lived in the area around Canyon City. The US Government would not allow a Chinatown to be set up there, and so the 600 or so Chinese prospectors settled by the John Day Creek a few miles out of town. The settlement was first known as the Lower Town, but was later named John Day after the creek.

Like a powerful magnet, the Gold Rush in the American West drew Chinese across the Pacific Ocean to seek new opportunities. In China the Ching Dynasty was drawing to a close. Many people from Canton and Fujian Provinces came to John Day, with the largest numbers coming from Canton. The original owners of what is now the Kam Wah Chung museum--Wang Liang and Hai Ying--made the long journey to America during those Gold Rush days.

Professor Barlow devoted several years to personally interviewing local people in John Day before writing his book China Doctor of John Day, which recounts the history of the two owners of Kam Wah Chung and of the Chinese people of the locality. The book contains vivid descriptions of Hai Ying and Wang Liang.

Known far and wide:

Many members of Hai Ying's clan were disgusted by the tyranny of the Ching Dynasty government, and during the 1870's five of his uncles went to America to seek a new life. In a letter sent home in 1880, they said they were living very well, and that people were needed for the development of the West, so they suggested that Hai Ying should also come to America.

At that time Hai Ying already had a son and a daughter, and in 1883 they went with their father to the State of Washington, moving on to John Day in 1887. For lack of written records, we do not now know how Hai Ying came to master the diagnostic skills of Chinese medicine and to learn to mix and prepare drugs. Some say that he had already studied the practice of medicine back home in China, while others maintain that he learned his craft from an old Chinese doctor in America.

In those days Chinese overseas lived by the sweat of their brows and could not afford to fall ill for fear that they would no longer be able to feed their families or themselves. In the early days very many Chinese laborers were crippled when they were injured in tunnel collapses or other accidents. Other people were in no position to look after them, and to avoid becoming a burden many finally took their own lives by swallowing poison.

For the Chinese in the area, the appearance of the Chinese doctor Hai Ying came like manna from heaven.

Wang Liang came to John Day in 1882. A quick learner with a cheerful disposition, by 1887 he could speak fluent English. Among his possessions people have found some famous literary works in English, such as novels by Dickens, Maupassant and others, along with an English dictionary.

Because he loved meeting people, was a good linguist, and was happy to help other Chinese with their correspondence in English, Wang Liang quickly established a good reputation locally, and this helped his business activities to thrive. He even became the first motor car dealer in Eastern Oregon.

After Wang Liang and Hai Ying met, they got along famously and set up in business together. Hai Ying's English was poor, and he could neither ride a horse nor drive a car; so whenever he went to visit patients Wang Liang would drive him there by horse and buggy or by car. If the patient was a white person, Wang Liang would also act as interpreter.

Breaking down racial barriers:

Because the medical profession was not well developed in America at that time, many doctors had only rudimentary training, or had even gained all their knowledge from books, so that for many people being treated by a Western doctor was a hit and miss affair.

Professor Barlow believes that Dr. Hai's greatest achievement was in breaking down the barriers of mistrust and misunderstanding between Chinese and white people. On one occasion, the son of a local rancher suffered blood poisoning after a wound on his upper arm became septic, and misdiagnosis by a Western doctor allowed his condition to become worse.

Seeing that his beloved son's life was in danger, and having heard of Hai Ying's skill as a doctor, the rancher called him out to see his son, without stopping to worry about whether he was a Chinese or Western doctor. Dr. Hai spent six days and nights at the ranch, until his patient was finally out of danger.

He also cured the mistress of another ranch in similar circumstances.

These incidents established Dr. Hai's reputation for treating difficult and hard-to-diagnose cases, and from then on not only Chinese people but also many white people came to him for treatment. This also changed the stereotyped and hostile attitudes which white people had held towards the Chinese. In later years, when a violent wave of anti-Chinese sentiment swept through the whole of the United States, it left Eastern Oregon untouched, and many Chinese from Northern California even fled to Oregon to escape the troubles.

Decline as the gold ran out:

But just as Wang and Hai's business was flourishing, Chinese people gradually began to move away from John Day to larger cities such as Portland, as the gold in John Day ran out and work became scarcer and scarcer.

In 1896 the Union Pacific Railroad reached nearby Prairie City, and would only have had to cross the Blue Mountains to reach John Day. But to take this route the tracks would have had to pass through tunnels and span ravines. The cost would have been enormous, and finally a detour was chosen, so the chance of a revival in John Day's fortunes was lost forever.

By the 1940's only 20 Chinese were left in the town. Wang Liang died in 1940, leaving an estate worth nearly US$90,000.

Dr. Hai passed away in 1952, but although he had children living in mainland China, because relations between Communist China and the United States were not good at that time, his children were unable to inherit his property, all of which finally passed to the Oregon State Government. The State Government renovated Dr. Hai's old home and in 1977 opened it to visitors as a museum.

Built like a fortress:

The four walls of the Kam Wah Chung museum are built entirely of stone blocks and are about one foot thick with only a small entrance and little windows, so that from the outside it looks rather like an impregnable fortress.

Why make the house so invulnerable? According to Professor Barlow's research, apart from keeping out thieves and bandits, perhaps it was because at that time the company still provided food and temporary lodging to new immigrants; after the passing of the Chinese Exclusion Act, the house was built especially strong to prevent immigration officers and law enforcers from entering to arrest people.

Another version has it that gambling was carried on at Kam Wah Chung and that white gamblers who had caused trouble had been beaten and injured by Chinese; it is also said that opium was smoked there. The Company house was built so solidly in order to shield these two illegal activities from the eyes of the law.

It was just this durability which enabled the house to last to become the museum which it is today.

The museum measures around 20 yards long by 10 yards wide, and has a very simple, unornamented exterior. Inside the entrance are a few display cabinets holding tools such as saws and sickles formerly used by Chinese laborers.

On the right a number of photographs are reproduced, including pictures of Hai Ying and Wang Liang, the two main characters in the house's history. A full view of the building shows what a bustling place the Kam Wah Chung Company was in bygone days, and the car seen parked in the space outside may well have been the very vehicle in which Wang Liang drove Dr. Hai far and wide to visit patients.

On a table is a scrapbook containing newspaper and magazine reports about the museum, and even photographs and information about Chinese medicines provided by Sinorama. They have all been carefully preserved by Carolyn Micnhimer, the old lady in charge of the museum.

One rather surprising exhibit is a collection of old bank checks. Ms. Micnhimer says that the checks were found under Dr. Hai Ying's bed and are made out for sums ranging from 50c to several hundred dollars. Their combined value totals around US$23,000, an enormous sum of money for those days. Perhaps they were gambling debts, but why Dr. Hai did not cash them remains a mystery.

A fine collection of medicines:

The left side of the first room on the left is a kitchen, while on the right there stands a bunk bed. Over the long years the four walls, the ceiling and the furniture have all gradually become almost black from the smoke, giving the room a solemn, mysterious and ancient feeling.

On the kitchen's big iron range stands a tablet in honor of the Kitchen God, showing that the Chinese brought the beliefs of the time with them from China. This is the place where Dr. Hai used to brew Chinese medicines. Looking back to those days, when a constant stream of patients kept the stove's fire busy, to see it now standing cold and forlorn brings a sigh of regret.

The dining table is laid with bowls and chopsticks. but who will sit down to eat? Also on the table are pot after pot of condiments, and even a bottle of liquor dated 1920, which by now must surely have aged to become more mellow than the finest brandy.

The walls close to the bunk bed are plastered with American fashion pictures cut from magazines of the 1920's and 30's, while by one end of the bed there lies a mousetrap.

The next room in is the pride of the Kam Wah Chung museum: on the left is a herbal pharmacy, while on the right is the area where goods for sale were displayed.

Just as in a pawnshop, the doctor entered the pharmacy through a side door, while the front is glazed up to the ceiling, with only a small opening through which the medicines were passed out.

On the table lies a pair of bear's paws, which at first glance appear rather frightening. Perhaps they tell us of the importance in Chinese culture of eating foods with tonic or curative properties to maintain or restore one's health.

The jars and packets of medicines on the shelves are marked on the outside with the drugs' names in Chinese. There are around 500 different materials here, of which around half can be identified and are of known application. In those days, the doctor would always first take the patient's pulse, make his diagnosis and then immediately prescribe and prepare the appropriate medicines, all in one session.

In the shop area opposite, fine goods of every description fill the shelves, including foodstuffs in cans, jars and tins, and wines and spirits. In the adjacent storeroom there are boxes of goods shipped in the 1930's from as far away as the Chinese mainland and Japan. Some of the cases have never even been opened.

The last room is Dr. Hai's bedroom which has not been renovated, but has been kept just as it was, along with everything in it. Standing still in the doorway with eyes closed, one can almost see the shadow of Dr. Hai coming and going.

The shadow of the doctor:

A tour around the museum with accompanying explanations shows clearly the hard work of the two former owners, and it is a pity that all the Chinese have left John Day, for their children and grandchildren could learn so much here.

And surely in all America there cannot be another museum of Chinese life which recreates those past days so well.

Postscript:

Five years ago, Sinorama received a letter from the curator of the museum in John Day, Oregon, USA, asking for pictures of Chinese medicines with an explanation of their medical properties, from a certain issue of the magazine. In the spirit of promoting Chinese culture we were naturally happy to supply this material, while at the same time our editorial department noted this as a potentially interesting topic on Chinese people overseas.

This year, a visit to the USA by one of our writers has finally enabled us to follow up that five-year-old lead and present this report.

[Picture Caption]

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From the Kam Wah Chung Company and Chinese herbal pharmacy of old to today's museum, its exterior and interior remain fascinating.

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A bird's eye view of the little town of John Day.

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Hai Ying's fame as a Chinese doctor spread far and wide, and even many white people travelled long distances to seek treatment.

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The kitchen, which retains its original appearance, was formerly used to prepare Chinese medicines.

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After aging for many decades this rice wine must surely be as mellow asthe finest brandy.

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The wide variety of goods from around the world which fill the shelves give an idea of the thriving business which the Kam Wah Chung Company once was.

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Copper coins from the Ching Dynasty are now very rare.

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Kam Wah Chung used to have calendars printed to give to customers. Thisone is for the year 1923.

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The bedspace adorned with posters and newspapers is also a window on history.

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A mousetrap lies by the bed: were rodents really so rampant?

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Dr. Hai's bedroom has been kept just as it was. US$23,000 was found under the bed.

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Bears' paws were traditionally used in Chinese medicine.

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The pharmacy contains around 500 different medical raw materials.

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