Wednesday, August 5, 2015

The Chinese Empire Reform Association of Marysville, California, 1904

Courtesy of Community Memorial Museum, Yuba City, California

An unusual poster from California's third largest Chinese community, Marysville, illustrates both the unity and the diversity of the Baohuanghui. The poster [here in higher resolution] was printed from a glass plate donated to Yuba City's Community Memorial Museum and brought to our attention by volunteer curator Patricia Justus and historian of Marysville Chinese, Paul Chace.
Surely this is the only poster showing an infant as a member (bottom left corner), although not the only one with a woman (bottom right corner). Seventy members are shown, with officers and board members in the top three rows and members in the last four. Drawings of Liang Qichao and Kang Youwei flank the Guangxu emperor above the members. To the trio's left is the Baohuanghui flag (which probably was created around the time of Liang Qichao's 1903 trip to North America) and to their right is the Qing dragon flag, typical of all Baohuanghui posters of this era. 

Each member is wearing a badge, a year earlier than the badges designed and marketed by Kang Youwei in 1905. These badges may be the same as worn by members in two earlier posters from Butte and Marysville, Montana from 1901, with a portrait of the emperor on a white background and no other embellishments as on the 1905 badges. Like other posters, exhortative statements call for unity and adopting a constitution, but this one asks, "Why does [China] need internal strife and promotion of revolution?" pointing to the already heated debate between the reformers and their revolutionary opponents. A full translation can be found here

Paul Chace introduces Marysville and its Baohuanghui (CERA) chapter:

The northern valley community of Marysville (Wei-li-yun, Sam Fow 尾利允埠,三埠) emerged with the California Gold Rush, as the river shipping terminus to the northern mines. It remained an urban center in the verdant agricultural valley. By 1900, the population was 4,000 and Chinese constituted around 1,500. They supported about 40 Chinese business firms plus various organizations, the largest being the Sze Yup Hui Kuan. In 1880 the Chung Wah Association was formed to support a community temple, the Bok Kai Mui.

A Chinese Empire Reform Association chapter was formally dedicated by Liang Qitian in early January 1904, with a party and big street parade. There were 70 charter members pictured on their chapter poster. CERA Vice President Liang Qichao earlier had visited October 1903. In early March 1905 Kang probably was quietly hosted at Marysville on his California tour.

The City tax rolls initially list “Chinese Empire Reform” in 1904. The rolls for 1905 and 1906 read “Chinese Empire Reform School” but the school is not mentioned thereafter. In August 1910 the Association acquired title to a two-story commercial building at 306 First Street, a principal street, with a token transfer from the big Hong Woo Company, the business arm of the Sze Yup group. The deed named Lim Soon Duck, Yee Jak Fung, and Soo Hoo Wing as trustees for the Association; all local businessmen. “CHINESE REFORM PARTY” was painted on the front door.  The property title remained with the Association for five decades.

Paul G.Chace, Ph.D. Anthropology


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