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A Century-old “Puzzle”: The Six Companies' Role in Chinese Labor Importation in the Nineteenth Century

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image of Journal of American-East Asian Relations

University of Hawaii at Hilo In 1864, Win Kang embarked on a steamship for California from an interior town near Canton in China, the first member of the Kang family to emigrate. He was sick, and had no friends on the ship or in California. When the steamship landed in San Francisco, about a thousand Chinese went aboard, including a secretary from the Ning Yeung huiguan or Ning Yeung Company who wanted to see if there were any countrymen from his district of China. Ning Yeung huiguan was just one of the huiguan in San Francisco. The secretary found Win Kang and took him to the company hall on Broadway. In the huiguan house, he was fed and nursed for about two weeks until he regained his health. He then went to the temple on the upper floor of the huiguan building and made thank-offerings to the gods. In the next few years, the secretary helped him to find a job, defended him in court, prosecuted the man who robbed him in a Barbary Coast alley, adjudicated a dispute he had with another Chinese, and helped prove that he was innocent of robbery charges (it turned out that the culprit was his employer's son). He paid the huiguan 5 or 6 for the assistance he received when he was sick.


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