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In search of Dean Lung, a Chinese person

By Zhao Xu in New York | China Daily | Updated: 2020-08-01 13:40

In 1882, seven years after Dean Lung's arrival, the US Congress passed the infamous Chinese Exclusion Act, barring all Chinese laborers from entering the country. The act was renewed for another 10 years in 1892.

This means that every time before Dean Lung left for his home (He did this four times according to himself, including in 1905, after which he probably did not return), he had to prove that he was a man of means, which he was not, as pointed out by Carpentier while asking for "a life annuity" on his behalf. To testify, two white witnesses were needed, roles readily filled by Carpentier and a lawyer friend of his.

"I'm sure he endured a lot of hardship, and a lot of racism from people around him," says Mia Anderer, a daughter of Japanese immigrants whose father once struggled in his adopted home and was interned for years like all his fellow Japanese Americans after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941 and war ensued.

"To me he's a courageous, enterprising and generous man who sought to foster greater understanding of the country and the culture from which he came."

In a letter to Carpentier in 1901, Low wrote:"As you say, the United States and China are likely to be more intimately connected than ever in the years to come... I can think of no better way of developing among our own people a correct knowledge of the Chinese than the way you have chosen."

It was also a way Dean Lung had chosen, at a time when the average monthly pay for an immigrant Chinese laborer was somewhere between $30 and $40.

Since April, Anderer has done several teleconferences with Karen Ma, in one of which the chairman of Columbia University's Department of East Asian Languages and Culture took part. Additional information was provided, although Karen asked Anderer "not to divulge any of it".

"The department chairman is inclined, as I am, to believe Karen Ma. But there's no public official reaction, as the university has bigger concerns right now about how to deal with COVID-19 and reopen," she said.

"Whether something is found or not, the story will stand on its own-just the story as it is," she said during an interview last year.

In that respect, perhaps nothing is more emotionally evocative and revealing than the way Dean Lung signed his brief letter of donation:"Dean Lung,'A Chinese Person.'"

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