Thursday, June 05, 2008
Kitchen at Kam Wah Chung: A New Painting
As some of you know, I'm writing a book of poetry that features the voices of 5 characters who settled the American West. One of those characters is Ing Hay, a Chinese immigrant who made his home in John Day, Oregon. In March, I took a trip to John Day to see his home, a store known as Kam Wah Chung.
Kam Wah Chung is now a museum. It was formerly a store, doctor's office, and pharmacopia run by Ing Hay and his business partner Lung On from about 1890-1950. These men were only teenagers when the arrived from Taishan County, ready to mine gold on "Gold Mountain." They arrived to find the gold mines largely played out, so Lung On turned his hand to business, and Ing Hay to medicine. They became business partners and lifelong friends.
Stepping into Kam Wah Chung is like stepping into history. The walls are lined with smoke-stained red paper, the shelves are lined with comestibles and herbal remedies from 100 years ago. I wasn't allowed to take flash photography, but the curator shone a flashlight on items I wanted to take pictures of.
This painting depicts the wok and tea kettle that Ing Hay used to prepare traditional Chinese food and drink for Lung On and their many boarders. Here is the photograph:
If you ever get a chance to visit Kam Wah Chung, you won't forget it.