This project sought to make available Chinese-language documents which are held in a predominantly English-language archives. A selection of correspondence from the Yip family and Yip Sang Ltd. fonds (AM1108) was used. One of the difficulties with making these materials available is that there are so few local people who can read the old-style Chinese writing. We decided to digitize the letters so that they are available to readers of the old script throughout the world, and to invite them to contribute their translations and interpretations.
This work, completed in 2008, was done in cooperation with the Department of History at the University of British Columbia. W. Wang translated some of the letters under the supervision of Dr. Henry Yu. We are grateful for the financial assistance of the Government of Canada for the digitization of photographs and letters.
See the result of the joint digitization project with UBC Library: http://www.library.ubc.ca/chineseinbc/search.html
Search the Yip Sang materials: http://digitalcollections.library.ubc.ca/cdm4/search.php?CISOROOT=/yipsang
這個翻譯工作，目的在協助一個以英語為主的檔案館 ;例如温哥華檔案館; 找出最可行的方法，令公眾能夠使用館內的中文資料。工作主要是將部份葉氏家族及其公司的信件(館蔵編號: AM1108)，翻譯成英文。 其中最困難的地方，是書信的手寫字體較難辨認，以及解讀信中的舊式文體。為求得到世界各地人仕的幫助， 温哥華檔案館決定將信件製成數碼影像，然後將影像透過互聯網發放到世界各地，好讓有識之士，協助完成翻譯工作。
The Yip family in Vancouver began with Yip Sang’s arrival in B.C. in 1881. Yip Sang, whose real name was Yip Chun Tien (along with two other Chinese names, Yip Loy Yiu and Yip Lin Sang), was born in China in 1845. In 1864, he left his home village, Shengtang Cun, Duhu County in Guangdong province, to travel to San Francisco, where he worked as a dishwasher, cook, cigar maker, and labourer in the goldfields.
Eventually he left for B.C., and in 1881, after first looking for gold in the north, settled in Vancouver and found work as a pedlar, selling sacks of coal door to door. In 1882, he was employed by the Canadian Pacific Railroad Supply Company, where he worked as a bookkeeper, timekeeper, paymaster and then as the Chinese superintendent. In 1885, Yip Sang left the company and returned to China. In 1888, he returned to Vancouver and established the import and export firm of Wing Sang Company.
During his lifetime, Yip Sang had four wives and a total of twenty-three children. He became a naturalized British subject in 1891. Yip Sang was one of the driving forces in the establishment of the Chinese Benevolent Association, the Chinese School and the Chinese Hospital (now Mount St. Joseph’s) in Vancouver. He was a lifetime governor of Vancouver General Hospital, and was also a benefactor of the Public Hospital in Guangdong province in China. He died in 1927.
温哥華葉氏家族是由第一代移民葉生於1881年建立，葉生原名葉春田，又名葉來饒或葉連生。葉生在1845年出生於中國廣東省一個農村，他在1864年離鄉後，曾到美國三藩市, 當過洗碗、廚師、雪茄煙工人, 亦曾在金礦場工作。
葉生在 1881 年遷移到加拿大卑詩省， 曾在省北部淘金。 葉生定居於温哥華後, 曾做過賣煤炭小販。一年後葉生受僱於加拿大太平洋鉄路物料公司, 負責入數、 記錄工時及出納等工作, 及後葉生更獲委為華人監工。 葉生在1885年離職返回中國 , 他在1888年重返温哥華創立永生號 ,經營出入口生意。
葉生有4位妻子及23名子女，他在1891年歸化英籍加人。葉生一生致力推重社區發展，他曾參與建立温哥華中華總會、 温哥華中文學校及温哥華中醫院( 即現時的聖約瑟醫院 )，他亦是温哥華綜合醫院的終身理事。 除温哥華外，葉生也曾捐助廣東省公立醫院。葉生於1927年逝世。
The Wing Sang Company
Wing Sang Company was one of the wealthiest firms in the Chinatown area of Vancouver. It engaged in contracting Chinese workers for the Canadian Pacific Railway Company; the import and export of general merchandise from China and Japan; money remittance from Vancouver to Hong Kong; and the dry-salt herring business with China. It also functioned as a passenger agency with the Canadian Pacific Steamships Ltd. The Wing Sang Company was renamed Yip Sang Ltd. in 1950.
The Wing Sang Building, at what is now 51-69 East Pender Street (renamed and renumbered in 1907 from 29-35 Dupont Street), was built in 1889 and greatly extended in 1901, and is thought to be the oldest surviving building in Vancouver’s Chinatown.
Acquisition of the Materials
In June 1989, Randall Yip contacted the Archives on behalf of the Yip family regarding the Wing Sang Company building, which was still owned by the family but had not been in recent use. The building was to be renovated, and there were papers and artifacts within which might be of historical interest. Over three days that August, five staff members packed and retrieved over forty boxes of materials found in two levels of the building.
Additional materials were later donated by family members, but the majority of the fonds was salvaged from the building.
1989年6月， 葉氏家族的一名成員，代表家族聯絡温哥華檔案館，商討一批存放在永生號大樓內的文件及文物。當時葉氏家族仍然擁有該大樓，但大樓已空置多時。由於大樓將會 重建，葉氏家族希望該批有歷史價值的文獻，能夠得到妥善保存。 温哥華檔案館遂於同年8月在大樓展開工作，５位檔案館的職員在3日內，整理及包裝超過40多箱文件。
Opening the Safes
Two safes, including a large walk-in, were opened by a professional safecracker. The walk-in safe was unlocked, but the outer set of doors was rusted shut, so the metal had to be cut away with a torch in order to gain access. The contents were protected from the shower of sparks by the inner doors.
The smaller safe was empty.
永生號大樓內有一個大型的保險庫，保險庫有內外两層門。 雖然保險庫沒有上鎖，但由於外門已生銹至不能開啟 ，要由技師用燒焊器，將外門燒開，才能取出保險庫內的文件。由於有保險庫的內門保護，文件未為燒焊火花所破壞。
Eleven of the boxes of documents were taken from the walk-in safe, but as many of them had been wet and moldy for a long time due to a leak in the ceiling, even after freeze-drying only four boxes could be salvaged. All materials, both wet and dry, were fumigated in a freezer to kill insects.
Yip Sang acted as an unofficial postmaster for his own employees and other local Chinese workers for correspondence to and from China. Letters addressed using Chinese characters would not be delivered by the Canadian postal system. Yip Sang had the means to transport mail to China using his import/export business. In addition, his building served as a poste restante for incoming mail to be delivered to itinerant workers.
While the characters are no different than those which have been used for thousands of years, the writing style of the time employed fewer characters than are used today to express the same idea, making interpretation a challenge. In addition, many of the handwritten characters are difficult to read. We chose only legible letters for the project.
除了是一位商人外，葉生亦充當其員工的非正式郵政局長，負責收發員工往來温哥華與中國两地的書信。原因是當時 的加拿大郵政局，看不懂信封上的中文書地址。恰巧葉生經營两地貨物的出入口生意，故此員工的家書便連同葉生的貨物，一起往來温哥華與中國，而永生號大樓亦 是員工郵件的代收及待領中心。
1 thought on “The Yip Sang Correspondence Project 葉生信件翻譯工程”
I am writing a theatre script about Chinatown heritage, its Season Two would focus on the business and benevolent aspects. These collections are priceless for me.
Thank you for the efforts.