Gathering: Chinese Language Textbooks

Relationship: Child of im/migrant
Textbooks from the Portland Chinese Language School, ca. 1940s. Donated to Portland Chinatown Museum by Franklin Quan. Courtesy of Portland Chinatown Museum.
Textbooks from the Portland Chinese Language School, ca. 1940s. Donated to Portland Chinatown Museum by Franklin Quan. Courtesy of Portland Chinatown Museum.

“[At] the Chinese school, we learn quite a few things and we would go to school from morning on Saturday at 8:30 to 12:30 and daily…from 5:30 to 8:30. Since I only lived two blocks away, I would walk to the school after we had dinner. And so, we were in school all day long which didn’t give us much of a chance to get into mischief.”

– Mary Leong (1921–2017)

Founded in 1911 by the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association, the Chinese Language School offered language, history, and cultural instruction to instill Chinese pride and identity among Portland’s Chinese American youth. The school was housed on the third floor of the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association building in the heart of New Chinatown in Northwest Portland.

These textbooks belonged to Franklin Lee Quan, Edison Lee Quan, King Lee Quan, and Lila Lee Quan. The Lee siblings were the children of paper sons for whom “Quan” was their paper name. They grew up in Chinatown and attended the Chinese Language School, where they learned Cantonese, from kindergarten to eighth grade in the 1940s. Their father owned a noodle factory on the site of the Lan Su Garden, now a significant Portland attraction.

This object was featured in the Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA)'s exhibit, "Gathering: Collecting and Documenting Chinese American History," October 17, 2019 - March 22, 2020.

Place(s): Portland, OR
Year: 1940

– Portland Chinatown Museum

Relationship:  Child of im/migrant Child of im/migrant