Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Extension Featured Exhibit
Chinese Treasures from American Families
Immigration stories are ones we hear about frequently and cherish as legacies to be inspired by and learn from. We hear the stories of the pioneers in our community who, through hard work, determination, a little bit of thick skin, and a whole lot of smarts, became leaders like Ah Quin, Tom and Dorothy Hom, and many others. As we celebrate the accomplishments of these individuals, SDCHM would like to take a moment to look back, not just in time, but to a place many of us have called home and listen to the stories told from the other side of world. SDCHM looks at four families, Henke, Randle, Whitney, and Stadtmore, all American by birth, who traveled treacherous seas and land to China, where they lived a portion of their lives, created families, and enriched the lives of the Chinese people through charitable works.
The Randle Family
The Reverend Louis and his wife, Marie Randle came to the Sichuan Province, China in 1920 as Baptist missionaries. Arriving with their one-year-old daughter Lois along with several other missionary families, the young couple helped build hospitals, schools, and churches for the local people. During their short seven-year stay, the Rev. Louis and Marie nurtured a growing family and kept a detailed diary of their adventures as well as a record of all their correspondence with friends and family members back home in America .
In 1927, the Randle family, which included the Rev. Louis, Marie, Lois, 8, Helen, 5, and Jack, 2 years old, packed their things and boarded a ship to take them back to America. They brought with them a few reminders of their time in Sichuan Province, a place that had become home, where two of their children were born and where they had created a community of friends to last them a lifetime.
Leaving China’s soil in 1927 was not the last experience the family had in the Middle Kingdom. As a young man, the youngest of the family, Jack C. Randle, joined the U.S. Marine Corp. and was stationed in T’singTao, China in 1945 to aid in peace negotiations. Though he was only in China for 103 days, Jack celebrated his 21st birthday in the country of his birth, and, just like his parents did when they were on their mission, Jack, too kept a diary of his time there.
Many items bring insight into the lives of the Randle family can be found at the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Extension including several pieces of clothing worn by Jack Randle as a child, as well as embroideries, wood block prints and photographs. As a soldier, Jack returned to the U.S. with interesting pieces such as the first flag of the Republic of China, a Taoist exorcism sword, and excerpts from his personal diary.
The Whitney Family
A year after receiving his doctorate in general medicine and marrying his wife, Lurie Ann, Dr. Henry Thomas Whitney was called upon by the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions as a medical missionary in Foochoo, China in 1876. Once arriving at their destination, the young couple were given charge of a number of hospitals and dispensaries. According to a newspaper clipping of Dr. Whitney’s obituary, he treated about 75,000 Chinese patients, performed about 5,000 operations, translated the Revised Gray’s Anatomy to Chinese and created an Anglo-Chinese medical vocabulary book with over 5,000 terms.
Dr. Whitney and his wife had four children: John, Mary, Henry Pierce, and Augusta during their 41-year mission. When the family finally returned to the U.S. in the 1917, Dr. Whitney was almost blind and Mrs. Whitney was very ill. Through a series of surgeries, Dr. Whitney was able to regain much of his sight but suffered the loss of his beloved wife only a year later.
Very little of the Whitney Family History is preserved today except for a few amazing artifacts donated by Dr. Whitney’s great-great-grandson, John Irwin. The Whitney family too kept a diary of their time in China told through beautiful photographs attached to simple lined paper in two black notebooks.
The Henke Family
Dr. Richard Henke, SDCHM Member, was born in Shuntehfu, China. His parents were Dr. Harold Eugene Henke and Jessie Mae Henke who were Presbyterian medical missionaries working in China from 1927 to 1949. Dr. Henke, like many other medical missionaries, provided an important service to the local Chinese residents as many did not have enough money or resources to seek medical care. Many of his patients suffered from severe ailments that reached the point of being intolerable. One such extreme example was a woman who was brought to Dr. Henke’s care in a wheelbarrow. She suffered from a 158 pound cyst that needed to be surgically removed. Upon assessing the situation, Dr. Henke felt it would be easier to operate if the cyst were drained, which was done while the woman was still in the wheelbarrow.
The Stadtmore Family
Harold Stadtmore has had a lifelong interest in Chinese art and antiquities and had collected many beautiful and interesting pieces. He has lived in San Diego since he retired from a photographic supply business in Boston, MA. During the last thirty years Mr. Stadtmore had donated almost all of his extensive collections to various museums around the country.
The pieces that have been donated to the San Diego Chinese Historical Museum were the last and most beloved pieces of his collection. The Stadtmore family is extremely pleased to have found a placement for them that is both Chinese and San Diegan in its heritage. The donations to SDCHM include pottery, stoneware, porcelain, and statuary.
The mission of the San Diego Chinese Historical Museum is to collect, preserve, and to educate our community about Chinese and Chinese American history, art, and culture. We greatly appreciate the generosity of the families who have donated their collections for this exhibit and the countless number of museum and community members who support us in our ongoing mission to preserve and share Chinese heritage and culture.
Chuang Archive and Learning Center Featured Exhibit
Sherry Chen: Self, Nature & Choices
Sherry Xiaohong Chen was born in Szechuan, China. She was a child of the Chinese Cultural Revolution, a period in China’s history void of advancement in science and culture. It was also a time in which many families were disrupted. Both of her parents were scientists but her father was exiled to a remote farm. Finding ways to learn, Sherry began to draw at age 6, and upon noticing her talent, Sherry’s mother began to search for a teacher for her daughter. That teacher taught Sherry a drawing style that embodies her work today. Two years after the end of the Cultural Revolution, Sherry, age 12, entered high school at the internationally famous Szechuan Fine Art Institute, becoming the youngest student in the school’s history. After graduation in 1981, she was accepted at the prestigious Central Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Beijing. Sherry continued her studies in graduate school which eventually led her to the University of South Carolina, and upon finishing her MA degree in Fine Arts, she came to San Diego and established her private teaching studio as well as teaching at San Diego Miramar College.
Sherry feels that her present work is inﬂuenced by a combination of her ancient Chinese cultural heritage and modern western culture. Her abstract landscape paintings are inspired by contemplating Chinese Tao philosophy about self, nature, and choices.
In each painting, the process is as important as the concept, if not more, where chance works together with color and composition to achieve naturalness, spontaneity, and simplicity. Using Chinese ink and water color together with acrylic and oil on canvases, her work carries out inter-graded appearances – ancient and modern, subtle and bold, everything and nothing. Over 100 of Sherry’s beautiful work is on display at the San Diego Chinese Historical Museum’s newly opened Chuang Archive and Learning Center. This elegant and historic space is an ideal environment for Sherry’s paintings, especially her abstract landscapes.
Sherry Chen’s pieces will be available for purchase at the San Diego Chinese Historical Museum and the Chuang Archive. Reservations to see the gallery space is highly recommended, walk-ins welcome.