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Arts & Culture

OREGON EXPERIENCE: Kam Wah Chung

OPB | April 5, 2009 10:13 p.m. | Updated: Dec. 5, 2013 11:13 a.m.

In the late 1800s, thousands of Chinese miners came to Eastern Oregon in search of gold. Often these men encountered hostility and violence as they tried to make their way in the West. Among them were two men, Ing Hay and Lung On who joined forces and opened a business in John Day called Kam Wah Chung – The Golden Flower of Opportunity. The next episode in the OREGON EXPERIENCE series explores the contributions the two men and their business made to this remote area of Oregon at the turn of the century. Tune in to the stations of Oregon Public Broadcasting on Thursday, May 14 at 9pm.  

Kam Wah Chung was a multi-purpose center for the Chinese community. It served as a general store, a temple, a recreation hall, a bunkhouse and labor recruitment center for Chinese miners, but, above all, it was an apothecary.

Ing Hay was a gifted practitioner of traditional Chinese medicine and pulsology, able to diagnose ailments by feeling pulse points on a patient’s arm. He was also expert at prescribing herbs from his apothecary to treat these ailments.

Lung On was highly educated, politically savvy, and a sharp businessman, literate in Chinese and English.  He ran the general store, served as a labor contractor, and assisted Ing “Doc” Hay with the practice.   

When the mines played out and the Chinese population dwindled, these two men began to focus their attentions on the non-Chinese of Eastern Oregon. At a time when doctors were scarce, “Doc” Hay’s ability to treat infection and cure disease became big news. Over time, Kam Wah Chung became the focal point for medicine in Eastern Oregon and Doc Hay and Lung On were a welcome sight when illness struck the region. For these and other efforts, these two men became well known and highly regarded members of the community.  

OREGON EXPERIENCE “Kam Wah Chung” talks to people from the John Day area who remember the two men and the impact they had on everyone they met. Today the recently restored Kam Wah Chung is an Oregon treasure filled with thousands of different herbs and artifacts.

Watch this episode of OREGON EXPERIENCE online after May 14 and other episodes, anytime at opb.org/oregonexperience.

About OREGON EXPERIENCE
OREGON EXPERIENCE is an exciting history series on OPB that brings to life fascinating stories that help us understand who we are and that reinforce our shared identity as Oregonians. The series, co-produced by the Oregon Historical Society and Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB), takes advantage of the extensive film, video and stills from the archives of OHS and OPB, and draws upon the expertise of OHS researchers and historians. Each show features captivating characters — both familiar and forgotten — who have played key roles in building our state into the unique place we call home. Funding for OREGON EXPERIENCE is provided in part by Ann & Bill Swindells Charitable Trust, James F. and Marion L. Miller Foundation and Oregon Cultural Trust. opb.org/oregonexperience.

About OPB
OPB is the state’s most far-reaching and accessible media resource, providing free access to programming for children and adults designed to give voice to community, connect Oregon and its neighbors and illuminate a wider world. Every week, over 1.5 million people tune in to or log on to OPB’s Television, Radio and Internet delivered services. As the hub of operations for the state’s Emergency Broadcast and Amber Alert services, OPB serves as the backbone for the distribution of critical information to broadcasters and homes throughout Oregon. Oregon Public Broadcasting is a statewide network that includes OPB Television, an affiliate of the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), and OPB Radio, presenting local news coverage and the programs of National Public Radio (NPR), Public Radio International (PRI) and American Public Media (APM). The OPB Web site is opb.org.

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