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The most notable trait of Chilliwack’s Chinese community was the lack of women, and therefore of family life. Many of Chinatown’s bachelors spent their whole lives separated from their families. Though they dreamed of some day returning to their homeland, their low paying jobs did not provide enough income to purchase passage home. This also meant that domestic chores normally assigned to women (cooking, laundry, and tending to residences) fell on the men to complete.

Some Chinese men were able to afford to bring their wives or family to Chilliwack. Tom Lung Tai, a Chinese merchant and property owner in growing Chinatown North, was able to bring his wife, Lung Tun to Canada in 1895. The Tom family is one of the first recorded Chinese families to live in Chilliwack.

Group portrait of nine members of the Chilliwack Baseball Team standing in a row

Members of the Chilliwack baseball team, c. 1939. Peter Tom, the son of Tom Lung Tai and Lung Tun , stands third from left. Peter was the youngest of the seven Tom children. 
Chilliwack Museum and Archives, 1984.015.006

Dorothy Kostrzewa stands in front of her brother's company truck. Behind her is the Chinese Masonic Hall.

Dorothy Kostrzewa [nee Chung] standing in front of her brother’s company truck, c.1947. Chinese Masonic Hall in Chinatown South visible in background.
Chilliwack Museum and Archives, 1989.096.001

Immigrant families often brought objects from home when moving to Canada. Bing Kee Chung arrived in Victoria in 1896, bringing a chest and clothing on his journey, leaving behind a wife and sons in China. His second wife, Lim Shee Chung, immigrated to Canada in 1912 and the couple started a family in Chinatown South. Bing Kee Chung opened a general store in Chilliwack which also provided a selection of Chinese herbal medicines. The Chung family grew to eight children, including Dorothy Kostrzewa (born Suey Nan) who was the first Chinese-Canadian woman to be elected in Canada.

Black painted wooden trunk with four rectangular metal hinges and front clasp

Trunk brought to Chilliwack from China by the Chung family. 
Chilliwack Museum and Archives, 2007.005.001

3/4 view of purple silk jacket in display case

Chung family garment.
Chilliwack Museum and Archives, 2007.005.004.1


Families able to make the journey to Chilliwack suffered much from the anti-Chinese sentiment of the era. Those who found wives locally married other Chinese immigrants and in some cases found spouses among the Indigenous peoples. The largest wave of second-generation Chinese population in Chilliwack came to age during the 1930’s, and experienced an easier transition than their parents, though by no means was racial intolerance eradicated.