Blog Archives

Kam Wah Chung opens new interpretive center (2011)

Kam Wah Chung is home to a museum and now an interpretive center.  Filled with displays and artifacts, the newly remodeled space features 8-foot-high display panels lining the walls.  The displays illustrate historical accounts that explain what prompted large numbers of Chinese to immigrate to the United States in the late 19th century.

Other displays recount the immigrants’ experiences and tell about the founding of Kam Wah Chung and Co. by Doc Hay and Lung On. Be sure to stop at the theater. Now showing is an Oregon Public Broadcasting documentary detailing the contributions of Doc Hay and Lung On to the John Day area.

The center also displays relics from a fascinating collection of 60,000-plus items. Museum Curator Christina Sweet says  the items will be shown in rotating exhibits.

Don’t forget about the museum! New this year is audio featuring the voice of “Doc Hay.” Doc Hay “guides” the tours every hour, but you need a ticket. Pick one up at the center.

Both the center and museum are open daily from 9 a.m.- 5 p.m. until Oct. 31.

Kam Wah Chung State Heritage Site

Ranger’s Pick: The Golden Flower of Prosperity—Kam Wah Chung & Co. (2010)

1880s Chinese duo forge 50-year partnership with John Day

Museum curator Christy Sweet holds a jar of medical powder from the apothecary shop. The playing card inside was used as a scoop. “People should visit Kam Wah Chung because it is a time machine; when you walk into the building, you are transported to a different time and a different culture. It’s amazing to see how Chinese immigrants lived and adapted to Western life, yet retained their own culture.

Kam Wah Chung State Heritage Site is one of Oregon’s cultural treasures. Ing “Doc” Hay, a specialist in herbal medicines, and businessman Lung On were Chinese immigrants who operated the Kam Wah Chung & Co. as a general store, apothecary and religious and cultural center for the area’s Chinese population beginning in the late 1880s. Doc Hay and Lung On earned their community’s respect as two of its most prominent citizens.

Today, the National Historic Landmark is home to 30,000-plus artifacts on display in the museum  and interpretive center.

The Kam Wah Chung and Co. Museum and Interpretive Center is open daily through Oct. 31, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Museum guided tours start at the top of each hour and last about 45 minutes. Final tour starts at 4 p.m. each day. Call (541) 575-2800 or (800) 551-6949 for more information.

Oregon College of Oriental Medicine Kam Wah Chung seminars – June 8, 15, 22, & 29, in Portland.

Kam Wah Chung State Heritage Site

Christy’s favorite thing in the museum is a can of marshmallows. “I love to make s’mores when I camp, and it just tickles me to think that marshmallows used to come in a can and that Doc Hay and Lung On ate marshmallows. We tend to think of people who lived in the past as different, but they were no different than folks today—they liked marshmallows. I also wonder how many marshmallows are in that can … if you had a family of five how many marshmallows would you get?”