From the archives: the Chinese Historical Museum of San Diego opened 25 years ago


The San Diego Chinese Historical Museum First opened at 404 Third Avenue downtown 25 years ago. The Society and the San Diego Chinese History Museum invite the public to participate in a virtual celebration later this month with a tour of the museum’s renovated permanent exhibit.

From the San Diego Union-Tribune, Saturday January 13, 1996:

Chinese museum consecrated today

By Angela Lau, Editor-in-Chief

A Chinese history museum is dedicated today in the old Chinatowns of the city center.

Housed in the old renovated and whitewashed Chinese Mission building that was moved two streets away last year, the Third Avenue and J Street Museum will be a place of education and of contemplation, organizers said.

“There is such a diverse cultural mix in San Diego that we believe it is important to share our experience with others,” said Tom Hom, director of the board of directors of the Chinese Historical Society.

“It makes us all better Americans.”

The Chinese mission was saved from demolition by Hom’s wife Dorothy in 1988 while still at 645 First Ave., Hom said.

Transformed as part of a $ 1.2 million restoration project, the 69-year-old building now sits a few doors down from downtown San Diego in the new historic Asia-Pacific Theme District.

The mission is a one-story structure that was once used for religious training and as a social center.

The entrance door to the museum is dedicated to the founding father of the Chinese republic, Dr. Sun Yat Sen, a physician who led a revolution in 1911 to overthrow the last imperial dynasty.

The door leads into an open space where a 7 foot, 3 inch, 1000 pound bronze statue of Confucius stands guard.

Confucius, the patron saint of ancient Chinese culture, is revered for his apolitical and non-religious teachings on harmony and social order that still permeate Chinese and Asian cultures.

The statue is a gift from the Taiwanese Ministry of Culture to the city of San Diego, said Chinese Historical Society president Alexander Chuang.

Behind the masterpiece is lush landscaping that surrounds a flowing stream – eventually becoming home to colorful koi carp, fish that are symbols of good luck to the Chinese.

Although the interior of the museum is empty, exhibits are expected to arrive from mainland China and Taiwan over the next two to three months, Chuang said.

“We won’t have any antiques, art or items on display, but there will be a lot of graphics and photographs,” Chuang said. “Our goal is to educate.

Exhibits will include Chinese-American immigration to San Diego, which Hom says dates back to 1849.

Immigrants worked in the Julian gold fields and the hinterland before moving on to railroading, farming and starting their own businesses, he said. Some crossed the then vaguely guarded border to Baja California.

Other exhibits will include traditional Chinese art and culture, minority and aboriginal art, and ancient technology and science.

Today’s opening ceremony, which begins at 11 a.m., will feature a lion dance and fireworks. A dinner and fashion show at 6:30 p.m. at the Marriott Hotel & Marina on Harbor Drive will close the day’s festivities.

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Patrick F. Williams

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