In Memoriam

On Wednesday, October 29, 2008, Prof. Edgar Wickberg, a longtime member of the Department of History at UBC, passed away after a lengthy battle with cancer. Prof. Wickberg taught Modern Chinese History at UBC between 1969 and his retirement in 1992, and achieved an international reputation as a leading scholar of the global Chinese diaspora, but his lasting impact went well beyond his research on the Chinese in the Philippines and in Canada. He helped grow Chinese Canadian history as a subject of study, creating a lasting place within UBC and within Canadian higher education for students and scholars to examine the long complex history of the Chinese in Canada. He will be remembered fondly by many students and colleagues for his kindness and generousity, and his eagerness to discuss every subject from Cantonese opera to AAA baseball. Many Chinese Canadian students will remember his patience during office hours and the depth of his empathy for their personal struggles to understand their identities as Chinese in Canada.

Ed Wickberg's engagement with the many Chinese Canadian communities of Vancouver went well beyond that of scholarship. "From China to Canada," the collaborative book project that he helped co-author and edit, remains a foundational text for understanding Chinese Canadian history, and it revealed his deep commitment to working with a wide range of community members to construct a balanced and nuanced history that went beyond the standard histories of what "had been done" to Chinese in Canada. He believed in the importance of Chinese language sources for understanding the rich lives of Chinese Canadians, and pioneered the preservation and collection of such materials. After his retirement, Ed's commitment to partnerships between academia and community led to his vision for the Chinese Canadian Historical Society of British Columbia, a broad-based society committed to increasing awareness of the importance of the Chinese in B.C. and Canadian history, as well as the collecting and preservation of materials relating to that history. Drawing upon the credibility and trust that he had built up over decades of devotion to understanding Chinese Canadian history, Ed was able to draw together a wide array of scholars and community members who shared his passion to found what became a highly successful historical society.

In gratitude for his vision and his hard work as the Founding President, the CCHSBC created the Edgar Wickberg Scholarship in 2006 to honour his lifetime of passion for Chinese Canadian history by encouraging and supporting students in its study. Ed's expressed wish in the weeks before his passing was that donations be made to the "Chinese Canadian Historical Society of British Columbia" for the Dr. Edgar Wickberg Scholarship fund, as a way to honour his memory. Donations may be sent to:

Chinese Canadian Historical Society of British Columbia (CCHSBC)
Kerrisdale Postal Station
PO Box 18032
Vancouver, BC V6M 4L3

Ed Wickberg's Publications

Compiled by Prof. Wing-Chung Ng, University of Texas - San Antonio

“Spanish Records in the Philippine National Archives.” Hispanic American Historical Review 35 (1955), 77-89.

“The Chinese in the Philippine Economy and Society, 1850-1898.” Ph.D. dissertation, University of California at Berkeley, 1961.

“Early Chinese Economic Influence in the Philippines: 1850-1898.” Pacific Affairs 35.3 (1962), 275-85.

“The Chinese Mestizo in Philippine History.” Journal of Southeast Asian History 5.1 (1964), 62-100.

The Chinese in Philippine Life, 1850-1898. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1965.

“Economic Nationalism and the Chinese in the Philippines.” In Charles O. Houston, ed., Proceedings of the First Colloquium on the Philippines, 29-36. Kalamazoo, MI: Western Michigan State University, 1969.

“Japanese Land Policies in Taiwan, 1895-1945.” Agricultural History 43.3 (1969), 369-78.

“The Chinese in Philippine History.” Asia 4.18 (1970), 1-15.

“The Taiwan Peasant Movement, 1923-1932: Chinese Rural Radicalism under Japanese Development Programs.” Pacific Affairs 48.4 (1975-76), 558-82.

“Land Reform in Mainland China and Taiwan.” Peasant Studies 7.4 (1978), 250-62.

“Spanish Frontiers in the Western Pacific, 1662-1700.” In William S. Coker, ed., Hispanic-American Essays in Honor of Max Leon Moorhead, 12-36. Pensacola, Fla.: Perdido Bay Pr., 1979.

“New Directions in Chinese Historiography, Reappraising the Taiping: Notes and Comment.” With Alex Volkoff, Pacific Affairs 52.3 (1979), 479-90.

“Some Problems in Chinese Organizational Development in Canada, 1923-1937.” Canadian Ethnic Studies 11.1 (1979), 88-98.

“Chinese and Canadian Influences on Chinese Politics in Vancouver, 1900-1947.” B.C. Studies 45 (1980), 37-55.

“Chinese Associations in Canada, 1923-1947.” In Victor Ujimoto and Gordon Hirabayashi, eds., Visible Minorities and Multiculturalism: Asians in Canada, 23-31. Toronto: Butterworths, 1980.

“Continuities in Land Tenure, 1900-1940.” In Emily Ahern and Hill Gates, eds., The Anthropology of Taiwanese Society, 212-38. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1981.

“Another Look at Land and Lineage in the New Territories, CA. 1900” Journal of the Hong Kong Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society 21 (1981), 25-42.

“Chinese Organizations and the Canadian Political Process: Two Case Studies.” In Jorgen Dahlie and Tissa Fernando, eds., Ethnicity, Power and Politics in Canada, 172-76. Toronto: Methuen, 1981.

From China to Canada: A History of the Chinese Communities in Canada. With Harry Con et al. Toronto: McClelland and Stewart Limited, 1982.

“Qing (Ch’ing) Land Tenure in South China, 1644-1912.” Chugoku kindaishi kenkyu 4 (1984), 111-20.

“Chinese Organizations and Ethnicity in Southeast Asia and North America since 1945: A Comparative Analysis.” In Jennifer Cushman and Wang Gungwu, eds., Changing Identities of the Southeast Asian Chinese since World War II, 303-18. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 1988.

“Some Comparative Perspectives on Contemporary Chinese Ethnicity in the Philippines.” Asian Culture 14 (1990), 23-37.

“Notes on Some Contemporary Social Organizations in Manila Chinese Society.” In Aileen S.P. Baviere and Teresita Ang See, eds., China, Across the Seas: The Chinese as Filipinos, 43-66. Quezon City: Philippine Association for Chinese Studies, 1992.

“Overseas Chinese Adaptive Organizations, Past and Present.” In Ronald Skeldon ed., Reluctant Exiles? Migration from Hong Kong and the New Overseas Chinese, 69-84. Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 1994.

“Anti-Semitism and Chinese Identity Options in the Philippines.” In Daniel Chirot and Anthony Reid, eds., Essential outsiders: Chinese and Jews in the Modern Transformation of Southeast Asia and Central Europe, 153-83. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1997.

“Overseas Chinese Organizations” and “Relations with Non-Chinese.” In Lynn Pan, ed., The Encyclopedia of the Chinese Overseas, 83-91, 114-21. Singapore: Chinese Heritage Centre, 1998.

“Localism and the Organization of Overseas Migration in the Nineteenth Century.” In Gary Hamilton, ed., Cosmopolitan Capitalists: Hong Kong and the Chinese Diaspora at the End of the Twentieth Century, 35-55. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1999.

“Overseas Chinese: The State of the Field.” Chinese America: History and Perspectives (2002), 1-8.

“The New Chinese Canadian Historical Society of British Columbia.” Chinese America:
History and Perspectives
(2007), 215-218.

“Global Chinese Migrants and Performing Chineseness.” Journal of Chinese Overseas, 3.2 (2007), 177-93.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

A Model Scholar and Mentor

I've known Edgar Wickberg since the late 1980s, first through his work and later on as a mentor and friend. Being a Filipino of ethnic Chinese background I've always been interested in the history of the Chinese in the Philippines, and Ed's work, along with those of Chinben See and Teresita Ang See, provided me initially with the tools and knowledge to understand this history. As everyone knows, Ed's The Chinese in Philippine Life ([1965]2000) remains the most influential book in the field, and its relevance encompasses and extends to not only the field of Chinese Diasporic Studies but also Philippine Studies in general. With so much insight and details into the Chinese community in the Philippines during the Spanish colonial period, his pioneering work laid (and continues to do so) the foundation for future works to study and understand contemporary ethnic relations between the Chinese and the Filipinos.

It was at the
Kaisa office, when it was still in Binondo, that I first met him. Teresita Ang See introduced us. I could not remember exactly what I said to him then, but I do recall standing before him feeling in awe, for there I stood face-to-face with the man whose work I admired so much. I was a "nobody" then, since I was just about to leave for the United States to begin my graduate work. However, despite his reputation as a well-known scholar, he did not exude any air of aloofness or snobbery. Instead, what I remembered was his kind face and friendly smile, and he encouraged me to get in touch with him when in the U.S. So throughout those years of my finishing my degree and writing my dissertation, publishing my first articles, landing my first job, and writing my first book, he and I kept in touch. All throughout these times, Ed had been a guiding light and inspiration. He never hesitated to provide me with feedback whenever I sent him my works to read, and even when we sometimes differed in our ideas and perspectives on certain historical questions or issues, Ed remained open and generous with his time, knowledge, and energy.

Welcoming of new ideas and paradigms, even if these may contradict or challenge one's own; supportive of younger scholars like me; a man with wide intellectual breadth and knowledge, exacting as a scholar but also generous in sharing his knowledge—these are the reasons why Ed is my role model. His works taught me so much about what I needed to know to be a historian, but his words and actions taught me how to be a true gentleman-scholar.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Goodbye, Ed

By Teresita Ang See, Philippines
Founding President, Kaisa Para Sa Kaunlaran, Inc.
Secretary, (ISSCO) International Society for the Studies of Chinese Overseas

I was with a nephew for consultations at the Johns Hopkins’ Wilmer Eye Institute in Baltimore, Maryland enjoying free wireless internet access when I was jolted by a short email from Ed, a long time friend of 37 years. “My prostate cancer has taken a turn for the worse. Treatment has stopped and I'm at home, barely able to drag myself around. I just collapsed a couple of weeks ago. The oncologist gives me only two months to live and I can understand why. Sorry about the news. At some point, Ellen will contact Norbert about sending the rest of my Philippine stuff to you. All the best.” Ed

I was shocked and sad upon reading the note. I said a silent prayer of hope that he would not suffer much from his illness. I was deeply touched also that even when deathly ill, he still remembered us and had made arrangements to send the rest of his Philippine files (mostly his research materials on the Chinese in the Philippines, which he had been sending to us for the past two years). I was determined to visit him to say goodbye, so I immediately looked for information on applying for a visitor’s visa to Canada.

The email was dated Oct. 5, Sunday. After we were done with consultations at John Hopkins on Oct. 8, I flew to Los Angeles and went to the Canadian mission there the next day.

I am always amazed at how governments often put difficult, rude, and often hostile, immigration officers in the front line of their consular offices. The Canadian office in L.A. was no exception. Or maybe he just doesn’t like Filipino passports?
The officer insisted that I did not have enough reason to leave Canada and return to the Philippines, even though I showed him cancelled visas on my passport to Schenggen, British, South Africa, Australia, China, Taiwan and many Southeast Asia countries. He refused to listen even when I reasoned out, “what if I can prove to you that I don’t even need to be employed?”

He replied: “We cannot evaluate those things here. You should apply at your point of origin, and that’s the Philippines.” I told him it takes only three hours for me to go to Vancouver from L.A., and three days (including the time change) from L.A. to Manila to Vancouver.

Our interview was going nowhere. He could not be persuaded. In the end I told him, “Your loss is my gain. You just saved me U.S.$500 (PhP25,000) in airfare to Canada and denied me a chance to do my Christian duty. My fare could have been my contribution to the failing U.S. economy.”

On my way back, I thought, “How Ed would have laughed at that experience.”
Two weeks after I got Ed’s email, his wife Ellen informed me that he passed away Oct. 29. It was too late for me to try again to see him.

I first met Ed in 1971 when I had just finished college and worked with Pagkakaisa Sa Pag-unlad (which became today’s Kaisa). The non-government organization was made up of idealistic Chinese-Filipinos; young academicians, professionals, businessmen. The main objective was to push or hasten the integration of Chinese Filipinos into mainstream society. It was the only one of its kind in the world, and the name of the organization spells out its objectives. Pagkakaisa’s (unity) main objective is to push integration, unity and coherence, regardless of race, religion, beliefs or traditions. It hopes to lessen ethnic conflict and racial discrimination in all forms. The Pag-unlad (progress) part was meant to push development and progress through projects and activities in depressed communities and to tap the potentials of the Chinese Filipinos in nation-building efforts.
Ed was very much a part of the organization.

He was really excited to see the organization and its objectives flourish. Among the founders was my late husband, Professor Chinben See, a good friend of Ed, who exchanged lengthy letters and hours in discussions and debates. They were bound by their common interest in research on the Philippine Chinese. Ed learned and was happy that his research output were not confined only to the academe and can have social impact. After all, the organization pushed research agenda not just for its sake but for it to have impact on government policy on the Chinese in the Philippines. He encouraged us in our lobby for the jus soli principle of citizenship at the 1971 Constitutional Convention.
Ed’s insight and advice were often sought when the organization started. We invited him for round-table discussions with members whenever he was in town.

Fast forward to 1997, Ed was really happy and excited when he learned that we had successfully realized our dream of putting up a heritage center as a repository of the historical and cultural legacy of the Chinese Filipinos in all aspects of Philippine life. When the Center opened in 1999, Ed’s name was included as one of the founding members because he donated money for the building of the three-story heritage center that includes an extensive library on Chinese overseas, a research and data bank, photo archives and Bahay Tsinoy – Museum of the Chinese in Philippine Life. He was the first to observe that it must be deliberate that we chose the walled city of Intramuros as the location for the Center.

“Where the Spaniards deliberately kept you out, you now conquered and reclaimed,” he quipped in good humour.

He regularly received our fortnightly Chinese-Filipino digest, Tulay (Bridge) and would often send comments on the articles he found there. He also sent us articles and essays we could put to good use for the digest. He was quite elated when his dream of a Canadian Chinese Historical Society saw fruition and sent us loads of materials on the new organization. When his seminal book, The Chinese in Philippine Life, 1850 to 1898 was re-published by the Ateneo de Manila University Press, he arranged for proceeds of the book’s sales to go to Kaisa. We used the money for postage whenever we needed to send him things. One time, a package we sent him was received after 18 months. He laughingly told us how the package appeared to have traveled all over the world because of the postal cancellations. Apparently, with the address University of British Columbia, the post office only saw Colombia and sent it to there, from where it was forwarded somewhere else before it landed up in Vancouver. We had such a laugh over the traveling the “lost” package must have had.

Five years ago, he started sorting through his research materials, a lot of which were kept at the University of British Columbia store room, in boxes. He started shipping most of these materials which he knew we could put into good use. Some of these included the archival materials from the Philippine National Archives and his research notes for his Ph.D. dissertation, which later became his book. Norbert Chingcuanco, our Chinese-Filipino friend in Vancouver, crated the boxes in his hardware strength plastic boxes and negotiated with Philippine Airlines to ship the research materials to us. Ed would always be amazed at how such “Chinese connections” worked.

Ed had known me for nearly 40 years and had been a part of all the ups and downs of my work with the Tsinoys (colloquial for Tsinong Pinoy or Chinese Filipinos). Even the coining of the word Tsinoy, and its wide acceptance in the Philippines, was to him a triumph indeed. He was always so meticulous in his work and one time, he voiced out a comment on a line in our organization’s credo: “Our blood may be Chinese but our roots grow deep in Filipino soil and our bonds are with the Filipino people.” He said the use of “may be” Chinese was too “apologetic” for we need not apologize for our Chinese blood.

That’s ED for us in Kaisa, the quintessential scholar and teacher. Now, every time we see his research materials and make use of them, we will remember him with fondness. With his passing, the first generation of researchers on the Chinese in the Philippines – Ed Wickberg, Charles McCarthy, Chinben See and Antonio Tan – have all passed on. We, their successors have a lot to live up to and will always treasure the pioneering work they (especially Ed) have done.

David Wong said...

Ed was a gentleman scholar, who loved life and loved his friends. Ed used to drop by my old office, and we’d go for lunch and I’d often ask him, how it was, that a white person developed such an infectious passion for Asian history. In particular, at a time when the world was a bit simpler and perhaps, a bit less progressive.

Ed would always give me his trademark chuckle and share with great energy, so much of his fascinating anecdotes.

I was never a student of Ed’s, and only got to know him well during our start up efforts for the CCHS in my old boardroom. I may as well have been a student of Ed’s… as I learned a lot about our Nation’s political system, and those of other Nation’s directly from Ed.

I know my friends and colleagues will miss Ed dearly.

I am forever grateful and fortunate to have met you Ed. Rest in peace, dear friend.


November 25, 2008 12:05 AM

Friday, November 21, 2008

And Here’s To You, Ed

Most everything was said about and to Ed at his 80th Birthday gathering at the Ho Ho Restaurant over a year ago. Singularly, it was the most profoundly and appropriately fulfilling get-together for all of us who respect and honour him. That is how I would like to remember him, who made truly extraordinary contributions to his chosen interests and to all who wished to be a part of them. His contributions were not only in scholarship, for he was a living example of stoicism, integrity, honour and goodwill, who prevailed in everyday life.

I had always looked forward to the series of meetings with Ed on common interests. They were never “work”, but enjoyable learning experiences. He was always knowledgeable, gracious and welcoming to others’ participation.

Those of us who have shared time and issues with him will be forever grateful and inspired. Here on earth that is more than enough!

Thank you again, Ed, and thank you, Ellen, and your family for sharing Ed with all of us.

Joe Wai

From Wing Chung Ng

Ed's reputation of being tremendously supportive and generous is well-known across the profession. Back in the late 1980s when I broke news with friends that I would be attending UBC and working with Ed Wickberg, Michael Godley who taught in Australia at that time wrote to remind me how luck I was as "Ed Wickberg is the proverbial scholar AND gentleman" (emphasis original). Earlier I got a taste of that remarkable combination of Ed from the external examiner report he wrote on my M.Phil. thesis at Hong Kong University, full of keen observations and critical insights and yet delivered in an uplifting spirit of appreciation and seasoned with words of encouragement. As I learned through the years, that is so characteristic of Ed because that's the kind of person he was. On the one hand, he operated as a scholar with an unparalleled sense of responsibility to the field of knowledge he partook of; he was passionate about learning and tenacious when it comes to intellectual arguments. On the other hand, ever perceptive and sharp, Ed always communicated genuine respect, sensitivity, and care for the other person whether he or she was a student or a colleague.

These remarkable personal qualities of Ed come though clearly in his approach to scholarship that involves and invites collaboration with the community. Those in Vancouver can bear witness to his life-long commitment to foster the study and understanding of Chinese Canadian history on and off campus. I would add that Ed's devotion to the history of the Chinese in the Philippines, perhaps his "first love," was no less. Hence, he was reasonably proud when Ateneo de Manila University Press re-issued his classic THE CHINESE IN PHILIPPINE LIFE (2000) thirty-five years after its original publication by Yale University Press. I know our sense of loss is deeply felt by many across the Pacific whose lives have been touched by Ed.

Wing Chung Ng
San Antonio, TX

Monday, November 17, 2008

In Memory of Ed Wickberg

My Top 10 Fondest Memories of Ed Wickberg,

by Hayne Wai November 2008

10. At a Chinese restaurant, as our Chinese speaking friend failed to join us, we realized that we would have to order by ourselves. So, with Ed’s written academic Chinese and my limited Cantonese, we ordered and the meal turned out fine.

9. Inviting us for coffee, Ed informed of his plans for a new Chinese Canadian historical society with a constitution, board of directors, research, education programs, funding, budgets, website, etc. I replied, “are you crazy, do you know how much work it’ll be!......and how can we help? And we both laughed and smiled.

8. When as secretary of the new CCHS, I submitted board minutes to president Ed, he returned them with corrections, just like a professor! I felt like an undergrad student all over again…and we shared many laughs over this.

7. When he asked that birds not be brought into CCHS board meetings,I paused; then realized he said “egos” and not “eagles”.

6. His courage in facing cancer and personal health challenges.

5. His loving devotion to his family.

4. His sharp mind and memory, always available to identify resources and provide encouragement on the study and research of Chinese Canadian history.

3. At our last meeting, I conveyed how much everyone deeply respected his leadership in forming CCHS; he replied how fortunate he was to have many dedicated and resourceful friends. I responded. “Ed, you’re being humbly Chinese again.” and we shared a good laugh together.

2. Ed’s, Ellen’s and everyone’s laughter as the Assaulted Fish comedy troupe interpreted Ed’s biography at the CCHS AGM 2007 dinner.

….and my fondest memory of Ed Wickberg….

1. …has yet to come, as his legacy will continue to grow within me and among the large community of friends who so valued his friendship and mentorship.

Allan Cho said...

Thanks Henry for sharing your touching thoughts and memories of Ed. I'd like to share some of my thoughts. I met Ed about seven years ago, when I had interviewed him for a Perspectives article on the History of Chinatown in Vancouver. Ed was so generous with his time and resources, as we waited for me in the lounge of the History Department, and then gave the interview in his emeritus office, which took more than an hour. We just talked history for that hour, and he opened my horizons about Chinese Canada. It was really Ed who had urged me to go into graduate studies in History, and at the time, told me "Go to Berkeley!" Two years later, Ed gave Perspectives Newspaper another interview about the Chinese Head Tax. all topics near and dear to Ed's heart. He gave a great deal to a clueless student whom he had barely known. And I'm forever grateful for the brief but memorable discussions and impressions he has given me.


November 17, 2008 9:08 AM