FC: The Journal of Chun Sheng Zhao | By: Jason Shu
1: On the left is the place I gathered water to drink every day at home. On the bottom is the small barn that once belonged to my family. My neighbors are taking care of the animals now. | Dear Journal, My family and I are planning to leave China for the Gold Mountain (we call it Jiu Jin Shan in Chinese, which is San Francisco). I, as a ten year old boy, have grown quite fond of my home country- and everything I owned there- and I have never been anywhere else other than my small town, in which my family and I have just departed from a few days ago. Saying goodbye to the relatives and neighbors I’ve known my entire life was hard, but it had to be done- I’m sure I can lead a much better life in Mei Guo, the New World. | Date: September 5th, 1939
2: Left: the questions my brother sent me. Right: my suitcase | Now, we are in Hong Kong so we can board a steamship to United States of America. While on the boat, I will study some of the questions my older brother sent me from America, for it’s very important that my family is not sent away back to our home country, as that would be very shameful. However, I heard the immigration of Chinese people is limited to those who can escape the Chinese Exclusion Act. As I write these words, clutching onto my small suitcase with my most precious belongings, I feel like I won’t be able to escape from anything. | 1. What is your name? Chun Sheng Zhao 2. Where did you come from? Guangdong, China 3. How old are you? Twelve 4. For what reason did you come here? For freedom, jobs, and better opportunities
3: Dear Journal, It’s been a hard week on the steamship. I’ve had nothing to do apart from watching people play shuffleboard (where people slide this disk- like object onto a few scoring areas) on the deck. This journal is a little like something I can escape to, where I can leave my worries behind for a short moment. | On the top- left: shuffleboard on the deck. On the left: the steamship before we went on- board. | Date: September 12th, 1939 | Passenger: Chun Sheng Zhao Departing from: Hong Kong Destination: New York
4: Of course, that’s not the case when I have to write about my worries, like now. What will happen if my family is split up? What if the people who test us take away everything I have? Thinking about these problems is even worse than watching shuffleboard. I have to go now- it’s getting awfully hard to get any fresh air while writing. | The bamboo brush my brother sent me as a birthday gift on his last visit home. It is a common writing utensil in the East. The tip is made of animal hair.
5: Date: September 26th, 1939 | The symbol of freedom- the Statue of Liberty | Dear Journal, We’ve finally arrived at Mei Guo! One more day on that ship would have driven me mad. I’m writing as I walk off the ship- I’m being told that we have to take a ferry to a place called Ellis Island. I hope it’s not as awful as the ship we took to get here. A lot of people are cramming onto the ship, eager to reach freedom just as much as my family and I. As the ferry progressed, a tall, shadowy figure came into view, holding a torch- it was the symbol of freedom, the Statue of Liberty. I cheered among the dozens of people on the ferry. A grown man next to me started sobbing like a child.
6: Ellis Island came into view, its brilliant red walls easily visible through the mist. I guessed that this was the last obstacle in our path towards freedom- but if we didn’t pass the test, it would also be our path to shame. We entered the doors of the building. Every corner was filled with people. I had never seen such a busy place before- my village’s population was never even half the amount of people here. I saw a pile of baggage in the middle of the room, but as I only had my small suitcase and my journal, I clutched to my possessions tightly. | The crowd gets off the ferry after weeks at sea after seeing the Statues of Liberty for the first time.
7: We climbed a few flights of stairs, which I heard someone call, “the six- second medical exam”. I ran up the stairs, no problem. A few doctors eyed my father, who was walking up the stairs slightly slower than me, but said nothing. Now, we have a full medical exam. Fortunately, my whole family passed within a rather short amount of time. We proceeded to the Great Hall, where we have to take the literacy test a man just took my journal from behind the counter. He said simply, “You pass,” and curiously, he seemed to give me a slight smile. My family quickly followed me- the entire process took only four hours. I heard some people had to stay for months, waiting for detained family members! | Many immigrants from other countries place their baggage on the huge mound in the center of the room. If one has a small amount of possessions, they may take it with them.
8: The first step to freedom: Ellis Island | We exchanged some Chinese currency for US dollars. It was fortunate that my father brought all the money that we had, including some that our neighbors gave us to wish us good luck. We passed a “kissing post”, where we met up with my brother. Finally, as a whole family, we stepped out of a pair of double doors, and I saw a blue sky, free of the fog that surrounded us on the way to Ellis Island. As we prepare to take a ferry to New Jersey and from there to San Francisco, I think I can just finish off today’s events with just three words: freedom at last.
9: Top: a minimized copy of a portrait that consists of me and a water buffalo that we used to own. Right: the Guo Min Dang flag Top- right: the latest letter from my brother in San Fransisco | Hello, brother, mother and father- it's me, Qiu Ye Zhao. I'll be seeing you shortly in San Fransisco as soon as you get off the train. Please reply quickly so i can be sure you have gotten through that ordeal at Ellis Island. I can't wait to see all of you. I've been marking off the days on a calendar until your arrival a America. You brother/ son, Qiu Ye Zhao