Read about our magical Year of the Water Snake celebration onboard sailing ship Balclutha, our upcoming "Seeing Stories" visual history evening at Shaping SF on April 10, and be sure to catch the City Beneath the City exhibit at Stanford Archaeology Center. Meet proxy storyteller Bessie Hahn and recent CW intern Leah Wan.

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Upcoming Events
HIP! HURRAH! Chinese Excluded
Wed., April 10, 7:30pm
CW+ Shaping SF: The Legacy of Exclusion

Eric Quezada Center for Culture and Politics, 518 Valencia St. at 16th St., San Francisco 94110.

Installation View: City Beneath the City @ Stanford Archaeology Center
Exhibit ends Tues., April 30
City Beneath the City 
Art Installation
Stanford Archaeology Center, Building 500, 488 Escondido Mall, Stanford University, Stanford CA 94305. Hours M-F 9-5. Free

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Share Your Stories 
about the early Chinese settlers in your community, and members of other cultures that interacted with them.

Story Cookies

Donate $25 and get a special package with 8 cookies (random selection) from the collectible first edition of 15 Chinese Whispers Story CookiesTM! Each cookie's "fortune" features a quote from a Chinese WhispersSM story.

Chinese WhispersSM 
is a research and community storytelling project about the Chinese who helped build the Transcontinental Railroad and the American West. It includes place-based
multimedia productions that engage local communities in recounting local stories, innovative public engagement programming, and development of an interactive online mapping platform that brings together research, geography, and storytelling. Visit for more information.

Chinese WhispersSM is supported in part by the California Council for the HumanitiesSan Francisco FoundationSan Francisco Arts Commission, and individual donors like you.

Partners include Center for Sierra Nevada Studies, San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park, Chinese Historical Society of America, and Placer Arts Council, with special thanks to Malcom Margolin and Heyday. Chinese WhispersSM is a member of the Intersection Incubator, a program of Intersection for the Arts providing fiscal sponsorship, incubation and consulting services to artists. 


Photo Credit: Keith Baker, Susan Boeckmann, Benson G. Chen, Jeff K. Lee

Poetry and Storytelling Make Magic Onboard Ship

Rapt audience filled the Shelterdeck of sailing ship Balclutha on Feb. 23 to honor the lunar year of the Water Snake at “Transformations and Renewals,” our joint celebration with the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park.

They reveled in poet Genny Lim’s mesmerizing performance of her powerful poetry, and chortled through an interactive “Chinese whispers” telephone game that modeled how history gets changed through successive retelling. This led up to a riveting delivery by proxy tellers Kevin Lee, Gregory Manalo, and Bessie Hahn, of compelling stories of transformation and resilience among early Chinese pioneers in the Sierra and the Bay. Park Exhibits Curator Richard Everett then gave a lively rendition of journalist Max Stern's fascinating accounts of maritime cannery workers, which were made chillingly real by a visit to the “Chinatown” quarters in the hold of the historic Balclutha.

Audience members said of the multimedia event: “magical”, "moving", “spectacular!” A Park ranger stationed on Hyde St. Pier observed that “everyone who came out from the event had a big smile on their face.” Now that’s something to smile about.

Kudos and thanks to Genny, Richard, and our storytellers, as well as to our volunteers and audience members, for making the event such a success. And very special thanks to our partner the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park.

CW @ Shaping SF: The Legacy of Exclusion

We are delighted to present our next “Seeing Stories” community collaboration at Shaping San Francisco, to bring overlooked history to light through visual storytelling. Join us on April 10 at Eric Quezada Center for Culture and Politics, San Francisco, for an evening of presentations, stories, and discussions about the impact of the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act on generations of Chinese American families.

We will reunite with presenters Chinese Historical Society of America and Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation, and we are pleased to welcome filmmaker Felicia Lowe. Along with Chinese Whispers story excerpts, you'll also hear community story-contributor Ford Lee's memories of growing up in a San Francisco Chinatown shaped by the legacy of Exclusion. See sidebar for event details.

City Beneath the City Exhibition at Stanford Archaeology Center

City Beneath the City, the art installation by Project & Artistic Director Rene Yung that features over 60 artifacts from San Jose’s Market Street Chinatown, will be on view at the Stanford Archaeology Center through April 30. This special adaptation of CBC for the University space weaves together cultural history and archaeology, and brings home the poignant context of the arson fire that destroyed Market Street Chinatown. If you haven’t seen it yet, be sure to catch the installation before April 30. Details in sidebar.

Contact us at stories{at} if you would like to have a copy of Rene's paper on CBC that she presented at the recent Society for California Archaeology annual conference.

Wishing you a happy spring!

—The Chinese Whispers Team

Meet the CW Community  

Meet our growing community here! The CW Community is made up of all kinds of people spanning generations -- professionals, scholars, retirees, students, "regular folks" who joined us to bring forgotten stories to light.

Proxy storyteller Bessie Hahn is the University Librarian Emeritus at Brandeis University, who relocated to San Francisco recently. She was born in Shanghai, grew up in Hong Kong, and came to the U.S. as a student.

Bessie reflects on her storytelling experience: "When I listened to Kevin and Greg telling the stories of Evelyn, Fred and Ross; and when I told the story of Bill and George, I couldn't help being overwhelmed by the courage and endurance of their parents and grandparents in seeking a better world for their descendents.  They were the lucky ones: their descendents live to tell their stories. 

But I also cried in my heart for the many thousands who perished on the Transcontinental Railroad, in the gold mines and bogs of California.  We need to remember the contributions of these nameless people who sacrificed their lives to 'build' our country."
Graphic design student and recent Chinese Whispers intern Leah Wan comes from Chongqing, China. 

Leah says: "
I am very touched by the struggling stories from the early Chinese immigrants in San Francisco, represented with soft tones and reminiscent sentences by the performers. Sitting inside the cabin of a swaying ship under dim light, I sometimes had the illusion that I was back in the 1900s and watching the history happening in front of my eyes."

"As an immigrant from China, I was only familiar with the first half of the story, which is how China was forced to open their piers and ports, and how the people in South East China escaped to another continent. But the story I knew just ended when they left China. It's fascinating to learn the rest of that story.

Our sincerest thanks to all of the community members who are helping to bring history to life.

Copyright © 2013 Rene Yung, All rights reserved.