Daniel Ching’s first family ancestor to come to America was Chinn Mook, who was born in approximately 1861 in Huizhou (now Huiyang), Guangdong Province, and who emigrated to Hawaii in 1881. Daniel K.E. Ching (Chen Jingyuan) was born in Honolulu on June 11, 1931, and went to Napa, California, in 1940 after living with relatives when his parents separated. He graduated from Pacific Union College in 1955 and moved to Denver. Ching returned to California in 1969 to work for Pacific Bell Telephone Company in Los Angeles as an accounting executive in public communications. In 1989 Ching was given a medical disability retirement because of a degenerating health condition caused by hemochromatosis, a genetic blood disease. His anemia added to his health complications, and he passed away on July 26, 1990.
When Ching lived in Denver, he met Reverend Arthur B. Coole, a Methodist missionary who introduced him to Chinese Numismatics. Ching eventually became nationally known in the numismatic world not only as a collector, but also as a writer of over thirty articles, mostly published in World Coin News, and as the Chinese coin cataloger for Krause Publications in Iola, Wisconsin. In addition to Chinese coins, he collected Chinese stamps and had an extensive collection of military badges, flags, souvenir items, books, picture postcards, and paper money from Manchukuo. While working at Pacific Bell, he also acquired a collection of telephone tokens. Of most value to Chinese American studies is Ching’s collection of popular American artifacts that depicted the Chinese in China or America, images that disturbed him until the day he died. Ching’s coin collection has been auctioned and his Manchukuo collection has been donated to a museum in Manchuria. As for his Chinese American collection, he wanted it to go to a museum or historical society that would not keep it in storage but would ensure that future generations would not forget how the Chinese were portrayed in America’s past. Through the recommendation of Emma and Paul Louie, the Chinese Historical Society of America was chosen to be the recipient of the collection.
In April 1994, CHSA joined forces with the SFSU Asian American Studies Department to work on the Ching Project. Philip P. Choy, Loraine Dong, and Marlon K. Hom are the project coordinators. To date, over sixty volunteers, students, and work-study students have begun to preserve and catalogue the collection, which is currently estimated to comprise over ten thousand items dating from the 1800s to the present. They include postcards, trade cards, sheet music, piano rolls, records, books, magazines, newspaper, prints, posters, paintings, photographs, stereocards, toys, dolls, games, household items, and souvenir trinkets.
In March and May of 1996, three graduate students from SFSU’s College of Ethnic Studies introduced the Ching Collection at CHSA’s March meeting and at two Association of Asian American Studies conferences held in Hawaii (regional) and Washington, D.C. (national). What follows is a portion of the conference presentation, focusing on one of the major genres found in the Ching Collection — trade cards. In the conference, James Chan introduced some of the themes found in trade cards, Dina Shek discussed the Asian female images in sheet music, and Dennis Park reviewed the depictions the Chinese male in these historic images.