Canada connection

Updated: 2013-12-04 11:04

By Huang Zhiling and He Juntian (China Daily)

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Canada connection

The Canadians took a group picture during their annual reunion in Canada in 1945. Photos Provided to China Daily

A new museum celebrates three generations of missionaries who came to Sichuan province in the late 19th century. Huang Zhiling and He Juntian collect the stories in Sichuan.

On the second Saturday of every October, the "CS Kids" gather in a Chinese restaurant in suburban Toronto, Canada.

The annual reunion of a group of Canadians who were born and raised in Southwest China's Sichuan province and attended the Canadian School there has continued for 77 years in the same restaurant. It began in 1936, when some Canadian missionaries in Sichuan who returned to Canada for their furlough met for a Chinese meal on Elizabeth Street.

The Canadian School was a fulltime boarding school set up in Chengdu, the provincial capital, in March 1909 to provide a complete education for the children of missionaries in Sichuan.

The school closed in June 1950, and CS Kids went back to their home country from 1949 to 1953. But the CS Kids who are still alive and are in their 80s and 90s never forget their "hometown" in Sichuan. At the beginning of each reunion in Toronto, they always like to shout "Chi Fan Le" in Sichuan dialect, meaning "Time to have a meal". They bring along their treasured old photos and collections from their time in China to share, and they sing children's songs they remember from Sichuan.

In the recently opened Time-Honored Photo Museum in Xinchang town, Dayi county in Sichuan, photos of the CS Kids before 1950 and images from their recent reunions are on display with hundreds of other pictures taken by Canadian missionaries in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

More than 1,000 Canadian missionaries were appointed to the West China Mission in Chengdu from 1891 in the late Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) until 1949.

When they started retiring from the mission, some of them had worked in Sichuan for decades. Their love for China often prompted them to adopt Chinese names for themselves, their children and grandchildren.

They took thousands of photos of themselves and the province when few Chinese could afford a camera.

"Their descendants have provided more than 1,000 of the old photos for the museum," says Tian Yaxi, an official of the Chengdu Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries who has worked to collect the photos.

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