All the strange Gods
Yip Sang (Chinese: 葉春田; pinyin: Yè Chūntián; 1845–1927) was a prominent Canadian businessman, whose business and family flourished during the period when Chinese Canadians faced discrimination and restrictions.
Yip’s fame was mainly in his business, but he was also a social reformer and political activist in Canada. Yip Sang was born on September 6, 1845, in Shengtang village (聖堂), Taishan County, Guangdong, into a poor family. Yip went to California as a general labourer in 1864 and then to work in the goldfields in Canada in 1881.
Yip arrived in Vancouver to work as a coal salesman, then as a bookkeeper, timekeeper, and paymaster for the Canadian Pacific Railway Supply Company. He quickly worked up the ranks and became a superintendent of Chinese labourers. By 1888, Yip started his own business the Wing Sang Company, which provided labour contracting, as well as import/export business to and from the Far East.
Yip travelled to China during his time in California and British Columbia. He fathered 23 children among his four wives (Lee Shee, Dong Shee, Wong Shee and Chin Shee).
His company became a Chinese agent with his former employer, Canadian Pacific Railway Supply Company, providing human labour and produce.
Unlike most Chinese men of this time, Yip managed to succeed in life in Canada.
Yip was fluent in English, a naturalized British (1891) subject and by 1908 a successful business and real estate portfolio.
Within the Chinese community, Yip was a local leader. He helped establish the Chinese Benevolent Association of Vancouver, the Chinese Board of Trade of Vancouver and Life Governor of the Vancouver General Hospital. He helped create a hospital and public school for the Chinese community of Vancouver.
Yip was also involved in the political movement in promoting political reform in China via the Chinese Empire Reform Association.
In 1901, Yip brought his entire family to Canada. Some of his children were also able to succeed in life. His daughter, Susanne, attended the University of British Columbia and was later Principal of Kwangtung Provincial Girls’ Middle School in Guangzhou in the 1930s. His son, K. Dock Yip, attended Osgoode Law School and was one of the few Chinese Canadian lawyers before 1947.