On June 29, 2009, a group of OCOM students and one OCOM faculty member took a field trip to John Day, Oregon to visit Kam Wah Chung & Co., a 140-year-old former medical and religious center for eastern Oregon’s Chinese community. Now a museum operated by Oregon State Parks and Recreation, the building and its untouched contents provide a glimpse into the life and culture of the early Chinese community in Oregon.
Constructed originally as a trading post, the building now contains a vast collection of artifacts, including business and financial records, supplies, and ancient Chinese herbs and medicines, some dating back to the 1800s.
OCOM student, Jon Conant, recounts the June trip with his classmates:
The first annual OCOM trip to Kam Wah Chung was exciting, fascinating, inspiring, and mystifying. The trip began with an early morning caravan of students through the forest around Mount Hood to John Day, Oregon, where we were met by the curator of the museum at Kam Wah Chung, Christina Sweet.
Each group of students got a tour of the museum and the artifacts on site, as well as many letters, herbs, and other artifacts that the curator took out of their archives specifically for our group. We heard numerous stories about Doc Hay, Lung On, and the Wild West. We were also given gloves and subsequent permission to open the many boxes and tins of Doc Hay's old herbs that were still on site, some of which we identified for the museum.
That evening, we set up camp at Magone Lake where we swam, hiked, shared wine and campfires, and reveled underneath crisp constellations into the night. Some students returned to the museum the next morning to see more.
Attendees are already enthusiastic about visiting again next year, as well as potentially working with the museum with translation of the many herbs, prescriptions, and letters that were left by Doc Hay.
In May of 2009, OPB first aired a documentary about Doc Hay and Lung On. Visit the OPB website to see more.