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Living History: Charles Tung, Merchant and Chinese Interpreter

  • Fort Walla Walla Museum 755 Northeast Myra Road Walla Walla, WA, 99362 United States (map)

Charles Tung, a leader of the local Chinese community, was born in San Francisco and moved to Walla Walla in 1880. Fluent in both English and Chinese, Tung often acted as a translator for many local Chinese people. His stories of life in Walla Walla as a Chinese merchant are fascinating. Walla Walla was like many communities in the United States of the late 1800s that placed numerous restrictions on its Chinese population. Tung’s accounts are filled with a perspective from those difficult days.

Tung owned the Kwong Chung Sing Company, importing Chinese silk, porcelain, and tea to Walla Walla. He acted as secretary-treasurer of the Chinese operated Pacific Enterprise Corporation that built a two-story structure at Fifth and Rose Streets in 1911.

In 1930, Tung departed the United States for China to enroll his daughter in Chinese schools and did not return until 1939 because of the war in that country. While in China, he operated a bank in Canton province.

Charles Tung is portrayed by fifth generation Walla Wallan Galen Tom.

A Living History performance at Fort Walla Walla Museum brings history to life with reenactors portraying real people from the area's past. This year’s schedule continues the company’s tradition of 2 pm presentations every Sunday from April through October, and also on Saturdays from June through August.