lion crowd Fireworks shortfireworks lanternlanternlanternlanternlanternlanternlantern shortfireworks crowd Fireworks nlion 慶祝建校一百三十週年!
         Celebrating 130 Years!
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By Kenneth Guan, Translated by Mandy Huang

Preparations for the setting up of this school were first made in 1886 (Qing, Guang Xu 12) under the direction of Mr. Ming Auyang, then Consul General of China in San Francisco, and with the approval of Mr. Yin Hen Zhang, China’s Minister to the United States.

The school was opened in April 1888 (Qing, Guang Xu 14) on the 2nd floor at 777 ½ Sacramento Street in San Francisco, California.  It was first named San Francisco Chinese–Western School.  The then Consul General Ting Zhan Liang appointed Mr. Zhan Qing Cheng as the first principal.  This was the beginning of the present Central Chinese High School in America.  The school was renamed Great Qing Academy later in the year.

In the beginning there were only sixteen students divided into two classes.  One teacher and a teaching aide were assigned to each class.  They were either Juren* or Xiucai*.  However, the school being at its initial stage, its basic purpose of promoting Chinese culture and study was difficult to materialize under the then conditions.

In 1905 the Qing government demolished the old scholar system in China.  New form of school system was in development.  The Qing government also planned to promote Chinese education abroad for its citizens.  Mr. Qing Gui Liang, an official who lectured to the Emperor, was sent to America to materialize this goal.  Mr. Liang departed from Hong Kong to San Francisco on March 7th, 1908.  He arrived in San Francisco on April 2nd.

After Mr. Liang arrived in San Francisco, the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association (CCBA) gave him its full support and assigned a group of its leaders to assist him.  The Great Qing School was then renamed Great Qing Overseas Citizens Public Elementary School.  The then Ambassador Bing Chun Xu was appointed principal.  The school’s expenses were accounted in a loan in the amount of $2,350 taken from the Bank of Canton.

In 1909 the school was moved to the 2nd and 3rd floors of the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association on Stockton Street.  The principal position was served on a rotation bases by the chairpersons from all major Associations.  Due to lack of actual leadership, funding and staff, the school met with many obstacles on its development course.

In 1911 Dr. Sun Yat Sen successfully overthrew the Qing government in a revolution in China.  The Qing Dynasty was ended.  The government of the Republic of China was established.  The name Great Qing was out-of-date.  The school was therefore renamed Chinese Overseas Public Elementary School.

In 1915 the school went through reorganization under the direction of the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association.  A governing board was formed according to the reorganization plan, the chairpersons of the Six Companies being members of the Board.  Mr. Den Liang Ding was appointed as the new principal.  Later, Mr. Hai Sheng Shen took over after the former’s resignation.

In 1916 there were 120 students at the school in four classes.  The principal’s vacancy was temporarily filled by Mr. Zhao Xin Zhu, the then Consulate General.

In 1918 there were 145 students at the school.  Special classes were also run for the study of Chinese language and culture.  In the following year the school used $2,400 to purchase the lot behind the school building and changed it into a playground for the students.

In 1920 the school began to take female students.  Later on, Mr. Zhao Xin Zhu was unable to continue to take account of the principal’s position due to his busy schedule as Consulate General.  The vacant position once again was taken over by the chairpersons of the Six Companies on a rotation base.

In 1922 there were 180 students at the school.  The following year saw the school begin its first middle school courses.   However, they had to be stopped shortly due to limited attendance (there were only 4 students).

They were not re-started until 1924.  In order to promote school activities and strengthen student discipline, the position of superintendent was added.  Mr. Xi Qiong Huang was the first to fill that position.  The school had always used the Taishan dialect as the language of instruction.  It was in 1926 that Cantonese was officially adopted.  The first group of middle school students graduated in the summer.

In 1927, the building at 827 Stockton was acquired as the permanent school campus.  The name of the school was officially changed to Central Chinese High School in America.

In 1928, the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association hired Mr. Shi Heng Lin as the 1st principal after the school got the new name.  Under Mr. Lin’s management, there was a huge increase in student body count.

In 1929 Hoy Sun NingYung Benevolent Association began its preparations for the setting up of a school of its own.  Some people predicted that the setting up of Ning Yung School would lead to the disintegration of Central Chinese High School in America.  Based on this assumption, Ning Yung Benevolent Association gave up its plan and extended instead its full support to Central Chinese High School in America.

On November 22nd, 1931, the 827 Stockton Street building began its usage.  The school building was named after Mr. Song Zhou, a generous businessman who donated $14,700 to purchase the building for the school.  The first group of high school students graduated in the same year.

In 1933 Principal Mr. Shi Heng Lin resigned office.  Mr. Jiu Chou Zhao was hired as the school’s 2nd principal.  Mr. Zhong Hai Chen was its 3rd principal from 1937 to 1944.  During Mr. Chen’s tenure of office, the school officially registered with the Chinese government’s Department of Education.

In 1940 the school’s charters were amended.  The number of the school board membership was increased to 30. (The seven chairpersons from the seven major associations, twelve representatives from the NingYung Benevolent Association, two representatives from Shue Hing, Hop Wo, Kong Chow, Yeong Wo and SamYup Benevolent Associations respectively, and one representative from  Yan Wo Benevolent  Association.)  In the beginning the seven chairpersons did not have the right to vote.

In 1944 Mr. Fu Tang Wu, the chairman of Ning Yung Benevolent Association became President of the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association.  He accepted the suggestion advanced by many members of the Benevolent Association and gave a ruling in favor of the motion that the chairpersons of the seven main Benevolent Associations had the right to vote.  In the same year Mr. Kun Li succeeded Mr. Zhong Hai Chan as the 4th principal.

In 1945 Mr. Shi Qiong Huang became the 5th principal.  In 1947 the Chinese government’s Overseas Citizen Board proposed a motion to recognize the school as an official overseas citizen school.  In 1950 Mr. Xiang Pu Zhang became the 6th principal.

The school building was remodeled in 1951.  The first level became an auditorium and was named Victory Hall. Mr. Chiang Kai-shek, the then President of the Republic of China, inscribed the name in his hand.  His inscription in characters of gold was carved on the marble over the entrance.  In addition; the school’s name was also his treasured calligraphy, which is inscribed on the high school’s front door.

In 1956 under the leadership of the school board chairman Mr. Bei Shou Huang, the school carried on a fund-raising campaign to remodel and repair its classrooms and courtyard.  The school was able to raise over $30,000.  After the reconstruction the student body count shot up.  The school then offered both morning and afternoon classes.  A new and dynamic atmosphere prevailed in the school.

In 1966 Mr. Huan Xin Huang became the 7th principal.  Principal Huang retired in 1988, his tenure of office being the longest in the school history.  Principal Huang had made many contributions to the school’s growth and development.

In November, 1977 Mr. Zhao Guang Yu, the then school board chairman and chairman of Hop Wo Benevolent Association, helped the school apply for and gain the non-profit organization status from the State of California under Code 501(C)(3).  As a result, the school saved more than $14,000 in taxation every year.  Furthermore, donors could deduct their school donations from their income tax.

From 1988 to 1992, Ms. Mimi M. Lai became the 8th principal.  She was the first female principal of the school.  It was in this year that the school began its kindergarten classes as well as its systematic teaching in Mandarin.  The student body count jumped from two hundred to over five hundred.

In 1992, Mr. Patrick Ng became the 9th principal.  In the same year the school started Saturday afternoon classes, which increased the enrollment to more than eight hundred students.

In 1993, San Francisco Unified School District began to hold Chinese Language Test.  It agreed that students of this school could gain 20 credits if they passed both Test Level One and Test Level Two.  These credits could be credited toward foreign language studies requirements.

In 1995 President of the CCBA Mr. Poy Ng Wong, the school board chairman Mr. William Mah and some board members formed a committee on the school’s earthquake seismic upgrade project.  The school was able to raise over $480,000.  The project began in June 1996 and completed in November the same year.

In July 1996 Principal Mr. Patrick Ng retired.  Mr. Shubang Li succeeded him as the 10th principal in August.  Principal Li continued the school’s effort in Mandarin teaching and added Mandarin classes on Saturday afternoon.

In 1997 during the school board chairman Mr. Damon Yee’s tenure, the school began its much needed repairs.  Upon the approval of the city’s building inspection department, the $110,000 repair project was started in May 1998 and completed in August the same year.

Beginning in January 1998, the school began offering Mandarin classes, Cantonese classes on Sunday morning and Chinese Computing classes.

In 1999, during the school board chairman Mr. Wing H. Lau’s tenure, the school began another round of fund raising to repair and upgrade its elementary school section’s facilities.  The campaign was engineered by a fund-raising group, which consisted of CCBA’s board of directors, the school board chairman and the principal.  The fund-raising group was able to raise over $290,000.  The project was completed in September 2000.  With all the renovation and reconstruction mentioned above, the face of the School buildings took on an entirely new aspect.

In September 2000, Mandarin preschool classes were first held.

In July 2003 Sunday afternoon classes were started.  Then some students of Cantonese classes asked to be transferred to Mandarin classes.  To meet this demand, Mandarin phonetic symbols classes were added in January 2005.

In May 2007, pursuant to the San Francisco Paid Sick Leave Ordinance, Chapter 12W of the San Francisco Administrative Code, the school board adopted the “provisional Measures for Implementing the Provision of Paid Sick Leave to Teaching Staff and Employees of the school, and thus for the first time the school’s teaching staff and employees are entitled to a job-related benefit.  In August of the same year, the school installed a closed circuit monitor system for security reasons.  In September, Mr. Thomas Szeto, former President of the Board of the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association and President of Sue Hing Benevolent Association, donated $35,000 for the construction of the “Wen Yu Covered Patio”, which serves as a sun shade and a rain shelter for parents of students during before-school drop-off, and after-school pick-up times.  In addition, in May of the same year, in view of the fact that students of the several Chinese schools in the San Francisco Chinatown area had achieved distinctions in the Chinese Language Tests, San Francisco Unified School District decided that starting from the year 2008, all students studying Chinese language in this school and applying to use their Chinese Language Test credits to fulfill their foreign language studies’ credits, are exempt from taking the Chinese Language Tests administered by the San Francisco Unified School District.  This school can submit the results of such students’ in-school Chinese language tests to the Unified School District for examination, upon completion of which the students are credited with foreign language study credits, and their Chinese language test results can be included in their report cards of their English school.

As of February 2010, the number of students has increased to 2,071, which is the largest student body count in the history of the school. 

Central Chinese High School in America is the oldest Chinese school in the United States.  Its development and growth crosses the span of a century.  It has done its utmost in contributing to the local communities and society, especially in the promotion of Chinese culture and language studies.  It has nurtured and brought up a large number of outstanding persons of bilingual ability.  Many of the Chinese community celebrities, such as civil and military officers, successful businessmen, lawyers, doctors, engineers, educators, artists and what not, were once its students.  Together with other Chinese schools, it has made endless effort to bring about the bilingual education and services that we enjoy today.

(Footnote: Mr. Kenneth Guan, the author of this article, passed away in August 2003.  All information in this article concerning the events after August 2003 was written by Mr. Shubang Li, the current principal of the school.)

*Juren—A successful candidate in the imperial examination at the provincial level in the Ming and Ching Dynasties.

*Xiucai—A successful candidate in the imperial examination at the county level in the Ming and Ching Dynasties.