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
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 The name Great Qing was out-of-date.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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
successful candidate in the imperial examination at the provincial level in
the Ming and Ching Dynasties.
successful candidate in the imperial examination at the county level in the
Ming and Ching Dynasties.