NG MON HING (Wen Wuqing in Mandarin), lay missionary, teacher, and Presbyterian minister; b. 25 March 1858 in Chung-lau, Guangdong province (People’s Republic of China); m. and had one daughter and two sons; d. 1921 in Canton (Guangzhou).
Born in China, Ng Mon Hing spent the early years of his life in Los Angeles. While aboard ship returning to China, he came into contact with two earnest Christians and the “mission-school teaching was borne in on him.” This intense contact resulted in his conversion and he was later baptized in the town of his birth. After a period spent teaching and proselytizing in southern China, he entered the Presbyterian Preachers’ Training School in Canton. In 1895 he met the Reverend Alexander Brown Winchester, a Presbyterian minister from Canada who was in China to learn the language. That same year, on Winchester’s strong recommendation, the Presbyterian Church in Canada extended a call to Ng as a lay missionary and teacher. On 28 March 1895 Ng arrived in Victoria, where he began a career among the Chinese in Canada that would last almost 25 years. A widower when he arrived, he would later be joined by his son Peter. Like most overseas Chinese, he supported family members in China. On a starting monthly salary of $40 plus $5 for rent, he sent money to an elderly aunt and uncle and to his children in Canton. At his retirement in 1916, his annual salary would be $684.
When Ng arrived in 1895 there were approximately 11,000 Chinese in Canada, most of whom were in British Columbia [see Chang Toy; Yip Sang]. His services as a Cantonese-speaking evangelist were therefore much in demand. In addition to preaching, he held prayer meetings, tended to the sick and elderly, and conducted evening school and Bible classes. On a regular basis he toured Chinatown (Vancouver), visiting businesses, boarding houses, and residences in an effort to attract new followers. His monthly reports made careful note of baptisms and new converts. In the early 20th century there were few Chinese women in Canada and the Presbyterian Church made a special effort to reach out to them. Ng’s reports included a meticulous record of the number of women and children who attended church activities. In addition, he collected and sent moneys to China for various causes such as famine relief.
In August 1901 Ng was transferred to Nelson. The following year, when he began to express a desire to return to China, the home mission committee of the Presbyterian Church offered to relocate him in Vancouver. He accepted and by early 1903 had been placed in charge of the Vancouver mission. Over the next four years he divided his time between Vancouver and Victoria. During the summer months, while the mission school in Vancouver was closed, he preached among workers in fish canneries along the coast.
Ng was in a precarious position in the Chinese communities. Those who resisted Christianity saw his presence as an attempt by Canadian officials to monitor and reform their activities. While the Presbyterian Church praised him for his help in the “campaign against Chinese gambling,” some of his fellow countrymen responded differently, accusing him in 1902 of collaborating with the police and instigating raids against suspected gambling dens. Fearing for his safety, Ng asked the police for protection. A Vancouver magistrate refused to grant him permission to carry a revolver or a police whistle, but temporarily assigned a white police officer to protect him. Ironically, Ng’s nationality made him a target for white Canadians’ suspicions. During a routine effort to rid the city of gambling dens, Vancouver police raided his home, seizing money and Chinese-language manuscripts.
In 1906 Ng was asked to transfer to Ontario. He worked mostly in Toronto and at times preached in Hamilton, Ottawa, and other cities with Chinese communities. By 1909, at the request of a group in Vancouver for a Chinese preacher, he had returned to the west coast. In 1913 he was ordained and inducted into St Andrew’s Church, becoming the first Chinese minister in the Presbyterian Church in Canada. His ordination had been delayed by his hesitation to remain in Canada. He had often considered retiring to China to live with his children. His son Peter, educated in Vancouver, had returned and by 1911 had a high-ranking government position in Canton.
In 1914, when Ng was 56, his colleagues began to express concern that he no longer possessed the vigour needed to work in the more populous missions. They considered replacing him with a more dynamic preacher. The next year a colleague suggested that he be transferred to Cumberland, but another was worried that he was not strong enough to “endure the necessary privations” of the remote location. In 1916 he resigned from his official duties. He continued to draw a salary and over the next three years he devoted much of his time to aiding church and police efforts to curtail gambling. For reasons that are unclear, he was now reluctant to leave Canada. The Reverend Robert Peter MacKay speculated that his change of heart was due to political upheaval in China. Ng had confided to MacKay that he feared anti-Christian persecution on his return. Ng’s superiors were persuaded that his abilities could be put to better use in China. They felt that he was no longer “popular” and hence ineffective, but were uncertain as to how to encourage him to return to China without being “unfair or unkind.” According to one co-worker, “The poor man is loath to leave. . . . Meantime the Chinese . . . have had three farewells for him already.” When Ng finally departed on 18 Dec. 1919, he had not seen his homeland in 24 years. He continued his missionary work and lived with his son Peter in Canton until his death in 1921.
Ng Mon Hing had served the Chinese communities of western and eastern Canada with diligence. His close contact with English-speaking Canadians, his fluency in English, and his religious mission made him an exceptional Chinese immigrant for his time.
LAC, RG 31, C1, 1901, Victoria, subdist.D, subdiv.6. UCC-C, Fonds 122/12, dossiers 14-15, 72-74, 79-80, 84, 92-93, 119-20, 141. K. J. Anderson, Vancouver’s Chinatown: racial discourse in Canada, 1875-1980 (Montreal and Kingston, Ont., 1991). A. B. Chan, Gold Mountain: the Chinese in the New World (Vancouver, 1983). Harry Con et al., From China to Canada: a history of the Chinese communities in Canada, ed. Edgar Wickberg (Toronto, 1982; repr. 1988). P. S. Li, The Chinese in Canada (Toronto, 1988). R. G. MacBeth, Our task in Canada (Toronto, 1912). S. S. Osterhout, Orientals in Canada: the story of the work of the United Church of Canada with Asiatics in Canada (Toronto, 1929). N. L. Ward, Oriental missions in British Columbia (Westminster [London], 1925). W. P. Ward, “The Oriental immigrant and Canada’s Protestant clergy, 1858-1925,” BC Studies (Vancouver), no.22 (summer 1974): 40-55.