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A new exhibit at the Mah Society of Edmonton titled “The Journey of the Horse” takes visitors through more than a century of Chinese-Canadian history. Created by Sue Mah and Andrea Maru, the exhibit is a reflection of the struggles and triumphs of early Chinese settlers in Canada. The exhibit tells the story of how Chinese immigrants faced racism and discrimination in the late 1800s and early 1900s, and how they persevered by starting their own businesses due to restrictions on professional opportunities. The Mah Society of Edmonton was formed in 1917 as a support group for Chinese men who had to leave their families behind when they moved to Canada, fostering camaraderie and relationships amongst the new immigrants.

Chinese immigrants to Canada faced many barriers in the late 1800s and early 1900s, including the implementation of a head tax between 1885 and 1923 to restrict immigration after the completion of the Canadian Pacific Railway. The head tax required Chinese immigrants to pay a significant amount to enter the country, making it difficult for many to bring their families over. The Chinese Immigration Act of 1923, also known as the Chinese Exclusion Act, further banned all Chinese immigrants until it was repealed in 1947. Despite these challenges, brave individuals like Hoy Sein Mah made the journey to Canada to build a new life.

Hoy Sein Mah, who arrived in Canada in 1950 at the age of 16, shares his own experiences of adapting to life in a new country. He recalls the shock of Edmonton’s cold weather and being one of the few Chinese youth in the city at the time. Despite facing challenges in terms of acceptance, Hoy Sein persevered and learned English through various means. Now at the age of 90, he is grateful for the opportunity to share his journey and the experiences of other immigrants with a wider audience.

Sue Mah, a second-generation Chinese immigrant, emphasizes the importance of preserving the history and culture of Chinese Canadians. Born in China and immigrating to Canada at a young age, Sue reflects on her own journey of assimilating to Western culture while rediscovering her Chinese heritage in recent years. The exhibit serves as a place for Chinese elders to reminisce about the past and for anyone to learn about the history of Chinese immigrants in Canada. Sue’s goal is to educate people on the struggles and triumphs of Chinese immigrants, as well as to reinvigorate culture in Edmonton’s Chinatown.

The exhibit not only showcases the history of Chinese Canadians but also aims to bring new life and awareness to Edmonton’s Chinatown, which has faced challenges in recent years. Sue hopes to dispel negative perceptions of the area and highlight the positive aspects of the community, including various programs and services offered by organizations like the Mah Society of Edmonton. By sharing the stories of Chinese immigrants and celebrating their contributions to Canadian society, the exhibit aims to connect with a diverse audience and promote a greater understanding of cultural heritage.

Ultimately, the exhibit at the Mah Society of Edmonton is a testament to the resilience and determination of Chinese immigrants in overcoming adversity and building a new life in Canada. Through personal stories, historical artifacts, and educational programs, visitors can gain a deeper appreciation for the sacrifices and achievements of early Chinese settlers. The exhibit serves as a bridge between the past and present, offering a glimpse into the rich cultural heritage of Chinese Canadians and inspiring future generations to embrace their roots and heritage.

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