|HOPE 希 望||LUCK 福氣||JOURNEY 旅途|
|SUFFERING 苦||SICKNESS 病 痛||HEALTH 健康|
|JUSTICE 正義||INJUSTICE 冤 屈||TREASURE 金銀財寶|
|TRAGEDY 悲 劇||DEATH 死亡||HOME 家 鄉|
This is a remarkable story about the beginnings of the modern U.S. and China relationship, seen through the lens of a dramatic 1874 deep-sea shipwreck involving the loss of many lives and a treasure still buried at sea. The Chinese emigrants who perished, just hours away from a long-awaited return to their homeland when a midnight coal fire raged across the deck of the SS Japan, are the centerpiece of the story. The story involves their time spent in California to help build America’s railroads, mine its silver, and grow its food, only to have public sentiment turn against them with an anti-immigrant, racist fervor. Their lives to and from America are entrusted to a veteran China Sea trader—the erstwhile Captain Edward Warsaw—an American captain whose vigilance and courage in command of the world’s largest wooden passenger vessel was sorely tested when his ship caught fire and sank on that fateful return voyage to China. Nearly 400 of his Chinese passengers on the Japan, a side-wheel steamship that Mark Twain had called a “perfect palace of a ship,” would perish. Cut off from their lifeboats by the raging fire, many would drown when they were forced to jump into the sea, only to be dragged down with their money belts of gold, their earning from their years spent laboring in America. The amazing tale involves a shipwreck, pirates, and a considerable treasure (nearly $400,000 in silver dollars), but most of all is about a deep-water time capsule, symbolizing a critical early chapter of U.S.-China relations. With the lost records of the event recently discovered and pieced together by the author, the history of disaster allows the lost voices to tell their larger story to the world from the bottom of the South China Sea.