Four Years of Building a Railroad: The Life of a Chinese Worker

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Zhang David Tsao was suffering from hard labor, physical pain and mental torture. He wondered how the white men could face themselves in their posh, round mirrors, after treating the Chinese with utmost disrespect. After two years of working on the Canadian Pacific Railway following multiple attempts to run away, Zhang regretted that he had come to Canada for money. His family in China was suffering from ailments and poverty.
His parents- Feng and Jia Tsao- were long dead. They were rich and wealthy, but due to the 1870 flooding of the Yangtze River, they lost their most of their rice farms, with the exception of one. This event in the Tsaos’ life led to suffering from huge loans and loss. They ended (literally) up in a financial crisis. The Tsao’s had money to live for a few years after Feng and Jia passed away, but they soon had to give up their current farm, too. Zhang took up a job in a factory, but lost it due to a financial crisis the factory was going through. Getting another job was impossible and corruption was spread, so Zhang decided to leave his wife, three kids and China in the pursuit of money. There were always reasons why the Chinese came to Canada- some serious, while others not.
One day Zhang, while in China, went to the market to barter for food, but that day in June 1881 was different. He saw something that made him stop in his tracks. Outside of Mr. John McGee’s finance office was a poster entitled, “Help needed! Canada, the land of riches, needs your Assistance in the Building of a Railway! $1.00 will be given a day (quite a deal) and a safe, free environment, too. Join Today! ”. He understood none of it, not a single word, so he went and asked Mr. McGee what the sign meant and requested him to translate it...

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... and disease carriers. None of that was true! The Canadians had made such a strong, but wrong opinion about the Chinese that they paid them less. They thought the Chinese men had no families to support. Many Chinese people weren’t even allowed to buried next to the white. Zhang had to suffer prejudice and mistreatment. He tried to change his owner’s view and after many attempts, he succeeded. After a few years, Zhang got enough money to go back to China and he felt like, in many years… that he was free.
When Zhang returned to China, he only had one son left and his wife’s health wasn’t much better. With his newly gained money, Zhang made a new life for himself and his family. Was it worth it for him to go to Canada? Did he have to suffer? Should he have come back to China? Well, no one knows the right answer, but Zhang. If only we could go back in time and ask him.

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