Founded in 1899, the Tung Wah Coffin Home has been providing a humble service for the deceased for more than a century. It fulfilled a significant Chinese burial tradition of bone repatriation to hometown beyond time and geographic boundaries. Today, in addition to the unique historic buildings, Tung Wah Coffin Home has also passed down an invaluable archives collection of 234 items preserved by the Tung Wah Museum, in tens of thousands of pages dated from the 1910s to 1970s. The archives are invaluable because they are of a large size and great variety focusing on the history of Chinese bone repatriation tradition. They are letters sent to Tung Wah from Chinese organizations and individuals all over the world, coffin home guarantee certificates and application forms, temporary coffin depository contracts, coffins and bones registers, receipts and bills of lading. As most of the earliest archives are missing, the remaining records become extremely precious. The archives demonstrate Tung Wah’s crucial role in the global Chinese charity network in the 19th and 20th century and depicted the Chinese migration history of an unique era closely tied with the development of Hong Kong and China.
To upload the selected archives of coffin home on the website, we have chosen 300 correspondences from the Museum’s collection which were sent to Tung Wah either by overseas Chinese organizations or individuals around the world during the 1920s to 1930s requesting for the bone repatriation service. These correspondences carried the wishes of deceased overseas Chinese to return to the roots. And from them, one could realize that Tung Wah on one hand developed close connections with the overseas organizations, received the coffins and bones from overseas, provided them a temporary depository at the coffin home, and on the other hand contacted the families and friends of the deceased or charitable organizations in the mainland to return the bones for burial in the hometowns despite all difficulties . The archives truly reflects the uniqueness of the service and Tung Wah’s charitable spirit in serving Chinese.