ANGEL ISLAND IN SIGHT 2021 is a visual storytelling project focused on Angel Island — a collective portrait of Angel Island drawn from a multitude of views — near and far, past and present. Del Sol Performing Arts Organization’s ANGEL ISLAND INSIGHT explores the history of the Angel Island Immigration Station by offering a suite of virtual and in-person programs that examines the musicality of the disappearing Hoisan-wa dialect by The Last Hoisan Poets and The Del Sol Quartet. public engagement with Del Sol Quartet & Huang Ruo’s Angel Island – Oratorio for Voices and Strings.

“Lai Yong exhibits two portraits—tolerably good, but rather Chinese in style.”

San Francisco Chronicle, Mechanics’ Institute Fair. Ninth Day. Art Matters—Attendance—Receipts—Programme of Music for This Evening. September 24, 1869, page 3.

LAI YONG, according to historians, was the first known Chinese artist in California; his studio is listed in San Francisco directories as early as 1867, though his only surviving painting, dated 1870, is a portrait of future San Francisco Mayor Adolph Sutro, symbolic of his remarkable success in the white community, considering the restrictive social environment of the time. He was not timid about attacking racist treatment of his people, co-authoring an 1873 pamphlet, “The Chinese Question from a Chinese Standpoint”, read, in translation, to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and even featured in an article in the New York Times. Yong was also a notable photographer, his photos of Chinese subjects appearing at a Mechanics Institute exhibition in 1869, about the time that he opened his Washington Street studio. Historians have noted only four known carte-de-visite photos by Yong – of a Chinese man, a woman, two children, and one self-portrait which shows the artist at work on the portrait of a caucasian woman. The photo offered here appears to be an unknown fifth photo, portraying another Chinese man with similar, but not identical, clothing and accoutrements. It is not surprising that so little of Lai Yong’s work has survived, as he himself disappeared from San Francisco records in 1882 – at the height of the “Chinese exclusion” furor – when he apparently sold his business and may have returned to China.

from Stanford University Libraries

The Chinese Question from a Chinese StandpointAlternative Title: translated by Rev. O. Gibson. 1874. Chinese/Chinese American Communities : Ethnic Studies Library : Edwar Lee papers : Booklets [on the “Chinese Question”] “Chinese in California” Collection, Ethnic Studies Library, UC Berkeley.

Lai Yong, photographer [two young performers in costume]. 1872.
From Chinese In California Collection, Courtesy of California Historical Society.

This project was made possible with support from California Humanities, a non-profit partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Visit

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this website do not necessarily represent those of California Humanities or the National Endowment for the Humanities.

ANGEL ISLAND: IN SIGHT 2021 at the Angel Island Immigration Station is made possible with support from North East Medical Services (NEMS).

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