Titanic: The Forgotten Eight Chinese Passengers! (14.12.2020)

Original Author and Researcher: Jin Manlou (金满楼)

(Translated By Adrian Chan-Wyles PhD)

On April 14, 1912, the Titanic – the largest passenger ship with the most luxurious interior facilities in the world at that time, suffered a disaster on its maiden voyage from Southampton, (England) to New York, (USA) – when it struck an iceberg! It sank into the sea in the early morning of the next day, killing 1,517 of the 2,224 crew members and passengers. According to records, there were eight (8) Chinese people on board at the time, six (6) of whom survived the sinking and were rescued. Recently, “Six Human-Beings: Chinese Survivors on the Titanic” – a historical film created by British Director Arthur Jones (Chinese name ‘Luo Fei’ [罗飞]) debuted at the 3rd Hainan Island International Film Festival. This documentary is designed to rectify the deliberate omission of the eight Chinese passengers from James Cameron’s 1997 epic film entitled ‘Titanic’ and similar accounts!

The Chinese People on the Titanic—

The Tickets Naming ‘Eight’ Male Chinese Boiler Room Workers (Third Class) – RMS Titanic – Maidan Voyage (1912)!

Third Class Passengers

On April 18, 1912, the Carpathia, carrying 710 survivors, arrived in New York Harbor, and the stories of the survivors then dominated the front pages of newspapers, including reports of six (6) Chinese survivors. Sadly, though, reports about the latter were mostly negative.

According to some of the media reports at the time, less than one-third of the survivors in this sinking were men – with men possessing a lower survival rate (due to the ‘women and children’ first policy of filling the lifeboats) – and yet six (6) of the eight (8) Chinese men travelling in third-class cabins managed to survive! Papers in the US and UK asked why it was that valuable spaces in lifeboats were given to ‘heathen’ cowards instead of ‘White’ women and children – or ‘White’ men who had bravely done their duty?

Due to the chaotic scene surrounding the sinking, together with the language barrier, the Western media did not bother to interview the six (6) Chinese survivors – with most of the stories consisting of racist hearsay and false allegations. Nonetheless, some information is certain, that is, the eight (8) Chinese men were legitimate workers travelling in third-class on the ship and certainly were not stowaways.

According to the New York Times of June 14, 1911: “Despite the efforts of the strike leaders, the White Star’s Olympic ship left the port of Southampton this afternoon on her maiden voyage to New York. This was following an agreement made between the management and the crew that prevented strike action.” The Olympic was the sister ship of the Titanic – both being owned by the White Star Line. Later, the Titanic’s maiden voyage would also be delayed by strike action.

Similar to White Star Line, the UK-based Donald Steamship Company was facing a shortage of seafaring labourers! Before the Titanic set sail – the Anat – owned by the Donald Steamship Company, was moored in New York Harbour. The main business of this ship was the transport of tropical fruits from the Central American West Indies to the United States. The Donald Steamship Company arranged for eight (8) sailors to be sent from the UK – but the only men available were ‘Chinese’ – because they were excluded (as ‘non-White’ people) from Union membership in the UK and were therefore ‘exempt’ from the requirement to participate in strike action! Furthermore, as they were only ‘transiting’ through American docks (loading and unloading) their presence did not violate the US ‘Chinese Exclusion Act’ which prohibited Chinese workers from entering the United States at that time. To reach the Anat – these eight (8) Chinese men (all ‘Boiler Room Workers’ or ‘Stokers’) were placed aboard the Titanic as a means to reach New York!

To this end, the Donald Steamship Company bought these eight (8) Chinese people a third-class group ticket – numbered 1601 – price £56, 9 shillings and 11 pence. The ‘Chinese’ names registered on this collective ticket are written in phonetic English. All eight Chinese passengers were originally from the Jiangman area of Taishan (pronounced ‘Toisan’ in the local dialect) situated within Guangdong province. These people are often ‘Hakka’ and speak a mixture of the Hakka and Cantonese dialects – exactly like the Hakka people do (our ancestors) throughout the New Territories Area of Hong Kong! 

1) Fang Lang (Survived) – Worked on a cargo ship (8 years) and illegally entered US. Possibly identified as ‘Fang Sen’ (方森) – also known as ‘Fang Rongshan’ (方荣山).

2) Choong Foo (Survived) – Fate unknown.

3) Ali Lam (Survived) – Continued as mariner – disappeared in 1920 (Hong Kong).

4) Ling Hee (Survived) – Continued as mariner – disappeared in 1920 (India).

5) Chang Chip (Survived) – Contracted lung disease on voyage – died 1914 (London).

6) Lee Bing (Survived) – Migrated to Canada and opened a Coffee Shop.

7) Lee Ling (Drowned)

8) Len Lam (Drowned)

Amongst them the youngest was 24 years old whilst the oldest was 37 years old. As dispatch workers (who were sent anywhere at anytime with no Union support or protection) – these Chinese men were made to work more than 12 hours a day in terrible conditions – whilst receiving only one-fifth the pay of that earned by White (Umionised) workers doing exactly the same job!

Escape from chaos—

Six (6) Chinese human-being survive!

As the ship began to sink, the Captain of the Titanic implemented the principle of “women and children first” or “only” for the port (left) side lifeboats – whilst the starboard (right) side lifeboats operated for “men and women”. Several surviving Officers confirmed this protocol. Like ALL other third-class passengers – the eight (8) Chinese men were released from the lower decks at the last minute and strictly followed the racist and class-based rules – with none of them entering (or attempting to enter) the lifeboats on the port side.

According to the prevailing practice at the time, after a sinking, the lifeboats were used to mainly ferry people to rescue ships returning empty to pick-up more survivors who might be in the water – but there were NO ships in the immediate area and the passnegers already in the boats could not be taken or deposited anywhere for some hours! The Titanic was equipped with only 20 lifeboats – enough to accommodate a maximum of 1,300 people when fully loaded – which meant that nearly half of the people on board were doomed to die even if everything had gone according to plan. The situation was even more dire for third-class passengers, who were released from the lower decks last and who were allocated very few lifeboat spaces to fill.

During the chaos, Choong Foo boarded lifeboat No. 13 – the seventh starboard lifeboat to be launched into the sea! At the last minute, Ali Lam, Ling Hee, Chang Chip and Lee Bing were lucky enough to board folding lifeboat designated ‘C’. As these four men were small in stature – they were able to sit on the floor of the boat and not the seat boards – thus not taking-up any of the available seats. As they were quiet and small, they were not discovered for quite sometime until after the launching!

Not long after the folding lifeboat ‘C’ was launched, the Titanic – which was by now tilting alarmingly – began to sink! Lee Ling, Len Lam, and Fang Lang were still on board at the time and fell into the water! Fang Lang managed to cling to a large plank of wood as a means of survival – whilst Lee Ling and Len Lam sank beneath the freezing waves and were soon drowned!

In the final scene of the 1997 movie “Titanic”, lifeboat No. 14 is correctly depicted as being the only lifeboat which returned in an attempt to save people. This boat manages to extract the ‘White’ heroine ‘Ruth’ from the freezing water in the 1997 movie “Titanic” – who has survived by floating upon a door! However, this is pure fiction and sentimental nonsense! In reality, this boat rescued Fang Lang – the last person to be rescued, and it was he who had survived whilst floating on a wooden door! The White people in the boat thought he was ‘Japanese’ with one or two suggesting he be left to die whilst the search for European survivors continued!

According to the testimony of Charlotte Coye – a Titanic passenger and survivor on that boat: “When we first saw this Japanese man, we thought he was dead, but we could not be sure. We called to him – but there was no response. Officer Lowe pulled him onto the lifeboat and within five minutes he regained his strength, stood up, stamped his feet and outatretched his arms! In fact, the Sailor sitting next to the Japanese man could not row anymore from exhaustion – and this Japanese man took over and rowed continuously toward the Carpathia like a true hero – where we were all rescued!”

Whilst White survivors were treated as heroes upon reaching the United States – a different fate awaited the six (6) Chinese men! Indeed, they were immediately arrested and transported to the Manhattan Detention Center – before being transferred to the Concentration Camp (termed the ‘Immigration Station’) for Chinese people run by the US Authorities situated upon Ellis Island. On April 19, 1912, the six (6) Chinese men were handed-over to staff of the Donald Steamship Company – and were immediately taken aboard the Anat. The six (6) Chinese men received no empathy, no medical care, no compensation and were treated like little more than slaves. They were not allowed to speak to reporters and had no way of knowing what was being said in the Western world. They were immediately extracted from the location of America and disappeared back into the shipping industry!

Centennial (2012) Movie Version

In the movie “Titanic”, Director James Cameron (probably more famous for his Sci-fi work) did shoot the scene featuring Chinese passenger Fang Lang being rescued whilst floating on a door – but this footage was later cut in both the 1997 version and the 2012 3D version. There are a number of usually unexplored reasons for this but primarily the truthful history featuring the survival of an ethnic Chinese man was ‘replaced’ with the fictional ‘White’ heroine of the movie (Ruth) being placed on the floating section of door, as this was felt more palatable for Western audiences! If the observor is careful, however, there are several scenes featuring Chinese people still remaining in the background of the film, but with most flashing by without attracting the attention of the audience (as if they did, the chances are they would also have been cut from the finished movie).

Lin Fan (林凡) or ‘Van Ling’ Brings Hope to Chinese People!

The “Chinese” person who flashes past many times in “Titanic” is not a random extra, but a man named Lin Fan (林凡) or ‘Van Ling’ in the West – a friend of Director James Cameron and a famous Chinese-American Digital Image Producer in Hollywood. The inclusion of Chinese people by James Cameron was not accidental, as he knew a lot about the situation of the Chinese people on board the Titanic – although outside pressure finally led to much of this footage being cut. Compared to the racist and bias Western media reports of a hundred years ago, however, the movie “Titanic” did not vilify the Chinese people and did attempt to present their existence objectively, albeit in a way that was not easily discoverable or accessible in the final cut.

In recent years, some people have been attempting to reconstruct this long-lost Chinese history, and British Director – Arthur Jones – is one of them. During the filming of the documentary “Six Human-Beings: Chinese Survivors on the Titanic”, Jones and his team assembled dozens of experienced researchers and spent several years seeking clarification regarding the details of the six (6) Chinese survivors from various sources around the world. To this end, the shooting team visited more than 20 cities including Beijing, Taishan, Hong Kong, London, Southampton, New York, and Toronto.

Almost all the survivors from the Titanic are now famous, well-known and possess historical records, but the experience of the six (6) Chinese people who also became “survivors” is unknown (written out of history – as if they were never there). Reasons for this vary, but include the fact none of them could speak or understand the English language and could not communicate effectively with the outside world; the other was due to the racist and bias attitudes prevalent at the time (and afterwards), as there were no reporters who asked them for the truth. After all, they were just humble ship stokers.

In the opinion of Director Arthur Jones – there should be no gaps in the history of “Titanic” and the stories of these six (6) Chinese survivors should be better known and recorded just like the other survivor stories. Arthur Jones said that the documentary is not only a story of the survivors of the Titanic, but also a story of a group of eight (8) brave Chinese people exploring the outside world. More than 100 years ago, the adventurous spirit and the drive to pursue a better life should be recognised in the pioneering example set by these eight (8) Chinese people who ventured into an uncertain world – with two (2) giving-up their lives in the process! There example to face danger squarely in the face and proceed into unknown waters (quite literally, it would seem) should be admired by all for future generations to come!

Chinese Language Article:


2020-12-14 07:49:49 来源: 南海网海南新闻

文\本刊特约撰稿 金满楼









为此,唐纳德轮船公司为他们买了一张三等舱的集体票,票号为1601,价格56镑9先令11便士,登记姓名为Fang Lang、Choong Foo、Ali Lam、Ling Hee、Chang Chip、Lee Bing、Lee Ling、Len Lam。他们8人中,最小的24岁,最大的37岁。作为派遣工,他们每天要工作十几个小时,但薪水只有同样工作的白人船员的五分之一。





混乱当中,Choong Foo上了第13号救生艇,该艇是第七只被放下海面的右舷救生艇。在最后关头,Ali Lam、Ling Hee、Chang Chip、Lee Bing这4人幸运地登上了C号折叠式救生艇。由于坐在艇底而不是坐在船板上,加上他们很可能身材瘦小,所以在黑夜的混乱中,这4人一度没被发现而被误认为之前就躲在那里。

C号折叠式救生艇放下没多久,已极度倾斜的泰坦尼克号就沉没了,还在船上的Lee Ling、Len Lam、Fang Lang三人随之落水。当时,Fang Lang死死抱住一块大木板拼死求生,而Lee Ling、Len Lam两人就此沉入海中。

电影《泰坦尼克》的最后场景中,唯一返回救人的第14号救生艇将女主角露丝从冰海中捞起,但这个生还经历其实是Fang Lang的,他是最后一位被救回的幸存者,当时还被误认为是日本人。据随船去救人的女乘客夏洛特·科耶回忆:“我们看见他时,还以为他死了。我们朝他喊,没有回音。艇长洛伍将艇划回来,这个‘日本人’被拉上了救生艇……一眨眼工夫,他勉力站起来,伸着手,跺着脚,五分钟就恢复了力气。他身边一个水手累倒了,再也划不动桨,这个‘日本人’就把他从桨手位置挪开,自己拿着桨划起来,真像个英雄,一直划到我们被卡帕西亚号救起。”




在电影《泰坦尼克号》中,导演卡梅隆实际上拍摄了Fang Lang被救的镜头,但后来考虑到和露丝被救的情节重叠,所以在1997年版和2012年3D版中都被剪去。此外,如果观众细心的话,电影中其实出现了好几次中国人的镜头,只不过大多一闪而过,没有引起人们的注意。