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Register of the Papers of



2.75 ft.

MSS 127


Monique Bourque

September 1993


Rose Quong was born ca. 1879 in Melbourne, Australia, the daughter of Chinese parents Chun Quong and Annie Moy Quong.  She grew up in Australia and was employed by the government and performed with the Melbourne Repertory Players until 1924, when she went to study acting in England.  She opened in several plays in 1924, receiving excellent reviews from critics.  She worked in England and France before coming to the United States for the first time in 1936 on tour.  She returned to the United States on a lecture tour in 1940 and remained permanently, settling in New York City.  She continued her acting career in America, and also delivered lectures on Chinese drama, art, and culture.  She performed primarily in theater, but had several film roles to her credit, including a small part in "Flower Drum Song".

The backbone of Quong's career in the United States was a series of one-woman shows, consisting of recitations, dramatic readings, and scenes from plays.  She authored two books: Chinese Characters, Their Wit and Wisdom, and a translation of Sung-Ling P'u, Chinese Ghost and Love Stories.  Her last role was in a 1971 film, "Eliza's Horoscope".  To supplement her income as an actress, Quong occasionally took on other jobs, working as a secretary.

Quong was deeply interested in Chinese philosophy, and studied it for much of her life; her presentations frequently included material from the I China.  She also studied yoga, astrology, and Chinese history.  A voracious reader, she maintained reading lists and took copious notes on her reading.

She died in New York City in 1972.


The collection was donated to the Balch Institute by Alexandra Hunt in 1982.


Rose Quong's papers are of value to researchers examining the history of the theatre in the early twentieth century.  Because she was an actress, the collection presents a carefully-constructed public self; this image is of interest to anyone looking at how Asians have presented themselves to mainstream American culture, and at how they have been portrayed in various forms of entertainment and the press.

The bulk of the correspondence in Series One is concerned with the publication of Quong's two books, and the receipt of royalties for their sales.  Of special interest is the correspondence related to her attempts to become a citizen, which was complicated by immigration quota restrictions and by her profession.  Some letters are concerned with her public appearances, but most of these were placed in the scrapbooks in Series Three.

Series Two, Writings, is the most difficult to use, as it is the least organized (see Processing Notes).  The series includes notes and musings on readings in Chinese philosophy and history; notes on health, diet, and exercise, including yoga; partial translations of Chinese texts and individual words and related notes, and notes and musings on astrology, the occult, and human relationships.  Also present are language exercises in German and French.  The diaries and journal detail her daily activities in London, France, and America, but provide little information Quong's relationships with other people; these are of value in illuminating her training in London in particular (and the theatre community there), and her attempts to make a name for herself in the theatre.

Of greatest interest in Series Three are two scrapbooks of materials related to Quong's acting career.  Included are newspaper reviews, correspondence, portrait and other photographs, a pencil portrait of Quong, programs, and what appears to be a nearly complete script for one of Quong's theatrical successes, a London production of "Lady Precious Stream" which starred Chinese American actress Anna May Wong.  The reviews in particular provide an overview of Quong's most active period in the profession, the 1920s through the 1940s.

Series Four, Sound Recordings, appears to be of value in illuminating Quong's interest in astrology and the occult, and in documenting her performing style.  These tapes, which are currently on reels, must be transferred to audiocassettes before they can be made available for research use.


Because Quong frequently used both sides of sheets and combined notes and other writings both topically and chronologically (and dates are often missing) in single volumes or notebooks, no attempt has been made to organize the loose materials in Series Two by subject; rather, the original order of these writings has been maintained.  Photographs have been separated to Photo Group 352.


The papers of Rose Quong have been divided into three series: I. Correspondence; II. Writings; III. Printed Materials and Ephemera; IV. Sound Recordings.

SERIES I. CORRESPONDENCE, 1942-1973 and n.d. (6 folders).  This series contains personal and business correspondence and related materials.  Correspondence from 1973 is with Quong's executor and concerns both personal and business matters.

SERIES II. WRITINGS, 1924-1957 and n.d. (1.5 ft.).  This series consists primarily of Quong's diaries and journals and related materials.  Also present is a manuscript co-authored by Quong, a re-telling of a Chinese folktale.

SERIES III. PRINTED MATERIALS AND EPHEMERA, 1923-1958 (.5 ft.).  This series is primarily composed of two scrapbooks of clippings and related materials pertaining to Quong's career.  Also present are the proceedings of a conference sponsored by the League for Industrial Democracy, presumably attended by Quong, and sections of two scripts.

SERIES IV. SOUND RECORDINGS, n.d. (.5 ft.).  This series consists of ten audiotapes.  Most are Rose Quong reading Chinese poetry; she does, however, read some T.S. Eliot ("The Waste Land").  One of the tapes is Quong telling a story, another contains two lectures, and two of the tapes of "metaphysical readings" for Miss Quong, followed by her discussions with the reader.

The box list of the Register of the Papers of Rose Quong is four pages long.