Mounted Chinese labourer's jacket and trousers.

This is an example of the kind of clothing that Chinese labourers would have worn while working on the Canadian Pacific Railway (the CPR). It would have been affordable because it’s made of inexpensive, coarse, indigo-dyed cotton – similar to denim. We know this outfit would have been made for men because the jackets are fastened by an odd number of buttons and loops (either five or seven knotted buttons). The odd numbers represent masculinity, or Yang (whereas even numbers represent Ying, the feminine). The spacious trousers are popularly called dadangku which, literally translated, means big-crotch trousers. The wide waistband makes it easy for the wearer to step into and out of them, and also makes it easy to fasten them without a belt. On rainy days, the pant legs can be rolled up to prevent them from getting wet and soiled. We know that these workers’ lives were difficult and that their job was dangerous. They did the most back-breaking jobs, in harsh conditions and in difficult terrain. This means that comfort and versatility would have been very important. The loose-fitting nature of the outfit allows the user freedom of movement while working and also air circulation, thus reducing perspiration. And the outfits could easily be swapped between father to son. ____________________________________________ Historical Advisor: Chinese Canadian National Council (CCNC), National Archives Canada

Royal Ontario Museum
1900 - 1925
971.166.53A and 971.166.53B
© 2006, Royal Ontario Museum. All Rights Reserved.

Teachers' Centre Home Page | Find Learning Resources & Lesson Plans