File:Chang The Chinese Giant (c1870) Attribution Unk (RESTORED) (4074710169).jpg

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Entitled: Chang the Chinese Giant [c1870] Location & attribution not known [RESTORED] I removed obvious spot, defects, discoloring stain; adjusted constrast, unsharp masked the image, and added sepia toning.

We're all familiar with Yao Ming, the 7 foot 6 inch Chinese ozone breathing star of US pro basketball fame. But before Yao's great grand parents were even born, another Chinese was already acknowledged as a "big" star in the western world.

Chang Woo Gow (also listed under a variety of other similar names) was reportedly already 7 foot 9 inches tall at 19 years of age, when he began to tour the world; he eventually grew to a height that was an estimated 8 feet. Others claim that he was only medically measured at 7 foot 8 inches. He also claimed to have had a sister at home who was even taller than he. Unfortunately, a lot of his personal bio seems to be confusingly mixed with his stage managed bio, making a true account of him really hard to arrive at. Several examples of his picture cards attest to his birthplace being Peking. Others claim that he was born in a place called Fychow. Despite an extensive search of the internet, I have not been able to locate a Chinese town called Fychow. The closest place under Wade-Giles spelling (the predominant way of romanizing Chinese during the 1800's) would be Fuchow (also Foochow, or modern day Fuzhou). Again, it was probably a misread letter U that somehow became a letter Y in some document that was then retained as something of historic value. Still others have his birthplace as somewhere near Canton (modern day Guangzhou). Additionally, he supposedly was married to a Chinese woman named King Foo, who subsequently died. But King Foo (aka Kin Foo) is claimed by some sources as actually being only a fake show character invented by his managers as an adjunct to his act. Chinese women were hired to play the role of this dutiful "wife" and would appear on stage with him. Still other sources claim that King Foo was, in fact, his real wife; one Catherine Santley (of Liverpool) whom Chang met and married while performing in Australia. Mrs. Santley Chang was said to appear in Chinese costume in performances with Chang, and use the stage name of King Foo. Perhaps the truth is some, all, or none of the above. And according to this site:

"They had two children - Edwin (born c1877 in Shanghai, China) and Ernest (born c1879 in Paris, France). Chang returned to China around 1877-1878 and then the family lived in England. The 1881 census shows Catherine and her two sons (Chang was not present on either census night) living in Manchester but by the 1891 census they are recorded as living in Bournemouth. The family apparently moved to Bournemouth to help cure Chang's suspected tuberculosis. There he established an 'Oriental Bazaar' and tearooms where he sold Chinese curios, bronzes and silks and Chinese tea. He was reported as dying of a broken heart four months after his wife died in 1893, when he was around 50 years old."

Chang purportedly was fluent with an astonishing 26 languages. This for me is rather hard to believe, and I suspect it to be only a "stage" fact. However, it was clear that he was at least conversant in several European languages, and was remembered by others as an avid reader. He traveled through just about all of the known world and had put on sell out performances. At one point, he returned to China, but was soon enticed by PT Barnum to return to the show world. Barnum reportedly paid him anything from $500 dollars a month, upwards to $600 dollars a week again, depending on what you read. Either way, it was a princely sum for most people in the 1870's.

In the course of my net research into Chang, I also came across two posts in a Genealogy Forum, and I'll quote both of them verbatim. Note: I have no way of knowing how accurate any of these statements are:

"Chang Wor Gow

Chang was born in 1841 in the port of Fy-chow, now in Canton Province, China. He returned to China in the 1880’s from Australia, having married there his Liverpool-born wife, Catherine SANTLEY with 2 sons Edwin and Ernest. I believe the two sons were teenagers when both parents died with in 4 months of each other in 1893. I also believe Chang had been previously married to a King Foo, 'The Fair illy' prior to his marriage to catherine SANTLEY, perhaps their were children born within this marriage. Chang was around 8 1/2 foot tall and classed as one of the tallest men in the world accordingto his time. All information and help would be greatly appreciated. Catherine SANTLEY is my GGG Grandfathers step sister. Karen"


"Karen, I have lots of information about Chang Woo Gow. My gg uncle James Marquis Chisholm, a musician of some note, toured China in the early 1860's, met Chang Woo Gow and was apparently fascinated with his height. Have a look at Anyway, my gg uncle took Chang to London where he 'exhibited' Chang at the Egyptian Hall in 1865. Chisholm wrote music for this exhibition - The Great Chang Polka and others. You're right about Kin Foo but she was apparently only his stage-wife. Email me direct - I have not only the music Chisholm wrote, but a copy of the front page of the sheet music from 1865. Chisholm wrote a series of articles for the Glasgow Herald in 1865 and later these were published into a book. One chapter goes into much detail about the negotiations with Chang's family and the villagers, to allow him to be taken to London. One condition was that a coffin always travelled with Chang because there would be no coffin suitable for that great height of 7'9". Look forward to hearing from you. Marj"


NOTE: The messages above were originally posted in 2002, and no other responses have been added to that thread since. If anyone has any more information on this fascinating character, please help us fill in the blanks.

Also, the following appeared in a copy of Modern English Biography Vol 4, Supplement vol 1 [1908]:

"CHANG WOO GOW Or CHANG TU SING (son of a giant who d. 1863). b. Pekin 15 March 1847; exhibited himself as the great Fychow giant at Egyptian hall, Piccadilly, London 25 Sept. 1865, when he measured 7 ft. 8 inches in height; the queen presented him with a gold watch weighing 2J Ibs. 1865 ; exhibited at Paris exhibition 1878 and Royal Aquarium, Westminster 1880; exhibited at the Oxford music hall, London, Feb. 1883, when he appeared on the stage with a dwarf named Tiny Mite standing on the palm of his hand, he was then 8 feet in height, 26 stone in weight and 62 inches round the chest; returned to England from a 4 years' visit to China, April 1891. d. of heart failure at his residence, Moyuen, Southcote road, Bournemouth 5 Nov. 1893. bur. in nonconformist burial ground, Bournemouth cemet. Buck- land's Curiosities of natural history, 3 s. 2 ed. ii 10-8 (1868); Strand mag. Oct. 1894 p. 435 prt.; I.L.N. 30 Sept. 1865 p. 304 prt.; Harper's Weekly 1865 ix 677 prt.; Pall Mall budget 13 April 1893 pp. 560-1, 4 prts.; Certificate of registrar general."

An extraordinary person. Again, any other information or links would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

Source Chang The Chinese Giant [c1870] Attribution Unk [RESTORED]
Author ralph repo


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