Old Wong and many other Chinese laborers sailed from Hong Kong to Victoria on board of the steamship “Madrid” also referred to as the “floating hell.” They had to endure dirty air, bad-quality food, mediocre hygiene, multiple storms and widespread anemia during several months crowded in the lower deck of the ship.
By the time they landed, the Chinese laborers looked sick and dirty in their ragged traditional robes. These men all carried across their shoulders, bamboo poles on which small baskets containing their little belongings were suspended. Their long pigtails loosely hung on their back, which earned them the nickname of “piggies.” Their unusual clothing and appearance in a Western environment presented a very strong contrast when they got off the boat.
Most of the Chinese working in railroad construction either came from mainland China, especially from the province of Guangdong, from the US after the completion of the American Transcontinental railroad, or from BC itself due to the end of the gold rush.