Skip to main content

Lee Folk Gay (Li Fuji)

Lee Folk Gay, ca. 1900 (Photo by Charles Yang).

Lee Folk Gay, ca. 1900 (Photo by Charles Yang).

Lee Folk Gay (1846-1918) was a leading Chinese merchant in Victoria who came from the Lee lineage of Taishan county near Canton. He immigrated to Canada in 1897 and established the Quong Man Fung (Guangwanfeng) & Company which sold hats, embroidery, silk, and opium, a legal commodity at that time. Due to his support of Kang Youwei and of the latter’s reform initiatives for China and overseas Chinese, Lee became the first president of the Chinese Empire Reform Association (CERA) in Victoria in 1899, and his family business later operated in the back of the organization’s headquarters at 1715 Government Street. In 1900, Kang launched a military campaign in China for the purpose of “rescuing” Guangxu, the reformist emperor, from the persecution of the conservative faction in Qing China. Lee Folk Gay played a leading role in raising funds for this military campaign, although it quickly failed. Because the CERA was both a political and a commercial organization, Lee helped expand its branches and business in the Americas, Asia, Africa and Australia. In 1902, Lee initiated a corporation in Victoria for the CERA, and later helped raise capital in Canada for the establishment of its commercial corporation in Hong Kong. The CERA later used funds from Hong Kong operations to invest in a restaurant in Chicago, a bank in New York, and a streetcar company and another bank in Mexico. Although Lee declined Kang’s nomination as the director of the commercial corporation in Hong Kong, he later travelled to Mexico to oversee the CERA’s business operations there worth over $1 million. Lee Folk Gay eventually returned to China and died in his home county of Taishan in 1918.

By Zhongping Chen


Chen, Zhongping. “Kang Youwei’s Activities in Canada and the Reformist Movement among the Global Chinese Diaspora, 1899-1909.” Forthcoming in Twentieth-Century China, 2014.

Chen, Zhongping. “Victoria as a Political Centre for Globalized Chinese Reforms.” Times Colonist, 24 June 2012.

“City of Victoria & Vancouver Island 1901 Census.”

Hallmark Heritage Society, Victoria. Award speech for President’s Award, 2012, won by Ian Sutherland for the restoration of the Chinese Empire Reform Building at 1715 Government Street.
(accessed 27 August 2012).

Lai, David Chuenyan. Chinese Community Leadership: Case Study of Victoria in Canada. Singapore: World Scientific Publishing Co., 2010.

Lai, David Chuenyan. The Forbidden City within Victoria: Myth, Symbol and Streetscape of Canada’s Earliest Chinatown. Victoria, BC: Orca Book Publishers, 1991.

Li Donghai. “Jianada Li-shi xianxian xiaozhuan” (Brief biographies of the Lee pioneers in Canada). In Quan-Jia Li-shi disanjie kenqin dahui jinian tekan (Proceedings of the third meeting of the Lee lineage in Canada). Cloverdale, B.C., 1986: 47-50.

Li Fuji (Lee Folk Gay). Xuanzhenghui jishi shiluo (A brief record of the early history of the Imperial Constitutional Association). N.p., 1909.