Chinese robes headed back to the Northwest

By Charles Lam
Northwest Asian Weekly

Chinese imperial robes pulled from the Tacoma Art Museum auction. (Photos from Al Young)

Several robes from the Young collection will be heading back to the Pacific Northwest in the coming months, though their destination is not yet decided.

While initially planned to be headed to an as of yet unchosen Seattle-area institution, a Tacoma organization, the Chinese Reconciliation Project Foundation (CRPF), is interested in possibly housing the robes in Tacoma. A nonprofit organization dedicated to memorializing the Tacoma expulsion of Chinese in 1885 and celebrating the city’s multicultural past, present, and future, CRPF currently consults the city regarding the Tacoma Chinese Garden and Reconciliation Park.

One of the robes that will be coming back to the Northwest. (Photo from Al Young)

The robes, which the Tacoma Art Museum originally intended to auction off in March, were returned following a public uproar and lawsuit filed by the Young family. The Tacoma Art Museum had decided to auction off the collection following a change in the museum focus.

During the second auction on March 12, the Young collection — at this point, mostly jade pieces — sold for over $60,000. During the first auction in December, a portion of the collection sold for a total of $229,647. Combined, the Young collection sold for over $300,000 after being valued between $30,000 and $100,000 by two
separate auctioneers.

The museum will use some of the proceeds from the auction to purchase works by Northwest Chinese artists, and those pieces will be marked with a thank you to Col. John C. Young and Mary Lee Young, who donated the collection of robes and jades.

“Col. John C. and Mary Lee Young and their family have a rich legacy, which the museum will continue to recognize,” said Stephanie A. Stebich in a statement following the withdrawal or several of the robes from auction.

Al Young, son of John C. and Mary Lee Young, is content with the fact that the robes will find a home on display in the Puget Sound area.

This set of bracelets sold for $6,500. (Photo from Bonhams)

“Originally, we wanted the robes to go to the Wing Luke because they have the capacity to care for them, but a group in Tacoma, the Tacoma Reconciliation Project, would like to build a structure to permanently house them,” said Young. “Since my parents originally donated them to Tacoma, I think that’d be suitable.”

These three jade pieces sold for a total of $10,000. (Photo from Bonhams)

Young added, “What I think, though, is they should go wherever they can be seen. That would be the best.” (end)

For more information, see previous articles online at and

Correction: this article originally stated that the CRPF operated the Reconciliation Park. This is incorrect. Metro Parks Tacoma operates the park. The CRPF consults the city regarding the park.

Charles Lam can be contacted at

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