Collection ID:
Ya-Ching, Lee
Physical Description:
11.9 Cubic feet
22 boxes
This collection consists of 9.3 cubic feet of material chronicling Lee Ya-Ching's role as a pilot trying to raise funds for China during World War II. The collection contains the following types of material: correspondence, both official and personal; maps; 8 mm films; publications; newspapers; invitation; programs from events; lecture notes; scripts from radio shows; photographs, both official and snapshots; trip schedules and agendas; address books; scrapbooks; and official paperwork and licenses.

Scope and Content note
Scope and Content note
This collection of materials listed in the finding aid is arranged into two series, Ms Lee's personal papers and her professional papers. Her personal papers consist mainly of correspondence and memorabilia from the 1930's through the 1960's. The primary focus of the professional papers is the years 1937 to 1945, the time which Ya-Ching was conducting her Good Will tour of the United States. The information in this section is in the form or correspondence, newspaper clippings, event pamphlets and flyers, publications, itineraries, and corporate papers. These items are arranged by material type then chronologically. No attempt was made to translate foreign language material in the collection.
There are various conservation concerns in this collection. Most of the papers were buried for a number of years prior to being donated. There are many photographs which have adhered to each other, many papers are torn with information missing and there is significant mildew damage to both paper and photographs. These items have been removed from the collection until they receive conservation treatment.

Biographical/Historical note
Biographical/Historical note
Lee Ya-Ching was born in Canton, China in 1912. As an only child who lost her mother at a young age, Ya-Ching was raised by her father and grandmother. Under her father's guidance she learned many skills, including martial arts, some previously restricted to male children. Ya-Ching attended English schools in Hong Kong and Shanghai and at the age of 16 was sent to London to attend finishing school.
In 1929 at the age of 17, Ya-Ching went to Geneva, Switzerland. It is there that she took her first ride in an airplane and vowed to learn how to fly. She enrolled in Ecole Aero Club de Suisse and, in 1934, became the first woman to receive a pilot's license from the school. Determined to continue her education, Ya-Ching went to the United States and attended the Boeing School of Aeronautics in Oakland, California in 1935. In November of that year she became the first woman licensed through the Boeing School. Upon completion of her training at the Boeing school Ya-Ching returned to China and began campaigning for a Chinese pilot's license, eventually obtaining the license in 1936. Seeing a need to train new pilots, Ya-Ching and some fellow pilots opened a civilian flying school in Shanghai in 1936.
When Japan invaded China in 1937, Ya-Ching volunteered to fly for her country, but was refused. Undeterred, she served her country by establishing hospitals. Leaving Shanghai for Hong Kong just before the city fell, she was finally given the opportunity to fly for China by piloting Red Cross planes ferrying supplies from Hong Kong to Canton. Realizing that China needed aid and supplies, Ya-Ching embarked on a Goodwill Tour of the United States and Canada in 1938. When the war prevented her return to China, Ya-Ching continued the tour expanding her appearances into South America.
Not much is known of Ya-Ching's life after the war. She returned to Hong Kong for a number of years. In the 1960's she returned to California, where she died in 1998 at the age of 86.
Time Line of Lee Ya-Ching
The following timeline covers key events in Ya-Ching's life, as well world events. Events involving Ya-Ching are shown in normal type world events are shown in italics.
M. Vallon flies first plane in China
China ousts the 2000 year old Imperial System for a Republic
April 16, 1912
Lee Ya-Ching is born in Canton, China
Ya-Ching's mother dies of tuberculosis
China enters World War 1 on the side of the Allies
Begins career as a movie actress
Leaves the film industry and goes to school in England
The CCP (Chinese Communist Party) is ousted from China
Goes to Switzerland
September 1931
Japan seizes control of Manchuria
November 1931
CCP resurfaces in China and forms the Chinese Soviet Republic in Jiangxi Province
May 1932
Amelia Earhart becomes first woman to solo across the Atlantic
Begins flying lessons at Geneva's Cointrin-Ecole d'Aviation
Receives her pilot's license from Ecole Aéro Club de Suisse
Attends and receives license from the Boeing School of Aeronautics in Oakland, California
Falls out of an aerobatic plane, earning her membership in the Caterpillar Club
Receives her pilot's license from the Chinese Government
First domestic airline established in China
Opens a civilian flying school in Shanghai
Flies for the Red Cross ferrying supplies from Hong Kong to Canton
Japan invades China
Earns Hong Kong commercial pilot's license
Helps establish hospitals in Shanghai
Begins goodwill tour of United States and Canada
Appears in US film
Disputed Passage
with Dorothy Lamour
Flies "Estrella China" to Caribbean, Central and South America
Aids Ruth Nichols in raising money for Relief Wings
Begins working for United China Relief
December 7, 1941
Bombing of Pearl Harbor forces American entry into World War II
Begins Goodwill and Fund Raising tour of South America and Caribbean
August 1945
Atom bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, followed by Japanese surrender and end of World War II
Returns to China and retires
Fighting between CCP and KMT (Nationalist party) resumes
October 1949
KMT retreats to Taiwan
Mao Zedong establishes the People's Republic of China
Receives Hong Kong private pilot's license
Receives Hong Kong Special Purpose Pilot's license
Permanently moves to the United States
British rule ends in Hong Kong
January 28, 1998
Dies at the age of 86

Processing Information note
The records were processed in 2008 by Jordan Ferraro.
Encoded by Brittany Dunton, December 2011.
Jordan Ferraro
Immediate Source of Acquisition note
Pax Cheng and Mary Wolfson, Gift, 2007

Using the Collection
Conditions Governing Access note
No restrictions on access.
Preferred Citation note
Lee Ya-Ching Papers, Accession 2008-0009, National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution.

Keywords table of terms and types.
Keyword Terms Keyword Types
World War, 1939-1945 -- Civilian relief Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Aeronautics Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Scripts (documents) Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
World War, 1939-1945 -- China Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Aeronautics -- Exhibitions Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Photographs Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Women air pilots Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Maps Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Scrapbooks Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
World War, 1939-1945 Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid

Repository Contact
National Air and Space Museum Archives
14390 Air & Space Museum Parkway
Chantilly, VA 20151