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Tharp, Robert and Eva | Special Collections & Archives

Name: Tharp, Robert and Eva
Fuller Form: Robert N. Tharp; Evangeline Kok Tharp

Historical Note:

Robert Tharp was born in 1913 to British missionary parents in the Jehol Province of Manchuria. Evangeline (Eva) Kok was born in 1914 in Yunnan, China, to Dutch missionary parents. In 1918, the family moved to Peking (Beijing), where her father served as the First Chancellor of the Netherlands Legation in China. Eva attended the Peking American School, graduating in 1931. She then attended the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, and returned to China to perform mission work after graduating in 1936.

Starting in 1934, Tharp did full-time missionary work in China, with Eva joining him after they married in 1938. After the Pearl Harbor attack in 1941, when Japan gained control of Manchuris, Tharp was jailed for nearly eight months while Eva was placed on house arrest. After his release the Tharps worked in New Delhi, India, as a liaison between Chinese and Indian citizens, and then for the British Ministry of Information monitoring Chinese transmissions and writing counter-propaganda. The Tharps returned to China as missionaries after the war; but fled in 1949 as communist forces advanced across the country. Their escape took over a month, after which they were able to travel to San Francisco, California.

In the U.S., the Tharps were almost deported, as they were unable to clear up issues of citizenship, but on the day of their deportation Tharp received a position at the Army Language School, now called the Defense Language Institute. He taught Chinese there for three years, before accepting a position on the faculty at the Yale Institute of Far Eastern Language, where Eva received a teaching position as well.

The Tharps eventually returned to the San Francisco area, where Eva opened a popular takeout restaurant, Eva's Jyaudz Factory, and in 1976 Robert opened the first Mandarin Chinese restaurant in Monterey, the Old Peking. Robert Tharp also wrote an autobiographical novel about his and Eva's experiences in China, They Called Us White Chinese, which was published in 1994 by Eva after Robert passed away in 1993. Eva continued to correspond with friends and former students until she became ill in January of 2004, and passed in August of that year.

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