Chinese Americans

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Author: Ling-chi Wang
Editor: Thomas Riggs
Date: 2014
Publisher: Gale, a Cengage Company
Document Type: Topic overview
Length: 11,036 words
Lexile Measure: 1410L

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Page 491

Chinese Americans

Ling-chi Wang


Chinese Americans are immigrants or descendants of immigrants from China, the third-largest country in the world, which occupies a significant portion of Southeast Asia. The land mass, 3,657,765 square miles (9,700,000 square kilometers), or as big as all of Europe, is bounded to the north by Russia and Mongolia, to the west by Russia and India, to the southwest by the Himalayas, to the south by Indochina and the South China Sea, and to the east by the Yellow Sea and the Pacific Ocean. Three major rivers flow through China: the Huanghe (Yellow) River in the north; the Yangzi in the heartland; and the Zhujiang (Pearl River) in the south. Most (85 percent) of China's land is nonarable, and the rest is regularly plagued by flood and drought.

Today China has a population of 1,343,239,923 people (2011), one-fifth of humanity. Han Chinese make up 91 percent of the population; the remaining 6 percent are made up of the 55 non-Han minorities, the most prominent of whom are the Zhuang, Hui, Uighur, Yi, Tibetan, Miao, Mongol, Korean, and Yao. Each of these minorities has its own history, religion, language, and culture. While China remains a communist nation it has become a major world economic powerhouse and is one of the United States' largest trading partners.

According to the U.S. government, the first Chinese immigrants arrived in 1820, and 325 men arrived in 1849, during the California Gold Rush. By 1852 there were 25,000 immigrants and that number had grown to over 100,000 by 1880. Chinese immigrants provided much of the labor for the Transcontinental Railroad. Most Chinese immigrants came looking for better opportunities and to escape crushing poverty at home. Economic growth in modern-day China has not slowed immigration; actually it has allowed more people to immigrate for education and business opportunities. Throughout the twentieth century, and particularly after a series of economic reforms designed to increase productivity and allow greater participation in the global economy were initiated in the late 1970s, Chinese migrants began leaving the country in large numbers. Today there are an estimated 50 million Chinese living outside of the country, making them the largest immigrant group in the world. The majority of these “Overseas Chinese” have settled in Southeast Asia, but many live in Europe, Africa, and North America. In 2010, Asians overtook Latinos as the largest group of immigrant arrivals in the United States, and Chinese immigrants made up the largest percentage of all immigrants from Asia at 22.6 percent. These numbers, however, are complicated by the fact that the Census Bureau includes people from Hong Kong and Taiwan, as well as Chinese citizens who were living in other countries in Southeast Asia in their totals.

The 2010 U.S. Census identified 3,794,673 Chinese Americans. Chinese Americans make up 1.2 percent of the total U.S. population. Areas of significant Chinese American population include New York City, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Boston, Washington, D.C., Chicago, Honolulu, and Seattle. Chinese Americans no longer exclusively live in Chinatowns; they are integrated into the larger population.


Early History Historians have estimated that Chinese civilization began about five thousand years ago in the Huanghe (Yellow River) basin and the middle Yangzi region. Legends have it that Huangdi (the Yellow Emperor) defeated his rival tribes, established the first Chinese kingdom, made himself tienzi, or the “Son of Heaven,” and invented many things for the benefit of his people, including clothing, boats, carts, medicine, the compass, and writing. Following Huangdi, historians believe that the Xia Dynasty (2100–1600 BCE) was the first dynasty of China and marked the beginning of Chinese history. Xia, weakened by corruption in its final decades, was eventually conquered by a Shang king to the east, who established the Shang Dynasty (1600–1100 BCE). The Shang achievements can be readily seen from the remnants of its spectacular palaces, well-crafted giant bronze cauldrons, refined jade carvings, and massive written records. During the Zhou Dynasty (1100–771 BCE), the Chinese idea of the emperor as the “Son of Heaven” who derived his mandate from heaven, was firmly established. In the highly organized feudal society, the Zhou royal family ruled over hundreds of feudal states.

Beginning in 770 BCE, Chinese history entered two periods of turmoil and war: the Spring/Autumn Page 492  |  Top of Article(770–476 BCE) and the Warring States (475–221 BCE). During these 550 years, the former feudal states engaged in perpetual wars and brutal conquests. During the same time, China witnessed unprecedented progress in agriculture, science, and technology and reached the golden age of Chinese philosophy and literature. Confucius (551–479 BCE), founder of Confucianism; Laozi (sixth century), the founder of Daoism; the egalitarian Mozi (480–420 BCE); and Hanfei (280–233 BCE), founder of legalism, defined the character of Chinese civilization and made profound and enduring contributions to the intellectual history of the world.

Qin Shi Huangdi of the Qin state finally crushed all the rival states and emerged as the sole ruler of the Chinese empire in 221 BCE. Qin extended the borders of China; imposed harsh laws; completed the Great Wall; built a transportation network; and standardized weights, measures, currency, and, most important, the Chinese writing system. The brutality of his rule soon led to widespread rebellion, and the Qin rule was eventually replaced by the Han Dynasty (206 BCE–220 CE). The Han emperor firmly established the Chinese state under Confucianism and created an educational and civil service system that remained in use until 1911. During this period, China came into contact with the Roman Empire and with India.

During the Sui-Tang era, China traded extensively by land and by sea with the known world, and Islam, Judaism, Zoroastrianism, and Christianity were brought into China. But Tang began to decline toward the end of the eighth century, causing rebellions of warlords from within and invasions from without. After Tang, China was again divided. In 1211 Genghis Khan, a Mongolian leader, began the invasion into China from the north, but the conquest was not completed until 1279 under Kublai Khan, his grandson, who established the Yuan Dynasty (1271–1368) in China. During Mongolian rule, China traded extensively with Europe, and Marco Polo brought China's achievements to European attention.

The decline of the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644) led to the conquest of China for the second time by a foreign power, the Manchu, from the northeast. The Manchu established the Qing Dynasty (1644–1911) and again expanded China's borders. Like the Mongols, however, the Manchu conquerors were also conquered and absorbed by the Chinese. Failed reform within the Qing administration, internal pressure through various organized rebellions, external pressure from the major Western powers, and military defeat by Japan in 1895 all led China to become increasingly isolated and weak. Many Chinese left the country as refugees during this period, settling primarily in countries in Southeast Asia though some also travelled westward in search of economic opportunity.

Modern Era China's isolation was finally broken when the British defeated China in the Opium War (1839–1842), forcing China to open its ports to international trade and exposing China over the next hundred years to Western domination. Under the yoke of imperialism and mounting political corruption and internal unrest, especially the Taiping Uprising, the Qing Dynasty collapsed in a revolution led by Dr. Sun Yatsen in 1911. During this time significant immigration to the United States began.

The new Republic of China, under the leadership of Sun, his dictatorial successor Chiang Kaishek, and the Nationalist Party (Guomindang or Kuomintang), proved both weak and corrupt. From the invasion by Japan, which began in 1931, to a strong insurgent movement led by Communist Mao Tsetung, the Chiang regime was severely undermined and eventually ousted from China in 1949, retreating to Taiwan under U.S. military protection. Mao established the People's Republic of China, free from foreign domination for the first time since the Opium War. His alliance with the Soviet Union in the 1950s, however, led to China's isolation throughout the Cold War. His engagement with U.S. forces in Korea and support of the North Vietnamese in Vietnam made China the enemy of the United States. The United States–China detente was initiated in the historic meeting between President Richard Nixon and Mao Tsetung and Chou Enlai in 1972. In 1978, under the leadership of Deng Xiaoping, China also undertook a series of bold economic and social reforms. These reforms were aimed at modernizing the country: the government began to actively encourage Chinese students to attend universities in industrialized nations and opened up the nation's economy to trade with the West. In 1979 the United States broke ties with Taiwan and normalized its relations with China, making the United States a major destination for Chinese students and job seekers. Since the end of the Cold War, China has become a major political and economic power in an increasingly economically integrated yet disorderly world.


In many respects, the motivations for Chinese to go to the United States are similar to those of most immigrants; some came to the “Gold Mountain” (Jinshan in Mandarin or Gumsaan in Cantonese), the United States, to seek better economic opportunity, while others were compelled to leave China either as contract laborers or refugees. They brought with them their language, culture, social institutions, and customs, and over time, they made lasting contributions to their adopted country and tried to become an integral part of the U.S. population.

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However, their collective experience as a racial minority, since they first arrived in the mid-nineteenth century, differs significantly from the European immigrant groups and other racial minorities. Chinese were singled out for discrimination through laws enacted by states in which they had settled; they were the first immigrant group to be targeted for exclusion and denial of citizenship by the U.S. government in 1882. Their encounter with Euro-Americans has been shaped not just by their cultural roots and self-perceptions but also by the changing bilateral relations between the United States and China. The steady infusion of immigrants from China and Taiwan and easy access to traditional and popular cultures from China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong, through telecommunication and trans-Pacific travel, have helped create a new Chinese America that is as diverse as it is fast-changing. Chinese American influence in politics, culture, and science is felt as much in the United States as it is in China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong.

The movement of the Chinese population within China (called the han, or tang, people in pre-twentieth century China and huaqiao, or huaren, in the twentieth century), has continued throughout the five-thousand-year history of China. Huaqiao (literally, sojourning Chinese), or more accurately huaren (persons of Chinese descent), is a term commonly used for Chinese residing outside of China proper or overseas.

Ancient Chinese legends and writings, most notably the fifth-century account by Weishen of a land called Fusang, suggest the presence of Chinese in North America centuries before Christopher Columbus, and a few Chinese were reported to be among the settlers in the colonies on the east coast in the eighteenth century. Significant Chinese immigration to the West Coast of the United States (Jinshan) did not begin until the California Gold Rush.

Chinese immigration can be roughly divided into three periods: 1849–1882, 1882–1965, and 1965 to the present. The first period, also known as the first wave, began shortly after the Gold Rush in California and ended abruptly with the passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, the first race-based immigration law. During this period, the Chinese could act like other pioneers of the West and were allowed to immigrate or travel freely between China and San Francisco. Thousands of Chinese, mostly young male peasants, left their villages in the rural counties around the Zhujiang, or Pearl River, delta in Guangdong Province in southern China to search for better economic opportunities in in the American West. They found jobs extracting metals and minerals, constructing a vast railroad network, reclaiming swamplands, building irrigation systems, working as migrant agricultural laborers, developing the fishing industry, Page 494  |  Top of Articleand operating highly competitive, labor-intensive manufacturing industries in the western states. The temporary nature of some of these jobs, together with the strong anti-Chinese sentiment that greeted them upon their arrival, prevented most of them from becoming permanent settlers. Under these circumstances, most of the laborers had only limited objectives: to advance their own and their families' economic well-being during their sojourn and to return to their ancestral villages to enjoy the fruits of their labor during retirement. At the end of the first period, the Chinese population in the United States was about 110,000, or one-fifth of one percent of the U.S. total.

When Chinese labor was no longer needed and political agitation against the Chinese intensified, the U.S. Congress enacted a series of very harsh anti-Chinese laws, beginning in 1882 with the Chinese Exclusion Act, designed to exclude Chinese immigrants and deny naturalization and democratic rights to those already in the United States. Throughout most of the second period (the period of exclusion; 1882–1943), only diplomats, merchants, and students and their dependents were allowed to travel between the United States and China. Cooperation between China and the United States during World War II brought increased scrutiny to the exclusion of Chinese immigrants and the poor treatment of Chinese Americans by the United States, and led to a loosening or outright repeal of many laws that had affected them. The Chinese exclusion laws were repealed by Congress and Chinese residents were granted the right to naturalization, and 105 Chinese immigrants per year were granted access in 1943. After the war, Chinese American war brides were allowed to enter the country beginning in 1946. Otherwise, throughout this period, Chinese Americans were confined largely to segregated ghettos, called Chinatowns, in major cities and isolated pockets in rural areas across the country. Deprived of their democratic rights, they made extensive use of the courts and diplomatic channels to defend themselves, but with limited success.

The civil rights movement in the 1960s, particularly the enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, finally ushered in a new era, the third period in Chinese American immigration history. Chinese Americans were liberated from a structure of racial oppression. The former legislation restored many of the basic rights denied Chinese Americans, while the latter abolished the racist law that severely restricted Chinese immigration and prevented Chinese Americans from being reunited with their loved ones. Under these new laws, thousands of Chinese came to the United States each year to reunite with their families and young Chinese Americans mobilized to demand racial equality and social justice.

Equally significant are two other types of Chinese immigrants who have been entering the United States since the early 1970s. The first type consists of highly select and well-educated Chinese. No less than 250,000 Chinese intellectuals, scientists, and engineers have come to the United States for advanced degrees. Most of them have stayed to contribute to U.S. preeminence in science and technology. The second type is made up of tens of thousands of Chinese immigrants who have entered the United States to escape either political instability or repression throughout East and Southeast Asia, the result of a dramatic reversal of the U.S. Cold War policies toward China in 1972 and toward Vietnam in 1975. Some of these are Chinese from the upper and middle classes of Taiwan, Hong Kong, and throughout Southeast Asia who want long-term security for themselves, their businesses, and their children. Others are ethnic Chinese from Vietnam and Cambodia who became impoverished refugees and “boat people” when Vietnam implemented its anti-Chinese “ethnic cleansing” policies in 1978. It was this steady infusion of Chinese immigrants that accounted for the substantial increase of the Chinese American population, amounting to 3.7 million in the (2010) census, making them the largest Asian American group in the United States.

Economic development and racial exclusion defined the patterns of Chinese American settlement. Before the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, the patterns of Chinese settlement followed the patterns of economic development of the western states. Since mining and railway construction dominated the western economy, Chinese immigrants settled mostly in California and states west of the Rocky Mountains. As these industries declined and anti-Chinese agitation intensified, the Chinese retreated—and sometimes were forced by mainstream society—into small import-export businesses and labor-intensive manufacturing (garments, wool, cigars, and shoes) and service industries (laundry, domestic work, and restaurants) in such rising cities as San Francisco, New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Seattle; into agriculture in rural communities in California; and into small retail business in black rural communities in the deep South. Some Chinese found themselves systematically evicted from jobs, land, and businesses and their rights, privileges, and sanctuaries in mainstream society permanently suspended. By the early twentieth century, over 80 percent of the Chinese population were found in Chinatowns in major cities in the United States. The concentration of Chinese Americans in Chinatowns further restricted their employment options.

Chinatowns remained isolated and ignored by the American mainstream until after World War II. After the war, as the United States became a racially more open and tolerant society, emigration from the Chinatowns began. With new employment opportunities, a steady stream of Chinese Americans moved Page 495  |  Top of Articleinto new neighborhoods in cities and into sprawling suburbs, built around the rising military-industrial complex during the Cold War. As the new waves of postwar immigrants arrived, the poor moved into historic Chinatowns and the more affluent settled into new neighborhoods and suburbs, creating the so-called new Chinatowns in cities including San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, and Houston, and a string of suburbs with strong Chinese American presence, such as the ones along Interstate 10 west of Los Angeles and Highway 101 between San Francisco and San Jose. The new immigrants brought new cultural and economic vitality into both the new and the old communities even as they actively interacted with their Euro-American counterparts.

From interactions under ghetto confinement, to the rise of a suburban Chinese American middle class, to the revitalization of historic Chinatowns, Chinese American communities across the United States have become more diverse, dynamic, and divided, with the arrival of new waves of immigrants creating new conflicts as well as opportunities that are uniquely Chinese American.

The growth and proliferation of the Chinese American population in the last three decades also aroused resentment and hostility in cities and suburbs and in the spheres of education and employment. For example, some neighborhoods and suburbs, most notably San Francisco and Monterey Park, California, tried to curb Chinese American population growth and business expansion by restrictive zoning. Chinese American achievements in education, seen with increasing apprehension in some cases, have led to the use of discriminatory means to slow down or reverse their enrollment in select schools and colleges. Since the early 1980s, there has been a steady increase in incidents of racial violence reported. These trends have been viewed with increasing alarm by Chinese Americans across the United States.


Most prewar Chinese arrived in the United States knowing only the various dialects of Cantonese (Yue), one of the major branches of Chinese spoken in the Zhujiang delta. The maintenance of Chinese has been carried out by a strong network of community language schools and Chinese-language newspapers. However, with the arrival of new immigrants from other parts of China and the world after World War II, virtually all major Chinese dialects were brought to America. Most prominent among these are Cantonese, Mandarin (Putonghua), Minnan, Chaozhou, Shanghai, and Kejia. Fortunately, one common written Chinese helps communication across dialects.

Today, Chinese is maintained through homes, community language schools, newspapers, radio, and television, and increasingly through foreign language classes at mainstream schools and universities. The rapid increase of immigrants after 1965 also gave rise to growing demand for equality of educational opportunity in the form of bilingual education, a demand that resulted in a 1974 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Lau vs. Nichols, a case brought by Chinese American parents in San Francisco. Hand in hand with this trend is the teaching of Mandarin or Putonghua, China's national spoken language, in public and community schools.

Greetings and Popular Expressions Cantonese greetings and other popular expressions include: Nei hou ma? (How are you?); Hou loi mou gin (Long time no see); Seg zo fan mei? (Have you eaten?); Zoi gin (Good-bye); Zou tao (Good night); Deg han loi co (Let's get together again); Do ze (Thank you); M'sai hag hei (Don't mention it); Gung hei (Congratulations); and Gung hei Fad coi (Have a prosperous New Year).

Mandarin greetings and other popular expressions include: Ni hao (How do you do?); Xiexie (Thank you); Bu yong xie or Bu yong keqi (Don't mention it); Dui bu qi (Excuse me); Mei guanxi (It's okay); and Zaijian (Good-bye).


Because the Chinese American community today is very diverse, it is impossible to associate it with a single religion. There are Christians as well as Buddhists, Daoists, Confucianists, Muslims, and atheists. Chinese churches and temples (miao) are found wherever there are Chinese Americans. Most of the old temples are found in historic Chinatowns. For example, in San Francisco's Chinatown in 1892, no fewer than fifteen temples were present. Some of the temples were dedicated to the Goddess of Heaven (Tienhou)—also the god of seamen, fishermen, travelers, and wanderers—while others were dedicated to Emperor Guangong (Guandi), a warrior god. Modern temples, such as the one in Hacienda Heights, California, were built by more recent Chinese immigrants from Taiwan. Likewise, Christian churches catering to specific Chinese dialects are found in old Chinatowns as well as in the suburbs.

The majority of contemporary Chinese Americans could be characterized as irreligious by Western standards of religion. This does not mean, however, that most of them are devoid of any religious feeling or that they do not practice any religion at all. The majority, in fact, practice some form of Buddhism or Daoism, folk religions, and ancestral worship.

Generally speaking, Chinese are pragmatic in their approach to life and religion. Many are somewhat superstitious: they believe in the doctrines of fengsui, which are intended to help in the organization of home or business, and they do not want to do anything they personally think is likely to offend the gods or the ways of nature. Toward this end, they choose which deities they want to worship and they worship them through certain objects or locations in nature. They also worship their ancestors, folk heroes,

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½ cup low sodium chicken broth

1 teaspoon cornstarch

2 teaspoons soy sauce

1 teaspoon sugar

1 tablespoon sesame oil

2 medium cloves garlic, minced

2 teaspoons ginger, peeled and minced

4 green onions, white part only, minced

1 tablespoon fermented black beans, roughly chopped (black bean paste will also work)

½ teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns, black seeds removed then ground (optional)

6 ounces ground pork

2 teaspoons doubanjiang (chili bean paste)

14 ounce block of silken tofu, drained and cut into ¾-inch cubes

green part of green onions minced for garnish

Add the chicken stock, cornstarch, soy sauce and sugar to a small bowl and stir to combine.

Heat a wok or large skillet until hot. Add the sesame oil, garlic, ginger and green onions and stir-fry with a spatula until fragrant. Add the black beans and Sichuan pepper and continue stir-frying.

Add the ground pork and use the spatula to break up all clumps. When the pork is cooked, add the doubanjiang and stir to distribute. Add the tofu, and toss gently to mix.

Stir the stock mixture to incorporate anything that may have settled to the bottom and then pour it over the pork and tofu. Toss to coat, then simmer until the sauce thickens.

Garnish with the green parts of the green onions and then serve with hot rice.

animals, or their representations in idols or images, as if they are gods. To these representations, they offer respect and ritual offerings, burning incense, ritual papers, and paper objects to help maintain order and to bring good luck. This is perhaps why Chinese rarely become religious fanatics, evangelical, or driven to convert others. Above all, Chinese respect other people's religions as much as they respect their own.

Like most ethnic groups in America, Chinese Americans have many unique rituals and moral teachings. Rituals are observed, learned, and practiced at home and in community temples or village ancestral halls. In the absence of ancestral halls in the United States, they perform rituals at miniature altars at home, in their places of business, and in sanctuaries found in district and family associations in Chinatowns. Festivals and important dates in one's family are observed through rituals and banquets. Beliefs or teachings, to most Chinese, are simply ethical wisdom or precepts for living right or in harmony with nature or gods. They are taught through deeds, moral tales, and ethical principles, at home and in temples. Over the centuries, these teachings have combined major ideas and wisdom from Confucianism, Buddhism, and Daoism with local folk religions and village lore.


Throughout the second half of the nineteenth century and the early decades of the twentieth, Chinatown was a permanent home for the Chinese who were cut off from China and yet disenfranchised from the Euro-American mainstream. Assimilation was never a viable choice for Chinese Americans, who were excluded and denied citizenship because they were deemed nonassimilable by the white mainstream.

In 1852 Governor John Bigler of California demanded Chinese exclusion on the grounds they were nonassimilable. In 1854 the California Supreme Court, in Hall v. People, ruled that Chinese testimony against whites was inadmissible in a court of law because “the same rule which would admit them to testify, would admit them to all the equal rights of citizenship; and we might soon see them at the polls, in the jury box, upon the bench, and in our legislative halls.” By congressional statutes and judicial decisions, Chinese immigrants were made ineligible for naturalization, rendering them politically disenfranchised in a so-called democracy and exposing them to frequent and flagrant violations of their constitutional rights.

Chinese Americans could not understand how the United States could use gunboat diplomacy to open the door of China and at the same time use democracy to close the door to Chinese Americans. The bitter encounter with American democracy and hypocrisy planted a seed of modern Chinese nationalism, which led the Chinese Americans to fight for equal rights at home and to orient their collective will toward freeing China from imperialist domination. They linked the racial oppression of the Chinese in the United States to the impotence of China.

Life within the Chinatown ghetto, therefore, was hard but not stagnant. Legally discriminated against and politically disenfranchised, Chinese Americans established their roots in Chinatowns, fought racism through aggressive litigation and diplomatic channels, and participated actively in various economic development projects and political movements to modernize China and create avenues for integrating into American society. Despite such efforts, for many members of the American-born generation who made Page 497  |  Top of Articlea concerted effort to assimilate, mainstream society remained inhospitable.

In the nineteenth century, most Chinese immigrants saw no future in the United States and oriented their lives toward eventual return to China, called luoyeguigen (“fallen leaves return to their roots”). With this sojourner mentality, they developed a high degree of tolerance for hardship and racial discrimination and maintained a frugal Chinese lifestyle, which included living modestly; observing Chinese customs and festivals through family and district associations; sending regular remittance to parents, wives, and children; and maintaining village ancestral halls and charities. Parents tried to instill Chinese language and culture in their children, send them to Chinese schools in the community or in China, motivate them to excel in American education, and, above all, arrange marriages. The parents in Louis Chu's Eat a Bowl of Tea (1961) tried to find their son a bride in villages in the Zhujiang delta. For the most part, their sole aspiration was to work hard and save enough to retire in comfort back in the villages from which they came.

They also joined social organizations. District associations (huiguan) and family associations (gongsuo), respectively, represented the collective interest and well-being of persons from the same villages or counties and persons with the same family names. These ascriptive organizations provided aid and comfort to their members, arbitrated disputes, helped find jobs and housing, established schools and temples, and sponsored social and cultural events. Most of these organizations had branches in different Chinatowns, enabling members to travel from one city to another. Together, these organizations formed the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association, a de facto ghetto government, to settle disputes among individuals and organizations and to represent the community's interests with both U.S. and Chinese governments, at times through civil disobedience, passive resistance, and litigation—such as when it urged all resident Chinese citizens to resist registering themselves with the U.S. government under the Geary Act of 1893 and challenged the Act before the Supreme Court—and at other times through diplomatic channels and grassroots protests instigated in China. Their activities brought mixed blessings to the community. At times, these organizations became too powerful and oppressive, and they also obstructed social and political progress. Without question, they left an enduring legacy in Chinese America.

Outside groups also engaged with the early Chinese American community, often in the hopes of furthering their own agendas. Into these uniquely American ghettos came a string of Protestant and Catholic missionaries, establishing churches and schools and trying to convert and assimilate the Chinese, as well as a steady stream of political factions and reformers from China, advancing their agendas for modernizing China and recruiting Chinese Americans to support and work for their causes. Both were agents of change, but they worked on different constituencies and at cross purposes: one tried to assimilate them, while the other tried to instill in them a cultural and political loyalty to China.

Virtually all major Christian churches established missions and schools in San Francisco's Chinatown, the largest in the United States and the center of cultural, economic, and political life of Chinese in North America. Among the most enduring institutions were the YMCA and YWCA, the St. Mary's Chinese Mission School, and the Cameron House, a Presbyterian home for “rescued” Chinese prostitutes. The churches, in general, were more successful in winning converts among the American-born generation.

Proportionally smaller in number, those Chinese Americans who were exposed to a segregated but American education very quickly became aware of their inferior status. Many became ashamed of their appearance, status, and culture. Self-hatred and the need to be accepted by white society became their primary obsession. In practice this meant the rejection of their cultural and linguistic heritage and the pursuit of thoroughgoing Americanization: adoption of American values, personality traits, and social behaviors and conversion to Christianity.

Denying their racial and cultural identity failed to gain them social acceptance in the period before World War II. Most found themselves still shut out of the mainstream and were prevented from competing for jobs, even if they were well qualified. Some were compelled to choose between staying in the United States as second-class citizens and going to China, a country whose language and culture had, ironically, become alien to them on account of their attempted assimilation.

For the immigrant generation, there was only one choice: staking their future in China. China's modernization occupied their attention and energy because they attributed their inferior status in the United States to the impotence of China as a nation under Western domination. Reformers from opposing camps in China invariably found an eager audience and generous supporters among the Chinese in the United States. Among the political reformers who frequented Chinatowns across the United States to raise funds and recruit supporters were Kang Youwei, Liang Qichao, and Sun Yatsen before the 1911 Revolution. During the Sino-Japanese War (1937–1941), several leaders of the ruling Kuomintang also toured the United States to mobilize Chinese American support; among them were General Cai Tingkai and Madame Chiang Kaishek. The factional dispute between the pro-China and pro-Taiwan forces is very much a part of this political legacy. In essence, China's political factionalism became an integral part of Chinese American life.

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Due in part to the efforts of the missionaries and political reformers, many churches and political parties were established, and sectarian schools and newspapers catering to the Chinese American community soon followed. Schools and newspapers became some of the most influential and enduring institutions in Chinese America. Together they played an important role in perpetuating the Chinese culture among the Chinese and in introducing Chinese Americans to ideas of modernity and nationalism.

Cuisine Chinese tea was a moderately popular beverage in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century America. Since the 1960s, Chinese cuisine has been an integral part of the American diet as well. Chinese restaurants are found in small towns and large cities across the United States. Key ingredients for preparing authentic Chinese dishes are now found in all chain supermarkets, and lessons in Chinese cooking are regular features on national television. Chinese takeout, catering, and chain restaurants have become commonplace in major cities, and Chinese dim sum, soups, stir-fries, and pastas can be found in cocktail lounges and exclusive clubs and resorts. Less popular today are such pre-1960 dishes as chop suey, chow mien, egg foo yung, and barbecue spareribs. In fact, many Americans have mastered the use of chopsticks and acquired the taste for sophisticated Chinese regional cuisines, such as Cantonese, Kejia (Hakka), Sichuan (Szechuan), Shangdong, Hunan, Mandarin (Beijing), Taiwan (Minnan), Chaozhou (Teo-Chiu), and Shanghai. American households now routinely use Chinese ingredients such as soy sauce, ginger, and hoisin sauce in their food; employ Chinese cooking techniques, such as stir-frying; and include Chinese cooking utensils, like the wok and the cleaver, in their kitchens.

Clothing Very few Chinese Americans (or Chinese, for that matter) now wear traditional Chinese clothing, which is generally characterized by brightly colored, embroidered silk shirts, pants, or dresses. On special occasions, some traditional costumes are worn. For example, on her wedding day, a bride might wear a Western wedding gown for the wedding ceremony and then change into a traditional Chinese wedding gown, called qun kwa, for the tea ceremony and banquet. In some traditional families, the elders sometimes wear traditional Chinese formal clothes to greet guests on Chinese New Year's Day. Young Chinese American women sometimes wear the tightly fitted cengsam (chongsam), or qipao, for formal parties or banquets. Occasionally, Chinese styles find their way into American high fashion and Hollywood movies.

Dances and Songs Chinese opera and folk songs are performed and sung in the Chinese American community. Cantonese opera, once very popular in Chinatown, is performed for older audiences, and small opera singing clubs are found in major Chinatowns in North America. Rarer is the

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A great number of Chinese proverbs have been recorded throughout history, several of which have been adapted into American culture. Some examples of Chinese proverbs include:

Shui zhang chuan gao

When the tide rises, boats float higher

Tong chuang yi meng

Same bed, different dreams

Xie nong yu shui

Blood is thicker than water

Zao qi de niao er you chong chi

The early bird catches its prey

Shu neng sheng qiao

Practice makes perfect

Chen er da tie

Strike while the iron is hot

Hai na bai chuan

All rivers run into the sea

performance of Peking opera. Among the well-educated Chinese, concerts featuring Chinese folk and art songs are well attended and amateur groups singing this type of music can be found in most cities with significant Chinese American populations. Similarly, both classical and folk dances continue to find some following among Chinese Americans. The Chinese Folk Dance Association of San Francisco is one of several groups that promote this activity. Most American-born Chinese and younger new immigrants, however, prefer either American popular music or Cantonese and Mandarin popular music from China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong.

Holidays Most Chinese Americans today observe the major holidays of the Chinese lunar calendar (yin li). Today, Chinese calendars routinely provide both the solar (yang li) and lunar calendars, and Chinese daily newspapers provide both kinds of dates. The most important holiday is the Chinese New Year or the Spring Festival (chun jie), which is also a school holiday in San Francisco.

Family members get together for special feasts and celebrations. The Feast of the Dead (qing ming or sao mu), the fifteenth day of the third lunar month, is devoted to tidying tombs and worshiping ancestors. The Dragon-boat Festival (duan wu or duan yang), on the fifteenth day of the fifth lunar month, commemorates the death of renowned poet Qu Yuan, who threw himself into the River Milu Jiang in 277 BCE. Page 499  |  Top of ArticleUsually a dragon-boat race is held and a special dumpling (zong zi) is served. For the August Moon Festival (zhong jiu), the ninth day of the eighth lunar month, family and friends gather to admire the moon and eat “moon cakes” (yue bing).

The founding of the People's Republic of China (guo qing jie), October 1, 1949, is observed by Chinese Americans with banquets and cultural performances in major cities in the United States. Likewise, the founding of the republic by Dr. Sun Yatsen on October 10, 1911, is commemorated each year in Chinatowns by groups closely associated with the Nationalist government in Taiwan.

Health Care Issues and Practices Prewar housing and job discrimination forced the Chinese to live within American ghettos. Discrimination also denied Chinese Americans access to health care and other services. Most relied on traditional Chinese herbal medicine, and the community had to found its own Western hospital, Chinese Hospital in San Francisco, in the early twentieth century. By the time the postwar immigrants arrived in large numbers in the 1960s, Chinatowns were bursting at the seams, burdened with seemingly intractable health and mental health problems.

Chinatowns in San Francisco and New York City are among the most densely populated areas in the United States. Housing has always been substandard and overcrowded. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, Chinatown in San Francisco had the dubious distinction of having the highest tuberculosis and suicide rates in the United States. High unemployment and underemployment rates exposed thousands of new immigrants to severe exploitation in sweatshops and restaurants. School dropouts, juvenile delinquency, and gang wars were symptoms of underlying social pathology.

However, health and mental health problems are not confined to the Chinatown ghettos. The overwhelming majority of Chinese Americans no longer

Confetti is blown into the air during the Chinese New year celebration in New York City's Chinatown. Confetti is blown into the air during the Chinese New year celebration in New York City's Chinatown. OOTE BOE 3 / ALAMY

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live in historic Chinatowns, as mentioned above. While many of the health and mental health-related problems in Chinatown are class-based, many others, such as the language barrier, cultural and generational conflict, and attitudes toward illness and soliciting help, are peculiar to Chinese Americans regardless of their class position, education, and place of residence. Mental health service agencies, like the Richmond Maxi Center in the middle-class Richmond district of San Francisco, and the Asians for Community Involvement in the Silicon Valley of California, have been established to meet the needs of Chinese Americans and other Asian Americans. Today, both Chinese and Western medicines are widely used by Chinese Americans, although some use exclusively Chinese medicine while others use only Western medicine.


Since most Chinese who immigrated before 1882 came as itinerant laborers to perform specific tasks, the Chinese population in the United States in the nineteenth century consisted of predominantly young men, either not yet married or married with their wives and children left in the villages in southern China. According to the 1890 census, there were 107,488 Chinese in the United States. Of these, 103,620, or 96.4 percent, were boys and men and only 3,868, or 3.6 percent, were girls and women. Among the male population, 26.1 percent were married, 69 percent single, and 4.9 percent were either widowed or divorced. The male-female ratio would not be balanced until 1970, and has since tipped toward women, with the 2011 American Community Survey reporting that 55 percent of Chinese Americans are female.

Today, most middle-class Chinese Americans place the highest priority on raising and maintaining the family: providing for the immediate members of the family (grandparents, parents, and children), acquiring an adequate and secure home for the family, and investing comparatively greater amounts of time and annual income in their children's education.

The uneven sex distribution in the early years of Chinese immigration gave rise to an image of Chinatown as a bachelor society, vividly captured in the pictures taken by Arnold Genthe in San Francisco before the 1905 earthquake and in the description by Liang Qichao during his 1903 travel to the United States. The abnormal conditions also contributed to widespread prostitution, gambling, and opium smoking, most of which were overseen by secret societies, known as tongs, often with the consent of both the Chinatown establishment and corrupt local law-enforcement agencies. The struggle for control of these illicit businesses also gave rise to frequent intrigues, violence, and political corruption and to sensational press coverage of the so-called tong wars.

The exclusion and anti-miscegenation laws forced most Chinese in the United States to maintain their families across the Pacific. Only men in the privileged merchant class were able to bring over their wives and children. Under such circumstances, the Chinese population in the United States declined steadily, dipping as low as 61,639 in 1920 before it started to rise again. The Chinese American population therefore had to wait until after World War II for the emergence of an American-born political leadership. Normal family life for most Chinese Americans also did not begin until after World War II, when several thousand Chinese American GIs were eligible to bring their wives and children to America under the War Bride Act. While the reunification of Chinese American families after the war led to a brief period in which American-born Chinese Americans outnumbered those born in foreign countries, the massive influx of Chinese immigrants beginning in the 1970s once again reversed this ratio. Unlike the prewar immigrants, however, these new immigrants came to the United States with their families, and they came to stay permanently.

Nevertheless, it is wrong to assume that all Chinese Americans are living in happy, intact, successful families and raising obedient, motivated, and college-bound children. Traditional Chinese concepts of family and childrearing, for both rich and poor, have undergone drastic changes in the United States due to job status, income levels, living arrangements, and neighborhood conditions, as well as the social and cultural environment of the United States. Chinese Americans face their share of family break-ups, domestic violence, school dropouts, drug addiction, gang activities, and other social problems. According to a 2008 study by the University of Maryland, “A Chinese American Portrait,” the divorce rate among Chinese Americans is around half that of the general population, but some researchers suggest this is because immigrants from Asia, and particularly women, value family and a sense of community over personal fulfillment, making them more likely to remain in unhealthy relationships, even when there are instances of domestic abuse.

Education Today, most middle-class Chinese Americans place the highest priority on raising and maintaining the family: providing for the immediate members of the family (grandparents, parents, and children), acquiring an adequate and secure home for the family, and investing comparatively greater amounts of time and annual income in their children's education. Even among lower-income families with neither financial security nor decent housing, keeping the family intact and close and doing all they can to support their children are also priorities. This is why Chinese Americans continue to perform well in Page 501  |  Top of Articleeducation across all income levels, even if the success rates among the poor are less impressive than those among the better off. Across the nation, Chinese American educational achievement is well known. In particular, Chinese Americans are disproportionally represented among the top research universities and the elite small liberal colleges. In graduate and professional schools, they are overrepresented in certain areas, but underrepresented in others. In addition to Chinese American students, there are thousands of Chinese foreign students from China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong.


Before the 1882 Chinese exclusion law, Chinese enjoyed relative autonomy in their employment choices. However, with the rise of anti-Chinese movements and the enactment of anti-Chinese laws, Chinese were effectively driven out of most jobs and businesses competitive with whites. Until World War II, Chinese were left with jobs in laundries, Chinese restaurants, sweatshops, gift shops, and grocery stores located in Chinatowns. Even those who were American-born and college educated were unable to find jobs commensurate with their training.

World War II was a turning point for Chinese Americans. Not only were they recruited into all branches of military service, they were also placed in defense-related industries. In spite of racial prejudice, young Chinese Americans excelled in science and technology and made substantial inroads into many new sectors of the labor market during the war. Two significant developments during this era changed the fortune of Chinese Americans. First, the rise of the military-industrial complex during the war created opportunities for Chinese Americans in defense-related industries. Around thirteen thousand Chinese Americans served in the military during the war, enough that entire units such as the 407th Air Service Squadron and the 987th Signal Company of the 14th Air Force's so-called Flying Tigers were made up entirely of Chinese Americans. Second, there was the arrival of many highly educated Chinese immigrants from China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong after the war, whose talents were immediately put to use in leading research centers and universities.

In general, the intellectual immigrants settled in middle-class suburbs near new industrial or research centers, such as Silicon Valley in Santa Clara County, California, and NASA Johnson Space Center outside of Houston, Texas. Likewise, pockets of affluent Chinese Americans can be found in such metropolitan areas as Seattle, Minneapolis, Chicago, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, San Diego, and Dallas. Since the 1970s, some even used their talents to start their own businesses in the highly competitive high-tech industries. Among the best known are An Wang of Wang Laboratories, David Lee

A father and daughter celebrate the Year of the Dragon during Chinese New Year celebrations, 2012, in New York City's Chinatown. A father and daughter celebrate the Year of the Dragon during Chinese New Year celebrations, 2012, in New York City0027;s Chinatown. DAVID GROSSMAN / ALAMY

of Qume Corporation, Tom Yuen of AST, and Charles Wang of Computer Associates International. Many of the intellectual immigrants also became leading scientists and top engineers in the United States, giving rise to the false impression that the prewar oppressed Chinese working class had finally pulled themselves up by their own bootstraps. This is the misleading “model minority” stereotype that the media originated and has fiercely maintained since the late 1960s. These highly celebrated intellectuals, in fact, have little politically, economically, or socially in common with the direct descendants of the prewar Chinese communities in big cities.

Among the post-1965 immigrants were also thousands who came to be reunited with their long-separated loved ones. Most of them settled in well-established Chinese American communities in San Francisco, New York, Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia, Oakland, and Los Angeles where they became the new urban working class. Many also became small entrepreneurs in neighborhoods throughout these cities, concentrating mostly in laundries, restaurants, and grocery stores. In fact, their presence in these three areas of small business has made them an integral part of the cityscape of American cities. Usually with little or no English, they pursued their “American dream” by working long hours, often with free or cheap labor from relatives.

The Chinese American population is, therefore, bifurcated between the poor (working class) and the middle class (professionals and small business owners). The interests of these two groups coincide with each other over such issues as racism and access to quality education, but most of the time they are at odds with each other. There is much debate over the China-Taiwan conflict, and, regarding housing and employment, their relations are frequently those of landlord-tenant and management-labor, typified by the chronic struggle over land use (e.g., the International Hotel in San Francisco's Chinatown) and working conditions in Chinatowns (e.g., the Chung Sai Sewing Page 502  |  Top of ArticleFactory, also in San Francisco's Chinatown) since 1970. Nevertheless, as a whole, Chinese Americans remain among the highest-educated and highest-earning ethnic groups in America. The 2011 American Community Survey found the median household income of Chinese Americans to be $58,710, around $8,000 higher than the total U.S. population.


Unlike European immigrants and African Americans since the Civil War, Chinese immigrants were denied citizenship, systematically discriminated against, and disenfranchised until after World War II. Numerically far smaller than European Americans and African Americans, Chinese Americans posed no political threat to the entrenched power, even after they were granted the right of naturalization after the war. They were routinely denied, de jure and de facto, political and civil rights through biased hiring practices, routine discrimination based on persistent stereotypes, and a general disregard for their property rights through widespread gentrification of Chinatown districts. It was not until the late 1960s, under the militant leadership of younger Chinese Americans, that they began to mobilize for equal participation with the help of African Americans and in coalition with other Asian American groups.

Three key elements shaped the formation and development of the Chinese American community: racism, U.S.-China relations, and the interaction between these two forces. The intersection of American foreign policy and domestic racial politics compelled Chinese Americans to live under a unique structure of dual domination. They were racially segregated and forced to live under an apartheid system, and they were subject to the extraterritorial domination of the Chinese Nationalist government, condoned, if not encouraged at times, by the U.S. government. Chinese Americans were treated as aliens and confined to urban ghettos and governed by an elite merchant class legitimated by the U.S. government and reinforced by the omnipresent diplomatic representatives from China. Social institutions, lifestyles, and political factionalism were reproduced and institutionalized. Conflict over homeland partisan disputes—including the dispute between the reform and revolutionary parties at the beginning of the twentieth century and between the Nationalists led by Chiang Kaishek and Communists led by Mao Tsetung in China—kept the community deeply divided. Such divisions drained scarce financial resources and political energy from pressing issues within the community and left behind a legacy of preoccupation with motherland politics and deep political cleavage to this date. During the Cold War, the extraterritorial domination intensified, as military dictators in Taiwan, backed by the United States, extended their repression into the Chinese American community in an effort to ensure political loyalty and suppress political dissent.

The African American civil rights movement inspired and inaugurated a new era of ethnic pride and political consciousness. Joined by other Asian American groups, American-born, college-age Chinese rejected both the racist model of forced assimilation and the political and cultural domination of the Nationalist government in Taiwan. They also rejected second-class citizenship and the option of returning to Asia. Instead, they demanded liberation from the structure of dual domination. These college students and, later, young professionals contributed most significantly to raising the ethnic and political consciousness of Chinese Americans and helped achieve civil rights. Furthermore, they founded many social service agencies and professional, political, and cultural organizations throughout the United States. They also joined forces with other Asian American college students to push for the establishment of Asian American studies programs in major universities and colleges across the nation.

The politicization of Chinese Americans soon led to the founding of new civil rights and partisan political organizations. Most notable was the founding of Chinese for Affirmative Action (CAA) in San Francisco in 1969, a civil rights organization that has been at the forefront of all major issues—employment, education, media, politics, health, census, hate crime, etc.—affecting Chinese Americans across the nation. By the 1970s, two national organizations, the Organization of Chinese Americans (OCA) and the National Association of Chinese Americans (NACA), were formed in most major cities to serve, respectively, middle-class Chinese Americans and Chinese American intellectuals. Likewise, local partisan clubs and Chinese American Democrats and Republicans were organized to promote Chinese American participation in politics and government.

By the 1980s, some middle-class Chinese Americans began to take interest in local electoral politics. They have enjoyed modest success in races for less powerful positions, such as school boards and city councils. Among the notable political leaders to emerge were March Fong Eu, secretary of state of California; S. B. Woo, lieutenant governor of Delaware (1984–1988); Michael Woo of the Los Angeles City Council (1986–1990); and Thomas Hsieh and Mabel Teng of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1988. In 2001 Elaine Chao became the first Chinese American to serve as a member of the cabinet when she was appointed by President George W. Bush. Gary Lock became the first Chinese American governor when he was elected by the state of Washington; he is currently the U.S. ambassador to China.

With increased interest in electoral politics came the demand for greater participation in other branches of government. In 1959 Delbert Wong became the first Chinese American to be appointed a municipal judge in Los Angeles. In 1966 Lim P. Lee was appointed postmaster of San Francisco, Page 503  |  Top of Articleand Harry Low, a municipal judge. Low was later appointed to the Superior Court and the California Appellate Court. Also appointed to the municipal bench were Samuel Yee, Leonard Louie, Lillian Sing, and Julie Tang in San Francisco and Jack Bing Tso, James Sing Yip, and Ronald Lew in Los Angeles. Thomas Tang was appointed to the Ninth Circuit Court in 1977 and Elwood Lui to the federal district court in 1984.

Chinese Americans have been predominantly an urban population since the late nineteenth century. Their community has long been divided between the merchant elites and the working class, and the influx of both poor and affluent immigrants since the late 1960s has deepened the division in the community by class, nativity, dialect, and residential location, giving rise not to just conflicting classes and public images but also to conflicting visions in Chinese America. The sources of this open split can be traced to the changes in U.S. immigration laws and Cold War policies and to the arrival of diverse Chinese immigrants from China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Southeast Asian countries throughout the Cold War. The division has had serious political and social consequences as Chinese Americans from opposing camps seek political empowerment in cities with a deeply entrenched white ethnic power structure and emerging African American forces.


Literature Maxine Hong Kingston (1940–) and Amy Tan (1952–) have captured the imagination of the United States with their writings based in part on their personal experiences and stories told in their families. Kingston is best known for The Woman Warrior (1976), Chinamen (1977), and Tripmaster Monkey (1989), while Tan is known for The Joy Luck Club (1989) and The Kitchen God's Wife (1991). Gish Jen (1955–) is the author of four novels, including Typical American, and a collection of stories called Who's Irish?, that offer nuanced explorations of the experiences of Asian Americans. Other prominent Chinese American fiction writers include David Wong Louie (1954–), author of Pangs of Love and The Barbarians Are Coming, and Faye Myenne Ng (1956–), whose novels Bone) and Steer Toward Rock have been widely lauded. Equally successful in the world of Chinese-language readers are literary works written in Chinese by Chinese American writers such as Chen Ruoxi, Bai Xianyong, Yu Lihua, Liu Daren, and Nie Hualing, who are also widely read in Hong Kong, Taiwan, China, and Southeast Asia.

Science and Technology Chinese Americans who have received Nobel Prizes include.

Charles Kao (1933–), Chenning Yang (1922–), Daniel Tsui (1939–), and Steven Chu (1948–) in physics and Roger Tsien (1952–) and Yuan-tse Lee (1936–) in chemistry. In mathematics, Shiing-shen Chern (1911–2004), Sing-tung Yao (1949–), and Terence Tao (1975–) are ranked among the top in the world. In the biological sciences, the leading American researcher in superconductivity research is Paul Chu (1941–). In engineering, T. Y. Lin (1912–2003), structural engineer, received the Presidential Science Award in 1986. Others include Chang-Lin Tien (1935–2002), a mechanical engineer and chancellor of the University of California, Berkeley; Henry Yang (1940–), an aerospace engineer and the chancellor of the University of California, Santa Barbara; and Steven Chen (1978–), the leading researcher on the next generation of supercomputers. Among Chinese American women with national and international reputations in science is physicist Chien-Hsiung Wu (1912–1997).

In March 1997, Wen Ho Lee (1939–), an atomic scientist at the Los Alamos National Laboratory near Albuquerque, New Mexico, was arrested on suspicion of spying for China. Wen Ho Lee was fired for unspecified security violations, but in early May 1999, federal officials revealed that Wen Ho had transferred secret nuclear weapons computer programs from the Los Alamos computer system to his own desktop computer. Wen Ho denied the charges that he was a spy and claimed that he let no one see the nuclear weapons computer program. In a prepared statement issued on May 6, 1999, Wen Ho said he would “not be a scapegoat for alleged security problems at our country's nuclear laboratories” and denied that he ever gave classified information to unauthorized persons.

Theater David Henry Hwang (1957–) Genny Lim (1946–), and Frank Chin (1940–) have all made lasting contributions to the theater. Among the best-known plays of Hwang are FOB, The Dance and the Railroad, Family Devotions, and M. Butterfly. Lim is the author of the play Paper Angels and is also a poet and children's book author. Though perhaps best known as a controversial critic and champion of Asian American literature, Chin is also the author of numerous influential novels and plays, including The Year of the Dragon.

Film Director, producer, screenwriter, and editor Wayne Wang (1949–) has made a number of critically acclaimed and commercially successful movies, including Chan Is Missing, Dim Sum, Eat a Bowl of Tea, and The Joy Luck Club.

Music Saxophonist and composer Fred Ho is both a prominent figure in the American jazz scene and an activist for Asian American causes. Jon Jang (1954–) is a San Francisco-based composer who is perhaps best known for his Chinese American Symphony, a work that honors the Chinese laborers who built America's first transcontinental railroad.

Visual Arts Besides their enormous contributions to science and technology, many Chinese Americans also excel in art and literature. Maya Ying Lin (1959–) is Page 504  |  Top of Articlealready a legend in her own time. At twenty-one, while an architecture student at Yale University, she created the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., one of the most frequented national monuments. After this enormous success, she went on to design the Civil Rights Memorial in Atlanta, a giant outdoor sculpture commemorating the history of women at her alma mater, and a monumental sculpture at the New York Pennsylvania Railroad Station.

Just as impressive are the architectural wonders of I. M. Pei (1917–). Among his best known works are the East Wing of the National Art Gallery in Washington, D.C., the John F. Kennedy Library at Harvard University, the Boston Museum and the John Hancock Building in Boston, Dallas Symphony Hall, the modern addition to the Louvre in Paris, the Bank of China in Hong Kong, and the Xiangshan Hotel in Beijing.

Anna Sui (1955–), a native of Detroit, is a famous Chinese American fashion designer. Known for her stylistic versatility, Sui has dabbled in everything from 1960s fashion to formal evening wear.


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Chinese American Forum (CAF)

Founded in 1982, this quarterly magazine cultivates understanding among U.S. citizens of Chinese American cultural heritage.

C. C. Tien, President
P.O. Box 3034
Seattle, Washington 98114
Phone: (206) 523-4984

Chinese characters and their English translation. Chinese characters and their English translation. ROBERTLAMPHOTO / SHUTTERSTOCK.COM


The only bilingual newspaper in New England serving the Asian community.

Ling Mei Wong, Editor
87 Tyler Street
5th Floor
Boston, Massachusetts 02111
Phone: (617) 426-9492
Fax: (617) 482-2316

Sing Tao Daily

Founded in Hong Kong in 1938, this newspaper opened its American office in San Francisco in 1975. The company also operates a popular Chinese language radio network.

Tim S. Lau, Vice President
5000 Shoreline Court
South San Francisco, California 94080
Phone: (650) 808-8800
Fax: (650) 808-8801

World Journal

Formerly Chinese Daily News, this Chinese-language daily newspaper as affiliated with the Taiwanese United Daily News.

Shihyaw Chen, Editor
1588 Corporate Center Drive
Monterey Park, California 91754
Phone: (213) 268-4982
Fax: (213) 265-3476


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Multicultural Radio Broadcasting, Inc. (MRBI)

Founded in 1982, MRBI operates three AM stations in Los Angeles (KAZN-AM1300, KAHZ-AM1600 and KMRB-AM1430), two AM stations in New York (WZRC-AM1480 and WKDM-AM1380), and one AM station in San Francisco (KEST-AM1450) that produce original programming in Chinese (Mandarin and Cantonese) for the Chinese-American population in those cities.

27 William Street
11th Floor
New York, New York 10005
Phone: (212) 966-1059
Fax: (212) 966-9580


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Crossings TV

Operating in Sacramento, Fresno, and Stockton, California, as well as in New York, Crossings broadcasts programming in Chinese and other Asian languages.

2030 West El Camino Boulevard
Suite 263
Sacramento, California 95833-1868

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Phone: (888) 901-5288
Fax: (888) 878-8936

LA 18

On air since 1977, LA 18 serves Southern California's culturally diverse, multilingual community, providing a unique assortment of news, sports, drama, and entertainment programs aired in thirteen different languages, including Chinese.

1990 South Bundy Drive
Suite 850
Los Angeles, California 90025
Phone: (310) 478-1818
Fax: (310) 479-8118


Broadcasting in parts of New York and New Jersey, WMBC includes a variety of news, sports and entertainment from China, Korea, Latin America and India.

Mountain Broadcasting Corp
99 Clinton Road
West Caldwell, New Jersey 07006
Phone: (973) 852-0300
Fax: (973) 808-5516


KTSF, which has been serving the San Francisco Bay Area Asian community since 1976, provides quality news, information and entertainment programming and reaches over 1.4 million Chinese and other Asian Americans.

100 Valley Drive
Brisbane, California 94005
Phone: (415) 468-2626
Fax: (415) 467-7559


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Chinese American Citizens Alliance (CACA)

A national organization founded early in the twentieth century to fight for Chinese American rights, with chapters in different Chinatowns.

Collin Lai, President
1044 Stockton Street
San Francisco, California 94108
Phone: (415) 982-4618

Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association (CCBA)

The most powerful Chinese American organization in America, the CCBA is largely considered the voice of the Chinese American community.

Ted Win Wong
843 Stockton Street
San Francisco, California 94108
Phone: (415) 982-6000
Fax: (415) 982-6010

Chinese for Affirmative Action (CAA)

The leading civil rights organization of Chinese in the United States.

Vincent Pan, Executive Director
17 Walter U. Lum Place
San Francisco, California 98108
Phone: (415) 274-6750

Organization of Chinese Americans (OCA)

A national organization committed to promoting the rights of Chinese Americans, with chapters throughout the United States and a lobbyist office in Washington, D.C. Publishes newsletter OCA Image.

Daphne Quok, Executive Director
1001 Connecticut Avenue NW
Suite 707
Washington, D.C. 20036
Phone: (202) 223-5500
Fax: 202-296-0540


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Center for Chinese Studies (University of Michigan)

Promotes and supports research in social sciences and humanities relating to China, past and present, by faculty members, graduate students, and associates of the center.

Dr. Ernest P. Young, Director
1080 South University
Suite 3668
Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109-1106
Phone: (734) 764-6308
Fax: (734) 764-5540

Chinese Culture Center of San Francisco

A community-based cultural and educational facility, this organization provides space for exhibits, performing arts, conferences, classrooms, and meetings.

Manni Liu, Acting Executive Director/Curator
750 Kearney Street
3rd Floor
San Francisco, California 94108
Phone: (415) 986-1822
Fax: (415) 986-2825

Chinese Historical Society of America

Devoted to the study of the Chinese people in the United States and the collection of their relics. Page 506  |  Top of ArticleEthnic and historical interests of the society are published in its bulletin.

Philip Choy, President
965 Clay Street
San Francisco, California 94108
Phone: (415) 391-1188
Fax: (415) 391-1150

Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA)

Founded in 1980 as the New York Chinatown History Project; adopted its present name in 1995. Strives “to reclaim, preserve, and broaden understanding about the diverse history of Chinese people in the Americas.” Included is the most extensive collection of Chinese-language newspapers in the United States.

215 Centre Street
New York, New York 10013
Phone: (212) 619-4785


Chang, Iris. The Chinese in America: A Narrative History. New York: Viking, 2003.

Kwong, Peter. Chinatown, NY: Labor & Politics, 1930–1950. New York: Monthly Review Press, 1979.

Lowen, James W. The Mississippi Chinese: Between Black and White. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1971.

Ma, L. Eve Armentrout. Revolutionaries, Monarchists, and Chinatowns: Chinese Politics in the Americas and the 1911 Revolution. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1990.

McClain, Charles. In Search of Equality: The Chinese Struggle Against Discrimination in Nineteenth-Century America. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1994.

Nee, Victor G., and Brett de Barry. Longtime Californ': A Documentary Study of an American Chinatown. New York: Pantheon Books, 1972.

Wong, Kevin Scott. Americans First: Chinese Americans and the Second World War. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2005.

Wong, Kevin Scott, and Sucheng Chan, eds. Claiming America: Constructing Chinese American Identities During the Exclusion Era. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1998.

Yung, Judy, Gordon H. Chang, and Him Mark Lai, eds. Chinese American Voices: From the Gold Rush to the Present. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2006.

Zinzius, Birgit. Chinese America: Stereotype and Reality. New York: Peter Lang, 2005.

Source Citation

Source Citation   

Gale Document Number: GALE|CX3273300049