The Majority of Chinese Women and Girls in the U.S. Were Prostitutes in 1870

The vast majority of immigrants who came from China in search of gold in California starting in 1848 and during the 1860s to work on the construction of the western part of the transcontinental railroad were primarily young men.  Most were not married, or if they were, did not bring their wives because they hoped to return to China after they made enough money.

In 1870, there were approximately 58,000 Chinese men and about 4,000 Chinese women and girls identified in the U.S. Census so it is obvious there were few marriages created between Chinese men and women. Anti-Chinese sentiments, as well as Chinese preferences for marrying a Chinese partner, left these thousands of Chinese without sexual outlets, aside from forming homosexual liaisons, a topic that is understudied as a taboo topic, or patronizing prostitutes. In 1870, about 61 percent of the roughly 4,000 Chinese women in California were prostitutes, according to Ronald Takaki in his landmark 1998 study, Strangers in A Different Land. It should be noted that most of these women, some actually barely into puberty, and at least one girl 6 years-old, were coerced or involuntary participants controlled by unscrupulous Chinese.

I was startled by this huge statistic.  For 4,000 females, 61% would be over 2,400 prostitutes. By the way, their patrons were not limited to Chinese men, as "yellow fever" existed among white men even back in the mid-19th century. I decided to check census listings for Chinese women born in China but living in the U.S. in 1870 whose "occupation" was listed as "prostitute."  I should add I saw some towns where the occupation of many women was keeping house" or as "public."  I wonder if those were polite terms for "prostitute." ( I also saw one where the census taker wrote "whore" for one woman's occupation).

I found page after page of census records full of prostitutes. Below are 2 pages for San Francisco in 1870.  Seeing lists of actual names of these prostitutes, many under the age of 15, was more distressing than looking at statistics.

I hasten to add that a place like San Francisco also had many other occupations for Chinese men including cook, peddler, tailor.  jeweler, doctor, barber, cigar maker, and of course, laundryman.

In contrast, in small mining towns such as Silver Bow, Montana, most of the Chinese men were miners along with two laundrymen to wash their clothes and a couple of prostitutes to fulfill their carnal needs. (Note that the census taker did not bother recording their names. All men were listed as  "Chinaman" and the two prostitutes as "Chinawoman"!

Thankfully, a decade later in the 1880 census, although still unacceptably high, there was a big drop in the percentage, 24, of Chinese women working as prostitutes.

Writer Gary Kamiya presented an excellent account of the factors responsible for the high number of Chinese prostitutes and their living conditions in San Francisco in the late 19th century.


The Bizarre Way in which Chinese Gained The Right to Testify in Court

In People v. Hall in 1854, the testimony of Chinese against Hall, a white man accused of murder was disallowed as Chinese were assumed to be inferior to whites. A murder trial involving Chinese testifying against Chinese in 1882 strangely opened the door for Chinese immigrants to testify in court trials.

Yee Shun, a 20-year old Chinese, was visiting a Chinese friend in his laundry in Las Vegas in the New Mexico Territory when a Chinese shot and killed another Chinese during an argument. Chinese witnesses claimed that Yee Shun was the murderer and in 1882 he was sent to prison where he sadly later killed himself.

The irony of Territory of New Mexico v. Yee Shun is that although an innocent man, Yee Shun, was convicted, the acceptance of the testimony of Chinese witnesses set a precedent for the acceptance of testimony from Chinese in subsequent court cases.

It is no consolation to Yee Shun but Albuquerque plans to create a memorial, View from Gold Mountain, to the Yee Shun case.
A model of the planned artwork for downtown Albuquerque memorializing the landmark Territory of New Mexico v. Yee Shun case that gave Chinese the right to testify in courts. 


Shortage of Chinese House Boys After 1882 Exclusion Law

The threat to work for white labor led to the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882, which helped white workers.  However, as reported in an article in 1908 in the New York Sun, it also created an unexpected crisis for white households that wanted to enjoy cheap Chinese domestic servants to cook, clean, and look after young children. Furthermore, when Chinese domestics learned enough English they quit domestic service in favor of opening their own businesses.This shortage forced whites to turn to other 'orientals', the Japanese, for domestic help.

        There were cultural differences between the "Orientals" whether Chinese or Japanese, and their white employers that created problems, but some of the encounters were rather amusing. Here are two examples of Chinese houseboys creating 'problems' for their white employers.

Japanese houseboys also presented some amusing conflicts with their employers.


Who Were These Five Chinese Men?

This photograph of five dapper looking young Chinese men has appeared on several different websites. On some, but not most of these sites, a caption identifying them is included. 

Were They Involved In the 1871 Los Angeles Anti-Chinese Massacre?

In 2019, the photo appears in a header on a post on the blog of KCET-TV, a Los Angeles PBS station, which might lead one to infer they had been involved in the 1871 Los Angeles anti-Chinese massacre.

Were these men affected by the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act?

A post on the Library of Congress website about immigration includes the image with a caption, "Chinese American men" on a page about the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act.

Were these 5 Chinese in Mississippi?

Another website, primarily concerned with U.S. slavery, included the photo in on a post about early Chinese immigrants in the Mississippi Delta bearing the caption, "Coming to Mississippi."

But, in an earlier post on this blog in 2015, I noted that the photo is of a studio portrait of five Chinese men in Georgetown, Colorado taken sometime between 1890 and 1910.

The actual photo at the Denver Library Archives shows that all of these uses of the photo were misleading.  The 5 men in the photo were posing for a studio portrait in Georgetown, Colorado, sometime between 1890 and 1910. Two of the 5 men are identified by name, Wa Chin and Tang Wa-Shun.

The photo raises some intriguing questions. One wonders why these men chose to have a formal portrait.  How were they related to each other?  What was their occupation?

The lesson is that this photo, and undoubtly many others, that accompany articles about Chinese immigrants are inaccurate, but were included as illustrations of Chinese, even though the specific individuals in the photographs had nothing to do with the articles they accompany.


Chinese immigrants to the U.S. had it easy...

Compared to the gauntlet that Chinese immigrants to Australia faced a century ago, their countrymen coming to the U.S. had an easier, but still difficult, time gaining entry.

Chinese seeking entry to Australia not only had their mug shots taken but also handprints of both hands as in the sample below.

Moreover,  from 1901 to 1958  Chinese had to pass an outrageous "Dictation Test."

Below are other examples of 50-word texts for the Dictation Test that most Chinese would probably fail.


Where Did Thousands of Suddenly Unemployed Chinese Railroad Workers Go After the Transcontinental Railroad Completion, May 10, 1869?

Hundreds of Chinese Americans came from all over the United States to Promontory, Utah, on May 10, 2019, to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the completion on May 10, 1869, of the transcontinental railroad at Promontory, Utah. Some were descendants of the 15 to 20,000 Chinese who labored for the Central Pacific Railroad (CPRR) on the construction of the western section from Sacramento, California to Promontory, Utah. Without their labor, the completion of this historically significant railroad would have taken much longer but most Americans have not known about their role. In fact, the 1869 photograph showing the meeting of locomotives of the Central Pacific and Union Pacific Railroads did not include any Chinese laborers, as if they played no important role.


The 150th anniversary has served as an opening to gain national recognition and appreciation for the achievement of the Chinese laborers. Noted New York Chinatown photographer and social activist Corky Lee has organized activities involving a pilgrimage of hundreds of Chinese Americans on the anniversary of the "Golden Spike" celebration of the completion of the railroad in several recent years. He arranged for a reenactment of the above 1869 photograph, as shown below, with Chinese Americans posing on and in front of the locomotives. His inspired photograph serves to demand recognition of the contribution of the Chinese workers by all Americans.

But, in all the excitement around celebrating the 150th anniversary of the completion of the railroad, little attention has been given to the question: what happened to these Chinese, especially the ones who were present on May 10, 1869, but found themselves unemployed the next day. 

The thousands of Chinese who came primarily from northern California to work on the railroad were not provided free transportation back to California and left to find their way back on their own.

Fortunately for them, many peripheral rail lines in other regions of the country were being constructed, and some unknown number of the Chinese who worked for the Central Pacific Railroad found work on these other rail lines according to research by Shelley Fisher Fishkin at Stanford University.

Work on these small regional railroads in some ways produced more important consequences for the Chinese in America than the transcontinental railroad did. Opportunities to work on these small regional lines facilitated the dispersion of Chinese into the hinterlands of the United States. Anti-Chinese feelings created dangers to Chinese in the west and they increased until they were literally being expelled by threat and physical violence from western cities by the 1880s. Dispersal into the hinterlands was partly a matter of seeking relative safety. Otherwise, there were few positive incentives for Chinese to move into areas where they would be the only or one of few other Chinese.

Prior to 1860, there were few Chinese living beyond the west coast or New York City.  But by 1870, Chinese were found in small towns in Nevada along the route of the CPRR and as far east as Odgen and Salt Lake City in Utah. With their work on the railroad completed, those who did not return to the west coast or find work on regional rail lines may have been stranded and settled where they were in 1869 when the transcontinental railroad was completed.

A decade later in 1880, Chinese could be found throughout the midwest, southwest, and Deep South. This dispersion could be the effect of Chinese working on the regional railroads and staying in the area when their railroad work ended. 

But what work did these Chinese in the hinterlands do? During the Great Depression of the 1870s the increasingly virulent anti-Chinese prejudices led to Chinese being excluded from work in many industries such as mining, fishing, manufacturing, lumbering, and farming where they had previously worked.  Not being hired by white employers, Chinese survived by opening their own businesses often with the labor of family members, including children.  Such circumstances contributed to the growth of Chinese hand laundries, which until the late 19th century was the only business tolerated for Chinese.  Family-run grocery stores mostly in black neighborhoods, especially in southern states, were another means for earning a living. Entering the 20th century, as Chinese food became less 'frightening' and with the attraction of the chop suey craze, family-run restaurants replaced laundries as the most prevalent self-owned Chinese business.


Clever, Cunning, and Conniving Chinese

A major American corporation ran an ad back around the 1960s that seemed to praise the Chinese as being "darned clever" for inventing paper many centuries ago, really wanted to brag about how more amazing its paperboard was in lowering the cost of mass distribution.

But Chinese were also often viewed as cunning and conniving in their dealings so that they were not trustworthy.  Consider two examples, which, unfortunately, attest to these negative images.

In 1885, a news article described how some Chinese immigrants go to Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, where they would deliberately leave their luggage and then cross the border into the U.S. at Port Townsend, Washington. Then they go to the customs office at Port Townsend, Washington to obtain a document allowing them to exit the U.S. to get their luggage in Victoria and bring it back with them when reentering the U.S.

A second news article in 1910 described how Mow Yung (English meaning "useless") was slated for deportation even though he was born in the U.S. He did not protest because he saw this as an opportunity for a free trip to visit China for the first time and to get acquainted with relatives.  Meanwhile, his father prepared affidavits that his son was a U.S. citizen and request that the U.S. pay for his trip back to the U.S.

These "clever" tactics, unfortunately, harmed the Chinese in America because it fostered negative images that reinforced prejudices against all Chinese.


Were Colored People Allowed to Testify For Residence of Chinese in 1893?

The Geary Act of 1892, the first of several 10-year renewals of the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act, added onerous conditions such as the requirement that Chinese had to carry Certificates of Residence with them or risk arrest and deportation.

If a Chinese claimed to have lost his certificate or was late in applying, a white witness could vouch for his residency but a Chinese could not because it was felt they could not be trusted to give honest testimony. But a question arose as to whether the original wording in the act, specifically that a witness be white, excluded the acceptability of testimony from a colored person.

It was admitted that in their haste to exclude Chinese as witnesses, the legislators choose the term, "white," and there was no intention to exclude colored persons from acting as witnesses for Chinese. The lawmakers agreed that colored persons could testify on behalf of Chinese, but one wonders what percentage of witnesses were white vs. colored.


My Ancestor Search Leads To News of Chinese Jugglers U.S. Tour in 1850s

“Every migration story starts with person one leaving a place for another place.”   

Scott Tong, A Village with My Name: A Family History of  China's Opening to the World

Many people outside the Deep South are curious when they learn that I, a Chinese, was born in Georgia in 1937 when Jim Crow racial discrimination was still strong.  They wondered why I was there and how Chinese fit between the blacks and the whites. I usually ignored their questions, preferring to deal with my life in San Francisco and Chicago, where I lived after leaving Georgia in 1952 at age 15.

But after I retired, I became intrigued about more details of my family history, I knew that my father went directly to the South when he emigrated in 1921 from his village in Guangdong, China because one of his grand-uncles, Gan Heung Loo, recruited him to work in a laundry in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where he stayed until 1925. But was this grand uncle my first ancestor to leave China for the U.S. and what led him to Chattanooga? Did another relative urge him to come there just as he sponsored my father to join him?

In my research, I discovered that two Stanton brothers from Boston started to build the Alabama and Chattanooga Railroad in 1870 to connect Meridian, Mississippi, with Chattanooga, Tennessee, 300 miles to the east. I immediately wondered if this railroad could have had something to do with Gan Heung Loo being in Chattanooga.

A labor contractor, Cornelius Koopmanschap, sent 1,500 Chinese from California in 1870 at their request. Other Chinese may have come from Texas after working briefly in 1870 on the Houston and Texas Central Railroad. However, before a year passed, the Alabama and Chattanooga Railroad was bankrupt and the Chinese workers were not paid, and quit.  (A side note is that about 80 of these Chinese were hired by a Confederate cavalry general, Nathan Bedford Forrest, (also a slave trader, and the first Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan), to work on construction of another railroad in the area, the Selma, Marion, and Memphis Railroad in 1870-1, but this venture was also a financial disaster).

Is it possible that at least one of these Chinese railroad workers stayed in Chattanooga after the Alabama and Chattanooga Railroad construction abruptly ended in 1871? Is it likely that he might have opened or worked in a laundry there? Business directories listed several Chinese laundries in Chattanooga in the late 1870s. Is it possible that Gan Heung Loo, my father’s grand-uncle came to Chattanooga because he knew one of these railroad workers?  Perhaps Gan Heung Loo worked in a laundry and later helped my father learn the laundry business when he came over in 1921. Was Gan Heung Loo the “first ancestor” in my family tree to come to the United States?  I may never know, but it seems within the realm of plausibility?

Although I did not find any clear answer about my family history in the South, in the course of searching I was surprised to stumble upon notice of a well-received performance by Chinese jugglers, (misspelled as jugglars), in 1857 in Montgomery, Alabama. 

Why were jugglers from China in Alabama to perform, especially as early as 1857, when most Americans beyond the western states had never seen Chinese people?  More research showed that the jugglers gave many performances which impressed American audiences along the Atlantic seaboard and in the South during the 1850s and Montgomery was not the sole performance.

Still, some found fault as in some derogatory comments in the New York Tribune, which were reprinted in papers across the country such as one in Griffin, Georgia. The focus was not on the juggling skill, but of the small physical size and unappealing facial features of the Chinese men. The critic, however, approved of the Chinese women, with their "amiability and gentleness, round, graceful, and well-developed forms.” It was concluded that the likelihood if China to “our standard of civilization” was unlikely for another thousand years.

Even though it was 1853, when there was a small Chinese population, mostly in the west, derogatory stereotypes and sarcastic depictions of Chinese were being disseminated in the New York Tribune.

One lesson from this unexpected detour from my quest to learn how my father came to the South is that historical research often works in mysterious ways!


A Granddaughter's Tribute to Her Grandfather Who Came to U.S. at Age16

When she was a senior at Colgate University in 2009, Jessica Chow, created a
touching 4-part video about her grandfather who emigrated to the U.S. in 1934 at age 16 as a paper son. Finding America in China, her account of his life story first working in a laundry near New York Chinatown and later fighting for the U.S. in WWII is detailed and could easily apply to the life stories of hundreds of other Chinese immigrants of the same era. Jessica's video included many images of official immigration documents as well as personal photographs, which make her films more informative and engaging.

Chow also presents an interesting discussion about the Chinese soldiers serving in the 14th Air Service Group, which supported the famed Flying Tigers. Although they were "ethnically" Chinese, whether they had emigrated from China or were born in the U.S., as soldiers they were "Americans" fighting to help China.  She concluded that most of them had stronger identities as "American," despite the extreme racial prejudices Chinese suffered in the U.S. prior to WWII, because of their military service for the U.S.


Interracial Marriages: V. Some Noteworthy Examples

Interracial marriages from the mid-19th century until the mid-20th century were even less acceptable in China than in the U.S. Relatives of both a Chinese husband and his white wife generally disapproved of such marriages, even to the point of "disowning" them.  Nonetheless, marriages of Chinese men to white American women did occur, although the number is not known.  Given the rejection and disapproval in society toward such unions, one might expect some of these mixed marriages to fail. How many of these marriages "succeeded" or "failed" is not easy to determine.

Jocelyn Eisenberg, married to a Chinese graduate student, Jun Yu, is a writer and blogger who focuses on contemporary marriages between Chinese men and white women, describes six white women from the past who married Chinese men where details of their marriages have been documented in memoirs or films:

Louise Van Arnam Huie. Call Louise the “greatest” on this list of the yangxifu of the past — she fell in love with a Chinese man in 1889 (Huie Kin, a young minister who founded New York City’s first Chinese Christian Church and later shared his experiences in a book titled Remembrances). They left behind more than just many descendants, as this NPR story notes:
The descendants of the Huie Kin family still have regular family reunions in the US, showing the love continues.

Letticie See. Letticie — also called Ticie — had some serious grit. Sure she boarded a train, with just a bag to her name, at 18. But more importantly, she talked (and even demonstrated) her way into a job at Fong See’s factory in Chinatown, which began a professional — and romantic — partnership that lasted decades. The couple married in 1897, though their union was never recognized during their lifetime because of anti-miscegenation laws. Read about Ticie and her descendants in the book On Gold Mountain by Lisa See.
Mae Franking. Mae could have been just another Midwestern Scotch-Irish girl in Michigan — but then she met Tiam in 1907 when she was just 17, and something changed. Not right away, though. Mae first became friends with Tiam, and eventually opened herself up to a controversial relationship and marriage (the latter denounced in racist articles that ran in Ann Arbor and Detroit). Still, Mae chose him, chose to move with him to Shanghai in the early years of the Republic, and even chose to become a good Chinese wife in the eyes of his family. Tragic events forced her return to Michigan after several years (read Mae Franking’s My Chinese Marriage to find out why).

Grace Divine Liu. Grace came from a conservative Tennessee background, but bucked all family expectations by falling for Liu Fu-Chi, a Chinese man she met while studying opera singing in New York City. She eventually married him in the city 1932, against the wishes of her family, and later settled with him in Tianjin. Anyone with a passing knowledge of Chinese history will see the dates on her book — 1934 to 1974 — to know there’s some serious drama in this story. War. Harassment. Prison. But she stayed in China. Now that’s courage and, dare I say, grace. Read about it in Grace: An American Woman in China, 1934-1974
Gertrude Wagner-Du. When Gertrude saw Du Chengrong at a skating rink in Vienna in 1933, it really was love at first sight. She later traveled alone to Shanghai just to be with him — despite her disapproving parents — and married him in 1935 at a hotel next to Hangzhou’s West Lake. Sigh.
But China’s tumultuous history interrupted their happily ever after, from war with Japan to the Cultural Revolution. She could have easily fled to Vienna, but instead stayed in China out of love for her husband.
Gladys Yang. She married scholar Yang Xianyi in 1941, and the two formed one of the most famous pairs of translators, producing renowned English versions of classic Chinese literature, from A Dream of Red Mansions to Lu Xun’s stories. People say Gladys truly loved China, a love that sustained her through some of the darkest times of modern Chinese history (she stayed there with her husband from 1941 until her death in 1999). This quote from her husband couldn’t have said it better:
“She wanted to live a Chinese life and even after being in jail she still decided to stay in China,” said her husband, who added: “She regretted her son’s death, although otherwise, I don’t believe she regretted anything.”
Read their story in White Tiger: An Autobiography of Yang Xianyi. Also, see this appreciation from Black and White Cat, who apparently once had Gladys’ sofa!


Handbook of Chinese in America (1946) Update 2019

As noted in an earlier post I made in 2012, a listing of Chinese businesses in the U.S. was published in 1946 and called, Handbook of Chinese in America. It is extensive, but it is unknown how complete it was as a business probably had to pay to be listed.

I could not find any copy for sale but a handful of university libraries had copies.  I borrowed one via Interlibrary loan and xeroxed the roughly 250 pages of listings which have been valuable for my research.

Today, I stumbled upon a beautifully scanned copy from the National Central Library in Taiwan.  I include a screenshot of 2 pages, 414-415.  The first 408 pages are in Chinese; you can jump ahead if you enter a page number between 409 and 651 in the little window at the top of the screen.


Chinese As Butts of "Put Down" Stereotypes and "Humor"

Chinese not only suffered physical threats and harm to life, limb, and property but also endured harassment and bullying. Like many other minority groups, they were targets of jokes that belittled them and made them the butt of put-down, or worse, jokes, negative stereotypes, and "humor." Some of these jokes are quite racist in tone and harmful to the target group (consider also  "Newfie"and "Polak"jokes).

The "heathen Chinee" was one of the most offensive and well known negative views of Chinese that came from a poem, Plain Language from Truthful James, written in 1870 by Bret Harte, who ironically was sympathetic toward the Chinese and his poem was an attempt to show the hypocrisy that whites had in their attitudes toward Chinese. In the poem two miners, Bill Nye and Truthful James play euche, a card game, with Ah Sin, a Chinaman who they assume doesn't know how to play and they expect to easily win the game especially since they cheat in dealing the cards. Much to their surprise Ah Sin, more adept at having cards "up his sleeves," emerges as the winner. In retaliation, they assault Ah Sin once they discover his cheating despite the fact that they also cheated.

The opening verse goes:

WHICH I wish to remark,
  And my language is plain,
That for ways that are dark
  And for tricks that are vain,
The heathen Chinee is peculiar,
   Which the same I would rise to explain

This negative image and the violence toward the cheating "heathen Chinee" added to the hostility toward Chinese during the great depression of the 1870s  because of their cheap labor, as Bill Nye exclaims in the poem,

"Can this be?
We are ruined by Chinese cheap labor,—"

Terry Abrahams, an anthropologist in Idaho, collected examples of negative jokes against Chinese for many years and analyzed them in a 2003 paper:

Put down jokes about Chinese and other minorities (ethnic, religious, sexual orientation, women) abound even today.  Here is  a sample of contemporary one-liner put-downs of Chinese from:

Funny jokes about China and the chinese
A real Chinese has to make three things in his life: sneakers, jeans and iPhone.
The Great Wall is among 7 wonders of the world because it is the only Chinese product which lasted for more than 4 weeks.
Q: Why is there no Disneyland in China? 
A: No one's tall enough to go on the good rides. 
Q: What do you call a Chinese Billionaire? 
A: Cha Ching! 
Q: How does every Chinese joke start? 
A: By looking over your shoulder. 
Q: What do you call a Chinese rapist? 
A: Rai Ping Yu 
Q: What has 2 wings and a halo? 
A: A Chinese telephone, Wing-wing, halo? 
Q: What happens when a Mexican and an China man make a baby? 
A: A car thief who can't actually drive is born. Everything is made in China. Except for babies, they're made in VaChina. 
Q: Did you hear about the new American Express Card they are issuing in Red China? 
A: You never leave home. 
Q: Heard about the new German-Chinese restaurant? 
A: The food is great, but an hour later, you're hungry for power. The opening verse goes:
Q: What do you call a surprised Chinese man? 
A: Ho Lee Fuk 

Interestingly, the "Chinaman" is not always the loser in ethnic jokes....  For example, in the following joke posted by Abraham, the "Chinaman" could be said to have had the last laugh with his come back to his tormentors.

The boys on the ranch decide for New Year's resolutions that they will not tease the Chinee cook anymore, and troop into the kitchen to apologize to him for all the tricks they have played on him all year. 

"No pull China-boy's pigtail anymore?" he asks incredulously, "No, John, we're going to treat you right, from now on," they assure him. 
"No put rattlesnake in pants?" "No more rattlesnakes, John." 
"No mo' dead frog in shoe?" "No, John, we're really going to treat you right, from now on." 

"Velly good. China-boy no piss in coffee anymore."

But, consider that the riposte by the Chinese cook did not actually come out of his mouth, or mind!  The come back punchline must have been written by a white person, perhaps someone somewhat sympathetic to the Chinese.


Violence by Whites Against Chinese As Retaliation

By the end of the 19th century, Western powers and Japan had forced China’s ruling Qing dynasty to accept wide foreign control over the country’s economic affairs leading to a "century of humiliation."
A Chinese secret group, the Society of Righteous and Harmonious Fists began carrying out regular attacks on foreigners and Chinese Christians. Members were skilled in martial arts that they believed would give them the ability to withstand bullets and other forms of attack. Westerners called their rituals "shadow boxing," leading to the Boxers nickname. Many whites in China were attacked by the Boxers with many casualties. The Boxer rebellion in 1899-1900 was an anti-imperialistic and anti-Christianity move aimed at driving the whites out of China, but the rebels no match against the weapons of the white soldiers. Negative Consequences for Chinese in the U.S. Moreover, the Boxer attacks against whites in China led to an outbreak in the U.S. with whites attacking Chinese in the U.S. in retaliation to the violence of the Boxers in China. In 1900, Chinese in Chicago were victims of violent attacks by whites in retaliation for the Chinese attacks on whites in China.

(skip to end of article for conclusion)

Even rural areas with Chinese felt the retaliation of whites against Chinese uninvolved with the Boxer attacks in China against white Americans. In Mississippi, several white men assaulted a Chinese in Hollendale. Several Chinese merchants in Rosedale were threatened and given 5 days to move out of town. They appealed for a meeting with the Governor for protection. However, another Chinese in Rosedale reassured the Governor that the Chinese merchants in Rosedale were fine and facing no problems. Which account was more accurate? Was the denial of problems made out of fear of greater violence?

Earlier History of Anti-Chinese Violence

Violence toward Chinese in the U.S., and many other countries during these years, has a long history, reaching a peak in the late 19th century leading to the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act. There were heinous acts of physical violence by white mobs against Chinese on the west coast such as Eureka and Truckee in California and Tacoma, Washington as well as Denver and Rock Springs, Wyoming. In 1877, a white supremacist group, the Order of Caucasians, murdered four Chinese men in Chico, California who they blamed for taking away jobs from white workers. The men were tied up, doused with kerosene, and set on fire.
Current Resurgence of Anti-Chinese Sentiment
The current growing economic and political tensions between the U.S. and China seems to contribute to the increase in violence and hate crimes against Chinese Americans. One recent incident is the 2019 horrific killing of three Chinese restaurateurs with a hammer in Brooklyn, New York by a white man who felt Asian men mistreated Asian women in a movie he watched.


Tacoma Remembrance of 1885 Injustice Against Chinese with Reconciliation

In 1885, one of the most outrageous acts of racism against Chinese occurred in Tacoma, Washington where Chinese were forcibly expelled from the town on very short notice.  An earlier post on this blog gives more details of this extreme action which was adopted in other western towns such as Eureka and Truckee, Nevada.

Civic leaders of Tacoma recognized the injustice of the 1885 mistreatment of Chinese and instead of ignoring this history acted to acknowledge this horrendous past and work toward some form of redress, with the creation of a Reconciliation Park, as described in an outstanding website created by students of digital media at the University of Puget Sound. 

The park is a 3.9-acre shoreline plot in Tacoma, within a half mile of the site of Little Canton, where many Chinese residents of Tacoma lived before they were expelled in 1885. The park, which officially opened in 2011, currently includes a waterfront trail, a bridge with a Chinese motif, and a pavilion donated by Tacoma’s sister city, Fuzhou, China.

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