|Erhu, two stringed-musical instrument
Courtesy of Leslee Leong
Journey To Gold Mountain
The China Trade
Chinese immigrants have come to America seeking
a good life for their families for over 150
years. Chinese Americans have created a lasting
legacy in the United States. Many Chinese
first came during the California Gold Rush.
San Francisco was known as Gum Saan - "Gold
Mountain" - a place of freedom and prosperity.
"Gold Mountain Travelers" were
part of an exodus from Southeast China. Before
1900, economic problems at home and job opportunities
abroad caused about 2.5 million people to
leave China. More than 322,000 Chinese came
to the United States between 1850 and 1882.
European trade with China began in 1557 when
Portugal established a settlement at Macao.
Chinese first came to Mexico, and later California,
as part of Spain's Manila Galleon trade between
1565-1815. The first American vessel to
depart for Guangdong (Canton) was the Empress
of China in 1784. Americans traded silver
dollars, ginseng, furs and sealskins, for
teas, silks, ivory, porcelain and other goods.
An expanding maritime commerce brought the
first Chinese immigrants to the United States.
For more than six decades after the American
Revolution, however, only a few seamen, students,
merchants and servants immigrated.
||Portrait of a Peasant Family from Southern
China, circa mid-1800s.
Courtesy of Kelton Foundation.
|Immigrants Leaving China for California.
In the mid-1800s, Chinese immigration to
the States was part of a greater exodus from
Southeast China in search of better economic
opportunities overseas. About two and a half
million Chinese emigrated overseas between
Courtesy of California Historical Society,
American missionaries in China sent
numbers of Chinese boys to the United
for schooling. From 1818 to 1825, five
stayed at the Foreign Mission School
Connecticut. In 1854 Yung Wing became
first Chinese graduate from an American
Yale University. These students were
forerunners of thousands who now come
year to the United States.
|Sunday Service on Board a Pacific Mail Steamship.
Harper's Weekly, Oct. 13, 1888, P776-777.
Courtesy of California Historical Society,
People Left China to Escape War and Hard
Many people left to escape the autocratic rule of the Manchu during the Qing (Ch'ing) dynasty. Opium addiction, promoted by England and other Western nations, also caused problems. In 1839 the Imperial Commissioner ordered seizure and destruction of opium shipments in Guangdong. England declared war and badly defeated the Chinese in the First Opium War (1839-1842). Defeat exposed the military vulnerability of the Chinese empire. Beginning in 1850 the Taiping Rebellion ravaged Southeast China for more than a decade, killing millions of people and leaving even more people destitute.
Early Immigrants Came from South China
About 322,000 Chinese came to the United
States between 1850 and 1882. Most nineteenth-century
Chinese sojourners came from the provinces
of Guangdong and Fujian in South China.
Many Chinese Americans today trace their
roots to the Pearl River Delta in Guangdong
Province. This region consists of eight
districts, each roughly the size of an American
county. Early immigrants to the continental
United States were predominantly from the
Sze Yup District, while Hawaii attracted
people from Zhongshan.
||Chinese Immigration to America. Illustrated
April 29, 1876, P8.
Courtesy of California Historical Society, FN-32010
Chinese Immigrants Traveled by Sea
With a long maritime tradition, the Cantonese
people had a history of immigration abroad
as merchants or political refugees. After
1850, however, most immigrants were peasants,
many of whom could not raise the necessary
passage funds. The "Coolie Trade" involved
immigrants being kidnapped or coerced into
signing term contracts for service in foreign
lands. In California the difficulty of enforcement,
coupled with strong abolitionist sentiments
in the United States, soon forced a halt
to this practice. The Credit Ticket system
involved Chinese brokers advancing passage
money to immigrants, who then repaid their
debts through hard labor after arrival in
the new land.
Sojourners Journeyed to Gum Saan (Gold Mountain)
Most Chinese immigrants coming to America
during the California Gold Rush arrived
San Francisco, which they called Gum
- Gold Mountain - a place of freedom
prosperity. Gold Mountain Travelers
part of an overwhelmingly male exodus
Southeast China. One of the many sojourners
to Gold Mountain was Fong Dun Shung
the village of Dimtao in Guangdong
Like most immigrants, he fled poverty.
traveled with his second and third
leaving behind in China his wife, an
son addicted to opium, a young son
daughter. A typical immigrant, Fong
carried with him simple belongings,
many immigrants, he had a special skill.
Fong Dun Shung was a practitioner of
Chinese herbal medicine.
||The Coming Man at Sea.
Courtesy of Robert Schwendinger
from his book: Ocean of Bitter Dreams:
Maritime Relations Between China and
The United States, 1850-1915.
|Two men eating on ship
Chinese on S.S. China, circa
Courtesy of Hawaii State Archives
||Chinese Immigrants on Ship.
Courtesy of Gim Fong.