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Weaverville Chinese family
Five Views: An Ethnic Historic Site Survey for California



current topic Introduction
Early Contacts

Historic Sites
Selected References


A History of Chinese Americans in California:

This report concentrates on the early decades of Chinese American history, 1850 to 1900. Limiting our scope in time has made it possible to search for endangered resources in all 58 counties of the state, instead of restricting our activity to the leading 10 or 12 counties. In consultation with members of the Chinese American community, the survey research team set this priority because of the importance of ascertaining true settlement patterns, occupations, lifestyles, responses to discrimination, and survival of early Chinese immigrants.

Information on these subjects in nineteenth-century newspapers and other written records is filled with caricatures and derogatory epithets. Yet these sources are often quoted even today because of the scarcity of written documentation on certain aspects of Chinese American history. Because of this, the value of the survey of Chinese American historic sites goes beyond simple recognition of certain historic buildings and places. The location, type, and historic significance of those buildings and places provide valuable information about patterns of early Chinese American life.

The term "Chinese American" is used here in its broadest sense, to include both citizens and non-citizens. The reason is that until 1943, Chinese immigrants (with few exceptions) were prevented by law from be coming naturalized citizens of this country. Because such legislation was discriminatory, it seems only fair to include as Chinese Americans permanent residents who spent most of their lives in the United States, and whose major achievements or contributions were in the United States. Even many of those who in their final years returned to China to die left their children and grandchildren in this country.

Chinese American history is a living, continuous history, as shown by the numbers of fourth-, fifth-, and sixth-generation Chinese Americans in California and elsewhere in the United States. To make this clear in the survey, some historic sites from the early twentieth century were included. The early Chinese immigrant population did not die out but survived despite racial violence, discriminatory legislation, restrictive covenants, and limited opportunity. Amid the increased numbers of Chinese immigrants in recent years, it should be remembered that not all Chinese Americans are recent arrivals.

Fresno Chinese American Community
Fresno Chinese American Community, Fresno County

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