[TIMELINE] Population Distribution and "Chinatowns"
- POPULATION DISTRIBUTION AND CHINATOWNS
2. Population growth and distribution
3. A timeline to show population growth of Chinese in California
4. Some examples of Chinatowns
San Francisco Chinatown
Today, Asian Americans belong to the fastest growing ethnic group in
the United States. Kept out of the United States by immigration
restriction laws in the 19th and early 20th centuries, Asians have
recently been coming again to American. The 1965 Immigration Act
reopened the gates to immigrants from Asia, allowing 20,000
immigrants from each country to enter every year.
In the early 1990s, half of all immigrants entering annually are
Asian. The growth of Asian-American population has been dramatic. In
1960, there were only 877,934 Asians in the United States,
representing a mere 1% of American people.
Thirty years later, they numbered about seven million or 3% of the
population. They included 1,645,000 Chinese, and by the year of
2000, Asian Americans will probably represent 4% of the total United
States population. In California, Asian Americans already make up
10% of the state's inhabitants, compared with 7.5% for African
According to the 1990 census conducted by the U.S. government, plus
some 400 thousand Chinese immigrants admitted to U.S. in the past
four years, there are approximately two million ethnic Chinese
residing in the United States today. The majority of the Chinese are
first generation immigrants who came to this country mainly from
China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Southeast Asian countries in the past
A TIMELINE TO SHOW POPULATION GROWTH OF CHINESE IN CALIFORNIA:
1852 - 25,000 (the largest minority)
1860 - 35,000 (70% were miners)
1870 - 50,000 (Depression in California)
1880 - 75,218 (Total number of Chinese in U.S.A.:105,465)
1900 - 45,000
1920 - 27,000
1950 - 50,000
1990 - 704,850 Chinese
POPULATION GROWTH AND DISTRIBUTION:
The first Chinese immigrant arrived in 1820, according to United
States government records. Fewer than 1,000 arrived during the next
27 years. The discovery of gold in California in 1848 drew the first
significant number of Chinese. They came to do menial work for the
growing population of gold seekers.
By 1800 the total had climbed to 105,465, and most lived in the far
West. Most Chinese laborers left home as sojourners, hoping to work
in a foreign country and return home rich in three to five years.
They gave names to their destinations: Tan Heung Shan for the
Hawaiian Islands and Gam Saan ("Gold Mountain") for California.
About 46,000 of them went to Hawaii in the second half of the 19th
century, and about 380,000 went to the United States mainland
between 1849 and 1930. Many thousands more of Chinese who came to
America returned home after a few years.
Since the late 1960 Chinese have been coming to this country at
acceleration pace. Form 1980 to 1990 Chinese population has
increased 105%. And Chinese immigration is projected to continue
through the 90s, thanks to the continuing US policy that allows
100,000 Chinese from China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong to immigrate to
the US annually.
In the 1980, there had 806,027 Chinese. In the 1990 United State
Census tabulated 1,645,472 Chinese. The total population of Chinese
in the United State was 0.7%, and the Chinese remains as a large
subgroup of the Asian Pacific Islander population, followed by
Filipino, Japanese, Asian Indian, and other group.
According to the 1990 Census, Chinese Americans surprise the largest
subgroup of the total Asian pacific Islander population in the
United States. The Chinese who were counted in the 1990 Census equal
almost 23% of all Asian Pacific Islanders in the national
The rank order of states with the largest numbers of Chinese
Americans are California, New York, Hawaii, and Taxes. Large
communities of Chinese Americans can also be found in New Jersey,
Massachusetts, Illinois, and Washington.They prefer to choose these
places as their home, because these cities usually provide a safety
environment for their children, more job opportunities and well-
established Chinese community.
SOME EXAMPLES OF CHINATOWNS:
By the time the transcontinental railroad was completed in 1869, the
population of the Far West especially in California had increased
dramatically. At the beginning of the year 1849, there were only
fifty-four Chinese in the state. At the news of the gold discovery a
steady immigration commenced in the United States numbered 151,000
of whom 116,000 were in the state of California.
This increase in their numbers, rapid even in comparison with the
general increase in population, was also due to the fact that China
was nearer to the shores of California than was the eastern portion
of the United States. Angry white workers riot in Chinatown in
protest of a perceived labor threat by Chinese workers.
This is only one among many cases of anti-Chinese violence around
the West. Cases like this further forced Chinese Americans into
ethnic enclaves like Chinatown for their protection. When gold is
discovered at Sutter's Mill in 1848, the lure of economic prosperity
abroad encourages tens of thousands of Chinese to emigrate to the
U.S., most of them coming through San Francisco, but also settling
in Sacramento and Marysville.
After the turn of the century, many small Chinatowns such as Grass
Valley, Nevada, which were tied to boom towns, declined as economic
bases gave way.
In the first four decades of the 1900s, Chinese moved to urban
centers where jobs were more plentiful; they went to San Francisco,
Chicago, and New York City.
Los Angeles, California
New York: The latest census also reveals that of the 513,000 Asian
Americans living in New York city, almost half of them are Chinese,
outnumbering Koreans and Asian Indians. Chinese American is the
fastest growing segment of the US population (50%growth rate). Many
Chinese Americans who live in the suburbs are successful businessmen
from Hong Kong, Taiwan, and second or third generation successful
San Francisco, California: The prosperous economy of the 1950s
allows an emerging Chinese American middle class to leave Chinatown
in large numbers for suburban neighborhoods. In S.F., the Sunset and
Richmond districts are the neighborhoods of choice. Chinatown
remains as a low-income neighborhood, often for newly-arrived
immigrants. We interviewed 73 Chinese ELL students from our school
at San Francisco. We asked them where and why they chose the place
where they live now. Sunset is the place where most of them live.
One reason made their parents chose Sunset is many people here speak
the same language (Chinese) and so it is easy for them to
Chinatown: San Francisco
Group members: Ivy, Irene, Anna, Annie, Holly, Heidy, Carolyn, &
2. Maps of Chinatown
3. Pictures of Chinatown
4. History of Chinatown
A "Bachelor society"
Earthquake and Fire (1906)
Economic Life Before 1906
A Time-line to show the History of San Francisco Chinatown 1840-1860
SETTING: The boundaries of Chinatown are not clearly demarcated.
There are an old core area, extended areas, and outlying suburbs.
The old core area has the highest population density and is the
center of business, social, political, and cultural life for
Since the lifting of the restrictive covenant in 1947, Chinatown has
grown beyond its old borders and now sprawls through the small
valley that lies between Nob the old Italy and Russian Hills west to
Van Ness Street. It has extended its northern borders as far as
Beach Street, well into the old Italian community of North Beach.
Outlying "satellities" of Chinatown dot San Francisco and can be
identified by the presence of Chinese grocery and condiment stores.
The largest satellities are out in the avenues, in the middle-class
residential districts of Sunset and Richmond.
Chinatown has one of the world's largest Chinese communities outside
Asia. The number of Chinese living in the Chinatown increases year
by year. The vast majority of those who live and work in the core
and extended areas of Chinatown today are working-class families of
newly-arrived immigrants and first-generation Chinese Americans. The
second most numerous groups are the small shopkeepers and a large
number of odd "bachelors." The income level of these groups is low:
forty-one percent of the Chinatown's population falls belows poverty
level by federal standards. Merchant-businessmen, form the Chinatown
establishment, and younger professionals and white collar workers
form a small but influential minority. Although nearly half of the
city's Chinese population lives outside of Chinatown, virtually
every Chinese living in San Francisco has something to do with
Chinatown. Those who live in the "satellite" areas, even if their
work has nothing to do with Chinatown, come in frequently to shop,
attend one of Chinatown's numerous Christian churches, entertain
friends over a banquet, or to attend one of the annual functions of
their family associations. Their ties with Chinatown, however, are
strong than those people who work or live there. A tiny group of
well-to-do political refugees from Taiwan and north China maintain
no direct ties with Chinatown.
Someone said that Chinatown is the most horrible place because there
are too many people. However it is a great place for the old
Chinese, because the old Chinese do not know English, and they don't
have the same talking points generations. Only Chinatown could help
them find out the things they have lost.
A model of S.F. Chinatown
A Map of San Francisco
A Map of S.F. Chinatown
Pictures of S.F. Chinatown : Picture 1 & Picture 2
HISTORY OF CHINATOWN: In 1848, the first Chinese came to America.
They could not live in city, because most of them went around about
the mining, they only stayed in a city long enough to buy boots and
other mining stuff. Only a few of them worked in the city, like
cooks and laundry etc.
Buildings: The place where they lived were the building which had
the same style as in China. The first movement after raising the
frame was to attach the window, which consisted of frame and blinds
without sash. The blind was so constructed as to close itself by its
own weight - the slat being double width outside. The timber was
very uniform in size, and about six or eight inches in diameter. The
board was well seasoned and resembled American cedar. The price of a
Chinese building, including the erection, was $1,500. The building,
however, consisted of simply the frame and covering.
Housing Crisis: In the 1970s, the core area of Chinatown faced the
most severe housing crisis of any ethnic ghetto in San Francisco.
The density rate of people living in the core area was 120 to 180
persons per acre, second only to highly crowded areas of Manhattan.
Seventy-seven percent of the housing in this area was substandarded
by city codes. Most of it consisted of fifty-or sixty-year-old
tenement houses, built after the San Francisco earthquake with 5" by
10' or 9' by 12' rooms for the single bachelors. Only six units out
of every hundred has adequate plumbing facilities, as compared to
eighty-three units in a hundred for the city as a whole. Communal
cooking and communal bathrooms were a way of life in these
buildings, where families arranged cooking hours in shift and where
tenants lined up with washing items in hand to await the use of
bathroom facilities in the morning.As the population in Chinatown
continued to increase, the number of available, low-rent housing
units had steadily declined because new outposts of the financial
district to the south have eaten away old tenement houses. Thus,
although the total population of the Chinatown-North Beach area
increased by two thousand people between 1960 and 1970, a high,
twenty percent growth rate of the fourteen percent decreased in the
white population. There was a net loss of 815 housing units. The
quantity of available low-rent units decreased even more sharply.
Men in Chinatown tore down the walls of tiny rooms in the old
bachelors' quarters in Chinatown to make room for their
families. "Our room was designed for the old bachelors who used to
come over here," a middle-aged man who grew up over a store told
us. "All my father did was to break down some of the walls and we
lived there over the store."
The same immigration laws which gave rise to a society of male
laborers in Chinatown slowed the growth of families among American
Chinese. During the long years when village custom and American law
had compelled men to marry in Kwangtung and commute back and forth
to visit their wives, the presence of families in Chinatown was
rare. "The greatest impression I have of my childhood in those days
was that at that time there were very few families in Chinatown,"
a "paper son" who arrived in 1913 recalled. "Babies were looked on
with a kind of wonder." It was not until the 1920s, seventy years
after the beginning of Chinese life in California, that the
reproduction of a visible second generation began. These few
families grew up in the midst of a declining bachelor society where
children, like women, were prize.
With few exceptions, the men who began Chinatown's early families
were the owners of small businesses, often former laborers who had
saved enough money to begin a modest enterprise. After many years,
since once they had registered as merchants, they and their wives
could be exempted from the exclusion acts, these former laborers
would return to China in their new status as owners of import-export
firms, groceries, or hard goods stores, chose a woman for marriage,
and brought her back on a long ocean journey. In California (except
during the six years while the Immigration Act of 1924 was in
effect), these women could then settle permanently, although, like
their husbands, they were ineligible for citizenship. Occasionally
the owners of laundries, restaurants, or even hired laborers (all of
whom were subject exclusion) also managed to bring in wives by
bribing wealthier Chinatown merchants to list their names as
partners in business. Finally, a slow increase in the population of
native-born Chinese women also contributed to the gradual
proliferation of families in Chinatown. These families literally
filled the spaces left by elderly bachelors whose numbers declined
through death and retirement to China.
As number of families grew, the center of gravity of Chinatown life
gradually shifted from a bachelor society to families of small
businessmen and nexus of social relations and concerns which
accompanied their existence. Bachelor laborers and small business
families continued to live side by side in Chinatown, but
increasingly family life came to dominate the focus of community
attention and to define the external image of Chinatown to American
society. As the more successful families prospered, they were in
time capable of hiring workers who were often younger relatives from
villages in Kwangtung. Men from these prosperous families entered
the institutional life of the community and reinvigorated the
merchant leadership of family associations, district associations,
and the Chinese Six Companies. Their participation enhanced the
strength and prestige of these institutions and brought them more
fully in line with the needs and interests of small business and the
family society. This phenomenon marked the real decline of the
Chinatown tongs and the eventual eclipse of the once colorful life
which revolved around the lives of the single male laborers.
Earthquake, fire, and Chinatown: It was only one hundred years ago,
the Chinatown had one of the very big changes. In the early of
1900's it went through one of very big earthquake and a fire, then
later on, a lots of buildings needed to rebuilt again. Only a few of
them looked like before the earthquake.
Three days after the earthquak, Chinatown was reduced to rubble and
smoldering ashes. The day after the quake many Chinese gathered up
on Russian Hill, watching the fires that were raging throughout the
city. It was a cold, breezy day and soot filled the air, turning a
sunny sky into an eerie grayness. Explosions could be heard
throughout the city. Martial law had been declared and the army was
dynamiting buildings to make wide alleys through city blocks and
thus limit the spreading destruction. Chinatown burned and, as
everywhere else, its residents were prevented from reentering the
quarter. Federal troops with bayonets were commanded to shoot
looters and anyone who disobeyed their orders.
The story of Arnold Genthe: He was sleeping in his four-story house
and studio on Sutter and Jones Streets, just south of Nob Hill, on
the morning of April 18th, and "was awakened by a terrifying sound -
the Chinese porcelains that I had been collecting in the last years
had crashed to the floor.... The whole house was creaking and
shaking, the chandelier was swinging like a pendulum, and I felt as
if I were in a ship tossed about by a rough sea." After dismissing
his Japanese servant and quickly inspecting his house, he put on
suitable "earthquake attire," as he termed it, and went to see the
damage wrought by the quake. After wandering about, visiting
friends, and having a free breakfast at the Saint Francis Hotel, he
returned to his house to get his camera. " The one thought uppermost
in my mind was not to bring some of my possessions to a place of
safety but to make photographs of the scenes I had been
After discovering his cameras had been damaged by falling plaster,
he went to his camera dealer on Montgomery Street and was given,
free of charge, anything he wanted. He took a Kodak 3A Special,
stuffed his pockets with film, and started out on his photographic
expedition. After the fire abated, Genthe returned to the rubble
that was once his house to find that practically everything he
possessed had gone up in smoke. Amid the bricks and charred wood his
worst suspicions were confirmed. "The thousands of negatives which I
had made during that time were now but chunks of molten, iridescent
glass, fused together in fantastic forms. "This nightmarish scene
did not represent total disaster, however. He had heeded the
prophetic advice of Will Irwin, who, before the quake, had looked
through his Chinatown pictures and remarked, "You really ought not
to keep these plates and films here. Someday the whole city will
burn up. There'll never be another Chinatown like this one, and you
have its only picture record. "After the quake and fire, the
negatives were found unharmed, safely stored inside a friend's vault.
Relocation of Chinatown??? After the fire, the Chinese scattered all
over the Bay region. The city government immediately set up the
Subcommittee on Relocating the Chinese. The assumption was that the
Chinese would not be allowed to return to the rubble-filled streets
and alleys of Tangrenbu. The real estate* was simply too desirable
for downtown commercial interests. On Sunday, April 22, the Chinese
who remained in the Chinatown area were segregated into a camp at
North Beach. The racist hostility toward the Chinese before the
quake continued and actually intensified. During the days following
the disaster. By Monday reports of severe suffering among the
Chinese had reached even President Theodore Roosevelt. Though he was
hardly sympathetic to the plight of the Chinese in the United
Stated, the situation was so bad that Roosevelt warned the San
Francisco Red Cross not to discriminate along racial lines in giving
out first aid. As it turned out, the bulk of the aid for Chinese and
Japanese in San Francisco did not come from the communities
themselves.(*In 1905 a corporation was formed to remove Chinatown.
It was discovered that only thirty of the three hundred and fifty
individual owners of property in Chinatown were Chinese. The total
value of the real estate in Chinatown at that time was estimated at
$6,000,000. It was believed that if the occupants were removed and
modern improvement constructed the property would be worth
$25,000,000. With such profit in sight the corporation was formed to
move Chinatown and build a city, externally Chinese but essentially
modern on the Bay Shore South of San Francisco. Docks and wharves
were to be constructed and an attempt made to secure a larger
portion of Chinese commerce. It is doubtful if such a plan could
ever have been carried out, even if the earthquake and fire had not
Chinatown was completely destroyed by the fire, and the mayor of San
Francisco announced that the Chinese would not be allowed to build
on their old sites. But when many of them began to leave the city
for Oakland, San Francisco, appalled by the ruin on every side and
anxious to re-establish business, offered them inducements to stay.
The Chinese saw that the city would soon be rebuilt, so they
remained. They agreed among themselves that each merchant could go
back to his old site if he wished. Some white speculators who had
bought up the most desirable locations were puzzled when they found
they could not rent their buildings. If the original occupation of
the site thought the rent of the new building too high, no other
Chinaman would rent the building. There were many things about the
Old Chinatown that the white people never understood.)
In the ensuing days a great deal of discussion went on among city
officials on where to relocate Chinatown. At no time were the
Chinese workers or merchants consulted. First it was decided that
Hunter's Point would be the new location, then that plan was
objected to because the city would stand to lose the substantial
discriminatory taxes that Chinese paid into the city's coffers each
year. By Thursday, the day after the quake, the North Beach camp was
moved to the golf course at the Presidio. Perhaps that location, it
was thought, could be the permanent Chinatown. On Friday a
delegation of Presidio residents, many of whom were local property
owners, called on the military authorities and strenuously objected
to their new neighbors. The summer zephyrs, they claimed, would blow
the odors of Chinatown to their front doors. This was said to be
enough to drive these upper crust white folk into the Bay in terror.
So the few Chinese that remained, less than a hundred, were moved
once again to a more remote section of the Presidio.
Meanwhile Chinatown was being looted by neighboring Italians from
North Beach, and by the National Guard, which was supposed to be
protecting the area. The Consul General, Ching Pao-His*, raised this
issue to Governor Pardee to no avail. Curfews and protective
regulations were relaxed for Chinatown. No efforts were made to stop
looters and certainly no shots were fired. Looters carried
off "bushels of bronzes, brasses and partly melted jewelry." By the
last week of April the mistreatment of the San Francisco Chinese had
reached such flagrant proportions that that the city officials of
Los Angeles offered to supply them with a new home. While all this
controversy occupied city officials, those few Chinese who owned
land in Tangrenbu had already begun reconstruction. Chinatown was
not moved, but remained in the same location as old Chinatown-
alleyways and all.PAPER SON: The one positive consequence of the
quake and fire for Chinese was that all U.S. Customs immigration
records were destroyed. This made it virtually impossible too
determine the number of Chinese who were legally allowed to work of
false papers was to grow out of the ashes of these get more Chinese
into the United States. Thousands of Chinese who were in the United
States when the fire occurred would now claim that they were U.S.
citizens and apply to bring their sons and/or families over. The
story of Genthe: In 1911, Genthe left San Francisco for New York
City. One Year later, an event of monumental historical importance
occurred in China. Dr.Sun Yat-sen led a revolution that succeeded in
establishing the Republic of China, over-throwing centuries of
dynastic rule. In a letter written by Arnold Genthe to Will Irwin in
1912, appearing as a Postscript to Old Chinatown, Genthe
sentimentally bemoaned the disappearance of the feeling of the Old
quarter: "It was the evening before my departure from San Francisco,
just about a year ago. I had strolled down to Chinatown for a last
visit. In the glare of blazing shop fronts, in the noise of chugging
automobiles carrying sightseers, I again, as so many times before,
found myself trying to see the old mellowness of dimly-lit alleys,
the mystery of shadowy figures shuffling along silently...At last I,
who for years had tried to deceive myself with sentimental
persistency-just as one searches for traces of lost beauty in a
beloved face-was forced to admit that Old Chinatown, the city we
loved so well, is no more, A new City, cleaner, better, brighter,
has risen in its place."
The shuffling, shadowy figures that Genthe rather condescendingly
referred to be deeply affected by the revolution in China. The
Manchu foreigners had been overthrown and a new parliamentary-style
government had been formed, led by Western-educated Dr.Sun. That
event, far more than the earthquake and fire, fire, affected the
appearance and attitude of Chinese in San Francisco and the world.
Queues were cut off in celebration of the ending of 268 years of
Manchu domination. China and Chinese eagerly entered the twentieth
century. Wanting to strengthen the nation, Sun encouraged patriotic
youth to learn from Japan, the United States, and Europe. Within
Tangrenbu, Western-style dress became more and more common, slowly
displacing traditional everyday and holiday wear.
Genthe was to return to San Francisco several times before his death
in 1942. In 1927 he took a few photographs of Chinatown, some of
which were published in Asia magazine under the title "Time's
Whirligig in Chinatown." His captions noted the differences he
found: "The once quaint streets are now brilliantly illuminated,
smoothly asphalted, filled with noisy automobiles and crowds in
American clothes." "Cash-register and department-store manners have
replaced the abacus and the patient, unfailing courtesy of the old-
time shops." And "American clothes are replacing the picturesque
garments of yesterday, and an ambition to be 'American' in manners
as well as appearance is evident-in nobody more noticeably, of
course, than in the Children."The new Tangrenbu was far less exotic
to Western sensibilities. Genthe still focused his camera on
favorite subjects-street-corner scenes, alleyway walls filled with
posters and notices, and of course, children. He took these new
photographs, however, not to give a complete picture of the new
community, but to provide a selection of scenes that could be
contrasted with those of his pre-earthquake compositions. These
photographs are more like random reflections upon lost times than
enthusiastic affirmations of the new community.
The American-born Chinese were now raising their own families of
second-generation citizens. The "old-timers" were disappearing one
by one. These new conditions brought their own problems and
possibilities. Old Chinatown had faded into the background. Its
physical traces had been all but destroyed, but the residents who
were old enough to remember still carefully harbored its memories.
And it is these stories salvaged from individual memories, combined
with Genthe's photographs that give us the opportunity today to
reconstruct the everyday street life of Tangrenbu
ECONOMIC LIFE BEFORE 1906: The news of the discovery of gold in
California in January 1848 reached China in the spring of that year
and caused much excitement. The Chinese as a rule does not emigrate,
but the tales of wealth from gold mining and of the high wages paid
to laborers drew them to California. Also, a demand for clothing,
provisions, and frame houses developed. These could be shipped from
China or Honolulu more quickly than they could be brought around the
Horn from the eastern United States, but since the shipping
interests encouraged emigration with much success, in a short time
these goods were produced in California by Chinese, as well as
shipped from China.
Many of the early Chinese arrivals were merchants who established
stores throughout state and in San Francisco for trade with their
own people and with the whites. Some of them were clever traders and
made more in this field than they could have made in the mines,
although little capital was brought to California for investment.
The Chinese merchants dealt in rice, tea, preserved fruits, and
general provisions for their own people; for the American trade silk
and sugar were also important items. In 1861 Chinese importers in
San Francisco paid $500,000 duty. The tariffs on tea, rice, sugar,
silk, and various small articles from China were raised the next
year, and it was estimated that the duties for 1862 would amount to
nearly a million dollars. The prediction made in 1850, that the
commerce of Eastern Asia, so far as the United States and Europe
were its recipients, was destined to pass through San Francisco,
seemed to be coming true. San Francisco also exported a number of
products to China, particularly, abalone, grain, flour, fish,
lumber, potatoes, and quicksilver, and large sums of treasure, both
gold and silver, were sent each year. American cotton found a good
market in China, and, when the foreign settlements became important,
a great variety of American-made products were consumed by the
foreigners in China.
Business in Chinatown was interrupted for several weeks early in
1900. The body of man was found in a basement, and the community was
quarantined for bubonic plague. The quarantine was very strict; the
streets were roped off, and no one was allowed to enter or leave
Chinatown. Later it was discovered that there was no basis for the
A TIME-LINE TO SHOW HISTORY OF SAN FRANCISCO CHINATOWN
1840-60 1846: First American flag in California is raised in
Portsmouth Square. It eventually becomes the city's canter for the
next several decades. As a result, large numbers of Chinese
Americans open up businesses nearby Portsmouth Square, laying down
the foundations for the eventual formation of Chinatown.
1848: The Gold Rush of 1849. When gold is discovered at Sutter's
Mill in 1848, the lure of economic prosperity aboard encourages tens
of thousands of Chinese to emigrate to the U.S., most of them coming
through San Francisco, but also settling in Sacramento and
1849-54: Chinatown Benevolent Associations (Six Companies) are
established in Chinatown. These family and district associations are
founded to faciliate organization within the local communities. In
1901, Benevolent Association.
1850-1864: Taiping Rebellion leaves 20,000,000 Chinese dead and
spurs mass immigration out of China.
1852: Foreign Miner's Tax levied against Chinese and Mexican miners
to protect white miners' interests. Chinese masons hold first labor
strike in San Francisco history. Hong Fook Tong theater company of
China ships over and build a theatre for Chinatown, reflecting that
a permanent community is developing in the nascent neighborhood.
1857: Kong Chow Temple becomes the first Buddhist temple in S.F.
1864-1869: Central Pacific Railroad Company, which is 90% Chinese
laborers, helps build and complete the Transcontinental Railway.
Thousands of Chinese lives are lost in the dangerous working
conditions. In 1867, Chinese railway laborers stage an unsuccessful,
but massive two-week strike.
1868: China and US sign the Burlingame Treaty, which simultaneously
formalized immigration status for Chinese while denying them
naturalization rights. China also lifts their prohibition on
1870: Anti-Chinese ordinances are passed in S.F. to curtail their
housing and employment options. Queues are banned.
1877: Angry white workers riot in Chinatown in protest of a
perceived labor threat by Chinese workers. This is only one among
many cases of anti-Chinese violence around the West. Cases like this
further forced Chinese Americans into ethnic enclaves like Chinatown
for their protection.
Denis Kearny organizes the Workingmen's Party of California whose
slogan is "The Chinese Must Go!"
1906: The Great Earthquakes of 1906 is a watershed event for
Chinatown. Meanwhile, the destruction of municipal records allows
for the forging of birth certificates that promptly the influx of
thousands of more Chinese, who became known as paper sons.
1907: First Canton Bank opens.
1908: Chinese Chamber of Commerce formed.
1910-11: Chinese revolutionary leader Sun Yat Sen comes and lives in
1910-1940: Angel Island, in SF Bay, operates as a detention and
processing center for Chinese immigration. Thousands of Chinese
immigrants spend weeks and months detained, undergoing rigorous
interrogations by U.S. immigration officials.
1911: Chinatown YMCA founded its headquarters, on Sacramento St., is
completed in 1926.
1915: The segregated Oriental School is opened in Chinatown. This is
SF's attempt to provide for the educational needs of Chinatown
youth, but though a segregated system in order to prevent them from
accessing white schools.
1916: Chinatown YMCA founded.
1921: Chinatown Public Library opens.
1927: The Chinese Playground, on Sacramento St., is built.
1950s: The prosperous economy of the 1950s allows all an emerging
middle-class Chinese Americans to leave Chinatown in large numbers
for suburban neighborhoods. In S.F., the Sunset and Richmond
districts are the neighborhoods of choice. Chinatown remained as low-
income neighborhoods, often for newly arrived immigrants.
1965-present: Congress passes the Immigration Act of 1965, heralding
a new era in Asian immigration. Among its significant changes, the
Act dramatically increase the quota set for Asian immigration, but
it also favors middle class immigrants, thus influenced the changing
demographics of Chinese Americans over the next 30 years. The new
influx of low-skilled Chinese immigrants repopulates Chinatown with
a new generation of Chinese Americans.