When the Chinese First Came to the U.S.

Subject: History
Pages: 4
Words: 1232
Reading time:
6 min
Study level: College

At the beginning of the 19th century, China had begun receiving news of gold deposits that the U.S discovered in California. China and the U.S had the Burlingame treaty in 1868, which lifted all the previous immigration restrictions (Babones 10). The lifting of the limitation caused an influx of immigrants into the United States (Zhou 412). The news of gold deposits motivated the Chinese gold seekers to embark on a transpacific journey at the Hong Kong docks (Hamilton 132). While the merchants could afford to carry their wives and children overseas, most Chinese immigrants could not afford it because they were farmers, peasants, and craftsmen (Guo 50). Therefore, they left their wives and children back in China, where the wives would care for their husbands’ parents.

Most Chinese workers could not afford to fund the journey and, thus, borrowed money from their relatives, commercial lenders, or the district associations. The American employers also sent hiring agencies who would pay by credit ticket system for the laborer’s voyage for the Chinese who did not afford to borrow money (Guo 51). The laborers would pay back the money that the agencies advanced to them through the credit ticket system. Thus, they would send the money that they got in the United States back home. The American enactment of the Federal law in 1882 saw about 300000 Chinese immigrants arrive in America (Guo 51). This Chinese population in the U.S accumulated between the California gold rush and the end of the Chinese influx.

The mistreatment of the Chinese immigrants in America begins almost at entry into the United States. Whereas the Burlingame treaty of 1868 gave the Chines a legal basis for admission into the U.S, discrimination was blatant, given the different policies organized for the European immigrants (Babones 12). While children that European immigrants bore in the United States created room for their parent’s naturalization, the children that the Chinese bore acquired American citizenship (Waldinger 22). In contrast, their parent remained as foreigners forever. Besides this mistreatment, the Chinese immigrants suffered several culture shocks because they had come from the rural areas of China and did not speak or understand English (Waldinger 15). They had difficulty adjusting to the western culture and maneuvering their ways around the major towns, for instance, the town of San Francisco.

The Chinese immigrants experienced racism from the European Americans, which hindered their assimilation into American society. To survive these mistreatments, the Chinese created benevolent associations to enhance their cooperation, cohesion, and support. Further, their appearance prevented them from assimilation. The Chinese could not adjust their appearance without risking beheading once they visit their families back in China. The Qing dynasty law forced the Han Chinese men to shave the front part of their heads. The Han Chinese would then comb into a queue the remaining hair (Carrico 41). That shaving and combing aimed at distinguishing friends from the enemy, a sign of identity and a show of submission. Thus, they kept their braids, which the Americans hated to allow them frequent re-entry into China to see their families. These immigrants further upheld their traditional beliefs that ranged from ancestral worship, Taoism, Confucianism, and Buddhism, with others following the ecclesiastical doctrines.

The Tanka women prostitutes had a plant sale outlet for Tanka girls who the people exported to the Chinese communities overseas for prostitution in America and Australia or concubines for the Chinese or the foreigners. In 1850, during the first wave of the Chinese movement, there were seven Chinese women only compared to 4018 men in the whole of the Chinese population in San Francisco (Hamilton 138). In 1855, Chinese women made up two percent of the Chinese people in America. The shortfall resulted from the high cost of the voyage and deprivation of opportunities for Chinese women in the U.S.

The Chinese men also feared that the Americans would subject their wives and families to racial discrimination and violence that they faced. This shortage of women caused an unbalanced gender ratio, which resulted in the rapid growth of prostitution and sex trade as a lucrative business. In 1870, U.S conducted a population census, which indicated that there were 3536 Chinese women in California, whose 61 percent were treated prostitution as their source of livelihood (Das 173). The American legislature, press, and police criticized Chinese prostitution, leaving out the prostitutes of European and American origin (Das 171). This singling out of the Chinese women depicted the Chinese as immoral.

Christian missionaries tried to spread Christian religion amongst the Chinese settlements in America. However, their integration became difficult because very few Chinese people in these communities could speak in English. Methodist and Presbyterian missionaries began activities that aimed to stop prostitution amongst the Chinese. The California legislature enacted laws to curtail brothels, which would see the Chinese prostitutes reduce. In 1880, the United States conducted a census, whose results showed a paltry percentage of the 3171 Chinese women that the U.S categorized as prostitutes in the whole of California (Chung 58). Most Chinese women married the few Chinese Christians, and these formed initial America’s mainland families of Chinese-American Origin. However, the U.S capitalized on the issue of prostitution to hinder the immigration of Chinese women (Lazo 2). In 1875, the U.S Congress passed the Page Act stopped all Chinese women that the U.S embassies considered detestable from entering the U.S (De Genova 24). The U.S consulates more often categorized many women as prostitutes, denying all the Chinese women that desired to enter the U.S opportunities to do so.

President Chester A. Arthur signed into law the Chinese Exclusion Act that barred all laborers of Chinese origin from immigrating to America. This enactment was a further extension of discrimination beyond the Page Act that Americans passed in 1875, which banned all Chinese women from entering the United States. Thus, executing the Chinese Exclusion Act was the first attempt to prevent the whole ethnic group from immigrating into America (Dunigan 84). Against the Burlingame treaty that China and U.S had signed in 1868, with the United States revising it in another treaty (Angell Treaty) in 1880. The 1880’s treaty suspended the Immigration of Chinese into the United States (Lazo 5). Although the U.S intended the Angell Treaty of 1880 to remain in effect for the next ten years, the U.S kept renewing it (Bonomi 253). In 1892, the U.S enacted Geary Act that strengthened the Angell treaty, making it permanent in 1902 (Bonomi 253). The laws allowed only teachers, students, travelers, merchants, and diplomats, excluding all other Chinese from immigrating into America.

In Naomi Shihab Nye’s story “Museum,” A Chinese girl falls in love with an American minister’s son, Robert. When the girl’s parents invite the American minister’s family, the girl feels intimidated and that American culture is superior to their Chinese culture. Seemingly, there is a culture adaptation gap even from table mannerisms that the Chinese family exhibited. In conclusion, the Chinese suffered mistreatment in the United States. They were manipulated to offer cheap labor, discriminated against in terms of their race, and undue prejudice that The United States meted against the Chinese women (Baker 54). U.S government enacted several acts that sorely singled out the Chinese immigrants. In contrast, there were other immigrants from Europe. Mainly, the U.S was biased against the poor immigrants from China who had come to seek employment to fend for their families back home.

Works Cited

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Carrico, Kevin. The Great Han. University of California Press, 2017.

Chung, Sue Fawn. “Out of the Shadows and into Politics: The Experiences of Chinese American Women in the American West.” California History vol. 97, no. 4, 2020, pp. 56-82. Web.

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Waldinger, Roger. “Between “here” and “there”: Immigrant Cross-Border Activities and Loyalties.” The International Migration Review, vol. 42, no. 1, 2008, pp. 3-29.

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