People, Races, Ethnicity in the U.S. Chinese Americans Part 1

About the Chinese Americans in the U.S. including where they are from, why they left, how many there are, famous Chinese-Americans and more.


Where They Came From: Prior to W.W. II, almost all of the Chinese in the U.S. emigrated from seven small districts in Kwangtung Province in southeast China. Only in recent years has the origin pattern altered due to the influx of political refugees from Communist China.

Why They Left: News of the California gold rush reached the Chinese in the early 1850s, a time of economic and political instability in Kwangtung Province. The effects of the Opium War of 1840 and the Taiping Rebellion of 1851 had placed severe strains on the already over-populated, agriculturally depressed land. Many Chinese, unable to resist the lure of the "Mountain of Gold," left their families and embarked on the 7,000-mi. journey to California. The typical 19th-century immigrant planned to stay until he made his fortune and could return to his family in China.

Where They Settled: In 1870 Chinese Americans numbered 63,000, and 99% of them lived in California. The 1970 census shows that while California still has the greatest number of Chinese (170,419), they are no longer so heavily concentrated on the West Coast. Approximately 73% of the Chinese population lives in 10 metropolitan areas. Of these 10, the major areas are: (1) San Francisco--Oakland; (2) New York; (3) Honolulu; and (4) Los Angeles. The Chinese in these four areas are primarily concentrated in small, high-density areas called Chinatowns.

Numbers: In 1849 there were only 54 Chinese in the entire U.S. By the end of 1851, the number had jumped to 25,000. The Chinese population steadily increased until 1882, the year of the first Chinese Exclusion Act. While the exclusion acts were repealed in 1943, they were replaced by a new quota system which simply changed "exclusion" to "restriction." It was not until the quota system was relaxed in 1965 that the Chinese population in the U.S. again showed a rapid increase. The 1970 census reported that Chinese Americans then numbered 431,583.

Famous Chinese Americans: Hawaii's Sen. Hiram L. Fong; physicists Tsung Dao Lee and Chen Ning Yang, corecipients of the 1957 Nobel Prize in physics; Oscar-winning cinematographer James Wong Howe; author Lin Yutang, whose works include My Country and My People; Chang and Eng Bunker, the original "Siamese" twins; CBS news reporter Connie Chung; actor and martial arts expert Bruce Lee; and actor Kam Fong, costar of the TV series Hawaii Five-O.

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