Empress of China Fan
This fan depicts the Empress of China—the first American merchant vessel to trade with China. The ship departed from New York harbor in 1784 and returned the following year, laden with porcelains, silks, and teas.
Anna May Wong Certificate of Identity
August 28, 1924
National Archives at San
Starting in 1909, Chinese entering or residing in the U.S. were required to carry a government-issued Certificate of Identity at all times. Even movie stars like Anna May Wong were subject to the law.
China in New York 4th of July Parade
Library of Congress,
Prints & Photographs Division, [LC-B2-2302-15].
The large and prosperous community of Chinese residents in Marysville, California acquired this ceremonial dragon from China in the 1880s. The majestic "Moo Lung" appeared in parades and celebrations nationwide, including the July 4th, 1911 "Parade of Nations" in New York City.
The Ging Hawk Club, Thanksgiving, Hotel Sheraton, NYC
Courtesy of Alice Lee
Chun, Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA) Collection.
American-born Chinese youth gravitated to the Ging Hawk Club, which began in the 1930s as a YWCA-affiliated group. Drawing upon family life, home village traditions, and business interests, such clubs helped structure public life for Chinese in America.
Activist Wong Chin Foo published this newspaper, entitled Chinese American, in New York in 1883—possibly the first public use of the term "Chinese American." In the wake of the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act, Wong intended the title as an assertion of identity and a challenge to anti-Chinese sentiment.
Low Family Portrait
Courtesy of Museum of
Chinese in America (MOCA) Collection.
Adapting to the immigration laws that kept them apart, a local photography studio helped the Low family of New York create an impossible family portrait by pasting in the faces of missing relatives.
Private Collection. Courtesy of
WGBH Educational Foundation.
Joyce Chen left Shanghai in 1949, settling in Cambridge, MA. Capitalizing on her culinary skills, she opened a Mandarin-style restaurant in 1958. Her growing reputation and subsequent cookbook landed her a nationally televised cooking show—the first TV series with an Asian host—and her own Chinese cookware line.
"Write Your Congressman," in Chinese Press
September 10, 1943
Courtesy of Chinese
Historical Society of America (CHSA).
During WWII, Chinese Americans and their supporters petitioned Congress to repeal the Chinese Exclusion Act. Their campaign was successful—the 60-year statute was overturned in 1943. However, Chinese immigration remained subject to severe quotas.
NBC News, October 9, 2014
Chinese-American history was rarely discussed in school when I grew up in New York City. I remember Chinese laborers were briefly mentioned during a lesson on the California Gold Rush and the transcontinental railroad. The 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act — America's first immigration restriction law — was just another historical event in a string of many I memorized for tests.
Hyperallergic, November 3, 2014You walk into the New-York Historical Society’s Chinese American: Inclusion/Exclusion and see the sort of exhibition you expect from a stately uptown museum: a gilded frame featuring an upright white man with mutton chops, a miniature ship, fine porcelains. But when you turn the corner, something different greets you: a chain-link cage, simulations of a eugenicist medical examination, harsh customs interrogations. The exhibition asks you to reconsider the grandiosity of those first sections, and how the revered objects of the past take on richer and darker meanings when measured by the lived experiences of the many.
The New York Times, October 2, 2014
The tea dumped in Boston Harbor's party came from China. So did George Washington's china. The Erie Canal was inspired by China's Grand Canal. And the lure of Chinese trade spurred the building of the transcontinental railroad. (The labor force for its western segment was 80 percent Chinese.) Without Chinese exclusion laws, which by the late 19th century were severely restricting Chinese immigration, the regulations and bureaucracy that now shape immigration policy might never have arisen.