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The History of Chinese Immigration to the U.S.

by Leah He


I choose “The history of Chinese immigration to the U.S.” as this topic, because I am curious about why they wanted to immigrate to the U.S., and I want to know more about my country’s past.

The beginning of Chinese immigration to the U.S. was in 1849 during the California gold rush. At that time only 54 Chinese people were in the United States. But during the period of gold excitement between 1849-1876, the number of immigrants rapidly increased to 151,000, 116,000 of whom were in California. They came mostly from Guangdong, from the same village and had the same surname. Most people had to borrow money for their passage, but they were required to repay the debt.

Most Chinese immigrated to U.S. to escape. The cause of people leaving was to break away from the difficult position in China. For example, a series of wars, like the Taiping rebellions, that led to civil disorders, and floods, droughts, and catastrophes made earning a livelihood in China difficult. When the golden hills of California known in all of the Chinese ports, placards, maps and pamphlets, the opportunity led many people to consider starting a new life in a new country.

In 1853-4, many business houses failed that many Chinese were unemployed. Compared to natives, they worked in agriculture, mining, domestic service, on railroad construction crews, and low-paying industrial jobs. This is because they were illiterate and unskilled. Also, Chinese immigrant worker’s wage was $20 a month less than the white workers. For example, the white workers received $35 a month then without food and shelter, but Chinese immigrant workers received $26-$35 a month for 12 hours day 6 days work week and had to provide their own food and tents. Also, the work was grueling. Stumps watched them work from sun up to sun down. They carried dirt and rocks away in baskets and carts, with pickaxes, hammers, and crowbars, workers chipped out railbeds. During the winter of 1865-1866, an estimated 1,200 Chinese immigrant workers died in the Sierra Nevadas to carve out a rail bed from ridges that jutted up 2,000 feet over the valley below.

By reading this history, I realized how the Chinese immigrants suffered, and I learned more about the past of my county. Furthermore, currently the Chinese immigration is increasing every year. Because they believe the U.S. is good for their next generations to study a new language and skill. Also, they can find a good job and change a better life.

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