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The History of Chinese Immigration to the U.S.

by Yvonne Liang

Chinese immigrated into the United States for about 156 years. At the start of 1849 there were only 55 Chinese men in the US. At the news of the gold discovery in California, about 151,000 Chinese came to the US, mostly to California. Why did they immigrate to the US? How did they come to the US? What kinds of sacrifices did they make? How did they work?

People had a few reasons why they decided to immigrate to the US. A series of wars, rebellions, civil disorders, floods, famines and droughts made earning a livelihood in China difficult. During this time, China was devastatingly defeated by the British in the Opium War of 1840s. Southeastern China was in poverty and ruins caused by the Taiping rebellion. Therefore, many Chinese immigrated to the US from Canton after news of the gold discovery in California.

Immigrants undertook a Pacific Ocean journey of three weeks by ship. Many passengers could barely afford steerage class travel. Most had to borrow money from their relatives and neighbors.

Chinese immigrants were sacrifices in the US. Like as contributions, mining, construction and agriculture. After gold was discovered in California, they joined gold seeker from all over the world. They worked in the Columbia Mining districts. The Big Gap Flum and the Transcontinental Railroad were constructed by Chinese workers. Few Chinese Americans were able to become independent farmers. Many raised vegetables and sold door to door. Chinese immigrants brought ailanthus seeds to this country was to grow an herbal remedy beneficial for arthritis.

Chinese immigrants worked in very dangerous conditions. They were forced to work from sun up to sun down and sleep in tents in the middle of winter. They received low salaries, about $25-35 a month for 12 hours a day, and worked six days a week. They were discriminated since 1882 to 1943s. They had no voice in determining their future. “Coolie” was the name of Chinese.

Chinese immigrants wanted to improve their lives that had to borrow money to come to the US. They made many sacrifices to live in the US. Although they worked in bad condition, most people believed they could make money back quickly.

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