◆About The Book◆
A Legacy Magnified: A Generation of Chinese Americans in Southern California, 1980’s-2010’s (南加華人三十年史話英文版) is a monumental publication jointly authored by a team of renowned group of writers consisting of 17 chapters, nearly 1 million words, and more than 1,300 photographs, many of which are collected from historical archives. It is an unprecedented endeavor undertaken by more than 500 volunteers who were privileged to have witnessed the drastic and amazing transformation of Chinese American communities in Southern California during the critical three decades, from the 1980’s to the 2010’s.
This handsome volume encompasses an historical account of multifarious realms of community development, including various aspects of culture, history, political participation, economic growth, businesses, education, language, sports, mass media, science and technology, scholarly research, literature, music, dance, theatre and other performing arts, among other subjects.
This book is substantial, and is dedicated to “All Chinese of past, present, and future generations who contribute to the world culture by incorporating the quintessence of Chinese civilization and their heritage.”
Larry Wong 黃金泉
A Remarkable Generation
Who Passes Down the Cultural Torch and Forges Ahead into the Future
It has been over one hundred and sixty years since the Chinese came to settle in Southern California. I arrived Los Angeles in 1948 when I was seventeen. I heard the hardship of our predecessors and witnessed racial discrimination in the land. The hardships experienced were indeed unspeakable. I joined the Chinese Benevolent Association, Los Angeles羅省中華會館during my adolescent years without the slightest hesitation for the sake of help achieve solidarity and promote cooperation among the Chinese. I vowed to contribute my own part to the service of the Chinese. Owing to my unremitting effort and zeal, I was welcomed and my efforts appreciated by the leaders of the Chinese community and won the trust of the Chinese American community at large. I was thrice elected chairman and twice as chief supervisor監事長 of this organization. Subsequently, I was requested to organize and found the Chinese Benevolent Association in the United States全美中華會館, Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association中華公所, National Association of Overseas Chinese Benevolent Associations華僑總會聯誼會, and Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association, USA 美洲中華公所 and have served as its chairman and executive secretary up to the present. How time flies! I am now at the age of eighty-five! It is no exaggeration to say that I have dedicated my life to the service of the overseas Chinese.
I have been living in the U.S. for nearly seventy years. In the first twenty years, the Chinese I encountered called themselves laoqiao 老僑 or older generation overseas Chinese. Although they no longer worked as miners and railway workers, they made a living predominantly by running restaurants or laundries. Chinese Americans then were manual labors. In the second twenty years, Chinese came here in increasing numbers as students at institutions of higher learning. Although they were much better educated, constrained by their financial resources and living under a variety of pressures, they found it difficult to merge into the mainstream American society. They remained marginal. In the last thirty years, however, there was an influx of so-called xinqiao 新僑 or recently arrived overseas Chinese. The pleasant and salubrious climate in Southern California made it an ideal place for these newcomers. Among them, there is no lack of professionals with various expertise, skills, and financial capabilities. Gradually, those who came as students successfully completed their graduate education and established themselves professionally. They have contributed significantly to the Chinese communities here in Southern California and are responsible for the rising socio-political status of the Chinese Americans. This dramatic development is in sharp contrast to the situation I witnessed during my first forty years here.
I have been living in Southern California since my adolescent years. I boast of being a living witness to the history of the Chinese in Southern California. I often thought to myself that if this history exists only in my memories it would be forgotten once I pass away. Fortunately, May Chen 陳十美, concurrently President of American East Asian Culture and Education Foundation 美國東亞文教基金會, Principal of Sunshine Education Center 陽光教育中心, and President of North American Chinese Writers Association, Los Angeles 北美洛杉磯華文作家協會, has spent many years planning for the project and has mobilized hundreds of individuals to write and compile the book A Legacy Magnified: A Generation of Chinese Americans in Southern California, 1980’s-2010’s 南加華人三十年史話, a massive publication that contains nearly one million Chinese characters. The book records and reports the evolution and transformation of the lives of the Chinese in Southern California in the past thirty years. It has concurrently filled the gap of knowledge about the Chinese activities in the past half a century. This book will definitely transmit to our posterity China’s rich cultural heritage. This is a true blessing to the Chinese in Southern California. We are all profoundly indebted to Madame Chen for her courage and sustained effort indeed.
Madame Chen is a publisher, educator, writer, and philanthropist in one person. She is a gifted woman as well as a lady of amazing caliber. It would be difficult to find her equal. Over thirty some years ago, she founded the So Cal Community News 南華時報, which served as a effective media advocating for the Chinese. It was one of the few Chinese paper media active at the time. The newspaper provided important information for the Chinese community, a great contribution in and by itself. I made acquaintance with her back then. As we had much in common in terms of ideas and values, we have become close friends who are oblivious of their respective ages.
Before the publication of A Legacy Magnified, Madame Chen approached me to furnish a preface. Neither a scholar myself nor is writing my forte, I feel humbled for this task. I composed the above as a token of my appreciation for Madame Chen’s sincerity and tireless effort.
Chinatown, Los Angeles, California
Yong Chen 陳勇
A Monumental Work on the History of Chinese Immigration
The publication of A Legacy Magnified initiated and compiled under the leadership of Madame May Chen 陳十美, President of American East Asian Culture and Education Foundation, is an occasion for jubilant celebration. This masterful work comprehensively documents in great detail the robust growth of the Chinese in Southern California during the past several decades. This book is a milestone in itself. It makes it possible for this important chapter of Chinese American history to be documented and passed down from generation to generation.
Throughout American history, the Chinese play a pivotal role. First of all, the immigration of the Chinese to America has served an important link that connects Chinese and American economies and cultures. In 1784, the first merchant ship of the US, “the Empress of China,” arrived in Guangzhou, which signaled the American involvement in flourishing Chinese trade business. At the beginning of the 1830s, American missionaries went to Guangdong in droves. This opened the door for the further Sino-American exchanges, which paved the way for Chinese emigration to America. Moreover, the Chinese who came during and after the Gold Rush made indelible contributions to the development of the American West, especially California. In 1870 the Chinese represented almost ten percent of the overall population in California and over twenty percent of its labor force. We can say without exaggeration that without the Chinese, there would be no American West of today.
The Chinese experience also constitutes an important part of the development of cultural diversity and human rights in the US. The Chinese 49’ers, who came primarily from the Pearl River Delta in Guangdong, were the first large wave of Asian immigrants to arrive in America. And Chinatown was the first permanent Asian settlement in the country. Later, the Chinese suffered from intense persecution and discrimination. They were driven out of hundreds of towns in the American West. Their houses were burned down; their properties were robbed; and many of them lost their lives. In 1882, the American Congress passed the notorious Chinese Exclusion Act. This was the American act that restricts the immigration from a country on the basis of race. Besides forbidding the Chinese workers from coming to the US, this act also reiterated the racist principle that Chinese immigrants could not become naturalized American citizens. Nonetheless, the Chinese did not remain passive victims of racism but continuously fought against in the media, courts, and other areas. In doing so, they promoted cultural diversity in American society and upheld the principle of equality and justice as stipulated in the Constitution.
In spite of its significance, much of Chinese America history was forgotten over time. Mainstream Americans have little interest or ability in recording the overseas Chinese history. And most Chinese Americans themselves did not have the resources or training to record their own experiences. Recently, there is some notable progress in the study of Chinese community in America, but much of the attention has been directed to big cities like New York and San Francisco. Southern California has not received due attention, creating a big gap in our understanding of the history of the Chinese in America. As early as the 1850s, traces of the Chinese presence appeared in this area. In 1871, in an anti-Chinese riot in L.A, 18 Chinese were killed, which signaled the beginning of a large scale anti-Chinese violence in the American West. But the Chinese pioneers persevered. In the first half of the 20th century, Chinese medicine spread to various ethnic communities through the L.A. area, which serves as a bridge among different cultures. Since the 1960s, Southern California has become an important destination for new immigrants. The immigrants from Taiwan established suburban communities away in cities like Monterey Park, which became known as “Little Taipei,” from traditional Chinatowns. In the 21st century, Southern California has become one of the largest Chinese population centers. In the newly developed cities like Irvine, a new type of Chinese community, which I have characterized as “post-modern Chinatown,” has emerged.
A Legacy Magnified fills an important gap in our understanding of Chinese American history, covering seven counties throughout southern California. The grand scale of this book is truly impressive. Another feature of the book is its coverage of a comprehensive list of topics, ranging from history to politics, culture, economy, and the daily lives of the Chinese. The many people involved in writing and collecting materials come from various professions and different cities. This makes the book a very meaningful undertaking for the Southern California Chinese community. The rich materials and the profound insights of this book will benefit not only the community but also those who wish to understand the past and present of Chinese America.
This grand work is the fruit of May Chen’s many years of hard work, unselfish dedication, and leadership, which mobilized and inspired many individuals from different walks of life to participate in the writing and research of this book over a long period of time. When I first drove from Irvine to her Foundation in Rosemead to review some chapters of this book, numerous scholars and community leaders from different parts of Southern California were already there. We all sat obediently and quietly behind the student desks for hours, using the pen and paper she provided to work on the parts of the draft that she assigned each of us. It vividly demonstrated the profound impact of this project as well as her enormous appeal as its chief architect. Therefore, when she called me to write a preface, I could only oblige!
Professor of History
University of California, Irvine
Closing a Historical Gap
It is at the kind invitation of Madame May Chen, I compose this preface to A Legacy Magnified. Although I am not a specialist in Asian American Studies, I am fully cognizant of the significance of this book in terms of its collecting, arranging and preserving the historical documents for the Chinese and the community at large in Southern California. I wish to take this opportunity to share my personal observations and reflection with its readers.
I made acquaintance with Madame Chen, editor-in-chief of this book, at the inauguration of the Taiwan Academy 台灣書院 back in October 2011. I learned that she was in the process of mobilizing writers for the publication of A Legacy Magnified: A Generation of Chinese Americans in Southern California, 1980’s-2010’s. I was both excited and curious. I was excited because I was able to meet Madame Chen and her team and to understand more about the source materials for the book as well as how these materials are to be utilized. Such information would be useful for UCLA’s East Asian Library to gain understanding of the community and to serve the Library’s patrons better. I was also curious. One and a half centuries have elapsed since the Chinese landed in Southern California. Chinese are found everywhere in the Southland. As the second largest Chinese conglomeration in America, how could it be possible that no one has ever written a book on the history the Chinese in Southern California in general and in Los Angeles in particular?
Intrigued by this question in mind, I searched various bibliographies and data banks. To my surprise, I discovered that although over 800,000 of Chinese from various parts of the world have settled here in the Los Angeles area, there are only some scattered family histories are in existence, such as Louise Leung’s Sweet Bamboo: A Memoir of a Chinese American Family, written by a grand-daughter of Tom Leung 譚良. In this book, the author details Tom Leung’s experience and the life of his family in Los Angeles. The author also mentions Leung’s association with Kang Youwei 康有爲 and with Kang’s Society for the Preservation of the Monarchy 保皇會. I was unable to locate any historical work that studies the overseas Chinese as a whole. This being the case, the work of Madame Chen and her team most definitely fills in the gap in this unprecedented undertaking. She and her team command my highest respect.
How does Chen’s team cover the overseas Chinese as an integral whole? To find out, I visited the office of the book’s Editorial Board situated in a large classroom at the Sunshine Education Center, a Chinese language school founded by May Chen. On the blackboard, an outline of the book was clearly written, containing a total of 17 chapters. Along the walls of the classroom there were tables upon which all the collected books, documents, and other materials were on display. Plans and progress for each chapter and their respective sections were also made available on these tables. A Legacy Magnified is extensive in scope. It covers Chinese American communities, Overseas Chinese organizations, political participation, rights campaign, mass media, education, arts, urban construction, large and medium-sized enterprises, business and industries of all kinds, family structure, ethics, and religious beliefs. It amounts to nothing less than an encyclopedia of the Chinese Americans in Southern California. Chen’s team wishes to document and to present a panoramic perspective of the Chinese Americans in this region during the past 30 years through this book.
As a librarian, I am particularly interested in the collection of source materials. Since Madame Chen was previously the editor-in-chief of So Cal Community News, she relied upon the input of a vast number of Chinese here. Her team adopted a variety of means to collect materials. The team convened source collection meetings, solicited historical photographs from private collections, and sought print as well as digital archives. They not only extensively solicited materials from the local residents, but also collected relevant information from phone books, census data, and other statistics available pertaining to Chinese Americans in the Southland. This is conducted in such a manner so that the multi-perspective, multi-dimensional, and comprehensive nature of this book on the subject of Chinese Americans in Southern California can be meaningfully completed.
Why does the book choose to cover only 30 years? Perhaps, this is the question that many readers would ask. Madame Chen explained that they intend to record the part of history that they themselves have experienced or witnessed. Further, these three decades coincide with the dramatic transformation in Southern California, of which Chinese Americans are an integral and significant part. These 30 years of drastic change are also emotionally relevant to them. Many are inspired and responded in unison to undertake this monumental and gap-filling task together.
I have to say regrettably that up until now no university library in Southern California has systematically collected, catalogued, and preserved the historical records of Chinese Americans in Southern California, hence any scholarly research on their lives and experiences is extremely difficult. Chinese have lived and worked on this land since 1850. If one wanted to know what happened to the Chinese around 1900 in terms of their lives and work and to know how they survived in spite of discrimination, one would not be able to find any systematically presented materials to assist them in their research. A Legacy Magnified has blazed a new trail. It inspires and impels all the Chinese Americans in Southern California to cherish and to consciously preserve their own history. The effort of Chen’s team has successfully provided us and our posterity with important clues to understand what has transpired in the past 30 years. Had there not been such a publication, much of the history would have been lost into oblivion in the long river of history.
The history of the Chinese Americans in Southern California belongs to us all. We should not only continue to create history and continue to collect and preserve historical documents, we should also encourage more people to study our history. A Legacy Magnified is a pioneering work and I am profoundly grateful for its publication. It is my hope that additional historical works of this kind will be made available.
Head, East Asian Library
University of California, Los Angeles
Turning of the Tide
In 2011, I received a call from Shui Yin Lo 盧遂顯, a Ph.D. in quantum physics from the University of Chicago. A meticulous researcher, Dr. Lo was looking for a specialist in Chinese American Studies with bilingual proficiency and found me from UCLA’s Asian American faculty roster. He told me that Asian-American Cultural and Educational Foundation, which he led, was working on a book entitled A Legacy Magnified: A Generation of Chinese-Americans in Southern California, 1980’s to 2010’s (in Chinese). His wife, May Chen, served as the chief editor. I was deeply moved by the passion, effort and dedication of Dr. and Mrs. Lo and all the people who were directly or indirectly engaged in this immense project. When I was invited to write a preface for this book, I felt honored and delighted. As an immigrant from China and a student of contemporary Chinese diasporas, I also consider it a rare opportunity that allowed me to immerse myself in my own history.
Looking back, the history of the Chinese in America was filled with hardship, humiliation, struggle and triumph. The passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act by U.S. Congress in 1882 plunged Chinese Americans into a deep abyss, which lasted for 60 years. During WWII, the Act was repealed, but its negative effect still lingered even as Chinese began to rise up in American society. The lenient sentence made in the murder case of Vincent Chin in 1982 is a good case in point. This case reflected deep-rooted discrimination against the Chinese in American society. Fortunately, on June 18, 2012, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution to apologize to Chinese-Americans. Members of both Houses issued an apology for the Chinese Exclusion Act. This historical event resulted from years of concerted effort on the part of Chinese-Americans. Incidentally, A Legacy Magnified covers the period framed approximately by these two historical events. I would guess that the compilers of this book may have had these two events in mind when they decided on the time frame for the book.
In the mid-19th century, the gold rush attracted a large number of Chinese to San Francisco (called Gold Mountain by the overseas Chinese) in California. Later tens of thousands of Chinese workers came to construct the First Continental Railway. Suffering from homesickness and racial discrimination, the Chinese still made an indelible contribution to the farming, manufacturing and service sectors in the development of California. Now, the Chinese constitute 10% of the overall population in the state. They play an important role in its social and economic development. Southern California is well-known to the world as a major center of entertainment, mass media, aeronautics and space research, pharmaceuticals, and other high-tech industries. It is also home to reputable academic institutions such as UCLA, Caltech, USC, Claremont McKenna College, and Harvey Mudd College. Currently, the overall Chinese population in America is about 3.8 million (according to the 2010 Census). The Chinese population in Southern California alone is over 800 000. In the past 30 years, the Chinese in this region have flourished and distinguished themselves in politics, economy, education, technology and the arts. Many have successfully merged themselves into the mainstream society in America. Success stories include Dr. Judy May Chu趙美心, the first Chinese Congresswoman in American history, Dr. Roger Youchien Tsien 錢永健, a Nobel Laureate in Chemistry from University of California, San Diego, Ming Hsieh 謝明, an entrepreneur who donated US$85 million to the University of Southern California, and Walter Wen-hsiang Wang王文祥, a successful entrepreneur and philanthropist. The list goes on and on. They are all the pride of the Chinese in Southern California. As we look back, we cannot help but sigh. There is a great change of fortune for Chinese Americans here. Indeed, as a Chinese saying goes, “there are thirty years’ ebb and there are thirty years’ flow.”
The Asian-American Cultural and Educational Foundation was established in 1989, chaired by Ms. May Chen. Chen was formerly a lecturer in the Department of Chinese at the Chinese Culture University in Taiwan. She came to America in 1977. In 1980, she ran Nanhua Daily, the first Chinese community newspaper in L.A., which appealed to both new and old Chinese-Americans. This pioneering work promoted prosperity in the Chinese newspaper industry. In 1987, Chen plunged herself into the field of education and established Huaxing College and Sunshine Education Center. She has also become a pioneer in pre-school education and after-school programs. Over three years ago, she took the initiative to organize and compile this huge historical piece entitled A Legacy Magnified. This work proceeds with a line of thinking that is very creative. Instead of brooding over a sad and, at times, bloody, historical past, it focuses on the success stories of Chinese-Americans today. It sheds a positive light on the Chinese in America.
In the process of writing this voluminous work, we see the unity and cooperation of the Chinese in Southern California at their best. Under a limited budget, the compiling committee made light of many difficulties. Besides sorting through articles solicited from the public, they also conducted interviews with over 500 persons from various classes and professions. The interviewees included many eminent Chinese. The committee collected the material from oral history, while sorting, verifying and synthesizing them on the basis of individual experience, reflections and life paths. As a result, the book before you is a great work with distinctive viewpoints and convincing arguments. Besides the history of immigration and the history of political participation, the compilers give prominence to the arduous journey that the Chinese underwent to protect their civil rights. The book also elaborates on the accomplishments that the Chinese have achieved in technology, education and high-tech companies. Besides these, the book also surveys the essence of Chinese culture such as philosophy and thought, language, medicine and literature, and arts. The essence of Chinese culture is an indispensable spiritual pillar for the Chinese, which they cannot lack even as they seek to merge into the mainstream society. Furthermore, the book highly commends the stable Chinese family structure, eminent Chinese women and new-generation Chinese. It appeals to the Chinese to give back to society, respect different religious beliefs, and to respect American values, as a way to merge into mainstream society.
Admittedly, no one in the compiling team is a professional historian specializing in the study of Chinese-Americans. They have made their utmost effort, and are meticulous in putting together a book that approaches perfection in both form and content. Their objective is to adopt a broad vision and take a positive angle, using solid data and plain language to portray the glorious journey that has been undergone by Chinese-Americans. It is meant to inspire Chinese-American readers in all ranks to move forward, to feel proud of being Chinese in America, and to instill in them a sense of optimism. The compilers have clear objectives and position themselves well. The book has quite a few distinctive features. In particular, the historical material it uses comes from grassroots communities with various backgrounds. The grassroots nature of the source material and its originality especially characterize this book.
Finally, this book has a rich content, presented sometimes by narration, and sometimes by commentary. It is only appropriate that shihua 史話, or informal historical narrative, is adopted here. I believe this book is good news for the overseas Chinese in America and elsewhere. It is also a good reference book for those engaged in the study of the history of overseas Chinese immigration and contemporary Chinese immigration.
The Chinese edition of A Legacy Magnified was published as a commemorative collection with 3,000 hard copies. The English edition will be published as an e-book made available online, and serve as a reference for those of Chinese descent, or descendants of other ethnic groups, as well as relevant academic and immigrant-run institutions. More importantly, this book will inform Chinese descendants of what their predecessors have accomplished, and inspire them to pass on the cultural torch. Indeed, the book has significance for now, and forever. I appreciate their ideas and their efforts. I heartedly congratulate them on their success today and tomorrow.
Los Angeles is a city where I have lived and worked for more than 20 years. The Chinese community here serves as not only my research site but also my home base. It holds dear to my heart, and I owe it a debt of gratitude. Between 2013 and 2016, I moved to Singapore when the Chinese edition was published and the English translation project launched. Being on the other side of the Pacific Ocean made me come to a realization that I was homesick. Home is in Southern California.
Professor of Sociology & Asian American Studies
Walter & Shirley Wang Endowed Chair
in U.S.-China Relations & Communications
Director, Asia Pacific Center
University of California, Los Angeles