The Chinese American Experience

Stacey C. Slagle

America is a country that is home to people from every part of the world. If one has a strong desire to count the cultures represented in the general population, it might be a very exhausting test of perseverance. An interesting cultural trend that has bloomed in America for some time now is the culture of Chinese Americans. “Chinese Americanism” is a phenomenon that has been the result of people with Chinese origin living in America. As the years have passed greater mobility from China to America has increased. It is still true that the tide of immigration from East Asia continues to grow. In the experience of Chinese Americans, they have largely succeeded in exerting their unique influence in a variety of ways throughout the American culture and its “melting pot” society. In fact, Chinese Americans have been living, working, and raising their children here in North America for many generations!

The official statistics of the United States note that the original wave of Chinese immigrants began in 1820. However, the actual number of Chinese people migrating to American soil was quite low before 1848. After the famous “California Gold Rush” many people of Chinese origin starting coming in greater numbers. Four years after the gold rush ended more than 25,000 Chinese people had come to the land called “America.” Most of the people migrating to the United States in the beginning were young men with a basic level of education who were seeking manual labor employment. Unfortunately, there came to be a total ban on Chinese immigration from 1885 to 1943. This was the result of the controversial “Chinese Exclusion Act.” After this Chinese immigration was tightly restricted until 1965. During the years since then many Chinese people have successfully made their journey to America. The people with Chinese ancestry who are born in America are immediately granted full citizenship by the United States. However, since the People’s Republic of China does not permit dual citizenship Chinese people who are naturalized U.S. citizens must lose their Chinese citizenship.

It is no secret these days that Chinese immigrants have made a major contribution in several important fields in this country. Professor Steven Chu is one such individual that has won the Nobel Prize. He is also a Chinese American. Other Nobel Prize winners with Chinese American roots would include Samuel C.C. Ting, Tsung Dao Lee, Chen Ning Yang, and Daniel Chee Tsue.

It has been said (even by Chinese people themselves) that they have a different way of life than other Americans. They have kept many of their strongest cultural traditions alive during their long sojourn in America. Some of these traditions have even become grafted into modern American life! One of the most notable influences of Chinese Americans has been in the area of cuisine. It started out a long time ago when Americans were first exposed to tasty Chinese cuisine, probably at the behest of their Chinese friends and neighbors. Not too long afterward Chinese restaurants were showing up all across America offering traditional Chinese food to American customers. As time passed a new type of “American Chinese cuisine” developed. It was really a fusion between American and Chinese cuisine. However, it didn’t seem to matter to most people. The Chinese restaurant business came into existence with a popular appeal!

If a person desires to see Chinese culture in its fullest sphere on the American landscape today, then Chinatown is the logical place to go. “Chinatown” refers to a designated area of many larger cities that is deliberately constructed and maintained like a true Chinese community. Chinatown is full of restaurants, souvenir shops, and museums which display the culture of ancient and modern of China openly. The entire community is designed in a traditional Chinese style. These communities are located in many cities around the world too. This is further evidence that Chinese people have spread out across the globe. Their influence has been deeply and profoundly felt by many people who not of Chinese origin. So, Chinese people have come to the West in such a fashion. They have changed the way many people live… even if Westerners are not always aware of it. Chinese Americans can celebrate what they have accomplished so far. May your journey be a lucky and prosperous one too!

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