The Transnational History of a Chinese Family

Topics: Overseas Chinese, Han Chinese, China Pages: 6 (2293 words) Published: December 6, 2012
Life as an Immigrant
Beginning in the late 19th century and continuing to the early 20th century, many Chinese families struggled to gain social, economic, and educational stature in both China and the United States. In the book, A Transnational History of a Chinese Family, by Haiming Liu, we learn about the Chang family rooted in Kaiping County, China, who unlike many typical Chinese families’ exemplified hard-work and strong cultural values allowing them to pursue an exceptional Chinese-American lifestyle. Even with immigration laws preventing Chinese laborers and citizens to enter unless maintaining merchant status, Yitang and Sam Chang managed to sponsor approximately 40 relatives to the states with their businesses in herbalist medicine and asparagus farming. Though the Chang’s encountered many of the hardships typical of Chinese families for the time, they relied on their outstanding work ethic so that their families would always be supported, receive the best possible education, and preserve family and kinship relationships to get them through the tough times and long periods of separation.

America in the early 19th century was a place full of racial discrimination, and citizens were very unwelcoming to immigrants of other races. During this time period, they did not find the presence of these immigrants useful, and went as far as passing federal restrictions on immigration. For one race in particular, the Chinese, there were very high restrictions in place. The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which we discussed in lecture, banned almost all Chinese laborers and their families from entering the U.S for 10 years. Some changes were made, and the Act was passed again as in 1892 as the Geary Act, but it was not completely repealed until 1942. Luckily, being an herbalist, Yitang Chang was classified as a merchant, and this allowed them to immigrate into America since they were not laborers. This classification was a sign of an educated Chinese man, a quality many Chinese laborers and immigrants did not possess. Yitang was eventually able to bring over family members to help with his business once he was settled. He first called upon his son Sam Chang to travel across the Pacific and assist him in the family business, giving him the opportunity to further support his family. MENTION WORK ETHIC AND HOW THIS RELATES TO THE CHANGS IMMIGRATION PROCESS, SOCIETY ALREADY AGAINST THEM Along with the Exclusion Act barring further immigration, immigrants who were already in America had to work around another restriction known as the Alien Land Act, which we also discussed in class. This prohibits both Chinese and Japanese immigrants from owning or leasing land unless they were American-born. This made it arduous for families, as it forced them to rely on those family members who were citizens to register the land under their name, which made their kinship and appreciation for each other stronger. The Chang family had registered their land under Sam’s third and fourth daughters names as they were both American citizens, but not all families were privileged enough to have those members to fall back on. With all the discrimination the Chinese race was suffering in America, Yitang sought it to be best if his wife and kids stayed in China until he could make a better life in America. Yitang and Sam Chang were successful in starting up an herbalist shop and asparagus farm and quickly realized there were many advantages to owning them, both socially and economically. Owning an herbalist shop provided cures and treatments for illness and other various diseases by using holistic medicine. It put the Chang’s in constant contact with both Chinese and Americans looking to him for help in his area of expertise. This was a reverse encounter many immigrants never experienced. Patients realized the risks of this profession, as it dealt with human health, and they began to feel how beneficial these herbs were to their own health. After earning...
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