Memoirs Of A Geisha-American

Me No Luv You Long Time...

Friday, October 05, 2007

They Came From Toyshan...

Who were the Chinese-Americans?

it is estimated that over 75% of all overseas Chinese in North America until the mid- to late-20th century claimed origin in Taishan, the city is also known as the "Home of Overseas Chinese."

Taishanese speak the Taishan dialect, a dialect of Cantonese. Before the 1970s, Taishanese was the predominant Chinese language spoken throughout North America's Chinatowns. It is the de facto language of Taishan.
Taishan, a farming town with a population of 1 million today, has seen 1.3 million emigrate over the years, according to local records. The exodus began 150 years ago, when desperate farmers walked days from the hamlets near the port city of Guangzhou, got on boats and sailed off for another chance.

Many headed for meiguo, the "Beautiful Country," especially jinsan (in Cantonese, gumsan) or "Gold Mountain" -- in other words, America and San Francisco. Chinese American historian Him Mark Lai, using 1988 data, placed the number of Taishanese in the United States at around 430,000, or about 70 percent of Chinese Americans in the United States in the 1980s. That number is estimated at half a million today.
Now, Taishan (Toysan) is a city in Guangdong (Canton):

Tin Din Ng: Back then, Chinatown, because most of the... the history goes like this, in the beginning, most of the people in New York’s Chinatown had been from Taishan, there were lots of people from Taishan, and a lot of decisions were made by those from Taishan, all the way until they created the Lian-cheng Gong-suo. In Chinatown, Wen-ye was mainly used by the people from Taishan. This situation continued all the way until the eighties before it started to change, because in the 80s, China became more open, and after it became more open, lots of new immigrants came.

Tin Din Ng: In the beginning when I was at Hong Kong, because I had some siblings and some relatives, all of them in America. My entire family had already left mainland China then, they had all left mainland China.

Florence Ng: Left where in China?

Tin Din Ng: Taishan. Taishan in Canton. I’m of Taishan descent. After 1957, our entire family left Taishan. The old folks, several of the old folks, some somewhat younger ones and my sister, everyone came to America and Canada.

Tin Din Ng: It happened like this, the CCBA has already had 120 years of, 120 years of history. In the beginning, in the very beginning, the people from the Taishan Ning-yang Organization went and acted as the chairman of the CCBA. Because one hundred years ago, the Chinese in New York, 99% of them were from Taishan, Taishan people, so those who acted as the chairmen of the CCBA, and those that took responsibility for things at the CCBA were all people from Taishan. Each year, the chairmen came from the Taishan people. Later on, before 1990, there was a period of ten or twenty years when there were a different four, they weren’t from Taishan, I think Enping, Kaiping, and they weren’t Taishan, there were even those from other provinces, and when they came, there wasn’t any reason why the CCBA was just for Taishan people
As you can see...the reality is that up until the 80s..."Chinese-Americans" were really essentially "Taishan-Americans." Just one tiny, ethnic sub-group from one city in all of China.

But this tiny sub-population is just what most of the "Chinese" stereotypes in this country were based upon! For better and worse, the "Chinese" became known as small, weak, meek, asexual, unmanly, but hard-working "carpet-baggers" who worked primarily for money & food in life. Well, they had been farmers - who basically fit the same bill in China. Similar to how most illegal Mexican immigrants are from the poorest underclass of Mexico. But, first impressions are lasting impressions. And so this hyperbolized Orientalist stereotype has steadily lingered over the last century-and-a-half here!

Which is unfortunately a rather skewed, reductionist portrayal of Chinese as a whole!

Now JUST IMAGINE...had Bruce Lee, Yao Ming & Yi Jianlian been the first ones over. How might we all be viewed differently today???

Note: This post is not to offend Taishanese...but to highlight the overwhelming lack of diverse representation of Chinese in this country and resultant narrow stereotyping. Not to mention simply educate people on the origins of Chinese-Americans and Chinese-American stereotypes in "Meiguo."


At Saturday, October 20, 2007 at 12:48:00 AM PDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ok... there is no way in hell you are female. I am willing to bet anything you are a dorky asian guy pretending to be female to mask your insecurities by bashing on white guys since you can't get any. And this IS coming from an asian guy. If you are who you say you are, provide proof, pictorial or otherwise. And if it is a picture, some random photo of an asian chick isn't good enough.

At Saturday, October 27, 2007 at 12:02:00 PM PDT, Blogger Rebecca Yu said...

Lol, and lemme are from Toyshan.

Sorry bubba, didn't mean to offend. Just trying to educate, not hate. But if you want to debate this issue, let's debate it. Don't try to displace your anger with ad hominem attacks.

Anyhow, I've already been previously "outed" as "Richard Yu." *chuckle*

Apparently, a lot of guys just can't believe that a girl can be this highly intelligent and logical. Therefore, I "must" be a guy. Ok, whatever..

Believe whatever you want. It really doesn't matter to me, since I'm just the messenger, anyways. And prefer to remain somewhat anonymous, to be honest. Lotta psycho stalkers out there... So, if you want to believe I'm some 50-yo obese guy living in my mom's basement - GREAT. NO sweat off my back.

Just let me know when you want to actually debate the issues, instead of diverting your focus because you can't.


Much love,

At Monday, November 12, 2007 at 9:48:00 PM PST, Blogger Bay Radical said...

Hey there,

Thanks for linking to my post about historical prejudice against Chinese Americans in California.

If I'da known so many people were going to read that post, I would have copyedited it better! But seriously, I'm glad to see that bit of history getting more coverage, since it sure was glossed over in the history books.

Take care,

At Saturday, May 15, 2010 at 2:44:00 PM PDT, Anonymous fullcourtbadpress said...

Most Chinese immigrants to Peru, as was the case throughout the rest of the Americas, came from Guangdong and Fujian provinces of southern China. Upwards of 80 percent worked on the sugar plantations of the north coast, although several thousand labored, and often perished, in the guano mines. Others worked in urban areas as domestic workers, artisans, or unskilled laborers, and about 6,000 Chinese were employed in the high-risk building of a railroad line through the Andes Mountains.

It took about one generation for most Chinese-Peruvians to begin ascending the economic ladder, and since the mid-twentieth century most have worked in the manufacturing and wholesale/retail areas of the economy.

At Saturday, June 4, 2011 at 5:52:00 PM PDT, Anonymous Calling Out Self-Hating Cantos said...

It's actually Hoisan, not Toyshan. I'm really impressed that you actual know about us Hoisan people. But just to set the record straight, you imply in your post that it is Hoisan people who embody the stereotypes of Chinese Americans, and it is Hoisan people from which these stereotypes came. In reality, the emasculation of Asian men of which you speak simply came because Chinese men did things White men thought were for women, such as cooking, wearing queues, etc. The last time I checked, ALL Chinese had to wear queues, and it is very common throughout ALL of China for men to cook, NOT just in Hoisan. I thank you for exposing the world to the untold story of the Hoisan Chinese, but your logic is flawed. Even if the first Chinese came from somewhere else in China, the same racism still would have ensued, because America in the 1800's was totally different than America today, and at that point in history anyone non-white would have been stereotyped. It is just that the first immigrants HAPPENED to come from Hoisan. Your parents are probably immigrants from Canton, which is why you're ignorant to the racial dynamics in America. By the by, the word "chow mein" comes from the Hoisan "chau mein" -- a piece of unknown information to most people. I am proud to be of Hoisan Chinese descent, and let me tell you kid, I am probably way taller than you will ever be and way smarter as well. Take care. And by the by, you must be Cantonese huh? Do me a favor and learn about your own roots, because the truth is that many "Cantonese" are actually of Hoisan descent but just don't even realize it. Also, it was Hoisan Chinese who first left China en masse, and it was Hoisan Chinese who built China's first railroad. Also, Hoisan has become one of the most successful cities in modern China, because overseas brethren have sent money back to help with development. While Hoisan has been exposed to other cultures for centuries and has developed cosmopolitan, open-minded people, other people in China have simply stayed in the same place and become ignorant to other cultures. While Hoisan people learned from the outside world, the other Chinese simply tried to shut it out. Maybe that is why we have become so successful and were the founders of most Chinatowns around the world and make up the majority of the overseas Chinese population. Not a Cantonese boy, just a Hoisan doi!


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