Chinese Community in Oregon

Despite living far from home, Chinese in Oregon have developed community associations that reflect cultural traditions and incorporate North American characteristics. These include kinship groups, joss houses and temples.

In London, Chinatown became the focus of fanciful descriptions by authors such as Oscar Wilde and Charles Dickens. It also became a place where Chinese men fraternized with white women.

Cultural traditions

Chinese culture is based on a wide range of values that include Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism. Ancient legends tell of deities who taught people essential elements of their culture, including the creation of Chinese characters, Shennong imparted agriculture and Zhuangzi explained the mystical Tao (or “Way”).

The Chinese value respect for elders and authority figures. They also place high importance on the family and social connections, known as guanxi, and prioritize the stability and harmony of their community over individual interests.

The majority of Chinese in Oregon are Cantonese, but after the 1980’s, immigrants from other parts of China began to arrive in large numbers. These include speakers of Min, Wu and Mandarin. These groups are well represented in Oregon’s Chinese communities today. The Chinese are renowned for their austerity, toughness and business acumen.


Depending on how broadly one defines religion, many Chinese people consider themselves religious, including those who identify with monotheistic religions and also believe in traditional Chinese deities and supernatural forces. However, it is often difficult to know how many people are religious in China because government restrictions and ambiguity about what questions may elicit pushback make it challenging for survey organizations to ask about religion.

The government continues its crackdown on Falun Gong and other banned groups, including Guanyin Method (also known as the Way of Mercy), Full Scope Church, and Established King Church. Bitter Winter reports that in multiple provinces, authorities raided, shut down, and fined unauthorized religious educators.

Moreover, the Chinese government has jailed several members of the Early Rain Covenant Church who hosted online events to share their experiences of being persecuted for their faith. Read more in this CFR Backgrounder.


Chinese is a very large language that contains many different dialects. These dialects have their own unique grammar and word elements. Words may consist of one syllable, two or more syllables that each carry an element of meaning, or of three or more syllables which don’t carry any meaning at all.

Despite the variety of dialects, all Chinese people share the same written language, called Chinese characters. Mainland China and Taiwan use simplified characters, while Hong Kong and Macau use traditional characters.

The majority of Oregon’s Chinese live in Josephine and Jackson Counties, with small numbers also living in the Willamette Valley and in Clackamas and Yamhill Counties. Throughout the state, there are a variety of Chinese-owned businesses and restaurants. Many Chinese are bilingual, speaking both Mandarin and English.


Rice is a staple food of the Chinese. Other main foods are noodles, vegetables and meat. Many people in China follow a diet that is based on the body’s needs. The yin and yang philosophy suggests that certain foods can help relieve specific conditions. For example, shark fin soup is believed to replenish the strength of the kidneys, crocodile meat strengthens the bronchia and dehydrated tiger testicle increases stamina for men.

In North America, restaurants that serve Chinese cuisine cater to a wide variety of tastes and price points. Ingredients once considered exotic in China are now widely available, such as edible snow pea pods and gan chao niu rou si (ginger beef). Chinese food also incorporates elements of Western culture such as chop suey.


Unlike many Western cultures, which emphasize individualism and independence, traditional Chinese values place an emphasis on family unity and interdependence. This is especially apparent in the practice of filial piety, in which family members are expected to honor their parents and place their needs and well-being above their own.

After World War II and the end of exclusion, the Chinese community in Oregon diversified by income and social status. Many migrated from southern China, and later groups came from Taiwan, Malaysia and Indochina (Vietnamese Chinese).

Education is a high priority in Chinese families, and parents are willing to make significant sacrifices to ensure their children’s academic achievement. Family reunions are also a popular and important tradition. Ancestor worship and temples are another important part of family life, particularly during festivals such as the Chinese New Year.

Related Posts