Community Life in the Chinese Diaspora

Zoe Wennerholm graduated from Vassar College with degrees in Chinese and urban studies. She works as a budding archivist and has research interests in the Chinese diaspora and community activism.

Historically, the Chinese community has formed around community organizations, food, music and religion. These organizations serve to preserve traditional values, keep traditions alive and pass on heritage.

Family Life

Family life is very important to Chinese people. In accordance with Confucian principles of filial piety, Chinese children are expected to respect and obey their parents and elders. It is also believed that one must care for their parents in old age. Many Chinese people live with their grandparents, and this allows them to have a significant influence over the younger generations through the relationship they share.

Despite the fact that individualism is now being promoted in China, family life remains important to most Chinese people. It is also a big reason why young Chinese adults often have difficulty working away from home, as they always have an urge to go back to their families and help them out.

The one child policy in China has also made a great impact on Chinese people and their attitude towards their own family. They are devoted to their children’s success and want to see them grow to be more prosperous than themselves.


In the United Kingdom Chinese community schools serve British-born generations of immigrant communities in an effort to maintain their linguistic and cultural heritage. These community-based ‘complementary’ schools are part of the larger multilingual educational system in the United Kingdom and offer classes on weekends for students who wish to acquire, maintain, or improve their fluency in Chinese.

The Shequ embodies traditional Chinese values of social solidarity and mutual assistance that emphasize self-cultivation through virtues such as gentleness, friendliness, courtesy, and thrift, as well as a strong sense of community and nationalism. Shequ are a form of collective moral education, based on Confucian philosophy, that teaches the importance of family and social order in a democratic state.

The Shequ in Portland benefited from a local anti-Chinese atmosphere that did not escalate into the racial and ethnic violence seen in other cities, such as San Francisco and New York City. Despite the tensions, the community was never walled off in a ghetto and interacted with mainstream white society as well as other ethnic and racial groups within the city.


The majority of Oregon’s Chinese live in Portland and the surrounding areas, with smaller communities in Salem, Corvallis, Eugene, and Medford. Fewer Chinese live in central and eastern Oregon or along most of the state’s north coast.

The heyday of Cantonese-Chinese settlement in the American West occurred during the 1860s to 1885. Then, changing material conditions opened up new economic opportunities for Chinese migrants. These migrants organized themselves into community-wide social organizations that came to exercise political control over the civic and sociocultural life of their community.

Unlike other immigrants, who tend to be concentrated in certain occupational categories, a significant proportion of Chinese are in professional and managerial positions. The proportion of Chinese in management-level occupations is higher than that of any other foreign-born group, and it is the second highest of all groups. In addition, Chinese are more likely to be bilingual than other groups. Their mother tongue is primarily English and they also speak Cantonese, Mandarin, and other regional dialects.


Religion is one of the most important aspects of community life for many Chinese, particularly in Chinatown, where there are numerous churches and temples. However, China has some of the world’s harshest government-sponsored religious repression, leading human rights groups to label it as a country of particular concern in this area. During the Xi Jinping era, the regime has targeted Muslim minorities, including the Hui and Uyghurs who live mostly in northwestern China’s autonomous region of Xinjiang. These people are subjected to surveillance, repressive detention camps, and arbitrary arrests and imprisonment.

This repression is tied to the Xi regime’s efforts to tighten control over civil society and reinforce its anti-Western ideology, which has become increasingly prominent in all sectors of society. Although Beijing has stated that it protects citizens’ freedom of belief, the reality is much different. Some of the most popular forms of Chinese religion include ancestor worship and divination through reading cracks in dried shoulder bones (of sheep or deer), as well as a variety of folk beliefs, such as those related to the gods of specific mountains, rivers, seas, and lakes; thorn goddesses, water-bug gods, and hungry ghosts.

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