The Chinese Community in North America

Chinese community

With the development of the gold rush and transcontinental railroads, Chinese immigrants settled in urban areas where they developed self-reliant neighborhoods known as Chinatown. White racism deeply influenced living conditions in these neighborhoods, and popular media portrayed them as seedy, heathen, and dangerous.

The largest concentration of people of Chinese origin in Canada live in Ontario and British Columbia. In 2001, 82% of these individuals reported having Chinese ancestry.


The Chinese community is one of the oldest in North America. It is closely tied to its country of origin, with a strong culture of remittances back to support family members. The Chinese also are very hard-working and thrifty. They place a high priority on education for the next generation.

In the 19th century, economic opportunities opened with the California Gold Rush and Central Pacific Railroad and brought waves of emigrants from southern China. Mostly men, they endured extreme racism and discrimination. They formed their own communities, often called Chinatowns, where they ran businesses and owned restaurants and laundries.

In 1918, Mother (Superior) Mary of the Holy Spirit and the Sisters of the Immaculate Conception established the Montreal Chinese Hospital to serve the medical needs of the Chinese community. This marked the beginning of a period of acculturation and assimilation.


Chinese culture encompasses a wide range of behavioral norms and beliefs shared to varying degrees by the people who identify as Chinese. The foundation of this complex culture is rooted in ancient civilization and incorporates folk culture, dominant philosophical ideas, and religious traditions.

In response to racial exclusion, many Chinese developed self-reliant communities known as Chinatowns, which functioned as small cities within the larger urban landscape. These neighborhoods centered on businesses, restaurants and laundries that primarily served the local community.

Today, Chinese Americans are spread out across the country and are influenced by a wide variety of cultures. Some are more traditional and strive to uphold and preserve cultural values while others are more open to progressive ideals. The majority of Chinese are Buddhists, with smaller numbers of Confucian and Taoist followers.


Food is central to most Chinese cultures. Vegetables accompany nearly every meal, not only as a way to balance the richness of meat dishes but as a dish in their own right. The cold foods that precede the main course vary widely around China, from jelly and beancurd to noodle salad, cooked fish or fowl.

Rice predominates in southern China, while wheat-based products such as noodles and steamed buns (mantou) are popular in the north. Local variations also occur in drinks, from herbal tea to iced water and the hot-and-sour soup of southern China.

As the popularity of Chinese cuisine increases, many white chefs have taken up the mantle, asserting themselves as creative forces and not simply faithful translators of some hazy notion of authenticity. The debate over the status of Asian chefs is a reflection of a broader struggle over cultural appropriation.


Chinese folk religion, also known as Chinese popular religion, encompasses a broad range of traditional beliefs, including prayer to ancestors and former leaders and an understanding of the influence of the natural world. Chinese religious syncretism and tolerance are a part of their cultural identity and are not viewed with the same skepticism as in some other cultures.

While the government supports five organized religions (Buddhism, Daoism, Islam, Christianity, and Catholicism), many faith communities do not register with the state. Furthermore, individual believers are less likely to communicate with other followers and may lack a sense of community. Thus, it is difficult to gather precise statistics on China’s religion. Nonetheless, the growth of Christianity is noteworthy. It shows that the communist regime has a vision of how religion can play an important role in society and contribute to democracy.


For many children, supplementary education in Chinese community schools provides a way to fulfill parental expectations and reinforce their cultural identity. As such, these institutions are highly resourceful and can have a strong influence on student learning outcomes.

This study explores the role of teachers in Chinese community schools. Findings reveal that teachers employ various L1 facilitative functions to support students’ heritage-language acquisition. This research highlights the importance of providing training to teachers in issues relevant to heritage-language education.

Reaching the Chinese community requires effective communication and understanding of their unique needs and aspirations. Partnering with local Chinese language schools, cultural centers and businesses can help a school establish trust and credibility within the community. Additionally, hosting events that highlight student accomplishments can be an effective strategy for attracting Chinese parents.

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