The Chinese Community in Oregon

Since the mid-1800s, nearly every major city in the world has hosted a Chinatown. These neighborhoods are known for their festival celebrations, restaurants with cuisine from across the Asian continent and bustling street scene.

Chinese culture encompasses a wide range of beliefs and practices. Some key values include rationale and propriety.


In the 1800s, early Chinese immigrants were known as the “Yellow Peril.” They came to America for economic opportunities and to improve the lives of their families back home in China. In the face of discrimination and a difficult working environment, they built self-reliant communities that were known to non-Chinese as “Chinatown.”

The first Chinatowns in America were located on the West Coast and in New York City. Despite racial discrimination, the Chinese were able to establish themselves in many industries such as farming, laundry businesses and restaurants.

Today, there are large pockets of Chinese people dispersed throughout the United States, especially in the urban centers. Smaller pockets are also found in rural towns and university-college towns, where many of the Chinese community’s professionals and academics reside.


People who identify as Chinese share a common culture with other Chinese people around the world. This includes beliefs, food, style, language and many other aspects of their identities.

The Chinese culture emphasizes loyalty to family and tradition, putting less emphasis on individual feelings. Families often live together, and it is expected that children take care of their elderly parents. The Chinese are predominantly followers of Taoism and Confucianism, with minorities of Buddhists, Christians and Muslims.

The heyday of nineteenth-century Cantonese-Chinese settlement in Oregon lasted from 1860 to 1885. During this time, the immigrants transitioned from transient migratory pioneers who constantly moved and anticipated a quick return to China, to residents of structured ethnic communities that blended into mainstream white society. They also established many of the cultural institutions that make up a community, such as churches, restaurants, specialized stores and other community gathering places.


Despite censorship, many religious communities continue to operate. They adapt by replacing sensitive religious Mandarin characters (hanzi) with emoji and symbols or avoiding certain words through the use of romanized spellings and emoji.

The religion of the Chinese people is a complex mixture of folk religion, Taoism, Buddhism, and Christianity, among other faiths. They honor their ancestors and practice divination, the art of using omens to discern movements in the supernatural world.

China continues its multiyear campaign of “Sinicization” to bring all religious doctrine and practice into line with CCP doctrine, according to human rights groups and other sources. In addition, authorities have detained, harassed, and intimidated believers of unregistered religious groups. Those who do not comply face prosecution.


In the late 1980s, the Chinese in Oregon were largely Min (Fujian), Wu, Teochiu, and Mandarin speakers from mainland China. Now they are from all over the country and the Pacific region.

Education in China was a major priority of the Communist Party government, and it was the first country to introduce nine years of compulsory education for all. Schools were established by government departments, businesses, trade unions, academic societies, and democratic parties. In addition, factories and enterprises ran their own part-time universities for their staff and workers.

As a result, the country’s primary school net enrolment and youth literacy rates improved dramatically over the years. However, huge disparities still persist in educational provision across the country’s geographically and economically diverse regions. It has also been reported that minorities including persons with disabilities are discriminated against in basic education.


In modern China, family values are emphasized and the interests of the family unit are considered more important than the individual. There is also a strong sense of filial piety. The family is a major part of social identity and there is often a close bond between siblings.

In Chinese culture, lineage is determined by paternal and maternal descent. Kinship terms are differentiated, as well as gender. A brother is indicated by different terminology than his sister, and a younger brother has the same relationship to an older brother as a nephew.

The Chinese community in Oregon is scattered throughout the state with a larger concentration in Portland and Salem. There are few communities in central and eastern Oregon and no large groups on the north coast.

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