The Chinese Community in Oregon

Chinese community

Chinese settlers organized their community around clan and family associations (fongs) founded on surname commonality and lineage, and district-level “wooi kun” organizations which favored association members in business matters. These organizations dominated the ethnic economy in Chinatown.

However, Chinese communities never lived in a ghetto and interacted with mainstream white society as well as other ethnic groups.


In Chinese culture, family is regarded as one of the most important institutions. Chinese parents often work hard to provide their children with the best education possible in order to give them a head start in life and increase their chances of upward mobility.

Loyalty to family and friends is also highly emphasized. Family members are expected to show respect and obedience to elders.

Chinese society is patriarchal and men are seen as carrying down the family lineage. As a result, when women marry into a household they usually do not take on their husbands family name and are considered Wai (wai meaning outside).

Chinese value filial piety. This means that children must obey, respect, and care for their elderly parents. Those who are unfilial are viewed as bad children and shunned by the community. Due to the rapid economic changes in China, many urban and rural parents are now reliant on their children for financial support during their retirement years.


The Chinese community is diverse ethnically (Cantonese, Mandarin, Wu, Teochiu and ABC English speakers) and socially (educated, culturally assimilated professionals, affluent entrepreneurs, singles and seniors). Geographically, most are located in the Willamette Valley. The largest communities are in Portland, Salem, Albany, Corvallis, Eugene and Medford.

The government recognizes five official religions: Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, Protestantism and Catholicism. Only religious groups that have registered with one of these associations are allowed to hold services. The government continues to impose restrictions on religious freedom, according to independent observers and NGOs.

The government characterizes Falun Gong as an illegal organization and maintains an extralegal, party-run security apparatus to eliminate it and other Christian groups. It also represses a variety of religious and spiritual groups including the Shouters, the New Testament Church, Full Scope Church, the Established King Church, Guanyin Famen and Zhong Gong (a qigong exercise discipline). Religious and other regulations prohibit the construction of places of worship, training of religious leaders, publishing literature, and providing social service activities.


Chinese cuisine is complex and fascinating, with unique flavors that burst into the mouth and recipes steeped in tradition. Chinese restaurants offer an impressive diversity, from upscale, fine dining to modern counter-service options.

Generally, the freshest meats and local, in-season vegetables are used. The use of seasonings and spices is an important aspect of Chinese cooking, and ingredients such as black bean sauce, five-spice powder, star anise, and Sichuan peppercorns are popular.

A common belief in China is that certain foods have healing or damaging properties and that eating a balanced diet (yin/yang) is important for health. Consequently, many Chinese people eat a variety of foods and drink herbal tea to stay healthy. A study of community-dwelling ethnically diverse older adults found that Chinese participants were more likely to be regularly physically active, eat fish, and be within a healthy weight range than non-Chinese participants. They also exhibited a stronger belief that healthy eating is an important part of aging well.


China is a huge country, but the culture and traditions vary widely by region. The dominant Chinese population consists of the Han people, but the government recognises 56 ethnic groups within the country.

The culture of the country is influenced by Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism. Traditional festivals are celebrated, such as the Chinese New Year and the Mid-Autumn Festival. Tea culture is an integral part of Chinese life, and it is often used as a way to relax with friends.

The cultural values that influence the psyche of the Chinese include harmony, benevolence, righteousness, courtesy and wisdom. This emphasis on relationships also plays a big role in the Chinese business environment, where the concept of ‘guanxi’ is important – the ability to use one’s network for mutual benefit. People prioritise their family and social relationships, and the stability and harmony of those networks is important to them. ‘Face’ is also a major aspect of the culture, and people try to avoid losing face by not doing something that will upset others.

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