In the face of discriminatory laws, Chinese built self-sufficient communities known as Chinatowns. They served as second homes where people could shop for familiar foods, worship in a traditional temple, and keep up to date on news from home.
Many Chinese continue to feel a strong connection with their homeland and send remittances back.
In the face of blatant racial discrimination and hard times, Chinese immigrants forged tight-knit communities. In urban areas, they formed self-reliant Chinatowns that functioned like separate cities within the city. They also built family and district benevolent associations that served as social support systems, adjudicated disputes, strove to meet economic needs, and spoke for the community in the fight against discriminatory legislation.
The first wave of Chinese in America began with merchants and sailors who traveled to China’s ports to engage in maritime trade. They later took jobs in California’s gold mines and coast fisheries, and labored on the Central Pacific and Transcontinental Railroads. They were not permitted to bring their families. Despite these hardships, they succeeded in living a vibrant and respected life in American society.
Changes in immigration laws after World War II brought a new wave of Chinese immigrants. These included the repeal of the Chinese exclusion law and the establishment of small quotas for Chinese immigration, which allowed families to reunite.
Most recent arrivals from China have settled in Toronto and Vancouver. They have also tended to spread out across the country, and like other Canadians of all origins, are more likely to be women than men.
Today, most of Oregon’s Chinese are located in the Willamette Valley, including Portland’s Chinatown and areas in Lane, Benton, Linn, and Marion Counties. They are less concentrated in southwestern Oregon and along the north coast. Many work in businesses and markets that serve the wider community. The community is also served by a variety of professional, cultural, and social organizations.
With the end of exclusion and the return of older sojourners, most Oregon Chinese have integrated into mainstream white society. They are seen as friendly, hardworking, law-abiding citizens who contribute to the community.
Education in China is heavily influenced by official policy, which stresses scholastic achievement. School leaders place high importance on academic subjects such as math, science, and language, while focusing less on social studies and the humanities.
Research shows that traditional family education in Chinese culture emphasizes collectivist values, promoting moral education through daily life experience rather than from formal instruction. This contrasts with individualistic patterns of Western educational thought and practice. Today, community education is one of the government’s key agendas to promote educational reform and build a lifelong learning-based society.
Throughout history, Chinese popular religion has tended to be heterodox. Any religious tradition that drew inspiration from a source outside of traditional Chinese culture could run the risk of being labeled a cult and face government sanctions.
The Chinese Communist Party is officially atheist, but the country allows its citizens to practice their religion within certain guidelines. The government continues a multiyear campaign of “Sinicization,” which seeks to shape all religions to conform to CCP doctrine. This includes requiring clergy to attend political indoctrination sessions and suggesting content for sermons that promote loyalty to the state.
Despite strict guidelines, many religious groups thrive in China. For example, the Early Rain Covenant Church has held online events that have been disrupted by police. In the TSCS, surveyors omit sensitive religious Mandarin characters to avoid censorship.
The economic expansion engineered by white society in Oregon during the late 1860s led many of the older sojourner Chinese to relocate beyond Portland’s Chinatown. As they did so, they found more opportunities for employment.
Chinese emigrants made significant contributions to their new societies. They worked as gold miners in Southeast Asia and America; constructed railroads, markets, and restaurants in Europe; grew fruit and vegetables in California’s Central Valley and Oregon’s Willamette Valley; and operated laundries and grocer stores in cities around the world.
Contrary to popular stereotypes, these communities never became overcrowded ghettos. They were places where families could support themselves and stay close to their culture. They were also places where people of all backgrounds came to do business. In 2001, 82% of Canadians of Chinese origin lived in Ontario or British Columbia.