The Chinese Community in Portland, Oregon

Like Chinatowns in San Francisco, Oakland, Seattle, and other urban areas, Portland’s Chinese community began to disappear. The majority of the community relocated beyond Plum Alley, living and working in mainstream white society.

In New York City, living in an ethnic enclave was associated with negative self-perceptions of general health and delays in seeking medical care.


Chinese families are extremely close and loyal. Family members depend on each other for emotional support and to carry out daily tasks.

Historically, the family was patriarchal, and lineage passed through the male side of the family. Women were given surnames starting with the character wai, meaning “outside,” to emphasize their lower status within the home.

Today, however, more emphasis is placed on love than on lineage. Many couples marry for love and not for the continuation of their family name. It is also common for children to be raised by their grandparents, either from the father’s or the mother’s side. Both parents are typically full time workers and quality family time is not always possible. Family members must carefully manage their money and plan for the future, including preparing for possible retirement needs.


In the Chinese culture, work is not just a way to earn money but a social activity. Embracing and respecting work culture is important for professionals in order to maintain relationships, communicate effectively, and open doors to business opportunities. Values such as hierarchy, teamwork and maintaining “face” help to establish credibility, foster trust and promote success in the workplace.

Among Chinese communities, the socioeconomic status of residents varies significantly. Those in Chinatowns are often members of an impoverished working class, while those living in the affluent suburbs are largely upper-class Chinese citizens.

A study on Chinese community health workers showed that intrinsic and extrinsic job satisfaction were associated with demographic characteristics and working situations, as well as stress and burnout. Hence, it is necessary to identify and understand the factors that influence job satisfaction.


Education has always been an important part of Chinese culture. Students in China go through 9 years of compulsory schooling. After that, many go to a cram school, known as “buxi ban” which is meant to give them the edge they need to succeed.

During the heyday of nineteenth-century Oregon Chinese settlement, merchant elites monopolized leadership in key organizations: lineage or clan associations organized on the basis of common surnames; wooi-kun, district association membership (similar to county organisations); guilds and other professional groups; and secret societies such as large fraternal lodges and smaller “fighting tongs”.

They imposed their influence over the social and cultural life of the community. They promoted family-centred social order and rationally justified it through Confucianism. These Chinese were perceived as model minorities in terms of their exemplary conduct, law-abiding nature, civic participation and cultural assimilation.


The religious profile of the Chinese community differs from the wider Australian population, despite their shared history and cultural heritage. This is partly due to the definitional distinction between those who site their ancestry as China and those who identify their ancestry as Taiwan or Tibet, which may influence their willingness to disclose religiosity (J Relig Spiritual Aging 2015).

The survey also asks about the endorsement of importance of religion and frequency of attending organized and in-home religious activities. These factors are correlated with several health outcomes in previous studies. Future longitudinal research using mixed statistical methods is needed to explore these relationships further.


Chinese culture focuses on family, respect for elders and the importance of the concept of ‘face’. Face is the quality that represents a person’s reputation, influence, dignity and honour. Consequently, Chinese people often behave carefully to avoid losing face in public.

The concept of face is also embedded in a complex system of social relationships and business dealings known as guanxi. Guanxi involves a reciprocal exchange of favours between friends, family and business associates.

Although the impact of COVID-19 has forced some groups to close, others are finding ways to survive. The Chinese Culture Connection (CCC) is one of those organizations. It offers language, calligraphy and cultural classes to help immigrants and their children preserve and retain their heritage. It also enriches local communities with the gift of Chinese arts and culture.

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