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tv   American Artifacts The Chinese in America Part 1  CSPAN  August 12, 2021 11:20pm-11:51pm EDT

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now some people tell me there is no real evidence of the demon cat. but i can show you some actual concrete evidence because here is where he carved his initials into the concrete. this is the corridor that goes from the old senate into the terrace. and there is where the demon cat carved his initials into the wall. not generating another. yeah. yeah next american history tv visits san francisco's chinatown next, american history tv visits san francisco's chinatown. to learn the history of the chinese in america. >> good afternoon, good
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afternoon, good afternoon. welcome to the chinese historical society of america. my name is charlie chin, i'm officially listed here as artist-in-residence but i do double duty as a historian for a very simple reason. as most of you know, artists do not make any money whatsoever. but historians are underpaid, so it's actually a step up. [laughs] what we are going to do today is we're going to take an overview of chinese american history. and for that will be doing to different sections. one will be an in-house docent tour. and the other will be a street tour where we will look at china town today. for your sake, of general education i should point out that we are in a building that was the old chinatown why wcs. it was built and designed in 1932 by julia morgan. a very famous female architect, who, amongst other things was a force endorsed by the why wcs
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for obvious reasons. the organization of the chinese historical society of america, which was founded in 1963. it's purpose was to deal with the problem of study of asian american history and china's american history is small. much of the information that has been researched is not available to the general public. it usually sits on a dusty shelf in a major institution of learning. and it is accessed only by those people whose feel the study it is. so the organization, among some of the things, it's purpose was to ensure that average people would be able to get information about the chinese historical experience, for reasons that will become clear as we continue. at any given point, during our time together, if something occurs to you, please raise your hand. it doesn't necessarily have to do with anything i'm discussing at the moment. just some question that comes up. the reason why is, while four you our time together may seem
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interminable, for me it's very brief. and i really want to make sure you get with information you need, in order to complete the pictures you have in your mind about chinese american history is. to begin with, we have to look at the situation as it is today. there are certain questions that arise. because we have the benefit of a group of people who are adults, we often deal with children here. i can go into this a little more in-depth. number one, here is a cartoon from last year. 2012. and it's a cartoon that shows an asian american couple, in imitation of course of the great american painting, american gothic. it comments that asians are the fastest growing minority in the united states. while that's true, why, i propose, as a question, as it's very unlikely that they will become a majority. here we have on local newspaper,
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the chronicle last year, a pew report, notices that asian americans as a group has the largest income. the best educated and are considered generally the happiest. and yet for some reason, we know that 54% of the people who live in china town live at or below the poverty level. how is that possible at the same time? asian seem to be represented on all different levels of society. here, for instance is a recent gala for the opening of the san francisco valley. i'm not in the picture. last year, the house and the senate apologized to chinese americans. two years before that, in 2009, the state of california apologized to chinese americans. what did they apologize for? and why, by and large, to about 90% of the chinese americans that live in the united states
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don't know, and it really care? at this point, that congress apologized to chinese americans. now i don't expect you all to agree with everything i propose. but i ask you the indulgence to at least relax for a little while, and look at things through the lens that i am using. let's begin over here. come over here. primary question. as we look around, we have to ask ourselves, the first and primary question, how long have there been chinese in the united states? with somebody like to venture a guess? nobody would like to venture a guess as to how long there have been chinese in the united states? look >> 1700s. the 1700s? >> that's a relatively good guess, the 1700s. no one else? that shaking sound you hear is me trembling about the future. but [noise] [laughs]
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it's a trick question. there were chinese in what would become the united states long before there was united states, of course. most of you know from your education that someone sailed the ocean blue in 14 92. who is that? columbus, who italian americans were always proud of the fact that he is italian or was italian. but he was sailing under spanish flag. and so it was spain that did a lot of the early exploration on behalf of europeans in the new world. how much, how often? i understand that in 15 13, when ponce dylan landed in florida, some of the indigenous people greeted him in spanish. they had already met several other spanish explorers. spain had vast holdings, in the long run, a whole other discussion as to how they arrived at that. but for our purposes, it didn't end there. spain expanded her territories and possessions, her trade interests all the way to asia,
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across the pacific, to the islands of the philippines, which are named after the king of spain at that time, king philip the second. so by the 15 hundreds, they are our galleons sailing all around the world, to asia and then back to the pacific. across the pacific, back to spain, across the atlantic. and in this trade are variations, including chinese, filipinos, indonesian's and others. but for our purposes, of course, everything begins in 1776. 13 colonies proposed to be their own country, they have a war. the war lasts until 1783. a long war, a war of independence. of course, not as long as the words we have now. but right after the war was completed in 1783, the following year, it was important, so important it was one of the first things they did. this little country, it set
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forth a ship out of new york harbor. the name of the ship was the empress of china, outfitted to do trade with china. now why was it so important for them immediately, upon surviving the war of independence, why was it important for them to go to china? what was in china that everyone needed and it had actually been part of the reason why they separated? >> t? >> t. see, everybody drink, it even working class people felt they had a right to the. so, well -- it was an upscale item. if you drank tea you would be drinking it from a porcelain cup. still referred to as china where an english. you may have been drinking from a teakwood table, which you got from china, you may have been sitting in a silk shirt. before world war ii there was no substitute for silk. you may be having a baked scone with it, scented with cinnamon. grown in china, but that's where you went to trade for it.
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that's easy enough. the question arises, what did this emerging country have that china is willing to trade for? don't forget china, at this point, considered itself the center of the world. it was ruled by the qing dynasty, which had conquered china, in 16 44, a foreign group of people. and frozen all directions but still considered itself to be the center of the world. what did the americans have that the chinese were willing to trade for? anyone? >> for? >> furs. the americans were famous for furs. the earliest fortunes made were made in force. see mr. aston. beaver, fox, mink, various, others ermine were captured, trapped here in the americas, canada, and the united states and shift to china. the americans arrived and they were very aggressive in this trade, they learn quickly that there were several things they could trade, that included
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mexicans to balloons and pesos. don't forget, mexico had a huge empire. sandal would, which was picked up in hawaii, one of the reasons that is so hard to find sandweg today. sea cucumbers, sea cucumbers -- >> anybody notice seeking cameras? most people don't. it's an invertebrate sea animal. which was dried, and then reconstituted, with the texture, but not particularly a great taste. perhaps one of the most important things was an early trade item from the country was american ginseng. now ginseng have been a trade item for a while. french missionaries who arrived ... in michigan, and wisconsin, they had discovered an american version of jim saying growing here. they knew of it, it worked in china. they know is an important trade item. jim saying one important trade item then, it's an important trade item now. as one commercially in
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wisconsin. when people visit us from the peoples republic of china, frequently they ask where they can get american ginseng to bring back as gifts for relatives. here's an example. you're not familiar with what it looks like. this is the route, it is fresh, it is a dried route in their. in places like tennessee, kentucky... near the appalachian mountains, people still hunt for it during the summer's. people go stand hunting, and it is not just an amusement, you can get to 1000 dollars for a disinterest sized route. it is worth to look. it is grown commercially here in the u.s.. one of the most famous -- prince of peace. it grows... as they show you down here, it is verified by the wisconsin board of jim saying. so, the american people jump in with both feet in the time china trade. they develop a special ship called a china clipper. it sacrifices space in the hall for sleek speed.
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it's very long and narrow. has huge amounts of sales. the americans, flying the american flag -- red and white stripes, and would appear to be red flowers on a blue background. -- the flower flag. country this is to be named, americas known for quite awhile. if somebody else -- let's take a look over here and see what is happening in general. america enters the china trade relatively late. france, britain, spain, portugal, the dutch, several other countries have been dealing with china and trading there for many many years. most of the trading is done in the far south of china. the xing dynasty, which is in
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control has relegated all trade essentially by foreigners to the far south. the purpose being to prevent the taint of foreign influence. the capital, if it was up here, the gwendolyn province, and the central trade is all the way down here. it's as far south as you can imagine. and still be in china. now, this is a wild and woolly free-for-all economically. fortunes were made, young man at that time, went there to seek their fortunes. , this led to several things. a mile disregard for anything that was illegal. -- that's basically true to this day. but what was to happen was, the opium trade, first and foremost. now, opium was illegal in china. it was illegal to bring it into
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china. it was known in china, used in china for thousands of years, but it was illegal to import it. in much the same way that cocaine is known in the united states, but it is illegal to bring it in. then, as now, what people did was they used -- the british, french, american ships, had delivered their cargo's outside of the major ports, or arrived late at night under cover of darkness, or bribed every official they could see insight. though, there were fortunes were be made. so of course, it is an efficient way to do it. when i say fortunes were made, you might suspect that this is distant and far in history, which is in operable to you as an american citizen. but all prepare you to see this one case. in 1833 -- he became involved in the opium trade.
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what happens is once you become -- he had a daughter, his daughter married into another family, and all the bush family. they produced a son, the son's name was franklin delano roosevelt. rebecca came president the united states. when we're talking about this trying to trade, it actually had a direct relationship to assist american citizens. but as things are going on, one of the things that happens is that when china keeps complaining about this opium trade, it's illegal. and they sent a special commission to -- to confiscate all the opium he could find. and incarcerate all the mail factors. well, the amount of opium was taken was huge. 55,000 --
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-- of course, it is illegal to bring opium into china. and britain takes an interesting position. britain says, you have just taken british property, and you have not paid for it. this leads to an argument. which becomes the first and second in the so-called opium wars. where britain stands gunboats to force payment, involves itself in a shooting war with china, and in both cases, china loses for very simple reasons. china's old, it was vast, but china had fallen behind technologically. their ships were not as manoeuvrable as the british ships. they're canons were woefully behind. the chinese canons were perhaps -- cast in bronze, made in portugal in the 16 hundreds. british cannons were the finest and most accurate that could be. had written handily won the first and second of the so-called opium wars, and use that opportunity to demand the china open up several of the ports including ningpoe,
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shanghai, and tiensen it said era. when we look at these political cartoons, we look around. when we take a look at these political cartoons, you get an idea of what was to happen. here, we see china shown as a sleeping dragon. of course, a reference to napoleon's comment that was, china's a sleeping giant. and fighting over the carcass, you see the british lion, the russian bear, the american eagle, the french rooster, etc. all fighting over the carcass, and where exactly, it was easier for people to march and take over a whole section of china, and rule it as if it were their own country. the most of you don't look old enough to drink, i suspect that some of you are old enough to drink, therefore if you have been into china's restaurants, you know that there is a chinese beer called tsing tao. you made seen. it had the ever wondered why viewers made in china? because an 1885, germany came
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in and took over the entire province of jungle, and ruled it as if it were theirs. most of you are not old enough to remember that what we refer to today as southeast asia have been refer to formally as french indochina. because indeed, france and come in and taken over the vassal states that had partly been part of china's empire, and made them their own. this is why, when you go to have pho written pho but actually pronounced pho, you notice that the menu envy enemies, is written in a alphabet, a phonetic alphabet. because why, because french cannot deal with it. so they introduced a phonetic alphabet. now, while all of this is going, on the of an interesting situation percolating in the far south. china, in terms of its government, is crumbling. what's happening? the qing dynasty came in and 60 44, froze everything and attempted to basically run china for the previous dynasty. but things were not corroding,
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collapsing from within, imploding. the war with britain was disastrous, because amongst other things, they had a peasant uprising, and now china had to pay the costs of the opium, and the costs of the expedition in silver to britain. and the only way that you could do that was by taxing the peasants in advance, which means, if you are paying taxes, you almost pay taxes and taxes to europe today. most of you know, there's a little thing called foreclosure, when you cannot pay your taxes, your land is taken from you, and this was the situation. now, in this one particular area, and the far south of china in guangzhou province, we have a very interesting situation. gwen dull province was chosen as a trade area for a number of reasons. now, one of them was, it had been a traditional trade area since the tank dynasty, since around the seven hundreds. now, what happens is that you load your ships offshore on these islands, there is a port
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here hong kong, etc. you go through the delta with a special trading handler. to the trading compound in the city of canton. fabled and famous, the city of canton was synonymous with trade, was synonymous with riches. so much so in the united states, in the 18 -- or part of the 18 hundreds, and later, the name countdown was used again and again as cities and operators is towns and corporations and hopefully would become as famous as the city in china. here is an example. this is a brochure from canton michigan. you can -- i used to comment several years ago that there's a canton, ohio. very famous. but that is groups came through late state, we'll world from mississippi, we have a canton mississippi. more from new hampshire, we have a canton, new hampshire. so, i want from looking at this, and i discovered that there were possibly 41 to 42 of the 50 states have a city or town
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named canton. and they're named in honor of the fabled trade city of canton in one jewel, in chinese. so, there are foreigners coming -- because the topography here is a little unusual. the delta is very rich. it is famous actually for fruits and vegetables. the city is very rich, lots of trade but the surrounding land is very poor. if you enter the area and the beige and brown, you come to an area which at that time is vastly overpopulated. and a special situation had developed. since the land could only support the local people, six months out of the year, aid became customary for mental leave the land yearly to look for work on the sea coast. now, the reason why this is unusual is because much of china's confucian directed a culture, it was a matter of course that adult males stay
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close to their parents to support them in their old age. but here was a situation where the only way to support the family was to leave periodically, and so, they began a process which was seen until this day. part of the process was the men would work seasonally on this east coast as laborers. take the money that they made, and buy merchandise, return it to the village, and sell it -- bought at the sea coast, back in the village. it must of big yen the practice of small business and, which still exist to this day. most people notice that cantonese are good at small business, they seem leery of large business. but they're into large -- small business. now the wave after wave, they do this every year. there is amongst other things the so-called opium. wars --
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he falls into a coma, this christian missionary, and when it comes of a coma, he realizes that he is the younger brother of jesus christ, last name was hong. he began a great uprising, a peaceful uprising of the towel paying. and it was to free the land to make everybody equal, but it did eventually was, it lasted 14 years over 20 million people. this devastated large parts of china, whole areas that were devastated. huge social unrest. now, as men begin to come to the sea coast, -- if you walk south, out of southern china, you end up in you continue to vietnam, you
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end up south, you end up in the peninsula and in indonesia, malaysia. it happens for many expanding western nations. now, here is the push factor. this area between 1850 and 1900, the areas you see mark invasion brown saw 14 floods, seven typhoons of a katrina sandy nature, of course, with so much death and destruction, five years of epidemics. for earthquakes, and two years of complete drought. meaning that every year, something happened, which was to drive these men off of the land, drive them off of the land. they stepped aboard ships in the early middle 1800s because of something very basic that it happened in another part of the world, spain and england had ended slavery. as a matter of fact, america
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had ended the slave trade as well. they didn't and slavery, but a sloppy -- stop the slave trade, which meant they can gaga rating in africa, or deal with africans are treated in slaves anymore. they needed cheap labor. the british found that source of cheap labor into places. the punjabi of india, where they found indian farmers who were willing to leave and of course -- thousands and thousands of men would be driven to the seacoast almost every year to look for work. if they were lucky, they ended up someplace that wasn't too bad, if they were unlucky, they were set up in laos, numbers 20 or 30, numbers painted on their chest. no one ever knew the real names. they might be sent to guam, or peru. i'm not sure if you are familiar with peru. people know guam, yes? it is the -- guano, some of the caves of peru, that have been going on for millions of years, it is of little feet thick. now would also be very important component fertilizer, and explosives, so these men
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would cut it, with various tools and bring it out in chunks, the life expectancy of iguana minor was roughly a year and a half. hapterrible trade. and then something was to happen in california that drew thousands of these men here. right here. would happen in california? in 1848? >> [inaudible] wrong. 1848. gold is discovered. the gold rush doesn't happen until 1849. please join me over here. just making sure you are still awake. there was a sleepy place called it was first called in the spanish for mexican territory. in the 18 forties, here's a pencil sketch made by a visitor, of the little town, and dana,
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two years before his book visits this little porn points out there is not much here. there's a handful of buildings. the estimates go from 400 to 800. one ship a month passes through. but something is to happen. and that something is, caused by -- here's a picture of him, he came back several years later to have his photo taken. this is mr. marsh. he was working for mr. souter, your hand suitor. he hated it when people called him sutter. he was swiss. but his name was often broken down. he had a land grant from mexico that was so big he was planning to make his own country. seriously, it was going to be a new switzerland here in california hills. but to do this he had to have lumber, so how is this could be
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built and people could come and live here. so he basically hired mr. marshall to set up the lumber mill. mister marshall, while checking the runoff one day, finds a shiny object, was not sure, and tests's it and realizes it is gold. and what's really interesting here is that gold has been discovered here in california several times before. but people usually kept it quiet. why would you tell everyone that there is gold where you are? the difference was this man. this man is mr. samuel brandon, we have a random street here to. he was very important in the founding of san francisco as the city. he had a store in san commando. he had come with 200 morgan's mormons on a ship to meet brigham young, who was supposed to arrive in this area. but he had discovered that utah
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was the promised land. so it was to happen was that he stopped there. mr. brandon met him there, they had a falling out, brandon came back and opened up a store in sacramento. the store still there. outside of the store it's still there. strangely it's now a restaurant called fat city. it's owned by chinese people. what happened was that gold had been discovered and the reason, very simply, if there was a gold rush to the hills of the sea areas, people were able to pass through sacramento. if they pass through sacramento, they would have to walk past his door. once he discovered these rumors words true, and brought up everything you could possibly need. once he had completed that task. he had a little newspaper, not too far from where we are staying. and he ran around portsmouth,
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screaming gold has been discovered on the american river. people heard and dropped what they were doing and ran to the hills. now you know the push factor out of southern china and now you know the poll factor. >> this is the first of a three part series on the chinese in america with storyteller and historian charlie chin. you can view this and other american artifacts at our website,, slash history. i


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