Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Chinese Railroad Workers Project In North America: Uncovering Secrets from the Past

On August 26th, the Director of the American Studies Program at Stanford, Dr. Shelley Fisher Fishkin joined USCPFA to explain some special research: the Chinese Railroad Workers in North America Project.
Dr. Shelley Fisher Fishkin explains research.
Dr. Fishkin said that when she joined the University in 2003, she had heard that Chinese labor was the key to the fortune with which Leland Stanford founded Stanford University, and assumed she would find something in the library—a letter from one of the workers or a something.  There was nothing.  She asked her colleague in the history department, Dr. Gordon H. Chang, where she might find something. He said, “Nowhere.” Not a single letter or journal entry or remittance slip from the people who had done the most for the railroad…for the university, for the states, for the country.
Just as unbelievable—and heartbreaking-- was a collective national amnesia that the Chinese had even participated. During the 100th anniversary of the completion of the railroad in 1969, a celebration was held during which the role of the Chinese was attributed to non-Chinese.
“Who else but Americans can drill ten tunnels in mountains 30 feet deep in snow?” asked the orator officiating the ceremony, Secretary of Transportation John Volpe. “Who else but Americans could chisel through miles of solid granite? Who else but Americans could have laid ten miles of track in twelve hours?”
But, the people who performed all those engineering marvels hadn’t been Americans.
They had been Chinese.
Let’s look back. In the 1800s it took months to travel from the east coast of the United States to west, and sometimes people didn’t make it.  (Think Donner Party, 1846). Communication, goods and services took time as well, and lots of it. So, despite the demands of the raging Civil War, President Lincoln signed a bill and urged Congress to back him on the construction of a transcontinental railroad.  In 1862, Congress passed that bill—the Pacific Railroads Act—authorizing two railroad companies (the Union Pacific and the Central Pacific) to construct lines. 
The owners of the Union Pacific hired more than 8,000 Irish, German and Italian immigrants to build west from Omaha, Nebraska. This portion of the railroad line was relatively easy to build, since the land across the prairies was flat. On the other hand, the Central Pacific—from west to east—proved to be more difficult.  The line from Sacramento to the east had to cut through the Sierra Nevada mountain range—an incredibly difficult task, which included building tunnels through long stretches of solid granite in unpredictable and harsh weather.
Said Dr. Fishkin,  “After a year of struggling with Caucasian workers who didn’t want to work in the Sierra Nevada, and who were quitting on him in droves, Charles Crocker,  who oversaw the construction—suggested hiring Chinese workers.” 
This was an odd suggestion at the time.  This was right after the California gold rush when many Chinese had left drought, famine and war in China, and come to the U.S. to seek out their fortune. The Chinese were accused of taking all the jobs, of having strange eating habits, of being barbaric. Leland Stanford, in his inaugural address as Governor of California in 1862,  had promised to rid the state of “the dregs of Asia,” meaning the Chinese people.
But, in 1864, the businessman Stanford--one of the owners of the Central Pacific, and no longer governor-- decided these “dregs” would be his best bet.
It is estimated that 12-15,000 Chinese worked on and finished the railroad. (Almost twice the number of Irish, Italian, Germans employed for the Union Pacific.) As Leland Stanford wrote in a letter to President Johnson in 1865, “The greater portion of the laborers employed by us are Chinese…..Without them it would be impossible to complete the western portion of this great national enterprise, within the time required by the Acts of Congress.”
This Chinese labor—and the completion of the railroad-- not only created a good part of the fortune which founded Stanford University, but more importantly linked the east coast to the west coast, and made it possible to get from one end to the other in a week rather than three months. “It paved the way for new waves of settlers to travel from east to west, and provided a much less expensive way to transport goods,” said Dr. Fishkin. “The labor of the Chinese helped hasten America’s entry into the world as a modern nation.”
So one would think the Chinese participation in this important piece of history is all well documented. 
It isn’t. To right this wrong, and to avoid repeating that disgraceful 1969 ceremony at the 150th anniversary of the railroad’s completion in 2017, Dr Fishkin and Dr. Chang convened a group of researchers at Stanford, creating the Chinese Railroad Workers in North America Project. The purpose of the project, which is sponsored by universities, foundations and private donors worldwide, is to find out who these Chinese were and what happened to them. For, despite the overwhelmingly large participation of the Chinese on the railroad, very little is known about them as individuals. There are no memoirs to turn to. Very little written documentation.
The Chinese Railroad Workers Project is exploring every avenue.
They are looking at photographs, and payroll records. From the latter, it is clear that not only did Chinese workers have to pay for their food and lodging and tools from their wages, they weren’t paid as well. According to one scholar’s calculations, the Chinese workers cost the Central Pacific about two-thirds of what it paid white workers.
The Railroad Project is looking at company reports, government census files, and immigration records. They are exploring letters, books and newspaper articles. From these they discovered that the winter of 1886-1887, when the Chinese were working on blasting through the Sierra Nevada Mountains, was one of the harshest on record. There were 44 storms and an average of 18 feet of snow on the summit. One article they found detailed how a snow slide killed 19 Chinese workers. Snow wasn’t the only danger. “Landslides, explosions, blasting accidents, falls, Indian raids, and disease all took their toll,” Dr. Fishkin said.
Another article noted that during construction of the summit tunnel (1659 feet long through solid Sierra Nevada granite) many people had predicted it would take three years to do what the Chinese workers did in one.  Another feat was documented on April 28, 1869: 4,000 Chinese laborers working with eight Irish rail handlers laid ten miles and fifty-six feet of track in a bit less than twelve hours.  (This was the engineering feat Secretary Volpe mistakenly attributed to American labor in the ceremony in 1969.) That record has never been duplicated in railroad construction.
The Railroad Project is also following the findings of archeologists who have worked along the railroad route, and have unearthed thousands of pieces of rice bowls, gaming pieces, cooking vessels and opium pipes.
They are asking the descendants of the railroad workers to come forward and share what they know.  As a result, slowly, what once was this blurry idea of “Chinese laborers” is becoming clearer.
“For example,” said Dr. Fishkin. “Wilson Chow said his great grandfather Jun Yuk Chow left his home in Kaiping County, attracted by the idea of the Gold Rush, and took a ferry to Hong Kong where he booked 3rd class passage on a 3-mast sailboat across the Pacific. The journey took 48 days. He worked as a miner in Gold Hill, Nevada, when he was recruited to work on the Central Pacific.
“Another worker—Lim Lip Hong—similarly came looking for gold. He left Guangdong on a junk with his uncle and twelve relatives in 1885. Their journey took six months, as they got stuck in a dead zone in the middle of the ocean. Several of the group tried to commit suicide. They finally made it across. Some years later, they too were recruited to work on the railroad.”
The supply of Chinese workers already in the country was not enough to meet the demand of the railroad, so Central Pacific began recruiting directly from China. Hung Lai Wow left his village in Toisan as a teenager, along with one of his brothers, to join the work crew. Chin Lin Sou was also recruited directly from Guangdong.
Despite all of the accomplishments of the Chinese railroad workers—and after the Central Pacific, many went on to build other railroad lines, performing other marvels, other engineering feats—waves of anti-Chinese hostility continued to grow. “From 1870-1890 the Chinese were attacked all across the west and driven out of 34 towns in California, three in Oregon, and four in Nevada. There were 153 anti-Chinese riots between 1870-1880,” said Dr. Fishkin.
Anti-Chinese hysteria prompted lawmakers to pass the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882.  That act would stay in place until 1943.
The Chinese Railroad Workers in North America Project is doing its utmost to remember and honor the people who worked hard—despite extreme hardship—to make America what it is today. “We are trying to tell a story that has indelibly shaped us all,” said Dr. Fishkin.
And continues to shape us.
For the descendants of railroad workers include Flying Tigers defending the shores of the America,  famous actresses, like Arabella Hong (Flower Drum Song) and Medal of Arts recipients, like novelist Maxine Hong Kingston, etc. etc.
Two years ago, Stanford co-hosted a conference in Guangdong, the region from which nearly all the railroad workers came from, and the University officially recognized the achievements of these Chinese workers for the very first time.  The secret about who is responsible for thrusting America into the modern world is being revealed, thanks to the Chinese Railroad Workers Project in North America, one story at a time. Keep your eyes out in the near future for a description of the project in book form. Also, look forward to the celebration of the 150th Anniversary of the railroad, a celebration we all can be proud of.
"Thank you, Dr. Fishkin!"

 **If you have neighbors, friends, or relatives who have a connection with this chapter in American history, please contact the Project.  They want to hear your stories. Additionally, if you would like to support them, the Project welcomes your tax-deductible donations.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Earlybird Convention Registration Deadline Extended!

Hello USCPFA friends,
We hope you are making your plans for the big National Convention in Las Vegas Oct. 6-8. We have extended the cutoff for the $225 rate until July 15. Send in your registration today! (See registration form in post below.)

The deadline for reserving rooms at the Orleans Hotel is September 3. Only $130 on Friday and Saturday and $76 other nights.

In friendship,
Paul Morris, Convention Committee

Friday, April 28, 2017

Member Leads Annual Walk

Member Gerry Low Sabado will lead the Annual Walk of Remembrance at the Pacific Grove Museum (165 Forest Avenue, Pacific Grove) Saturday, May 6, starting at 1pm.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Past President Henry Bender to Speak at NRHS

What: As a follow-up to Ben Kletzer's show at NRHS' February Banquet of the last operating—and vanishing— steam locomotives in China, Henry Bender will show you what Chinese Railways looked like in 1978, when China was the world's last nation still building new steam engines.
He'll show a class QJ "Advance Forward" 2-10-2 less than seven months old, as well as a class RM "Peoples" 4-6-2, and Mikados and Prairies switching Dalien's wharves and Anshan's steel mill. A highlight is his memory of a tour inside a locomotive factory building class DF4 "East Wind" diesels. Views of trains, streetcars, Beijing's subway, imperial palaces, the Great Wall, kindergartens, and more will add variety. Everyone is invited.
When: Friday, May 19th 7:30pm
Where: Southbay Historical Railroad Society Meeting room, Caltrain's S. C. Depot, 1005 Railroad Avenue, Santa Clara

Sunday, March 5, 2017

The U.S. and China in 2017

Member George Koo will be speaking at the Commonwealth Club on March 20: Get your tickets now.
Howard French, Former New York Times Asia Correspondent; Author, Everything Under the Heavens: Empire, Tribute and the Future of Chinese PowerGeorge Koo, Ph.D, Regular contributor, online Asia Times, Chairman, Burlingame Global Foundation.
George Lewinski, Former Foreign Editor, "Marketplace"—Moderator
For many years after its reform and opening in 1978, China maintained an attitude of false modesty about its ambitions. That role has been set aside, asserts panelist Howard French, who says China has revealed plans for pan-Asian dominance by building its navy, increasing territorial claims to areas like the South China Sea, and diplomatically bullying smaller players. Hear from French and China analyst George Koo, who says that whatever China’s plans, following a western template to become a global hegemon is not a likely outcome, nor will “false modesty” necessarily find any validity. Come for a fascinating discussion about the historical context of China’s actions and what the future holds for the U.S. relationship with China under the Trump administration.
Location: 555 Post St., San Francisco
Time: 5:45 p.m. check-in, 6:30 p.m. program, 7:30 p.m. book signing
Notes: In association with The Committee of 100; French photo by Stuart Isett

Monday, February 20, 2017

Bachelor Show in China

Member John Marienthal Received this interesting article from the founder of Shanghai Pathways, Janny Chyn:
A new dating show is sparking huge controversy online after inviting bachelors’ parents to judge if a candidate is a good match for their son, leaving the audience questioning whether Chinese men are overindulged and their families meddle too much in 
After reading about the posts on wechat regarding this show. I decided that I had to watch it. In China, romance is often sacrificed to practicality; dating has largely become a commercial transaction. In Shanghai’s marriage market, Chinese parents get together in park to introduce their children to one another. Singles’ clubs set people up according to requirements — height, income, property. And now this is the first dating show in China actually brings the parents into the “perfect wife/husband” selection. It is just so much fun to watch…..
Here is what media and netizen says:
The first episode of Chinese-style Blind Date premiered on Shanghai Dragon Television Saturday. It involves five single men, who are required to stay in a separated room offstage while watching a monitor as their parents interact with the single women. During the process, family members can press the light in front of them if they are satisfied with the candidates.
When asked to describe their ideal daughter-in-law, parents almost unanimously agreed that she should be hardworking, intelligent, pretty and caring. Some of the standards seemed prejudiced. For example, the mother of a 23-year-old Tianjin native Zhao Haoran insisted that her son should not marry someone with cold hands, alleging that such a woman may give birth to unhealthy babies. Only one family said their son’s preference would come first.
The show culminated when a contestant, Lin Jiali, stepped onto the stage with her homemade soup, seemingly winning the hearts of all the family members and the bachelors. However their attitude changed dramatically when Lin revealed that she is, 40 years old, divorced and has a son. Only Zhao Haoran expressed interest in Lin but the two failed to “hold hands”, under the strong objection of Zhao’s parents, who said that they would like two to three grandchildren, implying Lin is too old for that.
The show immediately provoked hot debate among viewers. Some netizens condemned it, saying it objectifies women and is a step backwards to the arranged marriage based on utilitarianism in feudalistic times.
“It is not right to bring a women on stage to be judged by others,” one Weibo user said. “I am furious when some parents asked disrespectful and intruding questions to the candidates, such as their age and if they had any plastic surgeries.”
“They are looking for a combination of breeding machine, a nanny and a tool for money. I didn’t feel any sincerity,” commented another.
Others said that parents spoil their sons too much and have raised them to be “mama’s boys”, ” giant babies” and men with “straight-man cancer”, a term referring to some men’s clinging on to traditional Chinese norms in relationships, such as suppressing women’s rights, devaluing female labor and branding educated women as unattractive.
“I am disappointed at the behavior of the men, who have zero respect for women,” said one Weibo user, referring to the male participants’ self-centered and blunt comments on the bachelorettes.
“The giant babies should better be left with their parents for life.”
There are also viewers who believe the show to some extent reflects the reality of contemporary Chinese society.
“This is how marriage works in many Chinese families. There is no need to disguise it”, a viewer said.
Liu Yuan, producer of the show, said in a Guangzhou Daily report that rather than an old-style, parent-arranged blind date, the show provides a channel for young people to communicate with the elder generation. “The parents and the matchmaking host are just providing suggestions and cannot make the final decision,” Liu said.
When asked whether this is unfair for the women, Liu said the show will turn around in the next episode by asking women’s families to select men.
Janny Chyn is the founder of shanghai pathways, a platform that engages people to learn and understand the city through unique cultural activities “off the beaten tracks.” She is also a writer for The Courier magazine and has been a guest speaker for schools and organizations. Apart from running Shanghai Pathways, Janny provides training and consultation service for corporate clients such as P&G, Ipsos and Google. Her current work has been featured in media outlets including Los Angeles Times, Miami Herald, CNNgo, The Sacramento Bee, Zester Daily, Nomadic Notes, Business Mirror, Shanghai Morning Post, Daily Secret.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

 I would like to wish everyone a prosperous, happy, and healthy the Year of the Rooster! 鷄年吉年!

Thanks to all the board members and friends for working together, we put up a great event last Saturday 1/21 to welcome the new year.

Susan Man used her talent, put together a great video with the beautiful photos she took. Check them out.

From the photos and video, you can see about 80 people from diverse background came together and enjoyed the fabulous celebration. According to some of our long time members, this was the biggest one in our chapter history. 
First, a  pot luck with lots of delicious festival food (Chinese dumplings, zhongzi, sesame balls, egg rolls, rice cake, lots of oranges….), then different activities (Chinese zodiac, paper cutting, brush painting, Chinese calligraphy, chopstick game, Chinese travel and history), then Chinese dragon dance, trivia and prizes, and the finale was having our board members give out hongbao (red packets with lucky money…)
If you missed out, please try to come next year.
Here are some photos that I took.
1. Chinese dragon dance with Kenny Lin, and 3 Stanford students(Nathaniel, Wyatt, and Trent)
2. Bet was supervising Stanford students while they were making vegetarian dumplings.
3. Shawa brought about 30 students and friends from Stanford. Kenny gave a hongbao to the baby
4. CA assembly member, Kansun Chu, and his wife came to give us good wishes for the new year
5. Huihui and his popular Chinese calligraphy station
6. Adrienne and Ken at the Chinese paper cutting station with Sesha Ying
7. Shirley with some eager students learning to draw a rooster in Chinese brush painting.
8. our board members gave out hongbao to children and young unmarried.
It was a very happy celebration!

Thursday, February 2, 2017

A New Map for Relationships

We have a rare treat in store for you - an evening that will stimulate your brain, warm your heart, and delight your palate! The Silicon Valley United Nations Association, with the goal of promoting international co-operation, and the USCPFA- South Bay Chapter, with their aim of promoting friendships between peoples of United Stated and China, are joining forces to co-sponsor a program featuring Martin and Dorothie Hellman.

Martin, co-winner of the Turing Award 2016 for his groundbreaking work in cryptography, and Dorothie, a CPA who left her career to be a full-time volunteer for the Beyond War foundation, combine rational thinking, logical analysis, and holistic compassion to problems small and big. Drawing upon their experiences in fifty years in a marriage that ranged from rocky and shaky to smooth sailing, they realized that the techniques that have learned in finally achieving a perfect personal relationship can be applied to relationships between nations. They have written a book, A New Map for Relationships, in which they have discussed these techniques and how it would have applied in international problems involving countries such as Iraq, Iran, Cuba, Afghanistan, and North Korea. They have persuasively made a case for seeing problems from another’s perspectives (“be curious, not furious”).

Come spend an evening with friends and soon-to-be-friends and learn how to “creating true love at home and peace on earth!"

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Video of our Chinese New Year Party

US-China People Friendship Association had a wonderful Chinese New Year Party. Many thanks to all the people who came, had a good time, set up and decorated the church, brought delicious food, gave prizes, worked at a craft station so that everyone could experience Chinese culture, and cleaned up! This video is dedicated to YOU!