Sunday, August 5, 2018

Locke, 樂居,
The Only rural Chinese town left in the USA
by Winny Lin
co-chair of South Bay Chapter


        Remember several years ago, I was on a tour bus to Yosemite National Park, and passed a sign in Chinese “樂居” and got very curious! On May 12, my husband, Kenny, and I finally got a chance to attend Locke Asian Pacific Spring Festival at this Locke, Historical District, an unincorporated community in California built by Chinese immigrants in 1915 for the Chinese. 
        With our 40 Walnut Creek Senior Club members, Lorraine came along. She grew up in Locke, and gave us a very detailed description of her childhood life on the bus. Her father and three uncles were among the 600 Chinese that used to live in Locke and raised their families in this town in Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. It is located in the primarily agricultural region, so she said she picked pears and ate them off the tree and never understood why people paid for them. As a matter of fact, Chinese at that time worked as farmhands shared rooms in the boarding houses. There were as many as 1,000 to 1,500 Chinese people living in Locke. Lorraine only remembered some good time when she was growing up like swimming in the nearby Sacramento River with friends and cousins. However she remembered she got into trouble one time when she went to a brick building and commented,”Why is this school called white school? It should be called red school.” She didn’t realize at the time Chinese were segregated from the whites until later. When they were finally integrated, she was so looking forward to the senior prom, but it was cancelled because they were not allowed to touch hands.
       Now the population of Locke is predominantly white, and I was told it has no more than 10 Chinese families. Most of the descendants of the Chinese families got better education and moved out and joined the American mainstream for white-collar jobs. However the Locke Foundation that is dedicated to the preservation of the Locke’s historic legacy has been trying to bring more Chinese back. So when we wandered around to the end of the Main Street, we ran into this artist who just won the battle in the court and bought this property for her studio. Where we had lunch, the white owner of the cafe said she lost the battle, because the Chinese-Americans had the first right to purchase any buildings in Locke for the sake of preserving its history and culture. How interesting! Discrimination reversed.
Photo 1: Lorraine and me.


        Photo 2: Kenny in front of the Main Street where you can find a Chinese school, a souvenir shop, a Chinese medicine store, and a couple of American restaurants, a gambling hall museum, an art gallery, studio, and a Chinese restaurant. However, at one one time, it had four restaurants, a half dozen markets, dry goods stores, five warehouses, a post office, two slaughter houses, a flour mill, canneries, shipping wharves, an opera, speakeasies during prohibition and five gambling houses. According to the history in the Visitor Center, “Locke is the legacy of the extraordinary efforts made by the Chinese in developing agriculture in California.” 

Chinese school and the ties with KMT
photo 3: Kenny in front of the Chinese school

At the entrance of the Main Street, you cannot ignore the beautiful Chinese school, Joe Shooing School 周崧学校 still standing!  This is where the Chinese children spent extra time to study Chinese language and culture, heritage and traditions on top of their what curriculum they received in American schools.  in front of the school, there are two busts, one is Dr. Sun Yat-sen, the founding father of the modern China that was established in 1911.  The other one is Confucius, the Master Teacher of China. During China’s Revolutionary War, Dr. Sun traveled to the Sacramento Delta region in 1909 and 1910 to rally support and raise funds, since most of the Chinese here came from the Pearl River Delta Region in Guangdong Province in Southeast China where Dr. Sun lived. The building was built in 1915 with funds from Dr. Sun’s Kuomingtong (KMT) and it became a school in 1926. Inside of the school, there is a photo of Dr. Sun on the wall, and all the writings were in traditional Chinese, not in simplified Chinese, and also there is a flag of Republic of China (Taiwan), not the five-star flag of People’s Republic of China, and the national anthem of Republic of China. ( See photo 4. )

Locke Memorial Garden 2006 

In 1990 National Park service of United States Dept. of the Interior has designated Locke as National Historic Landmark because “it is the largest and most complete example of a rural Chinese-American community in the United States. No comparable district exists that so clearly illustrates rural Chinese American life.”  Not until 2006, the Memorial Garden was built . Decedents of the original residents came back and added a wall with bricks identifying their names and quotes. One quote said “When you drink the water, remember the spring” 飲水思源.  How true! No matter where they are now in the US, the descendants want to remember where they came from! It all started in the early 1900’s in Locke. (See photo #5)

Gambling Halls

     When we were looking for a place to eat lunch, I noticed a sign in both Chinese 大來賭舘 and English Dai Loy Gambling House, I couldn’t pass it up.  Kenny and I both went in and looked around ( photo #6).  The lights were dim and different games like dice were on display.  One room seemed to be the control room where people would manage the money. Very interesting! At its peak, there were four gambling houses for thousands of Chinese laborers.  I can understand when so many Chinese couldn’t have their families come over from China during the Chinese Exclusion Act era (1882-1943), people needed a place to spend their money and time.  

Conclusions:
      I don’t know why all my non-Chinese seniors on the bus wanted to take this tour to Locke, but Kenny and I left this place very satisfied.  I have learned more about the struggles of the Chinese immigrants who came before me, and this place seemed so peaceful on the day we visited.  However I can imagine in the early 1900’s, these Chinese families would get together around tables to share a feast, and children would play nearby.  Just like Lorraine said they were looking forward to a good time with other children. At least she was well protected in the Locke community. Not like the horror story I heard on PBS “Chinese Exclusion Act”, when some 28 Chinese miners were killed and 15 were injured. White rioters burned 78 Chinese homes.  I am thankful Lorraine seemed very confident and happy.  She is just many other Chinese descendants of Locke families have integrated into the mainstream. 

If you are interested in visiting this place, it is located 1/2 mile north of Walnut Grove, CA by Hwy 5.  


Saturday, June 2, 2018

Sunday, February 18, 2018

CELEBRATE YEAR OF THE DOG
By Winny Lin

Another successful Chinese New Year celebration for our South Bay chapter is in the books.
First we would like to thank our board member, Teresa O’Neill for opening her home, and then everyone(around 50)  who made the contribution from delicious food, decoration, to music, hong bao, and prizes!  
Special thanks to Shawa Zhang for brining all the talented Stanford students to engage us all in the paper folding, play music, bring lots of food, ….
Please enjoy these wonderful photos submitted by so many:

#1 CNY mandarin oranges symbolize good luck and flowers symbolize spring. Thank you, Shirley.
#2 Chinese dragon dance. Thank you, Grace, for the photo
#3 Eric asked everyone to fold a piece of origami paper, then he put all together and people were amazed, “Wow!”
#4 Shirley shared her time and talent and taught us how to do Chinese brush painting for the Year of the Dog
#5 Jana represented our chapter and gave this baby a good luck red envelope. Thanks to John for getting these hong bao ready.
#6 Thanks to Velma for getting us some wonderful CNY prizes
#7 Hui hui shared Chinese calligraphy while Stanford students played guitar, clarinet, cello,  and keyboard
#8 abundant food with Chinese dumplings for the Spring Festival
#9 Assemblymember Kansen Chu and his wife, Daisy, stopped by and wished us, “Happy Chinese New Year”. 
#10 Children helped me tell “The Story of Nian” 



Saturday, January 27, 2018


REACHING OUT TO THE YOUNG
By Winny Lin
Co-chair of South Bay Chapter, CA

For nearly all the four decades I have lived in the United States I have worked to share the wonders of Chinese culture with my fellow Americans, especially the young and their parents. My interest in continuing to explore ways to deepen the understanding of Chinese culture among Americans has only increased, since my husband and I moved to the Bay Area in 2014. 
The resources for doing this here are abundant.  We realized this years ago when we were just tourists in Chinatown, San Francisco. We felt nostalgic, curiosity, and fulfillment just by being there.  We shopped the open market, took the free SF City Public Library walking tours, and learned about the tongs, alleys, history, from different tour guides. Now, Chinatown is a regular part of our lives: we found a barber, volunteered in Cameron House, attended First Presbyterian Church, ate in restaurants, found an old college buddy who now owns his own shop there, visited the Chinese-American Historical Society and walked the streets for miles.
  I gradually realized that Chinatown offered an unparalleled opportunity to introduce others, both children and adults, to Chinese culture.  What I needed was an opportunity to gather together a group with whom I could share my passion. 

 My opportunity came in June 2017.

  How did I gather my group?  I had been teaching a 5th grade class for several months.  Through a pen pal program with students in China, I introduced the class to Chinese culture.  Here is one letter from a Chinese student.  Note how good the student’s command of English is.
 My students were excited to learn bits and pieces of Chinese culture from their pen pal letters and from discussions with me in class. For example, they learned that Chinese eat zhong zi for Chinese Dragon Boat Festival.  They enjoyed the story of Qu Yuan. On one occasion I brought a dozen boiled eggs to class, so my students could play the egg game like the Chinese had written about in a letter. 
Another time, one of my students saw the figure 666 in his pen pal’s letter and he mistook that as sign of the devil. This gave me an opportunity to explain what Chinese think about numbers: 9, 8, 6, are considered lucky numbers, and 4 is not, because it sounds like “death” in Mandarin Chinese. Some buildings in China may not even have a 4th floor (like some American buildings do not have a 13th floor.)  I was thrilled to have had a chance to discuss cultural differences.
What I really wanted to do was to take them to China.  Of course, that was out of the question, but maybe the second-best thing would be to take them to San Francisco’s Chinatown. 
 So, what did I do?  Shortly after summer vacation started, I contacted parents and invited them to bring their children on a tour to Chinatown. The ball started rolling.  In the end to my surprise, 21 children and 12 adults showed up.
We gathered at a BART station.  On the train into SF city, I passed out a list of things to my students to compare and contrast Chinese  and American culture.  We got off at Powell station, walked to the Dragon Gate through Union Square, and entered the largest Chinatown outside of Asia. 
  Everyone was so excited as you can see from our group photo in front of the Dragon Gate.
  I happily welcomed the help of a teacher and a parent to map out routes, brainstorm ideas, and to determine where we could stop for something interesting.  
  On Grant Ave. some children bought some ‘poppers’, a kind of Chinese firecracker that one throws to the ground making a popping noise.  The children were fully engaged and so excited.  I encouraged them to pay close attention to what they were seeing and to share their observations with one another. They reacted just like I did all those years ago as they encountered another world, a world different from the western world that they came from, but one right in San Francisco. I wondered what was going through their minds, but I could see how engaged they were.
We stopped at Waverly Place and I pointed out that Amy Tan named one of her characters ‘Waverly’ in her famous novel ‘The Joy Luck Club,’.  After that we visited Tin How Temple (天后廟), one of the oldest Daoist Temples in the US.  Luckily one of the docents was giving a talk about the religion and the story of Mazhu, Goddess of the Sea and we listened in.  That was absolutely a treat!
  No tour of Chinatown would be complete without taste of China. We barged into a restaurant by Waverly Place and seated ourselves at three big tables, with all the children at one table.  Some of these children had never had real Chinese food before, but they were ready to explore new taste sensations.  The adults were more adventurous and tried dishes that the locals would have ordered. Then we walked to my favorite Chinese bakery on Stockton for dessert, egg tart or Napoleon.
  By 2:00 PM some people had to leave to meet other commitments (e.g., baseball practice).   As we were breaking up, I began to realize just how successful this cross-culture adventure had been.  I could say goodbye to my favorite 5th graders and their parents knowing that we had, together, sowed some seeds that would germinate well into the future. Even now, when I run into the parents or students in town, they still talk about this experience
  My passion continues.  I am convinced that school curricula can be adapted to make cross-cultural learning fun and productive.  
  Since Chinese New Year is approaching Feb. 16 this year, I have started sharing “The Great Race” with younger K-3 students. It is a very cute story about 12 Chinese zodiac animals and they are responding well.  I also work with 4th and 5th graders performing a skit of ‘The Story of Nian’ which explains the origin of Chinese New Year and involves the dragon, or Nian. It is easy to fit a fiction assignment into the writing curriculum and a project involving Chinese paper folding or paper cutting into an arts class.
Chinese culture has plenty to offer in the classroom.  All it takes is a teacher ready and willing to do so.
I am very thankful for  all these  opportunities and resources that came my way. 

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