This historic photograph captured the ceremony celebrating the completion of the transcontinental railroad, which united east and west coasts of this country by a land route for the first time; yet, the thousands of Chinese Americans who helped build the railroad were conspicuously absent. Photo credit: Wikipedia
On May 10th of this year, the transcontinental railroad will be 145 years old. On that day in 1869, track laid by Union Pacific Railroad and Central Pacific Railroad companies finally connected, and insodoing created a railway that spanned 1,928 miles. For the first time in American history, it was possible to travel from coast-to-coast without sailing around the North American continent.
It is estimated that as many as 12,000 Chinese American labourers helped build the transcontinental railroad, predominantly on the West Coast. Working for a fraction of the pay of their non-Asian White counterparts, Chinese “coolie” labourers were assigned some of the most dangerous tasks, including blasting away rocks that lay in the path of the track. Unknown numbers of Chinese American men lost their lives in the course of laying the railroad. This was in part because of ongoing anti-Asian racism among the work crews; White labourers viewed their Chinese American colleagues with disdain,calling them “midgets”, “effeminate” and “monkeys”. Nonetheless, Chinese American labourers participated in the construction of virtually every railroad track on the West coast built during that era.
Yet, when the railroad was completed on May 10th, 1869, an event commemorated in a historical photograph that showed actual railroad workers crowded around the final spike as it is hammered into the ground, Chinese American labourers were left out of the photograph. They were literally erased from history.
Every year on May 10th, that historic photograph is re-created by the park officials who maintain the national park commemorating the site of the Golden Spike ceremony. And every year, park officials refuse to make any specific effort to make the Asian American community visible in the photograph recreation.
This year, acclaimed Asian American photographer and historian, Corky Lee — whose iconic black-and-white photographs have documented some of the most landmark moments in the political history of Asian America — is organizing a “flashmob” style event to correct the historic wrong of that 1869 Golden Spike Ceremony photograph.
On Saturday, May 10th at 9:30am, Corky is inviting Asian Americans to join him at the Golden Spike National Historic Site in Tremonton, Utah (group transportation is being organized from Salt Lake City). He is hoping to get at least 145 Asian Americans to join him in recreating that historic photograph, but this time with the faces of Asian America front and center!
If you are 1) Asian American, and 2) able to get to Utah on May 10th, I urge you to please come out and help him in making this important project happen! Please help challenge the erasure of Asian Americans from the history of the transcontinental railroad.
Please join (and share)this Facebook Event page to help get the word out.
And, if you are able to make it to Utah on May 10th, please contact Ze Xiao (zxiao [at] slco [dot] org), who is coordinating transportation to the Golden Spike site for Corky’s photograph.
Research Grant for an undergraduate student intern to conduct population eye research in China
Dr. Shan Lin, Professor of the Department of Ophthalmology and the Asian Health Institute at the UCSF Medical Center, and Dr. Guofu Huang, chair of the Nanchang Eye Hospital Institute at the Nanchang University are jointly co-sponsoring this public health research position for eye diseases (glaucoma, cataracts, etc.) in China.
The grant recipient will station at the Nanchang University for 12 months, and will help to conduct the research under the guidance of Professor Guofu Huang, chair of the Nanchang Eye Hospital Institute at the Third Affiliated Hospital of Nanchang University, Jiangxi Province, P.R. China.
1. Over 18 years old
2. Currently an undergraduate or graduate student at an accredited university
3. Speaks Mandarin fluently, speaking Cantonese as an additional language will be an asset
4. Reads simplified Chinese
5. Types Chinese characters using the keyboard
Additionally, the applicant is preferred to have some research experience.
What the position offers to the successful applicant:
1. Salary: 42,000 Yuan (approx. $7000 US) per year (provided by China’s National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant No.81260147))
2. Lodging: Free (provided for by the Nanchang University)
3. Airfare: An economy class round-trip air ticket will be provided to the successful grant recipient to fly from San Francisco to the nearest international airport to Nanchang in China (provided for by the Asian Health Institute)
4. Publication: Will be included as an author in publications related to the research conducted
5. Letters of recommendation for future academic /work applications
Deadline for application: Open now till January 1, 2014
Application format: Please send 3 items:
1. Application letter of interest which includes a statement about your future academic goals
3. Most recent grade report
Where to send application: Please email the 3 items to Dr. Shan Lin: “Lin, Shan” <LinS@vision.ucsf.edu> and Dr. Diana Lau: “Diana Lau” <email@example.com>.
Notification for the award funding: January 15, 2014
Don’t tell me women are not the stuff of heroes,
I alone rode over the East Sea’s winds for ten thousand leagues.
My poetic thoughts ever expand, like a sail between ocean and heaven.
I dreamed of your three islands, all gems, all dazzling with moonlight.
I grieve to think of the bronze camels, guardians of China, lost in thorns.
Ashamed, I have done nothing; not one victory to my name.
I simply make my war horse sweat. Grieving over my native land
hurts my heart. So tell me; how can I spend these days here?
A guest enjoying your spring winds?
Can you feel the force of my side-eye, Wall Street Journal?
"Fueled with Rice" is lazy, lazy, lazy writing. If the only thing you can think of when writing about a person of Asian descent is "rice" then you should examine your journalistic skills. Are you actually producing quality writing? If the article had been about a Ukrainian player, would you have written "fueled by pierogis"? If the player had been russian would you have written "fueled by vodka"?
Is the title more effective with a racial stereotype, or can it function without it? The answer is always yes; yes, you can produce good quality journalism without using racial stereotypes.
They didn’t even try.
"One Child" -Jason Chu ft. Eva Li
What are your thoughts on this video? Jason Chu is known for tackling more serious issues with his videos, in his latest music video the musician raps about China’s One Child policy. Shot in Beijing, the video includes a story line of one young woman who has to make a painful and difficult decision.
A lot of folks are posting about the Tiananmen Square massacre today, of course. I thought we should share it too, but I wanted to write a little bit about what was explained to me about what happened in the spring of 1989 that the western media often overlooks.
I am a 1.5 generation Chinese American leftist. I was two when the massacre happened. My sister had just been born. My father, who immigrated from China to Hong Kong when he was a toddler to escape the Cultural Revolution, and then Hong Kong to the United States to go to college, tells me he was seeking work in China around this time.
Several summers ago, when we were traveling together in China, he told me about what he understood about Tiananmen Square from his perspective as a young, newly naturalized American citizen who still had deep ties to the motherland. He told me the sense of unrest was not just about state control of the media and politics, but a sense that the state was also imposing capitalist reforms on the Chinese economy without input from the people, and with clear preferential treatment for party cadres and others who had an “in” with the powers that be. Students were upset and anxious about what looked like unilateral decisions about the future that weren’t just about opening markets, they were about neoliberalising the country.
When I think about what’s happening in Istanbul, Turkey, I can’t help but think about this. When we remember Tiananmen Square, I hope we remember that this wasn’t necessarily about the struggle of democracy versus Communism, but that it was about people who wanted to take part in determining the future of their country, and who rejected nepotistic neoliberal reforms. Just like with the media narrative around Gezi, American audiences risk being turned around. A million people don’t turn out and go on hunger strikes against their own self-interest. There’s more to this story than meets the eye.
Remember Tiananmen, but remember it for what it was: young Chinese students and workers resisting their country “modernizing” in the age of Reagan, the godfather of neoliberalism. This is the same ideology that young Turkish students and workers are resisting in Istanbul. It’s the same ideology that has decimated the U.S. economy and that we resist when we say “another world is possible.”
When we ask why the Chinese government still hasn’t admitted that Tiananmen even happened, we should remember that China today is just as cutthroat and capitalistic in some ways as the United States is. They have delivered on neoliberalism, but in the style of an autocratic state, where nepotism and party connections had more to do with business success than anything. Students and workers in China in 1989 were emphatically saying no to this system.
“Teenage angst” had a different meaning for UC Berkeley junior Victoria Hu in high school.
Most describe it as the insecurities and anxieties of adolescence. But Victoria describes teenage angst in reactive terms — a way to cope with the unthinkable when she was 16, a method to internalize the anger, confusion and sadness over her father’s disappearance.
While peers stressed about AP tests and college applications, Victoria confronted a potential future without her father. He wasn’t dead, but he was gone in other ways — absent from the dinner table and from her family’s life, trapped in legal limbo in China.
In 2008, Victoria’s father, Dr. Zhicheng Hu, a Chinese-American scientist who worked on automobile emissions, left for China in what he thought would be a short business trip. But when a former associate accused him of stealing trade secrets, he was arrested and imprisoned by the local police. He was released 17 months later, cleared of all charges without trial.
However, Dr. Hu still remains in China, living as a caged citizen. While there is no official record restricting him from leaving the country, he has been stopped every time he tries to return home.
It has been five years since the family has been together, and it’s uncertain when — or if — her father will come home.
But Victoria, a political economy major, said she will keep fighting for her father’s freedom. Back then, Victoria didn’t understand the situation, and it’s only marginally clearer to her today. But her former teenage angst has been replaced with a drive to bring her father home, by any means necessary.
“I learned pretty quickly that you choose how you act and what emotional state you will be in,” Victoria said. “I wanted to give my family emotional support. I wanted to step up to the plate and help the situation, instead of keeping the negative feelings to myself.”
Victoria now freely shares her once intensely personal, internalized struggle with the world, using social media to convey her story in hopes of inciting change. It was a bottom-up approach she tried after her mother’s letters to American politicians, asking for diplomatic interventions, remained unanswered.
“My younger brother has been forced to grow up without a father for the past four years,” she wrote on the onlinepetition posted over a year ago. “My mother spent all of her energy trying to bring my father home, and the stress has had a devastating effect on her health.”
The petition now has more than 60,000 signatures. A Facebook page entitled “Free Dr. Hu” has more than 20,000 likes.
Despite the support, little has changed. But that doesn’t discourage Victoria. When the Chinese government blocked the online petition, she wrote, “Let’s keep sailing strong!”
“My general philosophy is that failure is temporary if you’re still alive,” Victoria said. “There are people who have got it a lot worse — they’re in war or fighting. My dad isn’t dead.”
UC Berkeley lecturer Crystal Chang, who researches government and business relations in China, said that Dr. Hu’s situation illustrates that “the rule of the law is not clear in China.”
“Even if there are rules, they’re not always applied consistently, which means individuals can get caught in the ambiguities or the bureaucratic red tape,” Chang said.
Victoria said she recognizes that change will not be immediate and continues with her life as a normal college student. She is busy with her schoolwork, works at a start-up that produces online comics and draws when she can. Last semester, she drew editorial cartoons for The Daily Californian.
“Victoria is very kind, upbeat and generous. When I first met her, I never thought she would be going through something like this because she’s so positive,” said Wenqing Yan, her friend. “But she does have these moments when she does show it is always a weight on her heart.”
Her mother, Hong Li, said she is continually amazed by her daughter’s efforts. The shy 16-year-old her mother remembers has been replaced with a proactive and extroverted girl.
“When this is all over, I want to eventually sit down and thank her, because I really don’t know what made her like that,” Li said. “I can’t summarize how much she’s done besides that she tried her best and she figured it out. It’s really amazing.”
Currently, Victoria is doing what she can: keeping with her social media and trying to learn more about Chinese government and business, which she says actually makes the situation seem more complicated. But other things are clearer to Victoria, things that her formerly “angsty” self might not have understood.
“I’ve learned that everyone has a story they’re not sharing,” Victoria said. “You don’t know what they’re going through, so you shouldn’t be too harsh on them.”
And she’s even able to laugh a bit about her situation, too.
“I’m no suffering artist,” she said, with a smile. “I’ll be okay.”
Contact Sophie Ho at firstname.lastname@example.org.
First generation Chinese American Le Le Tong just recently retired was stricken while visiting her hometown in China. While there, she fainted and was admitted to a local hospital where they found bleeding in the brain and had emergency surgery. She is in a local ill-equipped hospital outside of a small, rural village in China. Her family is raising fund for international medical transportation. Unfortunately, her insurance does not cover any of the expenses. The cost to medi-vac Mrs. Tong back to the US for treatment is around $72,000. The family thus far has gone into debt with medical expenses paid in cash to the hospital in China.
On Feb 23, a benefit Lion Dance throughout Chinatown will be held to benefit the family. Please come down to the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association, 62 Mott St. on 2/23 to give what you can. You can also make a donation via click-through link.
Her daughter says:
We have simply run out of options. The US Embassy said they can’t help. Medicare & Medicaid does not cover the costs of repatriation. No one in any Federal, State, or local agency has been able to provide us with any information about how we can bring our Mom home.
Ultimately, the purpose of this fundraiser is to bring our mother home to get the treatment that she so desperately requires in order to recover at the most optimal speed. We believe, with a joint effort – together, we should be able to save our mother. Every little bit counts and your generosity is greatly appreciated. Hopefully, with your help – we can get her home before it’s too late.
Please help save our mother.
Please share, signal boost, and contribute if you can.
go chug some gasoline for me ok
and then burn up all copies of your shitty magazine
and destroy every computer you have on premises
Well, you know how I feel about The Economist. Before this “Analects” revamp, they had this anti-China columnist called Banyan that posted all sorts of offensive opinions… I haven’t been back since their revamp but I doubt they have changed their spots.
My Shanghainese parents just finished high school in 1966 when the Cultural Revolution happened. They sometimes share their experience with me, even though my mom doesn’t like to talk about it. Here are some things that stuck out for me:
There’s not much I can give to back up these claims, as it’s mostly oral history. My father is willing to give more details about his experience, but the last time I asked my mother about it she started crying, so I decided not to press the issue.
- When my dad was walking to school he saw his PE teacher jump out of one of the school’s windows. According to him, the teacher’s body landed a few feet away from him.
- Because my parents were of the “enemy class,” their homes were ransacked. My mother remembers frantically hiding precious heirlooms in the walls with her closest friend helping her.
- That same friend who helped my mother was very outspoken, so the Red Guards would publicly humiliate her and her family to “break her.” She was then sent far away from Shanghai in the “Down to the Countryside” Movement. My mom never saw her again.
- My dad somehow ended up as a Red Guard; he did inventory for them. Then they found out about his class status and kicked him out.
- Both my parents were sent to farms for “Down to the Countryside.” They were sent to Changning, an island off of Shanghai. They count themselves lucky because they weren’t sent to Sichuan or a mountain village, as life there was supposedly much harder. They stayed on the farms for 3 years before getting the chance to leave.
- Both my parents hate the communist party for taking away everything they had (my great-grandfather was a successful business man pre-communist China who died with what would be $20 today in his pocket), but they actually like Chairman Mao. They blame the Cultural Revolution and the resulting chaos on the crazed mob mentality of Mao’s followers.
Thank you very much for submitting this. Oral History is important, and just as necessary as “Academic” history.
My family too.