Historic Photos of the Chinese in California
The Chinese were a visible current in the tidal wave of humanity that rushed through San Francisco’s Golden Gate in the mid-nineteenth century. Known to their countrymen as Gam Saan Haak (guests of Gold Mountain), Chinese immigrants sought great fortune. Most found only hostility and hard work, often braving the most dangerous and loathsome jobs. They endured violence and injustice, yet clung to this land with tenacity and patience and made it their own.
With nearly 200 historic photographs gathered from notable collections, this book explores a century of Chinese progress in California. Retracing the immigrants’ steps—from the gold fields to the high Sierra railroad camps, to lettuce fields and olive groves, and to the Monterey coast—we visit Chinese enclaves throughout the state. We linger in San Francisco’s old Chinatown, home to cherished children and notorious tong gangs, where new arrivals first found refuge and familiar goods, and tourists later found exotic merchandise spilling from aging storefronts. These historic images recall a time when the Chinese community in California was still a world apart.