The first Chinese came in 1823 to set up the sugar mills here.
Haoles realized if there were enough workers, a good profit could be made from growing sugar cane. The Chinese were believed to be trustworthy and hard working. The foreigners sent agents to China to sell them on the idea of working on the sugar plantations.
Between 1852 and 1898 50,000 single Chinese men came to Hawaii to work as field hands under sugar labor contracts. The Chinese came from Kwantung. Kwantung is a hilly, poor area in southland China. People called Puntis, which means "native of the soil" lived there and struggled daily in the rice paddies to grow the food that kept them alive. They lived in gray, weather-stained stone or brick houses. These were clustered closely for protection in villages and had narrow alleyways for streets.
Into this land moved the Hakka's, a people from the north. Hakka, like haole, means "stranger". They settled in this poor place, which had trouble supporting the Puntis people. In time, the Puntis had much hate for the Hakkas and they began to have wars. Homes and fields were destroyed.
So when the agents for the Hawaiian planters came and offered them a chance to better their lives, the people were eager to go. They were told of the beautiful Pacific Islands where much money could be made working to make sugar cane grow. They said a man could work for a while and return home. They would then return rich and with honor.
Many agreed , and signed up on the ships that took them to paradise. Things were seldom good. The Chinese were guarded, and they were whipped by sailors on the ship.
In 1851, Captain Cass of the British ship Thetis, brought 195 field workers, called coolies, and twenty houseboys to Hawaii. The men who worked in the fields were under contract for five years at three dollars a month. In addition, they were given clothing, food, housing and the boat fare. The houseboys were only paid two dollars a month.
When they reached Honolulu, they were kept in the quarantine station for about two weeks. They were made to clean themselves in a tank and have their clothes fumigated. Planters looked them over and picked them for work in much the same way a horse was looked at before he was bought.
These Chinese were taken to the plantations. There they lived in grass houses or unpainted wooden buildings with dirt floors. Sometimes as many as forty men were put into one room. They slept on wooden boards about two feet wide and about three feet from the floor.
Every morning at five, their bosses, called lunas, marched them to the fields. There they cut the sugar cane and hauled it on their backs to ox drawn carts which took the cane to the mill to be made into sugar.
While they worked, they were not allowed to talk or smoke. They could rest only during the times okayed by the lunas. Their workday began at 5 am daily. If their work slowed down, or if they were not working, the lunas would whip them to get back to work again. If the men slowed down in their work or showed signs of not working, for whatever reason, the lunas whipped them with black snake whips.
The first Chinese came in 1823 to set up the sugar mills here. Between
1852 and 1898, 50,000 single Chinese men came to Hawaii to work as field hands
under sugar labor contracts.
Many did not intend to stay and half went back to China. They worked long
hours in the hot sun and received very little pay.
first group of Chinese Sugar
Plantation immigrant workers arrived on Jan.
The first ship brought 175
field hands and 20 house workers to Hawaii.
The Chinese were known to be hard, reliable workers.
Their workday began at 5 am daily. If their work slowed down or if they
were not working, the lunas would whip them to
get back to work again.