The Chinese arrived as cabin boys as early as 1789. The first group of Chinese plantation workers arrived in Hawaii in 1852. Between 1852 and 1856, several thousand Chinese were brought to work on the sugar plantations of Hawaii. The Chinese were recruited in 1854. The trip from Fukien, a province in China, took approximately 51 days. Many of these single men had five year contracts to work on the plantations. By 1884, there were 18,254 Chinese workers. They were mostly Cantonese from the Pearl River Delta by Macao.
Chinese immigrants on a ship to Hawaii.
The largest number of Chinese immigrants to arrive in Hawaii was about 46,000. They arrived in 1898. Most of the Chinese immigrants came as landless villagers thinking that they would stay only long enough to make the fortune they thought to come home with. As the years went by, the Chinese immigrants realized that they would have to stay much longer than expected, because the plantation work was paying them much less than they were supposed to.
Even though the Chinese immigrants moved to Hawaii, they still stressed on learning and education. Most of the children attended very good schools, while others just stayed at home and learned from their parents. Although their parents worked hard in the plantations, they took time out to educate their children.
Eventually, almost half of the Chinese immigrants did return to China. Many left the plantation life by choice. Most of them did this because plantation life was very harsh. However, many stayed in Hawaii. They became merchants, traders, farmers, artisans and craftsmen. Many became successful in determination. In many cases, they were discriminated against because of their success. Those who chose to remain working on the plantation, worked ten hour days. Some plantations were better than others. There were few Chinese women in Hawaii. Quite a few Chinese married Hawaiian women. Therefore, Hawaiian-Chinese families are quite common in Hawaii today. Others sent for brides from their homeland or brought back brides from China.
Plantation life included long strenuous hours in the hot sun for very little pay. Few of the Chinese knew any English, therefore they had very little contact with the outside world. While working on the plantations, they had short lunch breaks. They sat around and ate lychee, a sweet tasty fruit, char sui, fried red meat, chow fun, stir fried noodles, chow mein, and many other foods. Even after the plantation work came to a stop, the Chinese people introduced these and many more foods to Hawaii. The Chinese section of the plantation included a cookhouse and a temple. The cookhouse was built separately to prevent the spread of fire to other buildings. There was also a bachelor's dormitory, a Chinese school and a death house, where sick men would go to die while their fellow Chinese took care of them. In many plantations, there were gardens near the buildings. They included many vegetables that they would use in their cooking. They grew cabbage, ginger, green onions, and watercress. Additionally, some of the plants were used for medicinal purposes. There was also a large bachelor population, which caused the building of a society house. Here the men would gather to eat, "talk story," and gamble. The house was also used for social functions, such as weddings.
Even though the Chinese people were in another land, they still tried to keep their traditions and holidays alive. Some of the celebrated holidays and festivals were, Chinese New Year, Moonlike Festival, Lantern Floating Festival, Dragon Boat Festival, and much more.
Chinese New Year Dragon
As their labor contracts expired, many left the plantations to become craftsmen, taro and rice farmers. They also formed society groups, built temples, cemeteries and language schools. Chinese newspapers were printed to help preserve their cultural heritage.
During World War II in the 1940s, there was a rise in the number of Chinese who had gone to high school in the 1920s. In their thirties when the war started, these Chinese gained fame in business and politics. These people included Chin Ho, whose financial vision led to much success for Hawaii's economy. Also, Hiram Fong, who because the first United States senator of Asian descent. He is not in retirement from politics, but still an active environmentalist.
Socially and economically, the Chinese progressed quickly in Hawaii. They possessed a cultural identity of personal industry and education that helped this movement. In 1890, six of every ten Chinese held professional occupations. In the 1971 census, twenty seven percent went to college and another 10.4% completed graduate school.
Chinatown in Downtown Honolulu
As you head up Bethel Street, you will enter Chinatown in Honolulu Hawaii. In the 1860's the Chinese plantation laborers who completed their contracts moved to this part of Honolulu. This area was wiped out by a fire in 1886, but the Chinese rebuilt it. In 1900, the Board of Health burned down some buildings to eradicate a bubonic plague outbreak. The fire got out of control and burned down twelve blocks. The Chinese again rebuilt their shops and homes.
The Chinese were proved to be a most determined and hard working group of people. They were pushed to work hard in the plantations. In their education, it all off in the end because they became very successful in life.
Chinese in Hawaii
The First Chinese in Hawaii
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