Enduring immigration perspectives: the “contradictory and impossible”? or a hopeless aspiration?

Jin Kong, Greater Cincinnati Chinese Chamber of Commerce Board Chair, has been working at the Greater Cincinnati World Affairs Council (GCWAC) for six months through a fellowship with The Mission Continues. He is looking to “receive a better understanding of the populist sentiment towards immigrants in Cincinnati.” Through this research, Kong will be sharing weekly blog posts through GCWAC’s website on Chinese culture in Cincinnati. Click here to read more of his blogs.

The word “immigration” comes from the Latin verb “immigrare” and is generally used to mean coming into a place for the purpose of permanent residence. Philosophically, we are all “immigrare’s” of some sort; and conceptually, “immigration” is not in itself controversial.

But it becomes a contentious topic when compounded with the complexities of human creations—for example, racial or religious prejudices. To best put it,

“We demand the contradictory and impossible. We desire [immigrants] to be excluded because of our own prejudices and admitted because of our need of the sort of productive energy which they posses, and because we realize that one, if not the chief, of all the glories of this country, is that the asylumship for the unfortunates of practically every race of people on earth.” (Cincinnati Enquirer, Japanese Immigration, June 26, 1920; emphasis added.)   

The topic of immigration (distinguished from the concept) therefore becomes an easily self-serving one. On the one hand, we utilize it to create an “us” versus “them” phenomenon, so that we can easily articulate and justify our fear to our advantage. On the other hand, we utilize it as a contrite method of discussing labor economics at our convenience; we are capitalists, after all.

This playacting on the topic is nothing new. It is easily recognizable today on both sides of the political aisle. It is naive to think this phenomenon does not reach far back into our country’s history, or that it does not permeate to all walks of life. Perhaps naivety is simply my ideological denial, but I find what was old is now new again. The topic‘s self-serving seems evergreen for its worth in political or economic gains.

For example, an 1878 Cincinnati Enquirer editorial piece articulating the immigration problem in California:

“Appeals to Congress for protection are circulating all over the State, and are signed by all except those who profit in some way … the body of this Asiatic death which is weighing down the people of the [California] state and paralyzing every industry of the coast. …  but when the field of labor is full here they will go east and south.” (Cincinnati Enquirer, California’s Curse, Feb 11, 1878).

Another 1880 editorialist’s title simply read:

“Garfield’s Death Warrant – His famous letter advocating an extended Chinese immigration, he declares himself adverse to the laboring man’s interest and is favor of the employer’s union, advising them to employ the cheapest labor available.” (Cincinnati Enquirer, October 23, 1880; it should be noted that James Garfield, a Ohio native, was elected the 20th President of the United States, serving from March 4, 1881 until his assassination later that year.)   

And one from 1911 reads:

“Limiting the number of new comers permitted to land during a year from certain specific countries believed to send undesirable materials … they insist that there is a scarcity of labor in this country …. The objection made by some that as things are going the country will become Roman Catholic [are regarded] as cowardly and narrow in a land of religious tolerance and freedom …” (Cincinnati Enquirer Immigration Consideration, January 29, 1911).

Finally, the topic of immigration has also been tagged with the kind of self-serving opinion in the context of post-Civil War African American migrations. (E.g., Cincinnati Enquirer, The Rights of Labor – Negro Immigration, July 16, 1862; South Carolina Now and as She Was, February 17, 1871).

But is this topic strictly limited to being self-serving? Or is there some hope in being the naive:

“To the Members of the Volunteer Associations & other Inhabitants of the Kingdom of Ireland who have lately arrived in the City of New York.

Gentlemen …

The bosom of America is open to receive not only the opulent & respectable Stranger, but the oppressed & persecuted of all Nations & Religions; whom we shall welcome to a participation of all our rights & privileges, if by decency & propriety of conduct they appear to merit the enjoyment.”

From George Washington to Joshua Holmes, 2 December 1783.

In 1783, George Washington welcomed new Irish immigrants in the City of New York and his remark suggests something important, does it not? 

First, the “opulent and respectable Stranger” as well as the “oppressed & persecuted of all Nations & Religions” are equally entitled to participate in “all our rights & privileges” set forth in the Constitution. Second, this entitlement of participation is condition upon the participant’s “decency and propriety of conduct” that merit the enjoyment of such equal protection and opportunity.  

Immigration to the United States has never been just about humanitarianism, politics, or economics. This country is not a place where the road is paved with gold and our democratic republic is not just about handing out its preciousness to all who walk upon its streets. Perhaps immigration is an aspiration of a national strategy—a call to participate in the constitutional experiment as we know it; and in such an experiment, it is important to remember that we are great together not by asking what we shall receive, but what we can do to contribute.

In the famous words of the good who died young:

“My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.”

So while this country’s immigration history may prove to be self-serving at times; its founding principles may be worth saving, at least for a naive immigrant such as myself.  

Jin Kong is a fellow through Mission Continues working with GCWAC. Original articles found here.

The Greater Cincinnati World Affairs Council (GCWAC) is a 501(c)(3) international non-profit organization that builds global understanding and promotes international awareness through education, information, and exchange of people and ideas. We work in cooperation with the government, companies, as well as cultural and educational bodies. CLICK HERE for more information.

The Mission Continues is a national nonprofit organization that empowers veterans who are adjusting to life at home to find purpose through community impact. Their operations in cities across the country deploy veteran volunteers alongside non-profit partners and community leaders to solve some of the most challenging issues facing our communities: improving community education resources, eliminating food deserts, mentoring at-risk youth and more. Through this unique model, veterans build new skills and networks that help them successfully reintegrate into life after the military while making long-term, sustainable transformations in communities and inspiring future generations to serve. CLICK HERE for more information.

A Cultural Guide to China and the Cincinnati Chinese Community – Part 2

Week 5 – World Affairs Council Cultural Guides

Jin Kong, Greater Cincinnati Chinese Chamber of Commerce Board Chair, has been working at the Greater Cincinnati World Affairs Council (GCWAC) for six months through a fellowship with The Mission Continues. He is looking to “receive a better understanding of the populist sentiment towards immigrants in Cincinnati.” Through this research, Kong will be sharing weekly blog posts through GCWAC’s website on Chinese culture in Cincinnati. Click here to read more of his blogs.

China – Part 2 – A Cultural Guide to China and the Cincinnati Chinese Community

Language and Culture

China has over 1.3 billion people representing 56 ethnic minority groups. The largest is the Han Chinese with about 900 million people. There are five legal religions in China: Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, Catholicism, and Protestantism. Confucianism is technically not considered a religion but a state sponsored philosophy. However, it does take on some religious characteristics.

There are seven major dialects of the Chinese language. The most spoken is Mandarin. Wu is spoken by about 8% of the population followed by Cantonese with 5% of the population speaking it. The lesser known dialects are: Xiang (spoken by 5% of the population), Hakka (4%), and Gan (2%).

Cincinnati is the home to many Chinese who speak different dialects. Most of the Chinese that immigrated to Cincinnati before the early 1990’s are from Taiwan or Hong Kong or other southern regions of China. They mostly speak Hakka or Cantonese. After 1990, a rush of “Mainlanders” came to Cincinnati from China. They mostly speak Mandarin. There is no census data on what ethnic groups comprise of the Chinese population here in Cincinnati.

Food

Food is important to the Chinese. Despite what you see in the United State, Chinese food is as diverse as China’s language and customs. There are eight major regional cuisine styles: Yue, Chuan, Su, Zhe, Min, Ziang, Hui, and Lu.

Yue Cuisine originates from the Guangdong/Canton region. It is the most popular internationally. It is commonly sweeter favoring braising and stewing.

Chuan Cuisine originates from the Sichuan region and is famous for being spicy and bold. Chuan Cuisine is known to use a lot of garlic, ginger, and peanuts.

Su Cuisine originates from the Jiangsu province and Shanghai. It’s usually fresh, salty and sweet. It is known for the precision of cooking methods favoring seafood, soup, and colorful presentation. It is known to be refined and gourmet.

Zhe Cuisine originates from Zhejiang (south of Jiangsu). It is mellow using fresh fish, bamboo, and various cooking methods. It is similar to Su Cuisine but less elaborate.

Min Cuisine originates from Fujian. It is known to be lighter with sweet and sour taste using ingredients from the sea and the mountains.

Xiang Cuisine originates from Hunan. It is probably spicier than Chuan Cuisine. But unlike Chuan, Xiang Cuisine does not peppercorn so it is not a numbing spiciness. The techniques of Xiang Cuisine usually involve stir-fry, steaming, and smoking.

Hui Cuisine originates from Anhui. It tends to use wild plants and animals for ingredients favoring stewing and using more oil.

Lu Cuisine originates from Shangdong and is a northern style of cooking. Seafood is a favorite and often cooked with simple ingredients. Unlike southern Chinese food, northern cooking usually involves less rice and more wheat-based food such as noodles. Lu Cuisine also is known for its use of vinegar.

Cincinnati is the home of many Chinese restaurants. The earliest record of a Chinese restaurateur is probably Mr. Wong Yie. Mr. Wong Yie began with a small café on Walnut Street sometimes in the 1910’s. He opened his full-size restaurant and ballroom on the northwest corner of Sixth and Main in 1921. (“ORIENT IS VISUALIZED: By Guests at Opening of Chinese Restaurant and Ballroom.” Cincinnati Enquirer, Nov 15, 1921).

Today, Cincinnatians can taste Yue Cuisine in most Chinese restaurants, albeit much Americanized. There are a few well-known Chuan Cuisine places most notably Sichuan Chili next to Cam Market on Reading Road. The head chef at Sichuan Chili, Zhao, is a native to Sichuan. He began cooking at age 15 and has served as head chef of restaurants in Sichuan, Beijing, and Chicago.

China is also famous for noodles. Over the centuries, many different styles of noodles developed in China. One notable style is called “La” (pulling). Noodles are made by pulling, stretching, and folding dough repeatedly until it becomes very thin. You can try this type of noodle at the Fortune Noodle House in Clifton. They are also set up so you can actually see the chef “pull” these noodles.

The Arts

The ancient Chinese are avid writers and philosophers. There is a rich history of literary work in China most famously the “Four Major Works” – Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Water Margin, Journey to the West, and Dream of the Red Chamber.

The Chinese also pay attention to the development of both body and mind in its artistic endeavors. Kung Fu is developed not only as a self-defense technique, but also a way to advance the mind and the spirit.

Chines musical instruments are classified into eight categories: silk, bamboo, wood, stone, metal, clay, gourd, and skin. The Chinese Opera is a popular form of entertainment. It is often high-pitched and tells of famous stories that children learn from a young age. The styles of opera are many and characters of an operate are usually marked by painted faces.

Authentic Chinese music is making an appearance in Cincinnati. The Greater Cincinnati Chinese Music Society has been putting on annual performances to introduce Cincinnatians to traditional Chinese music and instruments. This year’s (2017) concert presented a Kun Qu Opera, “the crown jewel of hundreds of local Chinese operas with a rich history of over 600 years.” The concert also featured an Er Hu player Lu Yiwen and a Dizi player Wan Junkan. They performed alongside CCM Philharmonia orchestra directed by Maestro Mark Gibson.

Celebrations

The major celebration of the Chinese is its lunar new year, or The Spring Festival. It usually falls between January and February depending on the lunar calendar. It is a 15-day celebration marked by family gatherings, food preparations, fireworks, and customs and traditions such as dragon dance and paper lanterns.

Chinese New Year celebrations have been a long tradition in Cincinnati. The earliest record dates back to 1894. The Cincinnati Enquirer editorial noted Sam Kee’s laundry closing down for the lunar new year and celebrating with close to 30 Chinese living in Cincinnati at the time. (“’SUN NIN,’: The Chinese New-Year’s Day, Celebrated By Cincinnati Celestials with Much Ecla.” Cincinnati Enquirer, Feb 6, 1894).

In 1921, Mr. Wong Yie celebrated Chinese New Year with some 500 Cincinnatians with some notable judges and city council members. The Postmaster gave the celebrating toast. (“RARE FEAST IS SERVED: By Wong Yie, Chinese Restaurateur, To Host of Friends.” Cincinnati Enquirer, Jan 4, 1921).

Today, there are many Chinese lunar new year celebrations in Cincinnati. Most large companies (e.g., 5/3 Bank) have their own Employee Resource Groups and they host new year banquets. Additionally, the Greater Cincinnati Chinese Chamber of Commerce hosts a new year celebration each year and many Cincinnatians have been in attendance in the past.

Jin Kong is a fellow through Mission Continues working with GCWAC. Original articles found here.

The Greater Cincinnati World Affairs Council (GCWAC) is a 501(c)(3) international non-profit organization that builds global understanding and promotes international awareness through education, information, and exchange of people and ideas. We work in cooperation with the government, companies, as well as cultural and educational bodies. CLICK HERE for more information.

The Mission Continues is a national nonprofit organization that empowers veterans who are adjusting to life at home to find purpose through community impact. Their operations in cities across the country deploy veteran volunteers alongside non-profit partners and community leaders to solve some of the most challenging issues facing our communities: improving community education resources, eliminating food deserts, mentoring at-risk youth and more. Through this unique model, veterans build new skills and networks that help them successfully reintegrate into life after the military while making long-term, sustainable transformations in communities and inspiring future generations to serve. CLICK HERE for more information.

A Historical Guide to China and Chinese Immigration to Cincinnati

Week 4 – World Affairs Council Cultural Guides

Jin Kong, Greater Cincinnati Chinese Chamber of Commerce Board Chair, has been working at the Greater Cincinnati World Affairs Council (GCWAC) for six months through a fellowship with The Mission Continues. He is looking to “receive a better understanding of the populist sentiment towards immigrants in Cincinnati.” Through this research, Kong will be sharing weekly blog posts through GCWAC’s website on Chinese culture in Cincinnati. Click here to read more of his blogs.

China – Part 1 – A Historical Guide to China and Chinese Immigration to Cincinnati

Terracotta

China’s recorded history began some four-thousand years ago. Three dynasties preceded the unification of China in 221 BCE: Xia (2070 BCE), Shang (1600 BCE), Zhou (1046 BCE). The Zhou period is a time of flourishing civilization. The writing was codified and ironwork became more sophisticated. China saw the rise of philosophers such as Confucius and Lao-Zi (Taoism) in this period.

During the mid-Zhou dynasty, power was decentralized and China entered what is known as the “Spring and Autumn Waring Period” (722-221 BCE). Sun-Zi and The Art of War emerged during this time. China was fractured into seven kingdoms. In 221 BCE, the Kingdom of Qin subdued the other six and proclaimed its king, Ying Zheng, the First Emperor of China – “Qin ShiHuang.”

During Qin ShiHuang’s reign, writing and measurements were unified under a single system; government rule was centralized; trade was made easier by uniformed currency and standardized width of cart-wheels. Qin-ShiHuang was also famous for building the first section of The Great Wall of China and his “Terracotta Army” which accompanied him to his tomb.

Many dynasties followed Qin. Most notably the Tang Dynasty, which was known as China’s golden age (618-907 AD); the Song Dynasty, which saw great scientific and technological advancements (960-1279 AD); and Ming Dynasty, which saw the completion of the Great Wall and the Forbidden City (1368-1644 AD). The last dynasty of China, (Qing) was ruled by the Manchus and ended in 1911. The Qing dynasty was succeeded by China’s modern republic age and eventually saw the rise of the People’s Republic of China in 1949.

During the Qing dynasty (in 1868), the United States and China entered into the Burlingame Treaty. This treaty established a formal relationship between the two countries. China was granted “most favored nation” status and immigration were encouraged. The first wave of Chinese immigrants arrived in the United States between the 1850s to 1880s. They mostly settled along the coasts (in California or New York). Most Chinese immigrants were labors working to build railroads.

In the 1870s, there were repeated efforts to limit Chinese immigration to the United States. The Fifteen Passenger Bill of 1879 limited the number of Chinese passengers to 15 in any single voyage to the United States. President Rutherford B. Hayes vetoed the bill because it violated the terms of the Burlingame Treaty.

Chinese Exclusion

Following the veto, President Hayes sent James Burrill Angell to China and he successfully negotiated a new treaty allowing restrictions on Chinese immigration. Following the Angell Treaty of 1880 was the passage of the infamous Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. This Act was not repealed until 1943 under the Magnuson Act. Following the repeal, the second wave of Chinese immigrants to the US began from the late 1970s to the present.

The first Chinese migrants in Ohio were mostly descendants of Chinese immigrants who had settled on the West Coast. A majority of them moved to northeastern Ohio (Cleveland area). Some came to Cincinnati and made this region their home. According to a local new paper report of the Census Bureau account, there were 17 Chinese living in Cincinnati in 1910 (“SEVENTEEN CHINESE: And Seven Japanese Lived in Cincinnati in 1910, Report Says.” SPECIAL DISPATCH TO THE ENQUIRER, Nov 28, 1914). However, as early as 1894, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported Chinese New Year Celebration by about 30 Chinese men led by a laundry shop owner Sam Kee (“‘SUN NIN,’: The Chinese New-Year’s Day, Celebrated By Cincinnati Celestials with Much Eclat.” Cincinnati Enquirer, Feb 6, 1894). In 1876, the first Chinese American reportedly voted in Cincinnati. (“The First Chinese Voter.” Cincinnati Enquirer, Apr 4, 1876). In 1912, the Enquirer reported the first woman and child immigrant moving to Cincinnati (“CHINESE: Wife and Child Coming To Take Up Their Residence in Cincinnati – Similar Distinction May Be Given Covington.” Cincinnati Enquirer, Sep 26, 1912). In 1914, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported  the first Chinese Baby born here to Mr. and Mrs. Wong Yie at their Vine Street restaurant (“CHINESE BABY, First To Be Born in Cincinnati, Is Christened Wong Gut Ting in Fathers Home.” Cincinnati Enquirer, Jun 8, 1914).

Today, thousands of Chinese descendants call the Greater Cincinnati region their home. Thousands more immigrate to Cincinnati to work or attend school. There are more than a dozen active Chinese community organizations in this region doing all sorts of charitable work. Most notably, the Greater Cincinnati Chinese Chamber of Commerce, the Cincinnati Chinese Society, the Chinese American Association of Cincinnati, the Cincinnati Chinese Church, and the Cincinnati Chinese Culture Learning Association.

Jin Kong is a fellow through Mission Continues working with GCWAC. Original articles found here.

The Greater Cincinnati World Affairs Council (GCWAC) is a 501(c)(3) international non-profit organization that builds global understanding and promotes international awareness through education, information, and exchange of people and ideas. We work in cooperation with the government, companies, as well as cultural and educational bodies. CLICK HERE for more information.

The Mission Continues is a national nonprofit organization that empowers veterans who are adjusting to life at home to find purpose through community impact. Their operations in cities across the country deploy veteran volunteers alongside non-profit partners and community leaders to solve some of the most challenging issues facing our communities: improving community education resources, eliminating food deserts, mentoring at-risk youth and more. Through this unique model, veterans build new skills and networks that help them successfully reintegrate into life after the military while making long-term, sustainable transformations in communities and inspiring future generations to serve. CLICK HERE for more information.

Photos from 2017 Lunar New Year Gala

         

Thank you to all of you who joined and supported us last Friday for our 2017 “Building Bridges” Lunar New Year Gala, Sponsored by Fifth Third Bank! The Greater Cincinnati Chinese Chamber of Commerce celebrated the Year of the Rooster in style with over 350 members of our region’s Chinese and international business communities.

Please visit our Facebook page to see more photos from our signature annual event!

Click here for Gala Photos