Chinese Timeline in San Diego

September 3, 2008 by trooce · Leave a Comment 

1870’s – Chinese begin arriving in San Diego, towards the end of Northern California’s Gold Rush.  Many who came to San Diego worked as contract laborers on the state’s railroad system and other infrastructure projects.  Others became fisherman along San Diego’s coast and south into Baja California, using skills they practiced in China’s Pearl River Delta.

1880’s – Out of a total population of 8,600, 200 were 200 Chinese, most all living in an area called Stingaree, which is now known as the Gaslamp Quarters.

1881 – Approximately 150 Chinese live in San Diego, many working on the construction of the California Southern Railroad between National City and San Bernardino.

It was also at this time that Ah Quin, moved from Northern California to San Diego, working from San Francisco and went on to have 12 children as well as become a prosperous business owner.  He became known as the “Mayor of Chinatown”. He died in 1914.

1882 – The U.S. enacts the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, specifically designed to end all immigration of Chinese citizens into the U.S. In the year before the legislation was passed, 39,579 Chinese entered the United States. One out of every 10 citizens in California was of Chinese descent.  In 1887, only 10 Chinese citizens immigrated legally.  The law was repealed in 1943.

1885 – The Chinese Mission School of San Diego was established by Lee Hong (local resident) on the corner of 13th & F Street.  With the support and help of Dr. William C. Pond of the American Home Missionary Association who worked with Chinese immigrants throughout California, the Mission taught the several hundred (mostly) male Chinese residents in San Diego to read and write English.

In late 1885, an anti-Chinese group was established to persuade local businesses to replace Chinese workers with Caucasians.

1887 – The Coronado Beach Company recruits Chinese workers from San Francisco to help in the construction of the Hotel del Coronado.

1888 – The Scott Act permanently banned the immigration or return of Chinese laborers to the United States and ended the cross border process. The bill received overwhelming support by both houses of congress and led to mass celebrations throughout California.  As a result of the Scott Act, the Chinese fishing industry effectively ended since Chinese fisherman in San Diego could no longer travel to Baja California and legally come back.  Many of these workers switched to farming jobs, many located in Mission Valley.

Early 1900’s – Mrs. Margaret Fanton, who was known to San Diego’s local Chinese as “Mother Fanton”, worked for over 40 years first as a teacher at the Chinese Mission of San Diego, but also as a superintendent.  She was the first social worker for San Diego’s Chinese population.

1935 – The Hall of China, located in Balboa Park, was officially opened on May 25, 1935. Now known as the House of China, it was the Chinese community’s effort to participate as a part of the 1935-1936 California Pacific International Exposition held at Balboa Park, San Diego.

1962 – Tom Hom, a native San Diegan was elected to the San Diego City, served as deputy mayor, and later won a seat in the California State Assembly, the first for a Chinese-American in San Diego.  He is currently the patriarch of one of San Diego’s oldest Chinese-American families and is a principal member of the Tom Hom Group, a development company in San Diego .

1996 – The San Diego Chinese Historical Society was dedicated in January, located in what was originally a Chinese mission designed by Irving Gill in the 1920s.

2000 – U.S. Census figures show that 22,762 Chinese live in the city of San Diego, making up 1.86% of the city’s population.

2003 – Archaeologists have uncovered thousands of items during excavation and construction of the new Downtown Ballpark that offer a glimpse into San Diego’s Chinese Community at the turn of the 20th century.  Some of the items include china dishes, old medicine bottles, and rice bowls.


Murray K. Lee, A Short History of the Chinese in San Diego, California (1977)

Elizabeth MacPhail, San Diego’s Chinese Mission, (The Journal of San Diego History, 1977)

Charles J. McClain, In Search of Equality: The Chinese Struggle Against Discrimination in Nineteenth-Century America (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994)

Shih-Shan Henry Tsai, The Chinese Experience in America (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1986)

Jonathan Heller, Artifacts point to San Diego’s unsung past (San Diego Union Tribune, 2003)

Asia Trip – Part Two

September 3, 2008 by trooce · Leave a Comment 

It seems every time that I cross the border from Hong Kong to China, a customs agent gets flagged by the computer that I am a suspected criminal.  That is to say, someone by the name of “Wayne Chan” is a suspected criminal.

Each time I reach customs, they seem to go deeper and deeper into their computer files while repeatedly glancing up at my face to see if I’m a match for whichever mug shot they have on the screen.  All the while, my mind is flashing back nervously to every indiscretion I’ve ever had in my life and wondering if the jig was up.

Could they be after me for a dumpling I swiped off of my colleague’s all you can eat tray when I had only ordered a bowl of noodles?  Did the hotel clerk snitch on me for taking one too many toiletries?  Is it possible that they saw me buy that “Rolex” off a street vender in Hong Kong that was on sale for seven dollars?

China, despite all the economic reforms they’ve had over the last 20 years, is still after all, a communist country.  I have an irrational fear that if I don’t answer all their questions correctly, I’ll immediately be whisked off to some Mongolian labor camp.

My colleague, who is always with me when we cross the border (and seems amused by the whole situation), once observed that the longer a customs agent questions me, the more my voice changes.

At first, I start out speaking Chinese.  Once their questions get more pointed, I immediately revert to English.  Any further questions and my American accent becomes more pronounced. The more inquisitive they get, the more I sound like I was born and raised in California.  For some irrational reason, on a subconscious level I’ve concluded that they will assume Californians are never wanton criminals. I start using the words “dude” and “righteous” in my responses as much as possible.

By the end of the screening, I’ve become a professional surfer, spouting phrases like, “Dude!  I’m like toootally here for a righteous business convention dude!”

Do they really think a dangerous criminal would try to get through customs sounding like that while wearing running shorts and a Daffy Duck T-shirt?

Of course, this latest trip added another component to the customs process – the SARS inspection.

While the SARS outbreak was apparently completely under control by the time of my visit, government officials were still very diligent in monitoring each person as they passed the customs counter, ready to detain anyone with any telltale symptoms.  I became acutely aware of my desire to contain any impulse I might have to sneeze at that particular moment.

If I did, I suppose I could say, “My bad, dude.  I like toootally have a case of the hay fever, dude.

The Governor…

September 1, 2008 by trooce · Leave a Comment 

With all the turbulence and activity in California reaching a fever pitch in recent weeks, I have decided that as a Californian, I must do whatever I can to give back to this great state that has given me so much.  In my own small way, I will contribute to this cause by assuming a role I was born to play and am ready to assume.

In case you’re still in the dark as to what my decision is, let me be perfectly clear.  I hereby announce my plan to be the next movie blockbuster action/adventure hero.

Governor?  No, no, no, no no.  There are enough people running for that already.  Still, the California’s recall election did give me the idea for this sudden career change.

After all, for the time being, Arnold is taking a leave of absence from his action/adventure hero duties, and Sylvester, Bruce, and Clint are getting a bit long in the tooth for some of the action stunts that are part of this genre.  My time has come.

Some of you may ask, “Wayne, I just don’t see you as an action/adventure hero and besides, aren’t there already several Asian actors who are doing quite well?”

You mean like Jackie Chan, Jet Li and Chow Yun Fat?  That’s a fair question, but I believe I can fill a special niche that these fine actors cannot.  Let me try and describe my action/adventure hero persona.

First off, I intend to be the first Asian action/adventure star with no martial art skills whatsoever.  When a bad guy tries to hit me, they’ll succeed.  However, like in Arnold and Sylvester’s movies, when it looks like I’m down for the count with the fate of the world on my shoulders, I will somehow manage to head butt them which will leave my opponent completely stunned but apparently causes me no discomfort whatsoever.

If that doesn’t work and my adversary has me over a barrel, somehow, someway I will conveniently find something like a crow bar within arms reach that I can use to break free or possibly some kind of mechanical lever that when pulled will suck my enemy into some ridiculously dangerous mechanical contraption.

I have a cousin who has managed to land a few bit parts in movies and the types of roles he’s played might serve as a guideline of what I am trying to avoid.  He has played the son of an Asian crime lord who is snuffed out before the end of the opening credits.  He has played a clumsy Chinese waiter who is snuffed out before the end of the opening credits.  Then of course there was what would have been his “breakthrough” role (which ultimately ended up on the cutting room floor in order to save room for the opening credits).

If that doesn’t work, I still have plenty of options.  But if it does, my new career as an action/adventure star is just a stepping stone to my real dream – just think of it…Senator Wayne Chan.