Item Imagehttp://www.maiwah.org/tong.gif

Item ImageJade pendant charm features a dragon and Chinese symbols for longevity in a central section of rich gold tone metal that dangles somewhat freely in the center of the jade border. This beautiful vintage jade charm measures approximately 2" round

Click on image to see full size imageClick on image to see full size imageDeep Marine Jade Elephant Pendant Trimed with 14K Gold Tusks, Feet and Tail.  Nice filigree hanging clasp   We have a number of 14K gold chains available for the pendants

http://www.tace.com/thumbnails/jpg/z75/items/pictures/pp21791.jpgDeep Carnelian Jade Boat Pendant done in 14K Gold Filigree with lot's of detail.

About Jade

Since at least 2950 B.C. jade has been treasured as a royal gemstone.  The difficulty in carving this hard but beautiful gemstone demanded the extensive resources available only to the ruling elite, which is the reason it came to symbolize power, status and prestige.  Jade has also been treasured for its more spiritual symbolism.  Often, jade was cut in the form of a disc with a hole in the center.  These circles were commonly known to symbolize the sky or the heaven.  In fact, the Chinese character for demonstrates the strong symbolic ties.  Each horizontal line has a meaning: the top represents the heavens, the bottom the earth and the center section, mankind.   Jade has gained a reputation in jewelry for being timeless and classic.  It’s long history and everlasting quality makes it an ideal gemstone for representing either fine craftsmanship or timeless symbols and values.

http://hua.umf.maine.edu/China/womtxt.html  famous Chinese women

http://www.maiwah.org/links.htm

http://www.chinatown-online.co.uk/pages/culture/legends/index.html

Naming a child

In Chinese culture, a person’s name has an important role to play in determining his/her destiny. Because of this, Chinese parents will often spend a long time choosing their child’s name.

A typical Chinese name has three words, in principle these are the family name, a name indicating the child’s generation and a personal name, though often the second ‘principle’ is not followed.

Naming a child must take into consideration five principles: the name must have a favourable meaning (particularly favoured are meanings reflecting wealth or well-being) and names with negative possibilities should be avoided, the name must sound pleasant when spoken, the name must reflect favourable mathematical calculations (see next paragraph), it must be harmonious with regard to yin and yang, and it must possess one of the five elements of metal, water, wood, fire and wood.

When written, each Chinese name has a certain number of brush strokes, and each character’s number of brush strokes corresponds to a certain element. A two stroke character is associated with wood, three and four stroke fire, five and six strokes earth and nine and ten strokes water. The total number of strokes in a name can determine a persons fortune: for example twelve strokes bespeaks a life of illness and failure, while 81 strokes presages prosperity and a happy future

Marriage customs and preparation


http://www.chinatown-online.co.uk/pages/images/culture/customs/couple.jpgIn a culture where the perpetuation of family ancestral lineage and the family as a social institution are central, marriage is an important institution and has many intricate customs associated with it. In the Chinese family system the wife lives with the husband’s family and is deemed as no longer part of her own family, but the 'property' of the husband’s family.
Arranged marriages, where the marriage match is arranged by the parents or relatives of the bride and groom were once common in Chinese society but are now rare and viewed as old-fashioned. Marriage is usually now based on the two people involved’s own choices. However, once the couple have chosen each other, the arrangements are usually taken over by the parents (or older relatives), thus observing traditional customs and superstitions.
Chinese men tend to marry fairly late in life, as they need to save up for the expense of the wedding: a Chinese wedding can be very expensive, especially where the involved families are of high social status. Two important componentss of Chinese culture- the need to avoid embarassment ('saving face') and to conspicuously display wealth and prosperity- come heavily to the fore in marriage, especially where the marriage is of the eldest son. Failure to provide a lavish wedding is likely to lower the status of the family, bring shame upon them and bring criticism from relatives raining down upon them.
There are several stages to a Chinese wedding (described under), usually under the overseeing of the groom’s parents (or older relatives). Weddings are micro-planned and planning is highly time consuming. The process begins when the parents are informed of their son/daughter’s intentions and, if they are in agreement, a meeting between the two families is arranged.

 

Information gathering
In Chinese culture, a marriage is not simply a love match between two people, but an establishing of a relationship between two families as well. If the parents are not happy with the lineage and status of the other family, a wedding will not occur.
The ‘information gathering’ stage of a wedding involves the groom’s family ascertaining the reputation and lineage of the bride’s family, and the character and behaviour of the bride. This is of great importance as the reputation of the groom’s family is at stake. Before a meeting takes place, the groom’s family will have already made surreptitious enquiries through friends and acquaintances. A meeting will be arranged for the two families to meet- usually without the bride and groom present- and a frank and open discussion will ensue. Some prefer the initial meeting to be held over a meal in a restaurant with members of the extended families such as aunts and uncles present. Sharing a meal will help to break the ice and strengthen the bonds between parties soon to be in-laws. Conversation is likely to revolve around family backgrounds and origins- though not with a serious tones as this may lead to arguments which will lead to a cancellation of the wedding- and serves to allow the two families to become acquainted and establish a rapport. The family of the bride will use the opportunity to investigate the status and wealth of the groom’s family and ensure that their daughter is not likely to be maltreated: as noted before, after marriage the bride will become part of the groom’s family.

 

Negotiation period
If both families are satisfied with each other, the groom’s parents will send their representative- always female and chosen from among his aunts or elderly relatives- to ask for the bride’s hand in marriage. A time and date is set for this meeting. The representative will discuss a suitable date, the amount of the dowry and the number of tables allocated to the bride’s family at the wedding banquet. The bride’s family will always delay agreement on these matters so as not to appear too eager, even if they have already decided the matters. This is expected, and a second meeting is set, with a period in between to allow any problems to be worked out. However, on her second visit to the bride’s house, the groom’s representative expects a decision. A relevant proverb is used to signal acceptance. The bride’s family will request that the wedding is conducted with due felicity and grandeur, and the amount of dowry and number of required banquet tables will be stated. The groom’s representative will not bargain, as this is considered unseemly: she will only ask the bride’s name and date of birth in order to determine a suitable date for the wedding by reference to a fortune teller. The groom’s family will now be able to estimate the costs of the wedding and start to make preparations. If a relative of either the bride or groom dies before the wedding day, the wedding will be postponed for a period, traditionally a year but now usually reduced to a hundred days, as it is considered inappropriate to hold a wedding during a period of mourning.

 

Engagement
If preparations for the wedding can not be made within the specified time period or the couple do not wish to ‘rush into’ marriage, an engagement will occur first, but only with the bride’s parents’ consent. The engagement is usually a simple affair, with an exchange of rings (worn on the third finger of the left hand), and the engagement is of an unspecified time period. Chinese engagements are not a binding commitment to marriage, but an indication that the couple intends to marry. Engaged couples may sometimes live together as man and wife (if their parents consent), but formal marriage is always preferred because of its (relative) permanency.


The wedding ceremony, general customs & spiritual marriage

 

http://www.chinatown-online.co.uk/pages/images/culture/customs/weddingcard.gifThe wedding ceremony

Wedding costume
Special dress is worn for the wedding, using the most auspicious colours for the ceremony: red, yellow and white. The bride and groom are not allowed to wear clothing that is black, blue or grey as these colours signify grief and may bring bad luck to the marriage.

 

Wedding gifts
A few days before the marriage day the bride will have been presented with presents by her friends and family: it is common for friends buying the presents to share the cost of their gifts. These presents consist of items useful for the traditional role of wife as homemaker, such as kitchen appliances, crockery, cloth, a sewing machine etc.

 

At the bride’s house
Come the wedding day, the groom visits the bride’s house. A special person- a sam poh who is female and receives payment for her services- will have been appointed to ensure that all customs are observed and to guide the couple through the ceremony.
The wedding ceremony starts with the ritual of worshipping the ancestors. Here, the couple bow three times at the ancestral altar. Next tea will be served by the couple to the bride’s parents who will in turn present the couple with a ‘red packet’ (ang pow). Tea is then served by the wedding couple to the elder siblings and close elder relatives of the bride. The couple bow while serving the tea as a sign of respect and gratitude. The couple will now depart for the groom’s house. Should a death have occurred in either neighbourhood, a route must be found to avoid passing a coffin or hearse as it is believed that this will lead to an ill-fortuned and short marriage.

 

At the groom’s house
In preparation for the wedding, the groom's house will be comprehensively decorated in red. While the groom is at the bride’s family house a small reception will be held at the groom’s house for relatives, friends and neighbours. When the bride has crossed the threshold of the groom’s house she becomes part of the groom’s family. The ancestor worship and tea serving ceremonies are performed again. When this ceremony is finished, the couple are considered are married by traditional Chinese custom.
After the ceremonies the bride is taken to rest in a bridal chamber by her bridesmaids. Traditionally, the room contains a potty and a baby bath as it is thought that these will hasten conception.

 

The wedding banquet
The wedding banquet- the pinnacle of the wedding celebration- is held on the wedding day, usually at night. The bride’s family may hold a similar banquet the day before for their own relatives: the groom will also attend with a small group of his own relatives and thus be introduced to the bride’s wider social circle. The bridal banquet is not an obligatory part of the wedding process, and its holding will depend on the traditions of the bride’s family and their financial status.
Guests at the wedding banquet are formally introduced to family members of both families, and will bring a red packet and sign a guestbook. Wedding banquets may become quite large: often many over a hundred tables, depending on the financial status of the groom’s family. Traditionally wedding banquets were held in the home or home compound, but nowadays it is usual, for urban Chinese, for it to be held in a restaurant or hotel.
Alcoholic drinks- uncommon in Chinese culture- are considered compulsory at a wedding banquet, and the wedding couple often drink a toast at each table of the banquet. The couple will usually be teased and join in games at the banquet.
The end of the wedding comes with the signing of the marriage register, making the marriage contractually binding.

 

General marriage customs
Traditionally, Chinese couples with the same surname cannot marry. Even if they are not related, it is believed that they stem from the same ancestral lineage. Cousins who are closely related are also traditionally not allowed to marry, as it is believed deformed children will result from such a union. The degree to which this prohibition is observed varies between ethnic/regional groups in China, and marriages between cousins do, however, in practice occur for reasons such as strengthening family ties or retaining wealth within a family.
When a woman marries she is considered to have become the ‘property’ of the groom’s family. Hence, if she is widowed it is not considered respectable for her to remarry: she will be seen as honourable if she remains faithful to and with her husband’s family, and cannot remarry without their consent. Widowhood is considered a noble estate and a good role model for other women.
Divorce is discouraged among Chinese society and is quite rare, particularly among those who hold closely to the beliefs of Confucianism. Couples are encouraged to resolve disagreements and disputes, and parents may mediate between the two.

 

Spiritual marriage
Traditonal Chinese custom believes that those in the afterlife continue with a life in the physical world. People who have passed away can thus be married to people who are living- this is known as ‘spiritual marriage’. This may occur in extremis if, for example, a family has only one male heir who dies young and unmarried thus leaving the family without the possibility of ancestor worship. To ensure that this continues, the family of a dead man will search for a bride- who may be the late man’s girlfriend- and her family is offered a sum of money. If a marriage results, the ceremony is similar to the normal marriage ceremony, the bride comes to live with the dead man’s family and may then adopt a child to thus continue the lineage.
Marriage between two dead people is also possible- if, by the help of a medium, it is ascertained that the dead man has not married in the afterlife- and a close nephew will be adopted as the dead man’s son. Spiritual marriage is very uncommon.

Funeral customs & the wake


http://www.chinatown-online.co.uk/pages/images/culture/customs/burningincense.jpgThe burial of the dead (cremation is traditionally uncommon) is a matter taken very seriously in Chinese societies. Improper funeral arrangements can wreak ill fortune and disaster upon the family of the deceased.
To a certain degree, Chinese funeral rites and burial customs are determined by the age of the deceased, the manner of his/her death, his/her status and position in society and his/her marital status.
According to Chinese custom, an older person should not show respect to a younger. Thus, if the deceased is a young bachelor his body cannot be brought home but is left in a funeral parlour. His parents cannot offer prayers for their son: being unmarried he has no children to perform these rites either (hence why the body does not come to the family home). If a baby or child dies no funeral rites are performed, as respect cannot be shown to a younger person: the child is buried in silence.
Funeral rites for an elderly person must follow the prescribed form and convey relevant respect: rites befitting the person’s status, age etc. must be performed even if this means the family of the deceased must go into debt to pay for them.
Preparation for a funeral often begins before death has occurred: if a person is on his/her deathbed a coffin will often have already been ordered by the family. A traditional Chinese coffin is rectangular with three ‘humps’, but it more usual in modern times for a western style coffin to be used. The coffin is provided by an undertaker who oversees all the funeral rites.
When a death occurs in a family all statues of deities in the house are covered with red paper (so as not to be exposed to the body or coffin) and mirrors removed from sight, as it is believed that one who sees the reflection of a coffin in a mirror will shortly have a death in his/her family. A white cloth will be hung across the doorway of the house and a gong placed on the left of the entrance if the deceased is male and right if female.
Before being placed in the coffin, the corpse is cleaned with a damp towel, dusted with talcum powder and dressed in his/her best clothes from his/her own wardrobe (all other clothing of the deceased is burnt and not reused) before being placed on a mat (or hay if on a farm). The body is completely dressed- including footwear, and cosmetics if female- but it is not dressed in red clothes (as this will cause the corpse to become a ghost): white, black, brown or blue are the usual colours used. Before being placed in the coffin the corpse’s face is covered with a yellow cloth and the body with a light blue one.

 

The wake
http://www.chinatown-online.co.uk/pages/images/culture/customs/monk.jpgThe coffin is placed on its own stand either in the house (if the person has died at home) or in the courtyard outside the house (if the person has died away from home). The coffin is placed with the head of the deceased facing the inside of the house resting about a foot from the ground on two stools, and wreaths, gifts and a portrait or photograph of the deceased are placed at the head of the coffin. The coffin is not sealed during the wake. Food is placed in front of the coffin as an offering to the deceased. The deceased’s comb will be broken into halves, one part placed in the coffin, one part retained by the family.
During the wake, the family do not wear jewellery or red clothing, red being the colour of happiness. Traditionally, children and grandchildren of the deceased did not cut their hair for forty-nine days after the date of death, but this custom is usually only observed now by the older generations of Chinese. It is customary for blood relatives and daughters-in-law to wail and cry during mourning as a sign of respect and loyalty to the deceased. Wailing is particularly loud if the deceased has left a large fortune.
At the wake, the family of the deceased gather around the coffin, positioned according to their order in the family. Special clothing is worn: children and daughters in law wear black (signifying that they grieve the most), grandchildren blue and great grandchildren light blue. Sons-in-law wear brighter colours such as white, as they are considered outsiders. The children and daughters-in-law also wear a hood of sackcloth over their heads. The eldest son sits at the left shoulder of his parent and the deceased’s spouse at the right. Later-arriving relatives must crawl on their knees towards the coffin.
An altar, upon which burning incense and a lit white candle are placed, is placed at the foot of the coffin. Joss paper and prayer money (to provide the deceased with sufficient income in the afterlife) are burned continuously throughout the wake. Funeral guests are required to light incense for the deceased and to bow as a sign of respect to the family. There will also be a donation box, as money is always offered as a sign of respect to the family of the deceased: it will also help the family defray the costs of the funeral.
During the wake there will usually be seen a group of people gambling in the front courtyard of the deceased’s house: the corpse has to be ‘guarded’ and gambling helps the guards stay awake during their vigil; it also helps to lessen the grief of the participants.
The length of the wake depends upon the financial resources of the family, but is at least a day to allow time for prayers to be offered. While the coffin is in the house (or compound) a monk will chant verses from Buddhist or Taoist scriptures at night. It is believed that the souls of the dead face many obstacles and even torments and torture (for the sins they have committed in life) before they are allowed to take their place in the afterlife: prayers, chanting and rituals offered by the monks help to smooth the passage of the deceased’s soul into heaven. These prayers are accompanied by music played on the gong, flute and trumpet.

Funeral ceremonies, burial, mourning and the return of the deceased

 

Funeral ceremony and procession
When the prayer ceremonies are over the wailing of the mourners reaches a crescendo and the coffin is nailed shut (this sealing represents the separation of the dead from the living) and yellow and white ‘holy’ papers are pasted on the coffin to protect the body being disturbed by malign spirits. During the sealing of the coffin all present turn away from the coffin, as watching a coffin being sealed is considered very unlucky. The coffin is then carried (with the head of the deceased facing forward) from the house (being a pallbearer is considered to bestow the blessing of the deceased upon the bearer, thus there are usually many volunteers) using a piece of wood tied over the coffin.
The coffin is not carried directly to the cemetery but is first placed on the side of the road outside the house, where more prayers are offered and papers scattered. The coffin is placed in a hearse which moves slowly for a mile (or more rarely, it is carried a mile), with the eldest son and family members following behind with their heads touching the hearse. If there are many relatives, a white piece of cloth links the hearse to family members behind. Order in the funeral procession follows the order of status in the family. A white piece of cloth is tied to vehicles accompanying the hearse, or a white piece of paper may be pasted on their windshields. The eldest son usually sits next to the coffin. A long, lit joss stick is held throughout the journey, symbolising the soul of the deceased, and is relit immediately if it goes out. Occasionally paper models of objects such as cars, statues ships etc. are carried with the procession symbolising the wealth of the deceased’s family. If the procession needs to cross water, the deceased must be informed that the cortege is to cross it, as it is believed that if not informed, the soul of the dead will not be able to cross the water.

 

The burial
Chinese cemeteries are generally located on hillsides as this is thought to improve the feng shui. The further up the hill the grave is, the better its situation is thought to be. When the procession arrives at the graveside it is taken down from the hearse and, again, all present turn away from the coffin, and also turn away when it is lowered into the grave. Family members and other relatives throw a handful of earth into the grave before it is filled. After the funeral, all clothes worn by the mourners will be burned in order to avoid the bad luck associated with death. After the coffin is buried, the keeper of the cemetery will also offer prayers for the deceased. Family members and relatives are presented with a red packet (a sign of gratitude from the deceased family, and the money contained in it must be spent) and a white towel, also as a sign of gratitude but also for funeral guests to wipe off perspiration.
The eldest son of the deceased will retrieve some earth from the grave to be placed in an incense holder, and the deceased will be worshipped by the family at home using an ancestral tablet.

 

Mourning
Although the funeral rites are now over, the period of mourning by the family continues for a hundred days. A piece of coloured cloth is worn on the sleeve of each of the family members for the hundred days to signify mourning: black by the deceased’s children, blue by the grandchildren and green by the great-grandchildren. More traditional families will wear these cloths for up to 3 years. A period of mourning is not expected if children die, and a husband is not compelled to mourn the passing of his wife.

 

http://www.chinatown-online.co.uk/pages/images/culture/customs/soulplaque.gifThe return of the deceased
Chinese belief holds that seven days after the death of a family member the soul of the departed will return to his/her home. A red plaque with suitable inscription may be placed outside the house at this time to ensure the soul does not become lost.
On the day of the return of the soul, family members are expected to remain in their rooms. Flour or talcum powder may be dusted on the floor of the entrance hall of the home to detect the visit of the deceased.

 

 

Fortune telling


http://www.chinatown-online.co.uk/pages/images/culture/customs/soothsayer.jpgThe belief in fate or predestination is strong in Chinese culture: its fundamental core is a belief in luck, but it also contains many practical ways of avoiding bad luck and increasing wealth and prosperity. Recourse to divination, fortune-telling and the like is common and it is believed that a person can make the most of their fate with the help of these instruments. Fortune-tellers and soothsayers of various types are still consulted for a variety of purposes.
The most common form of fortune telling is via the date and time of a person’s birth: this is dealt with in our
Horoscopes section.
Other forms of divination are briefly described below.

 

Divination by the features of the face
The Chinese believe that the face can be used to predict the future and fortune of an individual. Fortune telling from the face has a long history stretching back over five millennia and its most famous ancient exponents were Tanju Ju and Xi Jong who wrote books during the Eastern Chou Dynasty (770-256 BC).
Facial fortune telling considers the shape of all the major features of the face: the combination of these features and their relative yin and yang properties determine a person’s destiny and fortune. Ten facial types are recognised- feng, mu, shen, tian, tong, wang, jia, yang, yuan and you. Each facial type has its own fate characteristics: for example, mu features denote intelligence but bad gambling luck and feng features denote an intelligent person fortunate in their endeavours.

 

Palm reading
Similar to western palm readers, Chinese divination believes that the lines on the palms of the hand can predict a person’s fortune, attitude, health, character, marriage fortune etc. Palm reading in China can be traced back about 3 millennia to the period of the Chou dynasty, when a book on the subject was written by Shi Shu Fu.
Palmistry is divided into two subfields: cheirognomy (concentrating on the fingers) and cheiromancy (concentrating on the palm).
Chinese palmistry classifies palm types into seven groups: psychic (idealistic sort), natural (lowest sort of person), mixed and squarish (useful sorts), spatulate (anxious sort), philosophical (confused sort), and conical (artistic sort). The finger bones, joints, nails and the elbow are examined in Chinese palmistry.

 

Traditions

http://www.chinatown-online.co.uk/pages/new_year/images/new_year/sticks2.jpgFortune Sticks
The New Year is obviously a time when people are mindful of the future. Often people will seek to have their fortunes told at the temple.

The oldest known method of fortune telling in the world is known as Kau Chime - a set of 78 numbered sticks held in a bamboo case. Holding the container in both hands and shaking it causes one of the sticks to rise and fall out. The number on the stick is cross referenced with ancient texts, and a fortune told. The fortune is generally a short poem or rhyme, and the point is not so much to have a clear picture of the future, but an indication of the possibilities which lie ahead.

The Chinese are not, by and large, fatalistic, though they hold many superstitious beliefs. Therefore, having one's fortune told is more an indication of the conditions ahead rather than actual events. The opportunity therefore exists for people to make the most of their lives by being more aware of the 'environmental conditions' which surround their lives.

Colours and clothing


http://www.chinatown-online.co.uk/pages/images/culture/customs/cloth.jpgColours
In Chinese culture there are three central colours: red, black and white.
Red, being the colour of blood, symbolises the positive aspects of life such as happiness, wealth, fame etc. Red is always associated with good luck.
Black, being the colour of faeces is associated with dirt, sin, evil, disasters, sadness, cruelty and suffering among other negative things. Black signifies bad fortune and must not be worn during festivals, wedding celebrations etc. or used in home decoration. Black symbolises a lack of civilisation and backwardness. However, traditions associated with this colour are quickly fading, and among the younger generations black can be frequently seen as a clothing colour.
White symbolises the mother’s milk and is intermediate between red and black, balancing the two colours. It signifies moderation, purity, honesty and life, but is also used at funerals as it is believed it can harmonise all elements. It can be used in all rituals and ceremonies as it is essentially neutral. Other colours are classified according to their relative darkness and lightness and associated significance thereof.

Chinese Festivals


The oldest and most important festival in China is the Spring Festival, more commonly known in the West as
Chinese New Year. Like all Chinese festivals, the date of the new year is determined by the lunar calendar rather than the Western (Gregorian) calendar, so the date of the holiday varies from late January to early February.

The Spring festival celebrates the earth coming back to life, and the start of ploughing and sowing. In the past, feudal rulers of dynasties placed great importance on this occasion, and ceremonies to usher in the season were performed.

Preparations for the New Year festival start during the last few days of the last moon. Houses are thoroughly cleaned, debts repaid, hair cut and new clothes bought. Doors are decorated with vertical scrolls of characters on red paper whose texts seek good luck and praise nature, this practice stemming from the hanging of peach-wood charms to keep away ghosts and evil spirits. In many homes incense is burned, and also in the temples as a mark of respect to ancestors.

On New Year’s Eve houses are brightly lit and a large family dinner is served. In the south of China sticky-sweet glutinous rice pudding called nian gao is served, while in the north the steamed dumpling jiaozi is popular. Most celebrating the festival stay up till midnight, when fireworks are lit, to drive away evil spirits. New Years day is often spent visiting neighbours, family and friends.

The public holiday for New Year lasts 3 days in China, but the festival traditionally lasts till the 15th day of the lunar month and ends with the ‘Lantern Festival’. Here, houses are decorated with colourful lanterns, and yuanxioa, a sweet or savoury fried or boiled dumpling made of glutinous rice flour is eaten.

Click the Q to see a QuickTime movie of a lion dance (file size 2.2MB)

Visit the Chinese New Year section of Chinatown Online

 

Qing Ming (Pure Brightness Festival)
On the 3rd day of the 3rd lunar month (usually around the 4th or 5th of April) the Qing Ming festival is celebrated. This is a time when ice and snow has gone and plants are beginning to grow again, and is a time for respect to ancestors. The graves of deceased relatives are swept and tended, the memory of the dead cherished and offering of food may be made. To assist ancestors in the afterlife 'Bank of Hell' money is burned, thereby transferring money to the ancestors to spend as they will. Qing Ming is often marked by an indulgence of the Chinese passion for kite flying.
More about
Qing Ming...

 

Duan Wu (Dragon Boat Festival)
The Dragon Boat festival dates back to ancient times and occurs on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month. Originally a religious practice, it is now purely recreational. The Dragon Boat festival celebrates the death of t
he poet Qu Yuan, who drowned himself in the 3rd Century BC as a protest against a corrupt government. The legends are that the towns people attempted to rescue him by beating drums to scare fish away from eating his body and threw rice dumplings into the river to tempt the fish away from their hero.

Pyramid shaped glutinous rice cakes known as zongzi are eaten to mark the festival, and along the rivers and coasts dragon-boat races are performed. In these high-spirited competitions long, sleek boats with dragon heads on the prow are propelled by teams of rowers stroking their oars in unison.

 

Zhong Qiu (Mid-Autumn Festival)
Probably the second most important festival in the Chinese calendar, Zhong qiu has ancient origins. Occurring on the 15th day of the 17th lunar month (usually some time around the end of September/start of October) the Mid-autumn festival celebrates the moon. Traditionally a time for poets and lovers, in Chinese symbolism the moon symbolises unity and wholeness and is a time for reunion of families. Abundant meals are eaten during the festival and moon cakes, round pastries filled with nuts, dried fruits, preserved flowers, sesame and/or marinated beef or bacon are eaten.
More about
Zhong Qiu...

 

Other Chinese Festivals and their approximate Western dates are:
Birthday of Che Kung (February)
Birthday of Tin Hau (May)
Cheung Chau Bun Festival (April/May)
Birthday of Lord Buddha (Chinese Festivals


The oldest and most important festival in China is the Spring Festival, more commonly known in the West as
Chinese New Year. Like all Chinese festivals, the date of the new year is determined by the lunar calendar rather than the Western (Gregorian) calendar, so the date of the holiday varies from late January to early February.

The Spring festival celebrates the earth coming back to life, and the start of ploughing and sowing. In the past, feudal rulers of dynasties placed great importance on this occasion, and ceremonies to usher in the season were performed.

Preparations for the New Year festival start during the last few days of the last moon. Houses are thoroughly cleaned, debts repaid, hair cut and new clothes bought. Doors are decorated with vertical scrolls of characters on red paper whose texts seek good luck and praise nature, this practice stemming from the hanging of peach-wood charms to keep away ghosts and evil spirits. In many homes incense is burned, and also in the temples as a mark of respect to ancestors.

On New Year’s Eve houses are brightly lit and a large family dinner is served. In the south of China sticky-sweet glutinous rice pudding called nian gao is served, while in the north the steamed dumpling jiaozi is popular. Most celebrating the festival stay up till midnight, when fireworks are lit, to drive away evil spirits. New Years day is often spent visiting neighbours, family and friends.

The public holiday for New Year lasts 3 days in China, but the festival traditionally lasts till the 15th day of the lunar month and ends with the ‘Lantern Festival’. Here, houses are decorated with colourful lanterns, and yuanxioa, a sweet or savoury fried or boiled dumpling made of glutinous rice flour is eaten.

Click the Q to see a QuickTime movie of a lion dance (file size 2.2MB)

Visit the Chinese New Year section of Chinatown Online

 

Qing Ming (Pure Brightness Festival)
On the 3rd day of the 3rd lunar month (usually around the 4th or 5th of April) the Qing Ming festival is celebrated. This is a time when ice and snow has gone and plants are beginning to grow again, and is a time for respect to ancestors. The graves of deceased relatives are swept and tended, the memory of the dead cherished and offering of food may be made. To assist ancestors in the afterlife 'Bank of Hell' money is burned, thereby transferring money to the ancestors to spend as they will. Qing Ming is often marked by an indulgence of the Chinese passion for kite flying.
More about
Qing Ming...

 

Duan Wu (Dragon Boat Festival)
The Dragon Boat festival dates back to ancient times and occurs on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month. Originally a religious practice, it is now purely recreational. The Dragon Boat festival celebrates the death of t
he poet Qu Yuan, who drowned himself in the 3rd Century BC as a protest against a corrupt government. The legends are that the towns people attempted to rescue him by beating drums to scare fish away from eating his body and threw rice dumplings into the river to tempt the fish away from their hero.

Pyramid shaped glutinous rice cakes known as zongzi are eaten to mark the festival, and along the rivers and coasts dragon-boat races are performed. In these high-spirited competitions long, sleek boats with dragon heads on the prow are propelled by teams of rowers stroking their oars in unison.

 

Zhong Qiu (Mid-Autumn Festival)
Probably the second most important festival in the Chinese calendar, Zhong qiu has ancient origins. Occurring on the 15th day of the 17th lunar month (usually some time around the end of September/start of October) the Mid-autumn festival celebrates the moon. Traditionally a time for poets and lovers, in Chinese symbolism the moon symbolises unity and wholeness and is a time for reunion of families. Abundant meals are eaten during the festival and moon cakes, round pastries filled with nuts, dried fruits, preserved flowers, sesame and/or marinated beef or bacon are eaten.
More about
Zhong Qiu...

 

Other Chinese Festivals and their approximate Western dates are:
Birthday of Che Kung (February)
Birthday of Tin Hau (May)
Cheung Chau Bun Festival (April/May)
Birthday of Lord Buddha (May)
Birthday of Kwan Tai (May)
Maidens (Seven Sisters) Festival (August)
Hungry Ghosts Festival (August/September)
Monkey God Festival (September)
Birthday of Confucius (September)
China National Day (1st October)

May)
Birthday of Kwan Tai (May)
Maidens (Seven Sisters) Festival (August)
Hungry Ghosts Festival (August/September)
Monkey God Festival (September)
Birthday of Confucius (September)
China National Day (1st October)

 

Clothing
There are no specific rules in Chinese custom governing dress. Traditional costumes are rarely worn and clothing is usually chosen for comfort or according to the fashion of the day.
Bright colours are preferred for clothing in Chinese culture, but the colour of one’s clothing is generally suited to the environment: for example manual workers and farmers will often wear dark colours because of the nature of their work. Some conventions are considered with regards to age: the elderly are not encouraged to ‘dress young’, for example t-shirts and jeans.

Speech and greeting conventions


Many western visitors to China have had a rude shock: Chinese conversations in public tend to be loud and highly audible- to western ears the conversationalists appear to be arguing. Arguments usually result not in especially loud speech, but in the use of curses and swear words, regardless of sex or age.
However, Chinese etiquette states that the best way to speak is softly and with one’s head slightly bowed. ‘Answering back’ to those older is considered ill-mannered: the advice of elders should be accepted. Children who answer back or swear are considered bad mannered and their parents are held responsible.
Chinese men speaking loud are not considered bad mannered: a woman speaking loudly is, and may have abuse and ridicule heaped upon herself.

The correct way of greeting a person is very important in Chinese culture: inappropriate greeting is considered very much undesirable. Among strangers, acquaintances or at formal occasions the greeting (in Mandarin) ‘Ni Hao’ (or ‘Nin Hao if much respect is meant) meaning, literally ‘you good?' is used. The phrase ‘Have you eaten?’ is used as a more familiar greeting and testifies to the centrality of food in Chinese culture. Chinese culture considers it impolite to meet someone and not ask him/her to eat: he/she may be hungry!
The traditional Chinese ‘handshake’ consists of interlocking the fingers of the hands and waving them up and down several times. This is today rarely used (except during festivals, weddings and birthdays of the elderly), and the western style handshake is ubiquitous among all but the very old or traditional. When greeting, a slight bow often accompanies the handshake, with the bow being deeper the more respect is being proffered to the person, for example an elderly person or someone of high social status.
The Chinese tend not to greet those close to them with greetings that may bear a negative slant such as ‘you’re looking sad’ or ‘you’re looking tired’: this is deemed improper. In formal contexts, or when addressing an elder or person with high status it is considered highly inappropriate and rude to address the person by their given name. They should be addressed according to their designation, for example ‘Mr Tang, Doctor Liu, Chairman Lee’ etc.
Business/name cards are ubiquitous in Chinese business and will almost always be exchanged upon meeting a stranger in such a context. The card should be held in both hands when offered to the other person: offering it with one hand is considered ill-mannered.

Charms and talismans


http://www.chinatown-online.co.uk/pages/images/culture/customs/pakua.jpgPakua
With the explosion of popularity of Feng Shui in the West, many western people are familiar with the mirror type of pakua. Pakua in fact come in a variety of shapes and sizes, depending on customs and beliefs. Pakua are used to ward off ghosts, evil spirits and malign influences from a house. Their use is, paradoxically, declining by Chinese people.

 

Talismans
Chinese talismans have the same function as pakua- to ward off evil spirits, and are often small pieces of paper or cloth with prayers or mantras written on them. Buddhist talismans are small pieces of yellow cloth with sacred writings from Buddhist scriptures and a picture of Buddha painted on it. Taoist talismans are similarly of yellow cloth, but contain mantras from the I-Ching. Talismans are traditionally written using the blood of a dog, chicken or human. Talismans can be worn or hung on doors, and it is particularly common for children and adolescents to wear talismans as it is believed that they have not grown sufficiently yet to fight of malign influences themselves.

 

http://www.chinatown-online.co.uk/pages/images/culture/customs/jade.jpgJade
Jade, a recurrent theme in Chinese culture and mythology, is also credited with the powers of warding off evil and is often worn by children. If the jade becomes darker, it is believed that wealth will come the wearer’s way; conversely, if it pales, misfortune will befall him/her.
Jade does not only function as a talisman. It symbolises majesty, beauty, good manners and goodness and is a favourite jewel among Chinese women, not only for the former mentioned properties, but because it is believed that it can bring wealth and good health to the wearer. Jade is sometimes worn before long journeys in the belief that it can ward off accidents and misfortune. Wealthy Chinese families will often adorn their dead with jade as it is believed that jade can strengthen the bonds between a family and its departed.

Miscellaneous customs and beliefs


Brooms
Many superstitions abound in Chinese culture about brooms. The use of brooms should only be for cleaning the house, shop etc. Traditional Chinese culture holds that a broom is inhabited by a spirit, thus explaining why it should not be used for games, playing etc. The broom should not be used for cleaning the household gods or altar as this is disrespectful. These objects are cleaned with a cloth or a special small brush. During the Spring Festival, Chinese custom prohibits the use of the broom for three days from New Year’s Day, as it is thought that use of it will sweep away the good luck the new year brings.
Beating a person with a broom will rain bad luck upon that person for years. The curse can however be lifted by rubbing the part of the body hit several times. The broom should never touch the head: this is very bad luck.
In gambling, the spirit in the broom is sometimes invoked by ‘threatening’ it until luck in gambling ensues.
The broom is also sometimes used in temple rituals. Here, the person’s whole body is swept with the broom in front of the deities and the broom then beaten. This functions to remove bad luck.

 

http://www.chinatown-online.co.uk/pages/images/culture/customs/ba.gifNumbers
Numbers play a role second only to food in Chinese custom and culture. It is believed that numbers can determine a person’s fate- for example in the naming of a child.
Certain numbers are considered lucky, and others unlucky. The luckiest number in Chinese culture is eight, as the Chinese for eight sounds like the word for ‘lucky’. Four, conversely is a very unlucky number as in Chinese it sounds like the word for death. Thus Chinese adhering to the customs try to avoid the number four in, for example, car number plates, house addresses etc. Seven can also signify death, and '1' loneliness.

 

Moustaches and beards
Despite a long history of beards and moustaches in Chinese heroes and Chinese deities pictured with beards, wearing a moustache is considered bad luck by Chinese custom, and can bring misfortune on the family and relatives of the wearer. Being unshaven is associated with the working classes- who are thought not to have time to shave- and thus lowers the status of the wearer.

 

Finger and toe nails
Chinese custom forbids the clipping of one’s toe or finger nails at night as it is believed that this may cause a visit from the dead or a ghost. Nail clippings are to be carefully collected and disposed of in a place unknown to others as it is believed that nail clippings can be used to cast a spell or curse upon the person from whom the clippings have come.

 

The fluid from a dog’s eye
Dogs are believed to have the ability to see supernatural beings such as ghosts and phantoms, and howl when they see one. If a dog howls continuously, it is believed that this presages an imminent death.
Following from this, it is believed that the fluid from a dog’s eye can enable humans to see the spirit world, for example ancestors’ souls. A medium will smear the fluid on his/her eyes in order to see the supernatural world for the purposes of exorcism etc. However it is believed that ordinary people who smear the fluid from a dog’s eye on their own eyes may die from the shock of seeing the afterlife.

 

Miscellaneous customs and superstitions
Other customs and superstitions include:

·         Back to main customs menu
Back to main culture menu

Basic Chinese Horology

http://www.rawbw.com/~hbv/horology/qing1890.jpg

Clocks and watches were never devices owned by the everyday citizen of China. The Chinese had been using a public time keeping system that was based on a combination of sun dials, water clocks, and astronomical observations. While the EQUINOCTIAL SYSTEM divides a 24 hour day into 12 equal periods, with each having four quarters (thus each quarter corresponds to an half-hour in western time keeping system), this system was only used by astronomers and astrologers. Because China was an agricultural based society, the PRACTICAL Chinese hours was the TEMPORAL SYSTEM, which were based on sunrise and sunset. Both the day and the night were divided into six equal periods. This obviously made the periods unequal because of seasonal changes: As winter approaches, the "day periods" became shorter; while during the summer, they become longer. To make things even more complicated, in practical use the night was actual divided into five "special" night periods, instead of the theoretical six; and each night period was in turn divided into five "points" equally.

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Chinese timekeeping system. Notice the uneven day/night hours.

Citizens would find out the Temporal time by using sun dials, or be notified by public timekeepers. The latter, using water clocks and their astronomical observations, would then walked around town, especially at night, and stroke gongs with the stroke number corresponding to the "special" night period. During the day time, time was relatively unimportant, as the ordinary Chinese farmers would keep on working as long as the sun was shining. Only three times mattered: Sunrise, Midday, and Sunset. One of the few times when they actually needed to know the correct time was their time of birth, purely for astrological inquiries.

The Chinese time system was also adopted by the Japanese.

http://www.rawbw.com/~hbv/horology/w4029a2.jpg

Chinese Chapter Bovet Fleurier watch, c.1830. Though theoretically correct, the equinoctal system used in this Chinese chapter rendered the watch impractical in everyday use.

 

·         Since the Chinese costumes during the 19th century neither have a vest nor pockets suitable for the pocket watches, pocket watches were usually put inside a spotter which hanged on a Chinese purse. The Chinese gentleman would carry his purse by means of looping through it with his belt.

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·          19th century Chinese purse "Dalien"

 

An unusual feature of this building, but one that is common in Victoria, British Columbia's Chinatown, is a "cheater story," a floor sandwiched between the first and second stories. Divided into a number of small rooms and with only about six feet of headroom, it apparently accommodated lodgers.

 

Mai Wah (literally “beautiful and luxurious”) Noodle Parlor.

 

 

http://www.maiwah.org/nccabin.jpghttp://www.maiwah.org/wchongboard.jpg

At least two highly publicized pitched battles between Chinese had captured the Western imagination. A pitched battle occurred in 1854 in Tuolumne County, California over a mining claim between the Yum Wo and Sam Yup Companies. The pitched battle with gongs and drums, pikes and shields involved more than 500 Chinese and 2,000 spectators. A similar battle occurred in Virginia City, Montana in 1881, again in a dispute over a mining claim.

Because they made good newspaper copy, many conflicts between Chinese, even crimes with Chinese victims were labeled as tong wars.

A brief item in the August 22, 1901 edition of the Anaconda Standard titled "Good-Bye to Pigtails," mentioned the formation of a Chinese Reform Society of Butte to educate members of the Chinese community on "modern ways" which included cutting off queues and wearing their shirts tucked into their pants.

It wasn't long until a major issue facing the Chinese was the growing gap between traditional Chinese and the first generation of Chinese-Americans to have lived their lives in America and in Butte.

A murder in China Alley over a gambling dispute and a trial in 1909 exposed how wide the rift had grown between them by then. According to the coverage of the trial provided by the Butte Miner on November 14, 1909, "In its last stages the trial seemed to resolve itself into a fight between the educated Chinese wearing American clothes and no queues and the Chinese who understood little English and preserved most of their national characteristics."

A witness for the defense, a modern Chinese identified as Waugh Gee who had been educated in American schools was able to turn the County Attorney into his straight man when the prosecutor tried to discredit his testimony for the defense. Under examination, Gee referred to the murder victim as "the deceased."

When County Attorney Walker asked Gee who told him to use the word deceased, in an effort to find out who had been "trimming up that testimony" Gee replied over the objections of the defense attorney, "I went to American schools for seven years, and there is where I learned it."

When Walker retorted, "I went to school longer than that before I learned that rather technical word," Gee shot back with a smile "I guess you did not go to the same school that I did."

In the same newspaper account the reporter, intending to describe the victim as an opium addict instead describes him in the subhead for the section as a "Victim of Opinion" which may have been closer to the truth.

Public violence flared again in 1912 as a result of a dispute over gambling. According to a report in the November 30, 1912 edition of the Butte Miner, "Reform Movement Hits Butte's Chinatown," six Chinese filed suit against gambling operations after learning that they could petition to recover gambling losses. The story reports that the lines are clearly drawn between the pro-gambling and anti-gambling groups.

"The two factions in Chinatown have been taking issue on many subjects during the past 18 months. A factional fight has occurred on everything where difference of opinion has occurred, and the lines have been sharply drawn."

As the legal wrangling continued, and at least one judgement went against the pro-gambling faction, a terrific explosion rocked Chinatown on the night of November 8, 1914.

The story in the November 9 edition of the Anaconda Standard describes in graphic detail how a Dr. Hum Mon Tau was blown up by his own bomb as he showed it to a friend less than 30 minutes after arriving in Butte by train from Omaha. From the nature of the crime scene, police surmised that he was showing the bomb that he had brought in an old telescope when the nitroglycerin exploded.

The doctor was a relative of Hum Yen who was a defendant in three civil suits and one criminal case that had resulted from the gambling dispute. The article also reveals that the anti-gambling faction had been aiding the police by providing details about gambling operations for raids and in identifying opium dealers. Most likely, the bomb was intended for the leaders of the anti-gambling faction but exploded prematurely.

Butte's Tong War

 

The long standing dispute erupted in violence again in 1921 although its specific origins are not clear.

Most likely this long standing factional dispute within the community over gambling mushroomed into a Tong War with national repercussions.

As established Tong organizations were drawn into the dispute, the two rival groups struggled for the allegiance and financial support of Butte's Chinese.

There is a story in a 1928 thesis by Ching Chao Wu, that the tong war erupted when a rival tong, the Bing Kung Tong tried to establish itself in Butte over the objections of the established Hip Sing Tong. Wu tells a bloody tale of how one after another four newly elected presidents of the Bing Kung Tong were gunned down on the street as they emerged from the election meeting. All four were murdered between 7 and 11 pm. Both Tongs had been notified in Seattle by long distance telephone and the next morning three Hip Sing Tong members had been killed in Seattle. By 9 am, the whole country was in a Tong War.

This story is repeated by Rose Hum Lee in her book about Butte's Chinatown and attributed to Wu. Unfortunately, I can't find any evidence in the papers of the day that such a fantastic bloodbath ever took place.

Instead, what the papers show is that the Tong War began with the murder of Chong Sing, a Chinese businessman who had begun organizing independent Chinese businesses who were not interested in tithing to the Hip Sing Tong. According to one account, this group had formed a group called the Canton Club.

Either it was a rumor or he was really organizing a chapter of the Bing Kung, but either way he paid for his independence on the night of October 13, 1921, when he was shot dead outside his shop at 222 S. Wyoming Street.

When the court appointed another Chinese man, Hum Mon Sen, to handle Chong Sing's estate, the murderers assumed that he would carry on in the effort to establish a chapter of the Bing Kung tong. On the night of February 13, 1922, Hum Mon Sen was shot in front of his herb shop in China Alley by a highbinder who witnesses said wore a beaver cowboy hat.

The Butte Miner reported on February 17, 1922 titled "All Butte in Chinese Tong War" that "men may go shirtless or sockless and clean waists for the women folks will be an utter impossibility for a week or more."

On April 20th, 1922 another murder took place in the Wah Chong Tai Company as Lum Mon stood among several others inside the busy mercantile. A young man behind Lum Mon said, "You're just the man I want to see."

When Lum Mon turned, the man grabbed his coat and shot him as he leaned against a counter. A suspect was soon arrested and the police were able to piece together what happened. The murder had been a revenge killing amongst Bing Kung members. Lum Mon, a member of the Bing Kung tong, was believed to have "sold out" to the Hip Sing tong and was condemned to death for that betrayal by his own tong fellows.

Another shooting in Billings was attributed to this dispute and 27 murders in all in San Francisco, Seattle, San Jose, and Chicago were linked to the dispute between the Bing Kung and the Hip Sing that began with the murder of Chong Sing in Butte. In June of 1922 the Bing Kung and the Hip Sing announced that they had established a truce.

For several years later every crime that involved a Chinese victim was said to be a new flare-up of a Tong War.

In 1927, a recurrence of Tong violence was feared when Toy Sing, allied with the Hip Sings, was shot to death in his living quarters directly across the street from the Wah Chong Tai Company at 16 West Mercury Street.

Both the Bing Kung and Hip Sings made a highly public display by holding separate feasts and then visiting one another to celebrate the Chinese New Year to allay public fears that another Tong War may be erupting.

By then, only a few more than 200 Chinese remained in Butte and that population would continue to shrink as more moved to coastal cities of San Francisco, Los Angeles, Portland and Seattle. This reflected a trend in the overall population of Butte which by 1920 had dropped to 60,313. Thousands more would leave in the following decade.

In Rose Hum Lee's 1960 book, The Chinese in the United States of America, she wrote, "The Chinese are in the final analysis human beings with likes and dislikes, fears and hostilities, bold schemes and shameful conspiracies, enterprising ventures and unfulfilled aims."

In other words, they had much in common with all of us.


http://www.maiwah.org/dragon.jpg

Return to Names and Faces

In California, special taxes were collected from Chinese miners and if they did not pay on the spot they would be arrested or beaten with impunity.

If the claims of Chinese miners were paying out better than expected, the previous owners would take them back, or thieves sometimes pretended to be tax collectors to rob the Chinese.

If you look through census records, mortuary records, or police blotters from the past for any length of time, you'll sense a general frustration by the EuroAmerican record keepers trying to keep track of Chinese. In some cases you can find a name spelled forward and backward and finally crossed out with the word "Chinaman" written in over the scratched lines.

Their names were impossible to pronounce or understand. Many were recorded with the first name "Ah" which means "so-called" along with their family name such as Ng, Wong, Lee, or Chin. Some, after the federal exclusion laws went into effect in 1882, came into the country under assumed names by masquerading as the relatives of Chinese already here. These were known as "paper sons" and they actually had two names, one they used for reporting purposes, and the other, their real name, among their friends and families.

 

a Chinaman who fed him, gave him shelter, and gave him a bale of hay to take along for his horse.

When Grant asked how much he owed him, the Chinaman replied "Nothing, nothing, when you see a Chinaman in need, give him a meal." That Chinaman was most likely Tommie Haw, one of the first settlers of the Dillon area.

The story of how Tommie Haw actually came to Montana has been muddled by time. One story relates how he was an orphan in San Francisco in 1850 when a cattle rancher named Tom Orr spotted him staring in the window of a restaurant. Orr took pity and adopted the orphan. Because the boy had trouble pronouncing his new last name, he became known as Tommie Haw.

When Tom Orr's brother, William, brought the first cattle herds to the Beaverhead Valley to bring fresh beef to the area's gold miners, he brought along Tommie. Another story tells that he was hired in California as a cook and came along on the trail to Montana.

A third story relates that Haw was found after an Indian massacre near Yreka. There is no record of any Indian massacre occuring near Yreka, according to the Siskiyou County Historical Museum in California.

Yet another story tells how the little Chinese boy was the sole survivor of an Indian massacre that Orr encountered along the trail to bringing cattle to the Beaverhead Valley.

According to early newspaper reports, a massacre of 49 Chinese by hostile Paiutes did occur during the summer of 1866 near the Owyhee Crossing in Idaho near where Orr passed through from California on his way to the Beaverhead. There was only one Chinese survivor and that may have been Tommie Haw.

 

http://www.maiwah.org/hpock.htm   dr. hueypock

During one mayoral race, William Owsley won with the slogan "Down with Chinese cheap labor." The Butte Miner newspaper concluded in an editorial that "a Chinaman could no more become an American citizen than could a coyote." Meanwhile, one local Chinese man, Jimmy July, was well respected and became a naturalized citizen. In 1896, Jimmy July was the star of the Fourth of July celebration, reciting the Declaration of Independence from start to finish.

Even as many Chinese studied to become part of America's "melting pot" other recent immigrants from other countries rallied to discourage their assimilation.

Organized efforts to evict the Butte Chinese were mounted in the 1880s and the 1890s. As early as 1884 a circular was posted ordering the Chinese to leave Butte.
In the winter of 1891-1892, a boycott failed due to lack of public support.

When a more aggressive boycott followed in 1896, rather than leave, a group of Butte Chinese led by Hum Fay, Quon Loy, and Dr. Huie Pock decided to fight back against the boycott. They protested to the governments of China and the United States and filed suit against the leaders of the boycott. A copy of the affadavit signed by Hum Fay and filed against the boycott in Butte is now kept in the National Archives.

They won their case and got an injunction to end the boycott, but they were unable to collect damages, which they estimated to be about $500,000 dollars in lost business between 1886 and 1901. While they were reimbursed $1,750.05 for their legal fees and expenses, about 350 Chinese left Butte as a result of the boycott.

In the 1880s, violent anti-Chinese riots erupted in many cities in the West including Denver, Seattle, Tacoma, Los Angeles, and Rock Springs, Wyoming but not in Butte. If there is any positive thing about the effort to drive a minority from its midst, it is that there were no incidents of mob violence in Butte as elsewhere in the Northwest during this wave of anti-Chinese violence.

After the Butte Chinese won their injunction against the boycott, they settled into an uneasy peace with the larger community for the next two decades, the time that corresponds with Butte's greatest prosperity.

The relative truce after 1901 with the larger community did not translate into tranquility, however. During this time, the Chinese had issues to settle among themselves. For details, see
Tong Wars.

By 1906, public opinion toward the Chinese as reflected in the local papers had mellowed considerably. In a May 20, 1906 story about Chinatown in the Anaconda Standard, this is how the reporter characterized the Chinese:

"They care for their own people and don't burden welfare, they never bring suit in court and are never sued. They are fast becoming Americanized and the mission in Chinatown is Christianizing many of them. Society people in Butte have made the Chinese noodle parlors popular places to eat and Chinese truck gardens on the flat provide the city with fresh produce. They measure up well to other foreign groups in town and are definitely more peaceful."

 

They came to dig for gold and to help build the railroads. Yet, when the gold booms went bust and the railroads were done, many Chinese chose to stay. They chose small businesses that didn't require a lot of capital and often didn't require them to rely on an employer for their income. Some became tailors, ranch cooks, gardeners, woodcutters, vegetable growers, and herbal doctors. Others opened laundries and restaurants.

Most of the Chinese who came to Montana (and America) came from the southern province called Kwangtung. They paid about $50 for a month-long ride on a ship across the Pacific Ocean. Their destination was a place they knew as Gum San (Gold Mountain) where, they were told, gold nuggets as big as oranges could be plucked from river sands. These stories were given weight by gold carried home by those who had gone before or the money sent back by relatives still working in America.

While gold was the pull, the push was supplied by the chaos of late 19th century that caused China's population to plummet by almost 60 million souls by the turn of the century.

While almost one million Americans died during our Civil War, more than 20 million Chinese died during the Taiping Rebellion led by a messianic fellow named Hong Xiuquan who fancied himself the elder brother of Jesus Christ.

Other settlers considered Chinese to be exotic and inscrutable heathens. They dressed and talked strangely, and wore their hair in long braids like women or Indians.

Few could imagine that they were required to wear their hair this way in China as a sign of loyalty and, if they refused, the penalty was death. Few "Christian" settlers realized that among the "heathen Chinese," was a large number of devout Christians who had been converted by missionaries before leaving China.

http://www.butteamerica.com/eatbytracks.gifTheir diet was strange to men who ate a "heart-healthy" fare of meat mixed with flour, beans or bread. One petition argued that the Chinese should be deported because "they eat rice, fish, and vegetables and that otherwise their diet differs from that of the white man." Chinese railroad workers who demanded hot tea to drink were laughed at until those who scoffed became ill from dysentery after drinking unboiled groundwater.

Chinese were denounced for their use of opium by the same folks who used patent medicines laced with laudanum and morphine and drank whiskey straight to relieve physical and emotional pain.

Even Indians were not sure what to make of these strange people. Montana pioneer Granville Stuart described an incident in California in 1853 where Indians killed two Chinese miners because, according to Stuart, "they thought them other kinds of Indians."

During the Nez Perce War in 1877, Nez Perce warriors retreating south from the Battle of the Big Hole intercepted a freight wagon train enroute to Salmon, Idaho. They killed the white teamsters, but spared two Chinese, because their war was not with that "tribe."

Economic depression and the end of large scale labor projects such as the railroads fed the dark whispers of anti-Chinese sentiments that soon found louder voices to exclude the Chinese and deprive them the rights and privileges enjoyed by every other immigrant group.

The railroads that the Chinese helped build brought more women to cook and wash clothes, services previously provided by Chinese. Many settlers fleeing the ashes of the Confederacy brought along their ideas about the subservient role of non-whites and transferred their prejudice against blacks to Chinese.

Unlike simple prejudice, however, this ignorance was validated throughout the West by discriminatory laws that punished only Chinese. Chinese in Montana were not allowed to become citizens, vote, own property, or marry non-Chinese after 1909. Special taxes were levied that only applied to Chinese who owned laundries or worked as miners. These laws encouraged many to act on their prejudices with impunity. The newspapers of the day abound with reports of beatings and harassment against Chinese.

The first reported hanging in Butte was a Chinese miner hung by Dan Haffie because the Chinaman seemed to be getting all of the luck in the diggings on Silver Bow Creek. There is no record of whether Haffie's luck improved after he hung his Chinese neighbor.

Federal laws from 1882 until 1943 placed the burden on the individual to prove why they should not be deported to China and random arrests and interrogations were frequent.

Like everyone else, the Chinese followed gold strikes to what is now Montana and Chinatowns, offering sanctuary from discrimination as well as a common culture, sprang up in the larger towns of the state.

In Alder Gulch, about 500 Chinese miners built a Chinatown in Virginia City with a two-story wooden religious temple. As the gold boom faded there, many of the Chinese moved on to mining camps where the diggings were still paying off. Or, they started businesses in growing towns like Anaconda, Billings, Butte, Deer Lodge, Dillon, and Helena.

Butte was home to Montana's largest Chinese community despite organized efforts to evict them. By 1910, Butte, Montana thrived as an industrial metropolis of from 60,000 to 100,000 with a thriving Chinatown of 400 to 600 Chinese according to Montana historian Dr. Michael Malone. That number may be low, too, based on inaccurate census statistics that didn't reflect the true population for a variety of reasons. According to Rose Hum Lee in The Chinese in the United States of America, from 1870 to 1910 the Chinese population varied from 1,265 to 2,532 inhabitants. Lee herself was born and raised in Butte's Chinatown.

As labor unions gained strength in the 1880s and the 1890s, they organized boycotts to evict Chinese businesses. In the winter of 1896-1897, union members blocked doorways and discouraged customers from entering Chinese restaurants and laundries.

As the boycott went on, some Chinese feared the violence that had already erupted in riots against Chinese in Tacoma, Washington, Denver, Colorado, and Rock Springs, Wyoming and they decided to leave for the safety of larger Chinatowns on the west coast. In Anaconda, violence did erupt with at least one Chinese laundry being bombed in 1890.




Butte businessman and Chinese community leader, Hum Fay

In Butte, however, a group of Butte Chinese businessmen, led by restaurant owner Hum Fay, Dr. Huie Pock, and Quon Loy decided to fight back. They protested to the governments of China and the United States and then filed suit against the leaders of the boycotts. They eventually won their case in court but they were unable to collect damages, which they estimated to be about $500,000 dollars in lost business, although they did receive $1,750.05 to cover their legal fees and expenses.

Until the 1920s, Butte's Chinatown was packed with dozens of businesses that sold Chinese and Japanese dry goods and foods, fireworks, tea and other herbs. The buildings there housed gambling parlors, noodle parlors, and laundries. The 1914 Butte city directory lists 62 Chinese businesses, including four physicians who practiced herbal medicine.

Dr. Caroline McGill, who practiced Western medicine in Butte for most of her life during this time, became good friends with these Chinese colleagues. Her amazing collection that served as the nucleus for the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman contains many gifts of clothing and porcelain that came to her from the Butte Chinese.


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Physician and Surgeon,
Dr. Huie Pock

One of these Chinese doctors, Dr. Huie Pock became wealthy through his practice of herbal medicine, acupuncture, and surgery. Western medicine, especially on the remote frontier, was primitive by comparison to herbal remedies fine-tuned by thousands of years of practice in China. He developed an effective herbal poultice using banana stalks to treat various ailments and he shipped these through the mail as well as using them in his local practice. During the influenza epidemic that killed hundreds in Butte in 1918, his herbal treatments saved many lives. When Dr. Pock died in 1927, his son, Quong Huie, squandered the money set aside to bury his parents' remains in China. Dr. Pock and his wife were finally buried in Butte in unmarked graves.

In fact, several Chinese rose to prominence in Butte, despite the fact that one of the city's daily newspapers, The Butte Miner once editorialized that "a Chinaman could no more become an American citizen than could a coyote."

Another Chinese man, known only as Jimmy July, became a naturalized citizen and in 1896 he spoke at the Fourth of July celebration, reciting the Declaration of Independence before an inspired crowd.

Quon Loy came to Butte to represent the interests of Chinese there as the representative of the Chinese Six Companies, a guild of family associations that looked after the rights and benefits of Chinese workers and served as a surrogate government for the Chinese in this country. Quon Loy was an educated person who spoke fluent English and represented Chinese immigrants in legal and business matters. He served as an interpreter, arbitrated conflicts between the larger community and the Chinese, arranged bail, settled debts, and handled burials. He made sure that newcomers had a place to stay until they settled in and found jobs.

Quon Loy was known in Butte as Louie from his name that sounded like the Christian name Louis but actually translated as thunder. His name meant Thunder in the Mountain Pass, well suited to his role as the main arbiter for the Chinese community in Butte. The larger community described him as "the unofficial mayor of Chinatown" and he was often quoted in the newspapers commneting on events important to the Chinese community. He was the manager of the Quong Lung Chung Co. that stood at 16 West Mercury across the street from where the Wah Chong Tai still stands today.

 

 

In such a town, full of high rollers, it isn't hard to understand why gambling would be a favorite pastime. And the Chinese loved to gamble. According to a visitor to Canton named Osmand Tiffany in 1844 "the boys learned gambling as soon as they could talk, and pursued it through life."

The most popular game in Butte's Chinese gambling parlors was Fan Tan, a game of chance that revolved around playing the odds with a hill of beans. Players would bet on the number of beans that would remain when the game manager counted out the total. Four beans at a time would be removed until there were less than four remaining. Players would bet on 0, 1, 2, or 3 and
then the beans would be counted out in front of the players four at a time.

The Chinese also operated a lottery called Pok Kop Piu (the White Pigeon Ticket) that was based on the first eighty characters of a book called the Ts'in Tsz' Man, or Thousand Character Classic.

Tickets with the eighty characters were printed in China and then imported by companies that ran the lotteries in Chinese communities throughout the country.

Daily drawings were held to draw 20 of the 80 characters. In the most common lottery, a player would pick up to 10 numbers on a card and then hand them to the game manager with his wager.

The game manager then rolled eighty pieces of paper, each marked with a separate character, and placed them in a pan, mixed them and then placed 20 of the pieces from the pan into a china bowl. He repeated this until four bowls each contained 20 characters.Then, a player picked at random from the crowd chose one of the four bowls as the one to use for the next lottery. The manager then took the selected bowl and carefully unrolled the 20 winning characters and pasted them on the board for all to see. If a player bet on 10 characters, they had to have at least five matching characters to win. Those who guessed at least five winning characters received a prize of as much as $3,000 depending on their wager.

 

Often before playing, Chinese gamblers prayed at shrines in the gaming room to Kwan Ti, the god of war. Here they could also check bamboo boxes or tubes about 18 inches long that contained paper chits marked with the 80 characters to help them decide how to bet.

 

To gamblers this game may sound familiar if they have ever played Keno in its paper or electronic form. It is played in its present form in casinos and bars around the country. How it got there from its Chinese form is a story that begins in Butte, Montana.

 

In the 1920s Joseph and Frances Lyden were two brothers helping their stepfather Pete Naughton to run the Crown Cigar Store at 110 E. Park Street.

 

Chinese lottery game managers approached the Crown about allowing them to run lottery games in the bar. At the time, Butte had a large Chinatown about two blocks from the Crown. Then Tong violence erupted in the mid-1920s, with three murders in Butte related to a struggle to control gambling and other ventures among the Chinese. The third murder caused the chief of police Jere "The Wise" Murphy to declare that the Butte police had formed a tong of their own and they meant business. Chinese businesses and residences were raided in an effort to suppress further violence. During this time Murphy paid a visit the Crown and told the Lydens to shut down the Chinese lottery.

 

the Wah Chong Tai (literally announcing beautiful old China) Company’s new building was no different than the other business blocks being constructed in other parts of Butte City. The mercantile provided various services, much more than just sell goods. A "Report of the Partnership" filed with the District Court on the death of Chin On showed the company in sound financial condition at a time when many other Chinese businesses in Butte were being forced to close. The partnership listed assets of almost $10,000 -- three quarters of the amount was in cash. The report also verifies the Wah Chong Tai Company's function as a bank for local Chinese. It listed over $12,000 in a safe deposit box at the First National Bank being held in trust for 15 individuals.

 Besides its obvious commercial activities, it was also the place to find lodging, social interaction,and job opportunities. The mercantile was a meeting place, a post office, and a bank. It also had political functions, providing translators and spokespersons who represented the Chinese within the larger society. operated from a large room on the first floor, stocking items imported from China to sell to Asians and to others. Merchandise included fine Chinese and Japanese porcelain, bulk containers of dried herbs and tonics, and string-tied packages of Chinese-style clothing.

An herbal store at the back of the mercantile was named “hung fuk hong” or “together happiness meeting place.”

Mai Wah (literally “beautiful and luxurious”) Noodle Parlor.