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English (U.S.)
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Chinese in America in the 1860s (Essay Sample)

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Write a creative story that depicts the Chinese in America in the 1860S

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Chinese in America 1860's
Zhang Wei remembers the day he landed in America very clearly, it was a chilly winter day, and everything including time seems to have frozen. He was anxious to see his father, Zhang Xiuxing who had traveled by sea a year earlier. He was only 16 when his father left and old enough to step into his father’s shoes. One year had flown by, and today, he would be leading his mother and his sister to the Promised Land that their father had prepared for them. He was sure that his father would be proud of how he had protected the family in his absence. He could not wait to show him the kind of man he had become.
The winter did not dampen Zhang Wei’s anticipation; he bore a broad grin on his face. As soon as the big mail ship docked at the port of San Francisco, he knew that his life would never be the same again. His sickly mother did not seem to share the same excitement. She resented the fact that she had left the comfort of her humble home in North Eastern China for America. She was glad about the prospect of seeing her husband but she was not one to share her emotions with her children. Zhang Wei’s 12-year-old sister, Jiao, was in constant pain, her freshly re-bound feet made the voyage excruciating for her. Mother had hoped to make her daughter daintier in order to attract a wealth suitor in America. Ironically, Jiao did not look dainty or lovely as her Chinese name suggested. If anything, she looked like a sad, sick young woman with clubbed feet. This fat was lost on her mother who was keen to prepare her daughter for a wealthy suitor the best way she knew how.
The voyage from China had been largely uneventful. Zhang Xiuxing has sent word to his family to collect tickets on credit from an employment bureau in the city. The family had boarded a postal ship, which doubled up as the main transportation for immigrants from china. The boarding conditions were deplorable. Several people died of diarrhea and dehydration. The stench of poverty and despair was thick in the air, but nobody seemed to notice. The determination to stomach the filth in the ship came from the promise of wealth in America. The promise of self-determination, though a strange term for the Chinese, was reason enough for many to leave their homeland for the unknown.
As soon as the ship docked, Zhang Wei scanned the port for his father. When he saw him, he could not believe what he saw. The father he knew was only but a shadow of what he used to be. For some reason, he thought his father looked lost in the thick crowd of sojourners at the port. When he waved, he could tell from the reply that his father did not share his excitement. At that moment, Wei realized that it would not matter to his father how well he had taken care of the family in his absence. It took a while for the exhausted group of three to reach where their breadwinner was because Jiao physically weak and could not walk properly. This was the first sign that all was not well in America. Wei missed it because the novelty of his new experience blinded him.
The three had arrived in America just before Christmas. The streets were lined with decorated trees and strange lights. Wei was no stranger to lights because he had witnessed many New Year celebrations in China. The Festival of Lights was more pompous and organized than what he saw. He could sense the celebratory mood in the air but he could not understand what the occasion was because according to the Chinese calendar, New Year was several months ahead.
Wei did not have much time to take in the scenery because soon enough, they arrived in a part of town that was full of people and Chinese signs. Wei was surprised at how familiar the place felt to him. The architecture of the buildings was strange but the people and the signs were all familiar. For the first time since the beginning of the journey to America, Wei doubted that the originality of his new experience. Chinatown, as he would later learn, was home away from home. Chinese Immigrants lived in these towns where they maintained their culture and lived by its tenets as fiercely as they could (Takaki 12).[See Aarim, Najia]
Zhang Xiuxing had immigrated to America to work in the Californian gold mines. He travelled in 1960 just before the beginning of the civil war. What he did not know was that the gold rush had ended decades earlier. On arrival, Xiuxing struggled to cope with dashed golden dreams together with the cultural shock. He did not understand the clamor for the end of slavery. As far as he was concerned, it was an honor to be of service to your master. He was further puzzled by the calls for secession by the confederate states and their incessant disobedience of the president. This was unheard of in his country; the word of the emperor was final. No sane man would dare stand up to him, let alone question his directives.
Fortunately, for Xiuxing, he secured another job as a cook at a wealthy Chinese immigrant’s restaurant. He worked there for 8 months before he settled down. He avoided going into San Francisco because he found the city streets to be very confusing. In the 9th month of his stay, he was luck to be drafted as one of the men who would be working on the railway line. He expected to make up to $ 35 per month from his new job. Since he would be travelling with the railway works, he needed his family to come and take care of the little he had amassed in his humble home in Chinatown. Unknown to his family, Mr. Zhang Xiuxing had decided that he would stay in America and pursue the American dream as far as it would take him.
The construction of the Central Pacific Railroad meant that Wei’s father was never home. He was among the estimated 10,000 Chinese men who took part in the construction of the railroad (Henderson, and Olasiji 22). The men who were left in china town were stable immigrants who owed shops, restaurants and laundry shops. There were very few women in the community; those that could be seen on the streets were the wives of the wealthy merchants. Wei’s mother got a job as the cook and personal minder of one of the wealthy shop -owner’s wives. She was not happy because she felt lost in a strange country. Wei realized this from the way she reprimanded him whenever she caught him with English publications. Wei’s mother was also frustrated by the fact that none of the wealthy men in the town had shown any interest in Jiao who she had meticulously prepared for marriage by a wealthy man. According to the American dream, men were expected to work harder to fend for their families while the women conducted household chores and bring up the children. From a social perspective, it represented a period of loneliness to many housewives because their men were constantly absent from their homes in pursuit of the means to take them cl...
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