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Gabriella Gonzaba
Professor Howard
History 397
February 14, 2015
Transnationalism of the Taishanese Immigrants in America
The Taishanese immigrants were challenged when they emigrated from China to the
America. Because Chinese culture is so different from that of the United States, the Chinese
found it difficult to merge into the American distinctive culture. In Madeline Y. Hsus book,
Dreaming of Gold, Dreaming of Home, Hsu explains how transnationalism created obstacles for
the Chinese immigrants such as racial prejudice, economic exploitation, and physical separation
from their families and lifestyle. Many Americans became prejudiced against the Taishanese
immigrants and tried to confine them to Chinatowns that forced the Taishanese into a figurative
box and defiled their status in America. These new communities were composed of mostly men
who were separated from their wives and families, hoping to better their lives with American
opportunities and economic growth. Instead, however, these prejudices set them back and
created issues that made the journey for Chinese immigrants into American life even harder. This
essay will discuss difficulties of the journey of Chinese immigrants into the United States and the
challenges that they faced while fighting to achieve their dream of a home in the United States.
Chinese identity and culture was threatened in American communities. Because the
Chinese immigrants were not American, were different in appearance, and were ultimately alone
without their familiar family units, they were treated differently thus in a place of transnational
identity crisis. Transnational communities created a variety of new economic relationships
across domestic borders. Chinese immigrants had to negotiate their lifestyles and goals to fit the

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western lifestyle of the United States. They were forced to adjust their lives in order to flourish
in these transnational communities. However, even if they had not been missing their families so
strongly, because the Chinese immigrants were simply not accepted, they were unable to fully
assimilate into American culture. Due to the nature of the workforce in America prior to the
arrival of Chinese immigrants, the white Americas put African Americans and Chinese in the
same category, thus further preventing the Chinese immigrants from adjusting into the new
culture. White Americans fought to keep them out of certain jobs and keep them in jobs of labor
such as clothes washer or waiter. Continually in transit, they belonged neither here nor there;
they were not really American and not really Chinese (Hsu 3). This racial discrimination not
only hurt the immigrants as they struggled to make new lives for themselves in a new country,
but also began a nation-wide mistrust and mistreatment of Chinese immigrants.
Due to this racial discrimination, the Chinese immigrants faced a disadvantage within the
workforce as typically they could only find employment as laundrymen, domestic workers,
railroad constructionist and merchants, none of which paid enough money for these immigrants
to adequately support their families. In addition, they often experienced economic exploitation
and were cut short of appropriate jobs or equal pay due to their demined status. This struggling to
maintain a steady and appropriate income caused a strain in some mens lives and their future
prosperity. Economic discrimination assumed various guises and the state of California
passed laws that targeted Chinese with a Foreign Miners Tax, which was collected only from
Chinese (Hsu 59). This put them in a position of unequal taxing just due to their Taishanese
culture. However, although the funds of wage were low, the conditions in America were still
better than those in China. The men remained protective of their Chinese culture and were
responsible for their fatherly duties. They were somehow able to, despite the difficult conditions,

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send money to their wives and families at home in China to help feed, educate, and maintain
their lives. They sent money from their meager earnings to China to support rarely seen families
and dependents, all the while attempting to save enough to finance their own glorious, but often
unattainable, retirement in Taishan (Hsu 3). This position of uncertainty of identity added to
their unjust treatment affecting their economic mistreatment. Immigrants created a bridge of
communication of family ties from China to America. Some men left for opportunity in America
leaving children and wives behind to never see again, and while some were prosperous enough to
bring their families to America. Aside from struggling economically, the government had also
created another obstacle. Few men could bring wives with them because the U.S. immigration
laws were even stricter for Chinese women than for Chinese men and these laws ensured that
many family members remained apart for years that stretched into decades until death made
reunification impossible (Hsu 91). Although many working-classmen could accumulate the
funds needed to pay for their wives and daughters to join them in America (Hsu 96.) These
created a barrier with the Taishanese culture from the United States communities because it put
them at a disadvantage. Taishanese were unjustly treated in their employment, wage, and
personal life creating an economic exploitation on their lifestyle.
Physical separation was a major issue with their family unit economically, emotionally,
and legally. Since Chinese men lived in a split family lifestyle, the work provided a lot to their
family. The government understood Chinese immigrants ties back to their homeland and they
fought through disguise of legislation to keep Chinese women out of America. The Page Act of
1875 was meant to cut down the prostitution issue however it really affected Chinese families
seeing that it halted all traffic of women attempting to enter the United States. In Dreaming of
Gold, Dreaming of Home, Hsu states that though there was an issue with prostitution, the Page

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Act in reality, it was primarily enforced against women from China. (Hsu 93). The families
were affect from this era of exclusion after 1875, and men would allow themselves to be
separated from their family for years to help their family survive. They would jeopardize their
presence within the household even if it meant separation for many years. It was not only
normal in Chinese family to have a split family lifestyle but it was an honor for men to go to the
Gold Mountain as they were enduring the struggle of the journey to work hard and provide for
the family. The physical separation from the wife and children was not a huge conflict since this
was a way to have economic prosperity rather then living in a location such as China. Praise was
given to those that helped support Chinese in Taishan. However, their mother wanted to have
yet another son in the United States. Their differences of opinion stemmed from the mothers
ignorance of the difficult working conditions in the United States and the unwillingness of
overseas Taishanese to tell people in Taishan that Gold Mountain guest were, in reality, [the men
were] nothing more than clothes washers, waiters, and cooks. They used the euphemism-clothing
store instead of laundry to disguise [their job]. They pretended to be men of business so that they
might preserve the honor and envy that accrued to those lucky enough to go to Gold Mountain
(Hsu 53). The Chinese family unit was highly based on the relationship between the father and
the son. This link was endangered due to the often separation of the father, causing an issue of
carrying out the family line. The Chinese men went to the United States to make their family
prosperous but what good was it for their family if they were separated and no able to be with
their family. Loyalty to the family was expressed in the outcome that a surprising number of
Taishanese American families managed to survive their years apart and reunite, sometimes
decades later, in Taishan, Hong Kong, or America (Hsu 108)." However the sense of
transnational identity crashed by the 1980s because they were able to move their family unit

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completely to America, so they loosened their ties with Chinese lands. Immigration Act 1965,
allows people to reunite with their families and thus become more Americanized.
In conclusion, Hsus Dream of Gold, Dreaming of Home, explains how the Taishanese
were first attracted to the dream of United States opportunities but were faced with issues with
transnationalism once in the states. Although the Taishanese faced issues with racial prejudice,
economic exploitation, and physical separation from their homeland, they were able to finally
break the difficult transnationalism lifestyle they were pushed into and reconnect with their
family or return home. Their dream of gold or prosperity was somewhat reached with the
reasonable wage being transported back to Taishan, even while they were still dreaming of home.