Uncovering the Resilience of Chinese Migrants in Los Angeles Chinatown

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, Chinese migrants faced harsh discrimination in the United States. However, recent research has shed light on the resilience and resourcefulness of Chinese migrants in Los Angeles Chinatown during that time.

The study, led by Jiajing Wang, an assistant professor of anthropology at Dartmouth, explores the archaeological data that reveals a unique economy forged by Chinese migrants in response to racist policies. Wang and her team discovered boxes of pig bones while examining artifacts from Old Chinatown in Los Angeles. By analyzing the dental calculus on the pig teeth, they were able to understand the pigs’ diet and shed light on the pig husbandry practices of Chinese migrants.

The analysis revealed that the pigs in Los Angeles Chinatown had a diet primarily consisting of rice, with traces of rice leaves and rice husks. This finding contradicted the diet of pigs owned by white hog farmers in California, who primarily fed barley and wheat to their pigs. Additionally, the presence of Ascaris roundworm eggs in the specimens indicated a connection to the consumption of animal and human feces, suggesting that the pigs were being raised in close proximity to the Chinese community.

The study also uncovered the presence of Chinese-owned butcher shops in the area, which served as a vital source of pork for the Chinese migrants. These butcher shops not only provided meat but also offered other services such as banking.

Comparing the findings to pig husbandry practices in South China, where many of the Chinese migrants originated from, revealed striking similarities. Pigs in South China were often fed leftover food, rice bran, and rice leaves. It is possible that there was a network between Chinese individuals growing rice in California and those raising pigs, further supporting the establishment of a self-reliant economy.

These findings challenge the mainstream historical narratives that often overlook the struggles and resilience of early Chinese migrants. Through archaeology, researchers like Jiajing Wang are able to give voice to those whose stories might have otherwise been forgotten.

The study highlights the intricate ways in which marginalized communities navigate oppressive systems, showcasing the strength and resourcefulness of Chinese migrants in Los Angeles Chinatown during a time of intense discrimination.

FAQ Section:

1. What is the main focus of the study led by Jiajing Wang?
The study led by Jiajing Wang focuses on the resilience and resourcefulness of Chinese migrants in Los Angeles Chinatown during the late 1800s and early 1900s.

2. What did the researchers analyze to gain insights into the pig husbandry practices?
The researchers analyzed the dental calculus on pig teeth to understand the pigs’ diet and shed light on pig husbandry practices of Chinese migrants.

3. What was unique about the diet of the pigs in Los Angeles Chinatown?
The diet of the pigs in Los Angeles Chinatown primarily consisted of rice, with traces of rice leaves and rice husks. This was different from the diet of pigs owned by white hog farmers in California, who primarily fed barley and wheat to their pigs.

4. What connection did the presence of Ascaris roundworm eggs suggest?
The presence of Ascaris roundworm eggs in the pig specimens indicated a connection to the consumption of animal and human feces, suggesting that the pigs were being raised in close proximity to the Chinese community.

5. What role did Chinese-owned butcher shops play in the community?
Chinese-owned butcher shops in the area served as a vital source of pork for the Chinese migrants. They not only provided meat but also offered other services such as banking.

Definitions:

– Chinatown: A neighborhood or area in a city where predominantly Chinese people live or where Chinese culture and businesses are predominant.
– Pig husbandry: The practice of raising and breeding pigs.
– Dental calculus: Also known as tartar, dental calculus is a deposit of hardened dental plaque that forms on teeth.
– Ascaris roundworm: A type of parasitic roundworm that can infect humans and animals.

Suggested Related Links:

Dartmouth University
Archaeology.org
Chinese Exclusion Act – History.com