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The Beginning Of Immigration:
History, Struggle and Success

At its onset, the first Chinese to come into North America had no long term intention to stay on the continent. Indeed, many Chinese arriving in the late 1850's were looking for quick fame and fortune through the gold rushes on the West coast; in particular, in British Columbia and California. These first visitors had one plan, make money in the new world and send the money back home to their families and friends, eventually themselves returning home as well.

No desire or effort was made to assimilate or adapt to western ways of dress or culture and because of this, were often subjected to abuse and malaise by the white majority. However, because the Chinese of this era were a close nit bunch of miners, storekeepers and prospectors, the desire for their native foods grew strong and subsequently led to the birth of Chinese Canadian food and restaurants.

White Miners work alongside Chinese Miners in Auburn Ravine. Circa 1850. Courtesy of California State Library.

Initially serving only fellow Chinese workers, restaurants on the West coast soon developed hybrid dishes that would become staples of Chinese Canadian food such as sweet and sour pork, egg rolls and chicken balls. Many of the dishes would initially be an attempt to re-create the foods from home, but with a lack of proper ingredients found in the East, had to make due with the new foods available in the West.

However, for these first immigrants, this new synthesis of eastern and western food ways had little impact upon the social and economic development of town or major urban centers. Keeping to themselves, they remained isolated and apart from the rest of the population until Canadian confederation in 1867. With John A. MacDonald’s promise of building the Canadian Pacific Railway, the demand for cheap labor skyrocketed. Continue...

Chinese Railway Workers' Log Camp Beside Railroad. Circa 1885. Courtesy of Collections Canada.

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An Old Chinese Miner looks out of his Tent. Circa 1850. Courtesy of Collections Canada.
John A. MacDonald. Circa 1871. Courtesy of Collections Canada.

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