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Essay: Kam Wah Chung

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  • Subject area(s): Education essays
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  • Published: 8 February 2019*
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  • Words: 962 (approx)
  • Number of pages: 4 (approx)

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In the documentary Kam Wah Chung, which took place in the 1800s, thousands of miners who were Chinese immigrated to Eastern Oregon (John Day) on the lookout for gold. In the opening scene of the documentary sits a building with a sign out front saying “Kam Wah Chung”. This little building is now a historical site that was opened by two Chinese immigrants named Ing Hay and Lung On. Ing Hay was an herbal doctor while Lung On was a businessman. The building was an herbal apothecary and store. These two men were well known at the time for assisting individuals with medical problems. In the late 1880s, the discovery of gold brought many Chinese immigrants to the Pacific Northwest.
Infection was common during this time and there was a lot of mistrust in medicine because anyone could pick up a book and practice medicine easily. Many trusted Ing Hay with his herbal medicine procedures. A fun fact about him was he would never touch paper because his hands had to be kept so sensitive that he could read pulse diagnosis. In the 1890s he had customers write symptoms in a letter then he would identify the problem and send out the medicine to those who sent the letters. He also received letters from family back in China about wanting him to come home. Family drives Chinese culture but the two men never considered going back. This was because America was better than China at the time. The primary claim of the documentary was that Chinese immigrants came to America to seek out a better life. The Chinese in America were faced with discriminatory immigration laws. These laws inhibited the development of families and put a pause on further immigration. Poverty was a big reason for immigration; immigrants were coming to America due to the opportunity for jobs. The flu epidemic was occurring, potatoes was a big export, gold discovery was huge and overall a lot of opportunity was in America.
After the documentary, Don Hann spoke about assumptions with Chinese immigrants at the time. People tend to jump to conclusions with assumptions. One assumption was that Chinese miners came in after miners were played out and abandoned by white miners. Although this is an assumption, White miners may have thought the claims were played out and sold/leased their claims. The Chinese miners were more effective at adapting to a range of mining techniques and they significantly expanded the size of the mines. Another assumption Dan spoke about to support the primary claim was that miners were landless peasants who fled China in desperation because of famine and war. This assumption was definitely a push aspect. The sophistication and effectiveness of the Chinese mining companies/merchants do not indicate desperation. Guangdong, a province in South China had a history of miners working overseas in the mid 1700s. Even though we see that many immigrated to America due to poverty, we also see that many Chinese immigrants were educated and came from households living above the poverty line.
When analyzing what methodology I saw used in the presentations/ films above, I found that the film studies methodology was relevant. Some strengths I saw from the methodology used in the documentary Kam Wah Chung was that there was a lot of cultural meaning behind the film. For instance, now the building is a museum known as a historical landmark. The building preserves the initial Chinese culture in John Day. Challenges of this particular methodology may include that films are not just a form of entertainment but can also be a learning style in educating individuals.
One of the restricting laws that was talked about in lecture as well as the scholarly source “The Impact of Skill-Based Immigration Restrictions: The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882” was the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. This was the first racially motivated immigration law to discriminate against a national origin in America. It “began a long history of restricting immigrants on the basis of skill”. This law banned the immigration of Chinese laborers. It did not matter if you were skilled or unskilled. This provided particular exceptions for individuals like students, teachers, merchants and officials. The scholarly article provided also talks about Chinese and Japanese immigration. One topic that was talked about in class as well as in the scholarly source is the number of Chinese immigrants increasing tremendously due to the discovery of gold in 1854. Another connection to be made is that both the scholarly source and presentation by Don Hann touched on when gold discoveries decelerated in 1864-1866, Chinese immigration dropped.
The research methodology I believe is used in the scholarly article “The Impact of Skill-Based Immigration Restrictions: The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882” is political science. The political science research methodology means any politic studies outside of the US. As said in the methodology document provided in class, “An approach a political scientist might use when studying Asia may be that of a numbers cruncher: exploring relationships through statistical analysis”. In the scholarly source, I see that the author formats their work by using statistical analysis through empirical approaches with data and results. This methodology compares to our Asia 301 program in ways that experts in different Asian studies can choose to focus on a sub-region, a country or on a larger perspective focus. This Asia 301 class is a prime example. We had guest speakers lecture about specific subgroups like Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Muslims, etc.
If there is anything I took away from this assignment, it would be applying methodologies to essays. I personally have never applied methodologies to sources and essays before but I feel like it really ties your content together and makes it relevant/more credible. I hope to use this tool in future writing assignments.

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