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History of the Chinese Americans in Los Angeles

There is a historic population of Chinese Americans in Los Angeles and the Los Angeles Metropolitan Area. As of 2010, there were 393,488 Chinese Americans in Los Angeles County, 4.0% of the county's population, and 66,782 Chinese Americans in the city of Los Angeles (1.8% of the total population).[1]


  • History 1
  • Geography 2
  • Institutions 3
  • Recreation 4
  • Religion 5
  • Education 6
    • Chinese schools 6.1
  • Notable people 7
  • References 8
  • Notes 9
  • Further reading 10


The historian William Mason stated that the first Chinese in Los Angeles were Ah Luce and Ah Fou, who arrived in 1850.[2] In his memoirs, Harris Newmark stated that the first Chinese person was the servant of his uncle, Joseph Newmark.[3]

Chinatown Heritage and Visitors Center, Chinese Historical Society of Southern California

The Chinese massacre of 1871 caused deaths of Chinese individuals in Los Angeles. By 1900 there were about 3,000 Chinese in the city. Most residents of the old Chinatown came from Sanyi (San Yup) and Siyi (Sze Yup) in Guangdong. The Old Chinatown began to decline as more Chinese left. Many moved to East Adams around the 1920s and 1930s. The Los Angeles Union Passenger Terminal, built in 1933, was built over much of the former Old Chinatown, so a new Chinatown was established after Peter SooHoo Sr. and Herbert Lapham, an agent for the Santa Fe Railway, negotiated a land purchase for what would become the new Chinatown.[4]

Christine Sterling, a civic leader, developed "China City," a tourist attraction which opened in 1938. Chinese working there also lived there. After two fires, "China City" decayed and was gone by the 1950s. To make way for the Hollywood Freeway, almost all of the remainder of old Chinatown was destroyed in 1951. The remaining portions were parts of Sanchez Alley and Garnier Block.[5]

More Chinese, especially those from Hong Kong, immigrated to Los Angeles after the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 (Hart-Cellar Act) passed. By the end of the 20th Century many Chinese began moving to suburbs such as Monterey Park, Alhambra, Arcadia, and Rosemead.[5] By 2013, large numbers of ethnic Chinese moved into communities in the San Gabriel Valley, including San Gabriel, San Marino, and Walnut.[6]



The Chinese Historical Society of Southern California is located in the region.


The Chinese American Museum is located in Downtown Los Angeles.


Pao Fa Temple is in Irvine, California.


As of 2006 most of the Greater Los Angeles Chinese supplementary educational schools are located in Chinese communities, serving mostly ethnic Chinese, in the San Gabriel Valley. The ethnic Chinese students come from various ethnic Chinese backgrounds. The weekend schools have a tendency of attracting clientele from wider areas while daily programs have a tendency of attracting nearby students.[7]

As of 1993 Saturday morning Chinese language programs in the San Gabriel Valley had about 10,000 Chinese American children as students. That year Chinese schools held classes in four Rowland Unified School District elementary school campuses.[8] As of 2006, the Southern California Chinese Consumer Yellow Pages had a listing of such institutes, stating that there were 135 academic after school tutoring establishments, with buxibans among them. The same directory listed 90 Chinese language schools, 90 dancing and music schools, and 50 art centers and schools.[7]

The weekend Chinese schools, in addition to Saturday classes, also held classes on summer weekdays and in after-school periods on other weekdays. As of 1993 the yearly tuition of a weekend Chinese school for children ranged $200 to $300 (with inflation accounted for, $326.51 to $489.77) per person. Classes were generally held from 8:30 AM to 12:30 PM. Some public schools in the San Gabriel Valley distributed foreign language credits to students of Chinese schools.[8]

Chinese schools

11 Los Angeles area Chinese weekend schools in Los Angeles County co-founded the Southern California Council of Chinese Schools in 1976. In 1993 this council operated Chinese schools in California and Arizona, and that year almost all of the San Gabriel Valley Chinese schools belonged to this council.[8]

The Hacienda Heights Area Chinese School, which opened in 1982, initially held classes in a church and had about 100 students. In 1984 it moved to Dibble Adult School. In 1990 it began holding classes at Cedarlane Junior High School due to an expanding student body. As of 1993 it had about 550 students.[8]

Michael Chen co-founded the Ming Yuan Institute, held at St. Steven's Catholic School in Monterey Park, in 1987. As of 1993 the school had 750 students in its main Saturday program in Monterey Park and 50 students at a branch campus in Rowland Heights.[8]

The San Fernando Valley Chinese School was founded in 1971 and had sponsorship from the San Fernando Valley Chinese Cultural Association. As of 1988 it holds its classes in Andasol Elementary School in Northridge.[9]

Notable people


  • Cho, Jenny and the Chinese Historical Society of Southern California. Chinatown in Los Angeles. Arcadia Publishing, 2009. ISBN 0738569569, 9780738569567.
  • Estrada, William David. The Los Angeles Plaza: Sacred and Contested Space. University of Texas Press, February 17, 2009. ISBN 0292782098, 9780292782099.


  1. ^ American FactFinder, U.S. Census
  2. ^ Estrada, p. 72.
  3. ^ Estrada, p. 71-72.
  4. ^ Cho and the Chinese Historical Society of Southern California, Chinatown in Los Angeles, p. 7.
  5. ^ a b Cho and the Chinese Historical Society of Southern California, Chinatown in Los Angeles, p. 8.
  6. ^ Medina, Jennifer. "New Suburban Dream Born of Asia and Southern California." The New York Times. April 28, 2013. Retrieved on March 11, 2014.
  7. ^ a b Zhou, Min and Kim, Susan S. (University of California, Los Angeles). "Community forces, social capital, and educational achievement: The case of supplementary education in the Chinese and Korean immigrant communities" (Archive). Harvard Educational Review, 2006. 76 (1), 1-29. Cited page: 10
  8. ^ a b c d e Li, Tommy. "Hanging on to Heritage : Saturday-Morning Chinese Schools Are Teaching Language and Culture." Los Angeles Times. June 3, 1993. Retrieved on March 8, 2015.
  9. ^ Lingre, Michele. "Early Linguists : Private Foreign-Language Schools Give Bilingual Education a New Twist." Los Angeles Times. April 28, 1988. p. 2. Retrieved on June 29, 2015.

Further reading

  • Cho, Jenny and the Chinese Historical Society of Southern California. Chinatown and China City in Los Angeles (Postcard History). Arcadia Publishing, 2011. ISBN 0738581658, 9780738581651.
  • Louis, Kit-King. A Study of American-born and American-reared Chinese in Los Angeles. University of Southern California, 1931.
  • Li, Wei (Department of Geography, University of Connecticut). "Anatomy of a New Ethnic Settlement: The Chinese Ethnoburb in Los Angeles." Urban Studies. SAGE Journals, March 1998 vol. 35 no. 3. 479-501. doi: 10.1080/0042098984871 .
  • Zesch, Scott. The Chinatown War: Chinese Los Angeles and the Massacre of 1871. Oxford University Press, June 29, 2012. ISBN 019975876X, 9780199758760.
  • Wu, Frances Yu-tsing. Mandarin-speaking Aged Chinese in the Los Angeles Area: Needs and Services.
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