Butte County California Chinese Immigrants




According to Chan (1991:63-67) the Chinese were known to have established a wide array of community organizations in their Chinatowns. These organizations were made up of 1) people who came from the same districts, called huiguan; 2) family or clan associations; and 3) those grouped together by common interests. Chan (1991:63-64) felt that the district associations were the most important organization in an American Chinatown. The first two established in California were called the Sanyi Huiguan (Sam Yup Association, sometimes called the Canton Company) and the Siyi Huiguan (Sze Yup Association). In 1851, they both were formed in San Francisco. Hsu (2000:30) calls the Siyi Huiguan the Szeyup Benevolent Association and indicates that it had a membership of more than 10,000 men by 1853. Another association was formed by 3,000 Taishanese in 1852 (Hsu 2000:30-31). It was known as the Ning Yung Benevolent Association (Ningyang haiguan) and was for Taishanese alone, men emigrating from Taishan County, China. Membership in this association was estimated to be between 70,000 and 75,000 by 1876. These associations probably existed in Oroville but there is little primary evidence to show. Leadership positions in the district and family associations were occupied almost exclusively by merchants (Chan 1991:66). Chinese with common interest grouped together forming sworn brotherhoods, trade guilds, and political parties.

The tang (tong), which simply means “hall,” was one of the most important associations in the Americas (Chan 1991:67) and went by a variety of names. Western scholars often refer to them as “Triads” using questionable western naming characteristics on eastern cultural values. These groups cut across common geographic origins or kinship relationships. The tang was a fraternal (men only) organization in the Americas that bound its members together through secret initiation rites and sworn brotherhood. More than a dozen fraternal organizations existed among the Chinese in the Americas, the best known one was the Zhigongtang (Chee Kung Tong).