Below, please find out more about the Market Street Chinatown and the Market Street Chinatown Archaeology Project, related resources, and some of the people who made this happen.
A little known fact: There Was a Chinatown Here
Most people who come to downtown San Jose have no idea that there was a Chinatown here. In fact, in the 1880s, it was one of the largest Chinatowns in California with over 1,000 residents.
The Market Street Chinatown included about twenty tenement (apartment) buildings; dozens of stores; several restaurants and gambling houses; businesses such as barbers, butchers, employment offices, scribes, pharmacists, and doctors; and small-scale workshops producing boots, cigars, dry goods, carriages, and furniture. It also housed a pork roasting furnace, a temple, and a Chinese opera theater. It was a thriving hub for Chinese Americans.
By the 1880s, however, an anti-Chinese movement was brewing. Some Californians tried to drive Chinese immigrants out of the United States. San Jose was actually the site of the first statewide Anti-Chinese Convention in 1886. The next year, the mayor and city council declared the Market Street Chinatown to be a public nuisance. Shortly afterward, on May 4, 1887, an arson fire burned the Market Street Chinatown to the ground.
The remains of the Market Street Chinatown lay buried under downtown San Jose for almost 100 years. During the construction of the Fairmont Hotel and the Silicon Valley Financial Center, archaeologists discovered buried trash pits left from the Chinatown. The artifacts that they found give important clues to what daily life was like there.
The Chinese American Historical Museum at History Park
The artifacts you see in this digital exhibit are on display at the Chinese American Historical Museum at San Jose’s History Park. In 1987, local residents formed the Chinese Historical and Cultural Project to create this museum to document the history and contributions of Chinese residents of San Jose and Santa Clara County.
The Market Street Chinatown Archaeology Project
Archaeologists have considered the artifacts from the Market Street Chinatown site to be the most important collection of Chinese American artifacts in the United States. Unfortunately, the artifacts sat in boxes in a city warehouse for many years, with no one having access to them.
But in 2002, people from Stanford University, Chinese Historical and Cultural Project, History San José, and Environmental Science Associates got together to form the Market Street Chinatown Archaeology Project. The Project is a collaborative, community-based research and education project. Participants work together to catalog, study, and curate this important collection. This digital exhibit is one of the many programs supported by the Market Street Chinatown Archaeology Project.
There’s a lot more to explore about Chinese Americans in Santa Clara County history
Chinese American Historical Museum: A beautiful reconstruction of the 1888 Ng Shing Gung temple, including an elaborately carved and gilded altar. A great place to explore exhibits on local Chinese American history.
- Read monthly updates about current archaeological research.
- Download progress reports, technical reports, and student papers.
- Learn about the Chinese American Historical Museum.
- Order curriculum guides to use in your classroom.
- 8,000 images and pages of primary source materials illustrating 19th- and early 20th-century Chinese immigration to California.
- Chinese in San Jose and the Santa Clara Valley. Chinese Historical and Cultural Project, L. Gong-Guy, et al. (2007). Charleston SC, Arcadia Publishing, Images of America series.
- Chinatown, San Jose, USA. Yu, C. (2001). San Jose, History San José and the Chinese Historical and Cultural Project.
Home Base: A Chinatown called Heinlenville by Jessica Yu:
- Available for viewing at the Chinese American Historical Museum
- A DVD can be ordered from Chinese Historical and Cultural Project
For teachers and parents
- Golden Legacy is a set of curriculum materials on Chinese and Chinese American culture that won the 1994 Santa Clara County Reading Council Award. A copy of the Golden Legacy curriculum was donated to each elementary school in Santa Clara County in 1994. CD copies can be ordered from http://chcp.org.
Sources used to develop this exhibit
This exhibit draws on decades of research by historians, archaeologists, and community members. We spent long hours in laboratories analyzing artifacts. We visited historical archives, sorted through old family photos, interviewed relatives, and talked with each other about how our lives today are influenced by this history. We wrote down our findings so that everyone would have access to this information.
Here is a list of some of the papers, reports, articles, and books that document some of the information presented in this exhibit:
- Ackerman, E. (1991). Dolls In Miniature: A Portrayal of Society Through Tiny Dolls, Their Fashions, and Environments, 1700-1930. Annapolis, Gold Horse Publishing.
- Allen, R. and M. Hylkema (2002). Life along the Guadalupe River — an Archaeological and Historical Journey. San Jose, Friends of the Guadalupe River Park and Gardens.
- Becks, F. (2012). Pilot Study in Microbotanical Plant Residue Analysis, Market Street Chinatown Archaeology Project. Technical Report No. 4 of the Market Street Chinatown Archaeology Project. http://marketstreet.stanford.edu/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/MSCAP-TR4-Becks-Microbot-Plants.pdf
- Bickford, Maggie (1999) “Three Rams and Three Friends: the Working Life of Chinese Auspicious Motifs.” Asia Major, 12(1):127-158.
- Brott, C. W. (1987). Utilitarian Stoneware from the Wong Ho Leun Site: A Pictorial Essay. Wong Ho Leun: An American Chinatown, Volume 2. Archaeology. San Diego, The Great Basin Foundation: 233-247.
- Calvert, K. L. F. (1992). Children In the House: The Material Culture of Early Childhood, 1600-1900. Boston, Northeastern University Press.
- Chinese Historical and Cultural Project, L. Gong-Guy, et al. (2007). Chinese in San Jose and the Santa Clara Valley. Charleston SC, Arcadia Publishing, Images of America series.
- Dharmanada, S. (n.d.). The Methods of Preparation of Herb Formulas: Decoctions, Dried Decoctions, Powder, Pills, Tablets, and Tinctures. The Methods of Preparation of Herb Formulas. Portland, Institute for Traditional Medicine. http://www.itmonline.org/arts/methprep
- Douglas, B. “Race, Class, and Teeth: Dental Hygiene in the Market Street Chinatown.” Research paper on file at the Market Street Chinatown Archaeology Project, Stanford Archaeology Center, Stanford University. http://marketstreet.stanford.edu/2007/04/student-research-projects-2006-2007/
- Ebrey, P. (1993). Yin and Yang in Medical Theory. Chinese Civilization : A Sourcebook, 2d ed. New York, Free Press: 77-79.
- Engmann, R. (2007). Ceramic Dolls and Figurines, Citizenship and Consumer Culture in Market Street Chinatown, San Jose. Research paper on file at the Market Street Chinatown Archaeology Project, Stanford Archaeology Center, Stanford University. http://marketstreet.stanford.edu/2007/04/student-research-projects-2006-2007/
- Ergil, M. C., K. Ergil, and S. Becker. (2009). Pocket atlas of Chinese medicine. Stuttgart, Thieme.
- Fawcett, C. H. (1964). Dolls: A New Guide for Collectors. Boston, Charles T. Branford Co.
- Fawdry, M. (1977). Chinese Childhood. New York, Barron’s.
- Guangdong Provincial Museum and Fung Ping Shan Museum (1985). Ceramic Finds from the Tang and Song Kilns in Guangdong, Tat Sing Offset Printing Co, Ltd., University of Hong Kong.
- Heffner, S. (2013). Exploring Healthcare Practices of the Lovelock Chinese: An analysis and Interpretation of Medicinal Artifacts in the Lovelock Chinatown Collection. Nevada Archaeologist, 26.
- Heffner, S. (2013). Investigating the Intersection of Chinese and Euro-American Healthcare Practices in Nevada from 1860-1930. Reno, University of Nevada.
- Hempten, C. and T. Fischer MD. (2009). A Materia Medica for Chinese Medicine: Plants, Minerals, and Animal Products. Munich, Elsevier Limited.
- Kane, M. S. (2011). Reconstructing Historical and Archaeological Context of an Orphaned Collection: Report on Archival Research and Feature Summaries for the Market Street Chinatown Archaeology Project. Technical Report No. 1 of the Market Street Chinatown Archaeology Project. http://marketstreet.stanford.edu/2011/08/1-reconstructing-context-2/
- Kang, S (2013). Symbolic Meanings of Chinese Porcelains from the Market Street Chinatown. Research paper on file at the Market Street Chinatown Archaeology Project, Stanford Archaeology Center, Stanford University. http://marketstreet.stanford.edu/2013/08/student-research-projects-2012-2013/
- Laffey, G. A. (1993). The Early Chinatowns of San Jose. Report prepared by Archives and Architecture, San Jose, California, for Basin Research Associates, San Leandro, CA, and the Redevelopment Agency of the City of San Jose, San Jose, CA.
- Laffey, G. A. (1994). Lot Histories for the Block 1 Chinatown, San Jose, California. San Jose, Prepared by Glory Anne Laffey, Archives and Architecture, San Jose, CA for Basin Research Associates, Inc, San Leandro, CA, as part of the Redevelopment Agency of the City of San Jose Archaeological Collection Project.
- Leung, A. (1990). Chinese Medicinal. Advances in New Crops. Portland, Timber Press: 499-510.
- Lord, E. (1966). Young Charlotte. NA66.10, CD113.4. Maine Folklife Center. Orono, University of Maine.
- Lum, R. M. (2007). Finding Home Again: The Story of the Chinese Historical Cultural Project and Its Efforts to Reclaim the Forgotten Historic Chinatowns of San Jose, California. Branching Out the Banyan Tree. San Francisco, Chinese Historical Society of America: 125-128.
- Nardo, M. A. (1988). Memo: Boy on a Peach. Petaluma, CA, Archaeological Resource Service. On file in the Market Street Chinatown Archaeology Project archives, 2019-LAB. 3 pages.
- Rice, P. (1987). Pottery Analysis: A Sourcebook. Chicago, University of Chicago Press.
- Roop, W. G. and K. Flynn (1993). Archaeological Features in the Fairmont Hotel Parcel, San Jose, California. Petaluma, CA, Archaeological Resource Service.
- Unschuld, P. (2000). Medicine in China: Historical Artifacts Images. Verlag, Prestel.
- Victoria and Albert Museum. (1953). Dolls and Dolls’ Houses. London, H.M. Stationery Off.
- Voss, B. L. (2008). “Between the Household and the World-System: Social Collectivity and Community Agency in Overseas Chinese Archaeology.” Historical Archaeology 42(3): 37-52.
- Voss, B. L. (2005). “The Archaeology of Overseas Chinese Communities.” World Archaeology 37(3): 424-439.
- Voss, B. L. and R. Allen (2008). “Overseas Chinese Archaeology: Historical Foundations, Current Reflections, and New Directions.” Historical Archaeology 42(3): 5-28.
- Voss, B. L. and M. S. Kane (2012). “Re-establishing Context for Orphaned Collections: A Case Study from the Market Street Chinatown, San Jose, California.” Collections: A Journal for Museum and Archives Professionals 8(2): 87-112.
- Voss, B. L., A. W. Kwock, et al. (in press). “Market Street Chinatown Archaeology Project: Ten Years of Community-Based, Collaborative Research on San Jose’s Historic Chinese Community.” History & Perspectives: The Journal of the Chinese Historical Society of America.
- Wegars, P. (2001). Chinese Artifact Illustrations, Terminology, and Selected Bibliography. Moscow, Idaho, Asian American Comparative Collection, Laboratory of Anthropology, University of Idaho: 11.
- Weidong, Y., H. Foster, and T. Zhang. (1995). Discovering Chinese Mineral Drugs. The Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine 10(1): 31-58.
- Welch, Patricia Bjaaland (2008) Chinese Art: A Guide to Motifs and Visual Imagery. Boston, Tuttle Publishing.
- Wang, Q., Chen, K. and Chin, L. (2002) A Dictionary of Chinese Ceramics. Singapore, Sun Tree Publishers.
- Yang, J. K. and V. R. Hellmann (1998). “What’s in the Pot? An Emic Study of Chinese Brown Glazed Stoneware.” Proceedings for the Society for California Archaeology (11): 59-66.
- Young, C. (1913). The Westernizing of Chinese Medicinal Practice. The Journal of Race Development 4(1): 34-57
- Yu, C. (2001). Chinatown, San Jose, USA. San Jose, History San José and the Chinese Historical and Cultural Project.
- Zhu, T.Z. (1986). Analysis of the Toxicity of Chinese Mineral Medicines. Zhejiang Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine, 4: 354-356.
“There was a Chinatown Here” is a digital exhibit produced by the Market Street Chinatown Archaeology Project with financial support from the Stanford University Office of Community Engagement, the Department of Anthropology, and the Stanford Archaeology Center.
The website content was developed collaboratively by a team that included Stanford archaeologists, researchers, and students Barbara L. Voss, Megan Kane, Adam Nilsen, Guido Pezzarossi, Justine Issavi, Marissa Ferrante, Molly Vorwerck, and Renjie Wong; and Chinese Historical and Cultural Project researchers Anita Wong Kwock, Lillian Gong-Guy, Brenda Wong, Lee Liu Chin, Yvonne Ching, Wesley K. Chan, DDS, Lee Liu Chin, Sylvia Eng, and Roger Eng. At History San José, Alida Bray, Barbara Johnston, Ken Middlebrook, and Cate Mills assisted with exhibit and website development.
We are especially grateful to History San José for hosting the website and for granting permission to reproduce historic images; to Heather Law Pezzarossi, University of California-Berkeley, for artifact photography; and to Philip Choy for sharing his expertise. The picture, “City of San Jose, Cal.” by Charles B. Gifford, appears courtesy of The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley. The image, “A Portion of the Main Business District of San Jose, California” appears courtesy of the Sourriseau Academy, San Jose, California. The photograph of the Frozen Charlotte doll appears courtesy of The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, Indianapolis, Indiana. The image of cinnabar appears courtesy of the California Geological Survey, Sacramento, California. Photo portraits of former residents of the Market Street Chinatown were provided courtesy of Connie Young Yu and Eugene Chinn.
We are also deeply indebted to the researchers who have studied the Market Street Chinatown, especially Connie Young Yu, whose book, Chinatown, San Jose, U.S.A., remains the most comprehensive account of San Jose’s historic Chinese communities.
“There Was a Chinatown Here” by Market Street Chinatown Archaeology Project (Chinese Historical and Cultural Project, Stanford University, and History San Jose) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.