Sojourners and Settlers

Chinese Migrants in Hawaii

by Clarence E. Glick

Among the many groups of Chinese who migrated from their ancestral homeland in the nineteenth century, none found a more favorable situation that those who came to Hawaii. Coming from South China, largely as laborers for sugar plantations and Chinese rice plantations but also as independent merchants and craftsmen, they arrived at a time when the tiny Polynesian kingdom was being drawn into an international economic, political, and cultural world.

Sojourners and Settlers traces the waves of Chinese immigration, the plantation experience, and movement into urban occupations. Important for the migrants were their close ties with indigenous Hawaiians, hundreds establishing families with Hawaiian wives. Other migrants brought Chinese wives to the islands. Though many early Chinese families lived in the section of Honolulu called "Chinatown," this was never an exclusively Chinese place of residence, and under Hawaii's relatively open pattern of ethnic relations Chinese families rapidly became dispersed throughout Honolulu.

Chinatown was, however, a nucleus for Chinese business, cultural, and organizational activities. More than two hundred organizations were formed by the migrants to provide mutual aid, to respond to discrimination under the monarchy and later under American laws, and to establish their status among other Chinese and Hawaii's multiethnic community. Professor Glick skillfully describes the organizational network in all its subtlety. He also examines the social apparatus of migrant existence: families, celebrations, newspapers, schools--in short, the way of life. Using a sociological framework, the author provides a fascinating account of the migrant settlers' transformation from villagers bound by ancestral clan and tradition into participants in a mobile, largely Westernized social order.

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