Reflection on Final Project—Early Chinese Immigration Routes

My project aims to track early Chinese immigrants to the United States, seeing where they were mostly from and where they went in the United States. The sources is the Chinese Exclusion File. In 1882, the American congress passed Chinese Exclusion Act banning new Chinese laborers from coming to America and the legal Chinese residents in the U.S. from becoming citizens. Therefore, every Chinese who entered the U.S. had a record at the immigration office of the custom. To show this network map, I choose Kepler gl because it is a great mapping tool that can show the relation between locations and the information of these Chinese immigrants such as sex and occupation. Here is the embedded project (you can move the map inside the box. Make Pacific Ocean the center of the map).

There were a few problems when I completed the project. First, the names of locations in Chinese Exclusion Files are Cantonese while the modern maps use Mandarin. So, I have to translate Cantonese to Chinese Mandarin. Luckily there is a website for such translation. It’s for the Chinese Americans to find their ancestors’ home towns ( Second, it is huge amount of work by inputting the information of these immigrants, the latitude and longitude of their birth places and places of residence in the U.S. Thanks to Dr.Robertson’s suggestion, I picked 100 immigrants. But as they were picked randomly, the data is qualified to show the general situation of early Chinese immigrants. Third, when I made a data sheet and uploaded it to Kepler gl., the map didn’t show locations. I tried the slave narrative data sheet in the course, and it worked. I cut a few sets of data from my own file and uploaded them in two csv files to Kepler, one worked, and one didn’t. ¬†After I changed the names of columns into the right ones (before, I took longitude for latitude and vice versa) and uploaded the file again, it worked! The Kepler showed the locations.

The result of the mapping is surprising. Before doing the project, I expected most of these immigrants were from Canton province. And the map did show this result. What surprised me is most of immigrants did not go to California though some of them landed in the ports there. From the map we can see, many of them went to Oregon and Washington on the west coast and most of them ended up in the east coast such as Boston, New York and Philadelphia even if some of them were born in California. This surprised me because I presumed California, in the past and the present, take most of Chinese immigrants. So, the map tells us this is not the fact, at least in the period when Chinese Exclusion Act was in effect. On second thought I find this makes sense because California was the key force behind the passage of the Exclusion Act. It was not welcoming to the Chinese at that time. This is probably the reason why most Chinese immigrants didn’t stay in California.

The 100 people in the data sheet was selected randomly in the Chinese Exclusion files. So, the conclusion made from the map was representative of the general situation of Chinese early immigrants. The conclusion is most of them were from Canton province and ended up in the east coast of the U.S. and a few of them, born in U.S. moved back to Canton. You can see the information of these immigrants by clicking the routes on the map.

The link to the project is:

Please make the Pacific Ocean the center of the map so that the routes cross above the Pacific Ocean. They were the routes between China and America the immigrants followed. If Eurasia is the center, the routes will cross the Eurasia Continent between China and America and these were not the immigration routes of Chinese immigrants.



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