Forming a community around cultural heritage
Chinese St. Louis
From Enclave to Cultural Community
Search the full text of this book
Chinese St. Louis offers the first empirical study of a Midwestern Chinese American community from its nineteenth-century origins to the present. As in many cities, Chinese newcomers were soon segregated in an enclave; in St. Louis the enclave was called "Hop Alley." Huping Ling shows how, over time, the community grew and dispersed until it was no longer marked by physical boundaries. She argues that the St. Louis experience departs from the standard models of Chinese settlement in urban areas, which are based on studies of coastal cities. Developing the concept of a cultural community, Ling shows how Chinese Americans in St. Louis have formed and maintained cultural institutions and organizations for social and political purposes throughout the city, which serve as the community's infrastructure. Thus the history of Chinese Americans in St. Louis more closely parallels that of other urban ethnic groups and offers new insight into the range of adaptation and assimilation experience in the United States.
"Chinese St. Louis provides a much needed addition to the published literature about Chinese Americans. Ling has written a superb, nuanced book about the Chinese community that is not placed in the all-too-familiar locations of California or New York. She skillfully examines the Chinese in St. Louis with an awareness of urban history and Chinese American historiography. This is a wonderful book, rich with insight and sophistication, and Ling shows that she is a resourceful and careful historian."
"The importance of her study is her contribution to the understanding of the transition of Chinatowns from a residential community (ghetto) to a cultural community or an economic-social center (which accurately describes a phenomenon that has occurred after 1970 in many smaller urban centers)."
"Chinese St. Louis is a solid work of historical study. The scope and depth of Ling's research is remarkable. This comprehensive account of the evolution of the Chinese American community in St. Louis will be a valuable addition to the literature on Chinese American history."
"The book is a literary chop-suey of local Asian and American stories and the people who made them fascinating."
"People who are interested in the history of St. Louis, or the history of Chinese Americans, or even those who want to read an account of the culture they came from, will find this an excellent read indeed."
"[A] rewarding read, partly for the nuanced presentation of the Chinese presence in one specific locale, but partly also as insight to varieties of immigrant issues and presences across the United States."
Part I. "Hop Alley," A Community for Survival, 1860s-1960s
Part II. Building a Cultural Community, 1960s-2000s