Forming a community around cultural heritage
Chinese St. Louis
From Enclave to Cultural Community
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Listen to an interview with Huping Ling from "St. Louis on the Air," 5 July 2005.
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."
"Ling provides a detailed account of the Chinese-American community of a few hundred people in St. Louis in the period between the 1870s and the 1960s... Ling's remarkable research brings Hop Alley to life... Ling's model for a cultural community is well established and solidly supported... The book is an appropriate read for those in the fields of ethnic and immigration history, community and public policy studies, cultural and diasporic studies and in American and Chinese history."
"Huping Ling provides a well-documented account of the development of a cultural community among Chinese Americans in St.Louis. The book offers an insightful history of the relatively unstudied Midwestern urban Chinese and provides a model for understanding other Chinese as well as non-Asian American communities."
"Chinese St. Louis is a notable and much needed addition to the growing field of Chinese American Studies.... [T]his book provides the only comprehensive historic account of a Chinese American urban and suburban settlement in the Midwest... [Ling's] use of documentation...creates a vivid and artful picture of Chinese immigrant life."
"[Ling's] book offers an interesting look at the beginnings of 'Hop Alley'..."
"Chinese St. Louis is one of the important case studies on the Chinese American community in recent years which provides a firsthand microanalysis of one Chinese community in the United States. The book gives a vivid picture of a changing Chinese community in heartland America. It is a detailed history of the first 100 years of the Chinese Americans living in 'hop alley' in St. Louis."
"Chinese St. Louis is an important contribution to the rapidly growing field of Chinese American studies….the book is highly informative about the life and social background of both historical and contemporary Chinese immigrants."
Read an article (in Chinese) about Huping Ling's work in World Journal, 15 January 2006.
Part I. "Hop Alley," A Community for Survival, 1860s-1960s
Part II. Building a Cultural Community, 1960s-2000s