Synopses & Reviews
Writers and historians have traditionally portrayed Chinese immigrants in the nineteenth-century American West as victims. For them, the American frontier was a place that offered no more than "a Chinaman's chance". By examining the early history of the Boise Basin, Idaho, Liping Zhu challenges the stereotypical image of the Chinese pioneers. Looking at various positive aspects of their experience, he takes an entirely new approach to the study of this ethnic minority.
Between 1863 and 1910, a large number of Chinese immigrants resided in Idaho's Boise Basin, searching for gold. As in many Rocky Mountain mining camps, they comprised a majority of the population. Unlike settlers in many other boom-and-bust western mining towns, the Chinese in the Boise Basin managed to stay there for more than half a century.
Like other pioneers, the Chinese immigrants in this unique Rocky Mountain mining region had equal access to the pursuit of happiness. Their basic material needs were guaranteed, and many individuals were able to accumulate a considerable amount of wealth and climb up the economic ladder. Chinese equality was also seen in frontier justice. To settle disputes, they frequently challenged white opponents in the various courts as well as in gun battles. Thus, the Chinese played all the stereotypical frontier roles -- victors, victims, and villains. Despite occasional conflicts and personal rivalries, race relations between the Chinese and Euroamericans were relatively good; cultural accommodation, not confrontation, was the predominant theme. The Idaho Chinese actually received opportunities far beyond what has previously been assumed.
Interesting and provocative, A Chinaman'sChance: The Chinese on the Rocky Mountain Mining Frontier not only offers general readers a narrative account of the Rocky Mountain mining frontier, but also introduces to scholars a fresh interpretation of the Asian experience in nineteenth-century America.
Includes bibliographical references (p. 201-220) and index.