Excavating Tucson's Chinese American Past: From South China Villages to a Southwest Pueblo

Excavating Tucson's Chinese American Past: From South China Villages to a Southwest Pueblo

Thursday, May 25, 2023

Event Location

Tucson Chinese Cultural Center, 1288 W River Rd

A presentation by Dr. Laura W. Ng 伍穎華
10:45-Noon at the Tucson Chinese Cultural Center
A buffet lunch will follow the presentation.
RSVP required. Click here to RSVP. 

Can't make it in person? Join us via Zoom.

During the 20th century, the Chinese American community in Tucson, Arizona was dispersed; the majority of Chinese migrants operated grocery stores and restaurants that served multiethnic neighborhoods in the Old Pueblo. In 1968, the Tucson Urban Renewal project destroyed some of these Chinese-owned businesses, but buried deposits and standing structures related to Chinese migrants were archaeologically investigated. This presentation focuses on the archaeology of one area, the so-called Ying On Association compound, which housed Chinese social organizations, including a clubhouse as well as Chinese boarders. Census records show that virtually all of the Ying On residents were men, but Dr. Ng's research indicates that these men were not “bachelors” or “sojourners” as they have been characterized. A re-examination of documents such as letters from Gin Gay Yin and his son Gin Boon Loon’s rooms indicate the maintenance of transnational ties to wives living in Hong Kong or Hoisan (Taishan) County, China, and evidence that they sought to bring family members to the US. In addition, a close analysis of artifacts from Ying On, historic newspaper research, and oral sources reveals long and sustained interactions between Chinese and their Indigenous and Mexican neighbors in Tucson.

Dr. Laura W. Ng is assistant professor of anthropology at Grinnell College in Iowa. She is an historical archaeologist who studies diasporic Asian American communities. Her current research is on the archaeology of transpacific linkages between Chinatowns in the American West and emigrant home villages in Guangdong, China. Laura received her PhD in Anthropology from Stanford University.

This program is presented by the Arizona State Museum and the Tucson Chinese Cultural Center, as part of the "Discovering Community in the Borderlands" project, funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the Arizona Libraries Digital Borderlands Initiative funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and Arizona Humanities. 

Images: Photo of Dr. Ng from Grinnell College's website. Gin Gay Yin identification card, Chinese manuscript collection (AZ 376), box 1, folder 17, courtesy of University of Arizona Libraries, Special Collections, photo courtesy Dr. Ng.

Event Contacts

Darlene Lizarraga