Chinese Laundries: Tickets to Survival on Gold Mountain


By John Jung

Publisher : Yin and Yang Press

ABOUT John Jung

John Jung
After a 40 year career as a Professor of Psychology, I pondered a question that I had avoided many times, namely, how did I, as a second-generation Chinese American fit in a black and white society in Macon, Georgia where we were the only Chinese in the entire city from the late '20s to ea More...


A social history of the role of the Chinese laundry on survival of early Chinese immigrants in the U.S.during the Chinese Exclusion law period, 1882-1943, and in Canada during the years of the Head Tax, 1885-1923, and exclusion law, 1923-1947. Why and how Chinese got into the laundry business and how they had to fight discriminatory laws and competition from white-owned laundries to survive. Description of their lives, work demands, and living conditions. Reflections by a sample of children who grew up living in the backs of their laundries provide vivid first-person glimpses of the difficult lives of Chinese laundrymen and their families.

LET US NOW PRAISE CHINESE LAUNDRYMEN In search of Gold Mountain, you, your sons, and brothers came, Some helped forge the rail that links the land from coast to coast, Then, for problems not of your making, you were held to blame, Racism denied you basic rights and liberties accorded to most, You were taunted, assaulted, and then excluded from the land, Undaunted, you persevered and worked long hours into the night, Resourceful, you learned to survive by doing laundry by hand, For many, apart years from wife and children was your plight, You slaved, skimped, and saved to have money to send back, Resilient, you endured hardships with a determined attitude, Of courage, endurance, and determination, you did not lack, For which your children, and theirs, owe you lasting gratitude'' From John Jung, Chinese Laundries; Tickets To Survival On Gold Mountain Yin & Yang Press 2007.


…important window into the history of the early Chinese immigrants. . . The laundrymen faced struggles, challenges, and even disappointments; yet, the Chinese laundry became a valued and necessary enterprise … 
Sylvia Sun Minnick, SamFow: The San Joaquin Chinese Legacy and Stockton's Chinese Community 

… a significant contribution to the history of Chinese laundries … best told by someone like Jung who experienced a ‘laundry life,’ and understands its psychological impact on the Chinese laundrymen and their families. . . 
Murray K. Lee, Curator of Chinese American History, San Diego Chinese Historical Museum 

… rewarding study of an era marked by invention born of dire necessity, an unforgiving host society that demanded Chinese laundrymen’s services but then punished them for being too good at it, … a long overdue analysis of a familiar experience hidden in plain sight. 
Mel Brown, Chinese Heart of Texas, The San Antonio Chinese Community, 1875-1975. 

… a welcome contribution to Chinese American studies that depicts the plight of early generations of Chinese caught in the predicament of operating laundries to provide for their families, ... while enduring extreme hardship and loneliness ... inclusion of historic documents, photographs, newspaper article excerpts, and revealing personal stories and insider observations from a few of the many who, like the author, grew up and worked in their family laundries. The subject deserves attention and further exploration in view of the significant impact that the laundry had not only on the Chinese American experience, but also in the social and cultural histories of the U.S. and Canada 
Joan S. Wang, Race, Gender, and Laundry Work: The Roles of Chinese Laundrymen and American Women in the United States, 1850–1950, Journal of American Ethnic History 

… a remarkable book...a comprehensive historical study of the Chinese laundries in the United States, a profound analysis of the psychological experiences of the Chinese laundrymen in America and their families in China; and above all, written by someone who has intimate experiences with the Chinese laundry, it is a tribute to those Chinese immigrants whose labor and sacrifice laid the foundation of the Chinese American community, and a testimony of the Chinese laundrymen’s resilience, resourcefulness, and humanity. 
Renqiu Yu, To Save China, To Save Ourselves, The Chinese Hand Laundry Alliance of New York. 

From the Foreword: 

What is remarkable is the combination of this historical perspective with his social psychological descriptions and analyses of laundrymen and their descendants. The personal life stories, with their inner thought, feeling, values, attitudes, work experiences and survival hardships, are skillfully presented with penetrating insights and observations. These perspectives present an overall picture of the history and the life and work of the laundrymen. 
Ban Seng Hoe, Curator of Asian Studies, Canadian Museum of Civilization