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The only newspaper dedicated to the St. Louis Chinese community.
Issue: 744  Date: 11/25/2004
Chinese St. Louis - book signing at St. Louis Modern Chinese School
Author Dr. Huping Ling talks about her new book and St. Louis Chinese culture community


Speech on Book Signing: Chinese St. Louis

By Prof. Huping Ling
11-21-2004, Parkway South Middle School

I would like to thank the St. Louis Chinese Association, St. Louis Modern Chinese School, St. Louis Chinese Cultural Association, St. Louis Chinese American News, and Dr. Harold Low of Chinese American Forum for their generous support and sponsorship of the book signing today. The Chinese proverb "Yin Shui Si Yuan", meaning one should appreciate the origins of a river when drinking its water, best describes my feelings now. I am keenly aware of the debts I owe to the following individuals and institutions for their kindness, generosity, and selfless support.

My gratitude first goes to the many Chinese Americans in St. Louis. From the inception of the idea to the completion of the project, they have enthusiastically supported me in every possible way they can. While hundreds of Chinese St. Louisans provided useful information on the subject, over sixty individuals warmly and generously opened their houses, businesses, and offices to me, contributing time and life experience to the project. I want to thank my family, my husband Dr. Mohammad Samiullah, Professor of Physics at Truman State University, my older son William Ling, currently a graduating junior majoring electrical engineering at Johns Hopkins University, and my younger son Isaac Ling, a six grader of the Rapid Academic Program (gifted program) at Kirksville Middle School, who have shared my anxiety and joy as well during this long intellectual journey.
Now I want to briefly explain to you why I wanted to write a book on Chinese Americans in St. Louis. First, historically, Chinese in St. Louis, like their counterparts everywhere, have been severely misrepresented. The commonly used term "Hop Alley" for Chinatown in St. Louis represents the myth of the early Chinese community.

How and why the early Chinese community was called "Hop Alley?" The term "Hop" sometimes refers to drug use (as "hop" means opium, hence "hop-heads" or "hopped up"). It might be related to American pronunciation of Cantonese names such as Hop Sing. Whatever its source, the name for St. Louis' Chinatown seems to reflect the cultural and racial bias of the larger society, and it was eventually used for the entire Chinese quarter beyond the original alley.

Hop Alley, like many Chinese communities in other parts of the country, has been stereotyped as a mysterious and dangerous place, often associated with opium dens, tong wars, and murder. Most printed news about Chinatown in St. Louis was filled with such sensational stories of horror.
This was the myth of Hop Allay. What was the reality of Hop Alley? Local records indicate that Chinese businesses, especially hand laundries, drew a wide clientele and thus the businesses run by Chinese immigrants contributed disproportionally to the city's economy. My research indicates that Chinese provided 60 percent of the laundry services for the city during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries although Chinese comprised less than 0.1 percent of the total population. Hop Alley survived with remarkable resilience and energy until 1966 when urban renewal bulldozers leveled the area to make a parking lot for Busch Stadium.

Second, Chinese Americans in St. Louis have been long ignored in academic wrings about St. Louis. More than two hundred works have been published so far depicting the multi-cultural and multi-ethnic aspects of St. Louisans with African, German, Irish, Italian, and Jewish heritage that greatly help our understanding of the region as a multi-cultural metropolis from its beginning. Among these works, however, none deals with Chinese in the region. The under-representation of Chinese in scholarly works reflects the "marginalized" existence of Chinese in the past and the lack of recognition of the significance of the Chinese to the region at present. With the population growth of Chinese St. Louisans and their increasing visibility in the region, it becomes relevant and important for scholars to study their history to get a better picture of multiethnic and multicultural development of St. Louis.

Third, a study of Chinese in Midwestern states is needed for a more complete understanding of the Asian America. Although the majority of Asian Americans still reside in the larger urban communities on the West and East Coasts, a new demographic trend has been emerging since the 1950s as the Midwestern states have seen a rapid increase in Asian American population. In Missouri, for instance, the Asian and Pacific Island population has doubled or tripled in every decade since 1940, with 408 (0.01% of general population) in 1940, 1,046 (0.03% of general population) in 1950, 3,146 (0.06% of general population) in 1960, 7,207 (0.15% of general population) in 1970, 24,926 (0.5% of general population) in 1980, 39,580 (0.8% of general population) in 1990, and 60,000 (1.7% of general population) in 2000. While traditionally Asian American studies have been coast-centered and most academic works dealing with St. Francisco, New York, Los Angeles, and Hawaii, this study will directly contribute to broadening the scope of Asian American studies currently underway in academic circles from the coast-centered perspective to one that includes the Midwestern states as well.

Forth, examination and analysis of the conditions of the Chinese American community help in the formation and implementation of urban policies concerning new immigrants and ethnic communities. The poignant history of Chinese St. Louisans can undoubtedly offer valuable lessons and insights to present urban policy-making. The story of Sam Wah Laundry is most illustrative on this point.
Finally, what is the definition of Cultural Community and its prospective? A cultural community is formed not just for economic reason, but more for cultural and psychological reasons. "A cultural community does not necessarily have particular physical boundaries, but rather is defined by the common cultural practices and beliefs of its members. The cultural community is constituted by the language schools, religious institutions, Chinese community organizations, Chinese cultural agencies, Chinese political coalitions or ad hoc committees, and the wide range of cultural celebrations and activities facilitated by the fore-mentioned agencies and groups. The St. Louis Chinese community since the 1960s is a typical cultural community." (Huping Ling, Chinese St. Louis, p. 12). Unlike the conventional Chinatown, its physical boundary is more flexible, fluid, and unfixed. Such a community is very visible and identifiable when the Chinese language schools are in sessions on Sundays, the Chinese churches congregate its members, and community organizations hold cultural celebrations and activities.

The cultural community model has been warmly received by the academic community. Dr. Ronald H. Bayor, editor of The Journal of American Ethnic History, praises that "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." Dr. Roger Daniels, Charles Phelps Taft Emeritus Professor of History at University of Cincinnati and a prominent pioneer scholar of Asian American studies, comments that "Huping Ling's study of Chinese St. Louis is a breakthrough volume, the first full-scale study of the ethnic group in a Midwestern American city. Only by examining the evolution of such smaller communities can the full scope of the Chinese diaspora in America be understood." Dr. Franklin Ng, president of the Association of Asian American Studies, notes that "Chinese St. Louisans provides a much-needed addition to the published literature about Chinese Americans. It skillfully places the Chinese in St. Louis in the context of urban history and the Chinese American historiography. Ling's presentation of the cultural community' is important as it will help to further thinking about Chinese communities that are not in the form of traditional Chinatowns. It is a wonderful study, rich with insight and sophistication."

Thank you again for coming to the event and for purchasing a copy of the book. The proceeds on the book sale will go to the community organizations that sponsored the book signing to be used for community cultural activities.

To order a copy of the book, please call St. Louis Chinese American News at 314/432-3858 or contact Temple University Press, c/o Chicago Distribution Center, 11030 S. Langley Ave., Chicago, IL 60628; Call toll-free 1-800-621-2736 or fax 1-800-621-8476; (paper $22.95 ISBN 1-59213-039-9; hard-cover $68.50 ISBN 1-59213-038-0, shipping: $4.5 for first book, $1.00 each additional), or contact Dr. Ling at for an autographed copy.



令狐萍教授在新書發表會上表示,華人社區總是被美國主流社會誤解和遺忘,不受重視,以聖路易地區為例,介紹德裔、猶太裔歷史的書共有250本之多,可是先前都沒有專為華人歷史所出的書,中國城(China Town)在聖路易確實存在過,可惜現在煙消雲散,沒有人記得,這些都是我們珍貴的歷史,應該有所記載,基於這幾個原因,史學專家令狐萍教授決定寫出聖路易華人的歷史,自1857年聖路易第一位寧波籍華人阿拉李寫起,一直寫到如今蓬勃發展的聖路易華人文化社區。

當天出席新書簽名發表會的來賓除有中文學校家長外,校長朱杰,文化協會會長戴慶齡,中國人協會會長宋克明,抗日史實會會長劉人豪,時報社長吳毓真,聖路易郵訊報記者John McGuive等均出席盛會,現代中文學校並準備有鮮花一 束致贈予令狐萍教授,「聖路易的華人」一書中寫到目前在聖路易歷史最悠久的華人李王柳女士也在女兒的陪同下出席發表會,一同見證歷史。


贊助單位中國人協會會長宋克明致詞 贊助單位中華文化協會會長戴慶齡致詞

聖路易郵迅報記者John McGuive(左二)與令狐萍教授全家合影,
左一為令狐萍教授夫 婿物理學教授Sami博士



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