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ASIA 150 Asian American Cultural Background Essay

ASIA 150 Asian American Cultural Background Essay


Cultural & Ethnic Background of Asian Americans

Naturalization Act of 1790:


“Congress established its first uniform rule of naturalization through the Naturalization Act of 1790. The Act provided that any free white person who resided within the limits and under the jurisdiction of the United States for at least two years could be granted citizenship if he or she showed good character and swore allegiance to the Constitution.”

United States of America from its beginning had an unwelcome mat to people from Asia, the quote above demonstrates that they would not be allowed in unlike European “Whites”

“Free white person” is a direct reference to European whites being welcomed even if they were not born in the US

Both Asian and African people because of their skin color, appearance would not be given equal access to US as well as Native Americans–the first people

The phrase “Free White People” would exclude Asian immigrants because they were not “White” hence color/race was used against Asians as well as others

As Chinese and later Japanese immigrants arrived to the US after 1850, the Naturalization Act of 1790 would be enforced and lead to their exclusion.

Legal Discussion of Naturalization Act 1790Links to an external site.

Gaan Saam–Gold Mountain is what they called California

Most came Guangdong Province, primarily six districts of Canton province, a coastal province in South China

Of Cantonese Culture-Canton derives from Portuguese translation of Guangdong meaning vast or wide.

Religious background consisted of Chinese folk religions of nature Gods and ancestral deities. 

Taoist traditions: living in harmony with Dao which means the “way”, the “path”–ultimate principle underlying reality.  Consist of meditation, compassion, frugality and humility three core practices. Longevity and becoming a sage is a goal.

Buddism: study of Mahayana Sutras and Mahayana treatises, comes from India. Buddha is the teacher of the Four Noble Truths-ridding oneself of the phenomenal to pursue Nirvana (liberation from attachment and world suffering. Goal is to rid of Raga (greed), Dwesha (anger) and Moha (delusion). Nirvana is considered spiritual liberation.

Confucian religion traditions: a system of thought and behavior, a way of governing and way of life created by Confucius in 551-479 BCE. Teachings revolve 4 books known as the Great Learning (Chinese Philosophy), Doctrine of the Mean (Focuses on The Way–natural order of the universe), Analects (Speeches by Confucius) and Mencius (Long Dialogues). There also consist 5 other Classics such as Book of Rites, Classic of Poetry, Book of Documents, Spring and Autumn Annals and i Ching Book of Changes

Confucism defined the necessary hierarchy of duties and responsibilities between individuals to achieve harmony and stability in all social and political relationships. 

For Confucius an individual did not have to be born noble but could improve himself and become a “superior” person by cultivating five virtues: humanity or goodness (ren or ji), righteousness (yi), proper conduct (li), wisdom (chi), and trustworthiness (xin).

The basis for all of these virtues was what Confucius called “filial piety (xiao),” the respect and obedience of children to their parents.

Confucius maintained that when family relationships are in order, that is when each person performs his duties and responsibilities and shows proper respect, to those both above and below him in the family, society will be ordered and function smoothly.

For Confucius, this model of proper relationships within the family could be translated to the political sphere where a wise and virtuous ruler acts as a father to his subjects. 

They also practiced ancestry worship through lineage and shrines organized by lineage.


First arrived to Hawaii in 1885, 900 men, women arrived later as picture brides, not US territory yet (1898)

Previous Japanese immigration to Hawaii was in 1868 known as the Gannenmoro: (142, 6 were women) People of the first year of the Meiji Period, many were abused in their labor contract and 50 returned by 1870 others stay and some died, many married Hawaiian women

This era was known as Hawaiian Monarchy until overthrow in 1893

Most came from Southern Japan:Hiroshima, Yamaguchi, Kumamoto later Okinawa (1900)

Buddhist: followers of Siddhartha Gautama (Buddha) which focused on liberation from the world of suffering, impermanence, and death. 

A person continues to be reborn in this life depending on his or her karma, the belief that a person’s current life is determined by actions in a previous life.

According to Buddhism, “selfishness and ignorance about the cause of suffering keep an individual forever trapped in the endless cycle of birth, death, and rebirth (samsara)”.

The aim for a Buddhist is to overcome this ignorance and break out of the cycle. The ultimate goal for every Buddhist is to achieve a state known as Nirvana (Enlightenment).

  • A Bodhisattva (Enlightened Being) is an individual who has broken this cycle of birth and rebirth and is thus able to achieve enlightenment but chooses to stay on earth and help other people attain nirvana.
  • Buddhism was introduced into Japan in the late sixth century and brought to Hawaii  & US when Japanese immigrants arrived
  • Byodo-In Temple in Oahu is an example of Japanese architecture as well as the temple in Lahaina Jodo Mission(non-denominational) on Maui which houses one of the largest Buddha statue outside of Asia; bon-sho known as sacred bell when rung cleans mind of evil and temptation
  • There is another Buddhist temple in Lahaina known as the Shingon Mission which practices that “truth is revealed by Buddhism because the teachings show that words and existence are inseparable and the true essence of Buddhims cannot be explained in human language”.
  • The Jodo Mission includes Gyoki-e service, Buddha’s Day on 1st Sunday in April, O-bon service on 1st Saturday in July and Higan-e service for Autumn Equinox on 3rd Sunday in September and Joya-e service to ring temple bell on last day of the year
  • Cherry Blossom tree festival in Hawaii (Big) Island
  • Japanese Garden (one of largest outside of Japan) in Hilo Bay known as Kiliuokalani Park which consists of bamboo outcroppings, main pond, a Japanese Teahouse and a banyan tree
  • Celebrated the Obon, festival of the Soul in mid summer where they dance and honor their ancestors- Odori
  • New Year’s decorations Kagami-mochiand kadomatsu accompany Christmas tree
  • Identified as Issei- first to arrive to Hawaii then Nisei those born in Hawaii or US mainland
  • Worked in sugar cane & pineapple plantations-actively recruited to Hawaii
  • Brought sushi and ramen as well as a noodle dish called saimin, rice, macaroni, pig’s feet soup, teriyaki, tempura and musubi (made with eel, tuna, beef made with rice—white and brown) later to be mixed with spam
  • Became second largest Ethnic group in Hawaii—43% of Hawaii pop by 1920
  • Many Hawaiians also have Japanese heritage from more male immigration and intermarriage

Up until 1965 these were the two main Asian peoples allowed into the United States, (though Chinese were expelled in 1882 but if in US and born here after 1900 were citizens by birth)

Other Asians were kept out by distance or strict entrance immigration limitations based on them not being “Whites” except for RussiansUnderstanding BuddhaLinks to an external site.ConfuciousLinks to an external site.Who was Confucius Kong ZiLinks to an external site.TaoismLinks to an external site.Foundation to Chinese CultureLinks to an external site.Born in Nepal Near Northern IndiaLinks to an external site.Hinduism: World’s Oldest ReligionLinks to an external site.ShintoLinks to an external site.Explanation of the Four Most Important Asian ReligionsLinks to an external site.

Analyze and articulate core concepts of Ethnic Studies, including but not limited to race and ethnicity, racialization, equity, ethnocentrism, Eurocentrism, and white supremacy.

  • Guidelines:
  • Prompt- 
  • Explain why it is important to understand the cultural background of Asian Americans (use Module).
  • Write half a page, use module on the US Invasion of California

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