Cupertino exhibit spotlights Chinese-American legacy

Updated: 2015-03-12 10:48

By Lia Zhu in San Francisco(China Daily USA)

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Cupertino is widely known as home to Apple, but less known as home to Chinese pioneers of 100 years ago. An ongoing exhibition at the city's historical museum tells the story of these Chinese Americans' heritage.

The exhibition, "Pioneering the Valley: Chinese American Legacy in Santa Clara Valley," honors the early immigrants' history and struggles as well as Chinese Americans' achievements in Silicon Valley, according to Don Sun, vice-president of the Cupertino Historical Society, host of the exhibition.

Early Chinese immigrants set foot in California during the "Gold Rush" starting in the mid-1800s, and they worked arduously as laborers on railroads, farmlands, laundries and restaurants. In the face of severe discrimination and economic hardship, they founded Chinatowns.

Sun said the exhibit was inspired by another display at Quicksilver Mining Museum in San Jose, east of Cupertino, where he saw objects that were used by Chinese miners a century ago and later recovered from a mine. The everyday items reflect the rich Chinese-American culture which is well preserved in the still vibrant and growing Chinatowns.

"We came as immigrants but we put roots here," Sun said. "So we need to educate the community, especially the youth, about our history."

"History is the best nexus for networking people together with their hearts, and this exhibit is just an attempt to start," he added.

Apart from the objects on loan from the San Jose museum, photos are also on display showing different aspects of the Chinese-American culture in Cupertino, from the early immigrants' hardships up until today's Chinese Americans' achievements in high-tech industries and local politics.

Sun said Chinese immigrants and their children worked hard over the years to become business owners and entrepreneurs.

In the 1950s, some Chinese families purchased land in Cupertino to grow chrysanthemums, the highest-earning crop in the valley. Later they sold the land and donated money to support the development of Chinese Americans' high-tech businesses and participation in local politics. The chrysanthemum trade is featured in a side display in the show.

Today more Chinese Americans have become engineers, scientists and artists in Cupertino. They are an integral part of Silicon Valley's social and economic life.

Cupertino has a population of 60,000 and 40 percent of them are of Chinese descent. Chinese Americans have also been more involved in local political life, counting three city council members and three planning commissioners among their numbers.

The exhibition, housed in the city's community center, will run until mid-April.