Chinese Heritage Tour of the American West

Exploring the uncovered heritage of early Chinese American pioneers over a seven-day tour

Browsing Posts in July 25 trip notes

On Sunday, the day before the Chinese Heritage Tour ended and people flew back to Seattle, I watched at least three participants shed tears.

It’s OK to do that, you know. In many ways, crying is a healthy form of communication. It shows that your mind and heart are linked up and in good working order – that you have emotion.

The three people - all Chinese Americans - were thinking about their family histories, loved ones, lessons learned and the new stories and friends gained on this year’s one-week Heritage Tour through Washington state, Oregon, Idaho and Nevada.

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Even before gold was discovered in Virginia City, Nevada – a mile above the sea – the Chinese had arrived in the area.

After the Comstock Lode, which sparked the big gold rush in 1859, more Chinese pioneers arrived, enduring the dry heat, winds and frontier life for a chance to help families across the Pacific Ocean.

But for the most part, they could not unearth it from the deep mines. The reason: Powerful unions for other miners blocked the Chinese from going underground, said Ron James with the Nevada State Historic Preservation Office.

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Tour participants might not have noticed it on Day 1 of the Chinese Heritage Tour of the American West. But food and water magically appeared at different intervals as the bus rolled down the highway.

Think sandwiches, cookies, Vitamin C candy, Chinese candy, chips, chocolate mints, fruit gummies, crackers, bottled water, peanuts and granola bars (different kinds). In fact, you might have forgotten that some of these munchies existed had you not sat down on the tour bus.

So what do these supplies look like?

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The Chinese Heritage Tour had a bit of a bus ride Saturday from Idaho to the gold-mining area of Virginia City, Nevada – but this is the morning view participants can see from this mountainous area approximately 6,000 to 7,000 feet above the sea.

At one point in the 19th century, Virginia City had so much gold that, as the visitors center said, the precious metal was in “every hill.” Those two words drew prospectors from around the world – including China.

The group today will go on a walking tour of this town with Ron James from the Nevada State Historic Preservation Office. He will talk about the Chinese Americans who arrived centuries ago.

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