Development History

China’s ancient history has long been admired by many of her neighbors. Our ancestors long ago began to expand the territory in all directions. King Wu of the Zhou Dynasty toppled the Shang Dynasty and established many feudal states. The first emperor of the Qin Dynasty sent 3,000 young men and women to sea to search for the elixir of longevity. They never returned and are believed to have settled on the islands of Japan. During the Han Dynasty, envoys were sent westward. Their footsteps became the Silk Road, which extended to the border of Rome. Chinese citizens of the Tang Dynasty traded with Arabs, Iranians (then known as Persians) as well as people throughout Asia. Upon the emperor’s request, the legendary Tang Buddhist monk XuánZàng recorded his pilgrimage to India to obtain Buddhist religious texts in his book The Great Tang Records on the Western Regions, which has become a great reference source for the study of medieval Central Asia and India, covering more than 140 country’s local conditions and social customs. The Mongolians of the Yuan Dynasty, renowned for their military skills, invaded and amassed territories spanning Europe and Asia. Marco Polo from Italy lived in China for 17 years and wrote The Book of Wonders, praising China’s rich resources. In recent years, Gavin Menzies, a British submarine commander, wrote a book titled 1421: The Year China Discovered the World, in which he asserted that ships from the Chinese fleet of admiral Zheng traveled to the Americas prior to Christopher Columbus’ arrival in 1492 and circumnavigated the globe a century before Ferdinand Magellan

According to the 2010 United States Census data, the Chinese population alone, as in not including respondents identifying as any other detailed Asian group, was 3,347,229.

Most of the important cities have established Chinatowns and Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Associations (CCBAs). Along with the increase in immigrants, more and more Chinese groups have been founded in more areas. According to the research that has been accomplished during 2003 and 2006, Chinese immigrations have spread all over the world. The number of overseas Chinese immigrants has surged to 50,000,000.

Chinese Immigrants from China

According to The United States Immigration records, Chinese immigrants began to stream into the United States in 1820. The majority of the immigrants arrived in 1850, and it wasn’t until 1853 that the United States government adopted more stringent immigration laws. There were many reasons why the Chinese immigrated, ranging from attractions and explorations of the West to pursuing a better life. The main reason, however, was to escape from the endless chaos caused by civil war back in Mainland China.

Because Guangdong Province is near Hong Kong, news from abroad was easily gathered. Consequently, residents of this province, especially from the counties of Taishan, Kaiping, Enping and Xinhiu, were the earliest people to leave for the United States. Upon arrival in the United States, they lived close to each other, forming a compact community - Chinatown - and spoke their home dialect, the “Tang” dialect.

Although the majority of Chinese immigrants from Guangdong arrived in 1848 due to the enticement of the Gold Rush in California, not all were prospecting for gold. According to historical records, in a decade after 1870, there were more than 120,000 Chinese immigrants in America.

From 1862-1869, Congress authorized two railroad companies, the Central Pacifc Company and the Union Pacifc Company, to undertake one of the most ambitious projects ever contemplated: the construction of a transcontinental railroad. It would span 1,800 miles across expansive plains, arid deserts, and the rugged granite walls of the Sierra Nevada and Rocky Mountains. The Central Pacifc Company hired over 10,000 Chinese immigrants to labor in this low-paying, back-breaking job. The Chinese, known for their endurance and diligence, were recruited as the railroad companies ran into acute labor shortages.

The construction of the Central Pacifc Railroad was a Herculean undertaking due to the terrain, as it must cross the precipitous ranges, perpendicular cliffs and snow-capped peaks of the Sierra Nevada, climbing as high as 4,418 meters. The Chinese railroad workers, using mountain-digging methods passed on through the ages, conquered inclement climate and formidable topographies with their sweat and hard labor. They were instrumental in the completion of this ambitious transcontinental project

Development of the West as well as the Gold Rush attracted more Chinese to immigrate to the West. They also engaged in other trades as the completion of the Transcontinental Railway vastly improved the transportation system of the United States. California, situated on the Pacifc coast, with its mild climate, adequate rainfall and fertile soil, was ideal for agriculture. The Chinese immigrants brought with them their agricultural skills and diligence to help reclaim California land and introduced new fruit and vegetable varieties. In 1877, the House of Representatives of the state of California announced, “As we admit, during the early period of the history of the state of California, the Chinese immigrants have made their own contributions into many industries including the building of railroad, mining, garden arts and agriculture. Most of them are talented and very easygoing compared to the same aged westerns.”羅省中華會館130週年 130 Anniversary CCBA LA | 13 歷史沿革 Development History

In May 2019, the latest Asian database from the Federal Census Bureau shows that the Asian population within the entire United States exceeds 22 million, with Chinese tops out close to 5.22 million.

In accordance to the latest census bureau database from the 2017 “Asian Community Survey”, Asian population is 22,183,118. Among those, the State of California on top with 6.8 million Asians, followed by 1.97 million in the State of New York and 1.61 million in Texas. According to the ethnic group, Chinese is at top with 5,219,184

The Changes in Location of the Los Angeles Chinatown

Back in 1781, the city of Los Angeles was established. People from different races grew up together peacefully. The frst record of the frst two Chinese immigrants was made in 1850, and the frst female Chinese immigrant that arrived in Los Angeles was on Oct 22, 1859. Later, Chinese businessman Chug Chick founded the frst store located on Spring Street. At that time, the recorded Chinese immigrants increased to 21, which consisted of 13 males and 8 females. They were working as servants or as cleaners. A few years later, more immigrants came to America and worked on the railroad.
In the beginning, they lived around today’s Los Angeles Street. The living conditions were very terrible for them; 200 Chinese immigrants were living in poverty and surrounded by the homeless of all races. Later, they fanned out to areas around Marches Sault Street, Alameda Street and Apablasa Street, which became the original Chinatown.

The Transcontinental Railroad was completed in 1870, establishing a transcontinental transportation network that revolutionized the population and economy of the American West, but resulted in many people becoming unemployed. To survive, the Chinese people did not haggle over employment wages or types of jobs acquired, thus replacing Caucasians. As a result, the levels of antagonism began to rise, and the Chinese Exclusion Act was created.

The Chinatown Riot in April 1871 started when a Caucasian was accidently killed during a fght between two “Tongs”. A few hours later, fve hundred Caucasian rufans in total surrounded Chi natown, looting door to door. As a result, nineteen Chinese people were massacred. Due to the defect of law, the seven suspects were freed with no charges. The law did not protect the Chinese immigrants, and the hatred between races increased rapidly. In 1882, the Chinese Exclusion Act was passed by the federal government, forbidding Chinese immigrants from immigrating to America and also banned the right to become an American citizen. The Americans discriminated against all Chinese immigrants, and without legal protection, the only thing they could do was pray for themselves.

When the original Chinatown burned down in 1887, displaced Chinese people numbering about 4,000 moved to the location of what would later become Union Station to rebuild. As the primary birthplace of a Chinatown, there were more than 3,000 people living in this area within a community containing 12 streets and many stores, factories, storage facilities, and even some temples. However, some of Chinatown’s buildings were ordered to be demolished due to the construction of Union Station in 1939. Once again, the Chinese residents had to relocate.

In 1915, the city government of Los Angeles planned to build Union Station where the Old Chinatown was located. 3,000 Chinese immigrants were compelled to move out. While they were moving in 1933, Chinese immigrants already had a blueprint for the new Chinatown. On Apr 22, 1937, because federal laws only allowed citizens to own land, the Chinese immigrants, with help from Yuanfa Situ and Herbert Latham, founded an organization called the Chinatown Council, utilizing the citizenships of American-born Chinese people. They purchased the land from the railroad company for 75 cents per inch, and hired two Caucasian designers, Earle Webster and Adrian Wilson, for the basic structures. The new Chinatown fnished in 1938, containing 18 stores and one tofu factory.

On the day of the opening, traditional Chinese lanterns decorated the new Chinatown, and both Chinese and American Flags were flying in the wind. Waitresses who wore traditional attires led visitors across the red carpets covering the streets, passing Meiling and SanMin Roads. Qiyao Huang, Enlin Liang and actor Kate Luke donated paintings and sculptures for the exhibition. After the parade, lion dance and freworks, dinner service started, with Governor Frank Merriam, Hollywood star Anna May Wong and other celebrities attending.

Wai Liang Association

Wai Liang Association, established in 1889 on the second floor of the Garnier Building on 425 North Los Angeles Street, was the predecessor of the Los Angeles CCBA. Because of the Chinese Exclusion Act, Chinese people were prohibited from owning real property. Mr. Philippe Garnier, a French American erected a red brick building (The Garnier Building) in 1890 to rent to Chinese people. Other Chinese associations, a theatre, a school, a pharmacy, and a variety of shops were also tenants there.

The Wai Liang Association was organized exclusively to advocate democracy for the Chinese people and serve as a bridge between Chinese-American immigrants and the mainstream groups. The association diminished racial discrimination and promoted peace amongst the people. It consisted of individual members, business members, and a Board of Directors who were elected to represent them. The cost of membership was $2 per person.

Success Stories

As the Chinese population increased in Los Angeles, more and more associations were established. In 1910, individual associations decided to nominate the Wai Liang Association as the parent association of all individual Chinese associations. Afterward, the Wai Liang Association officially changed its name to the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association or CCBA.

Under the shadow of discriminatory actions fanned by the Chinese Exclusion Act, the CCBA took on the role of liaison between Chinese Americans and the outside communities. Unity was strength and the means to survive, especially when the laws of the land did not protect them. Not only did the CCBA, trusted by the Chinese residents, serve as a unifying force, it also played the role of a de facto government. It mediated disputes and fights among the Tongs went after criminals and handled matters involving immigration, litigation, and business transactions. In add tion, it raised funds to aid the Motherland in times of war, draught, flood, and other natural disasters. Everyone turned to the CCBA for help in all matters great and small.

In the early 20th Century, the Chinese community was still heavily affected by the effects of the Chinese Exclusion Act. As Chinese residents actively fought for equal treatment and rights, the CCBA’s position and functions were recognized by the mainstream society, and the federal and state government started to enlist the CCBA’s help to handle entitlement and welfare matters within the Chinese community. The CCBA also assisted new arrivals in job-seeking and lodging, and even in marital, funeral, medical and social service matters.

The Changes in Location of the Los Angeles CCBA

Towards the end of the 1940s, California’s state government purchased the land on which the CCBA and Old Chinatown were located in order to build the Santa Ana Freeway. Chinese businesses and other Chinatown buildings not forced out by the construction of Union Station earlier now faced the fate of forced relocation.

In 1938, the Los Angeles New Chinatown Corporation, which donated the land for the current CCBA site was already in existence. It purchased from Union Pacific a piece of land at a low price that would become today’s Chinatown, located around Broadway Street, Hill Street, Spring Street, and Main Street.

In June 28, 1945, the Board of Directors approved to move the CCBA to a parcel of land donated by the Los Angeles New Chinatown Corporation located at 925 North Broadway. Then CCBA President Lai Hing Wong headed the Construction Committee.

In 1950, the association elected Tin Hing Wong as the president and began construction in November with Man Sun Choi as the architect. All projects were completed by the end of 1951. Thus, 1952 marked the celebration of the grand opening of the Chinese Confucius Temple School.


The CCBA is organized exclusively for charitable purposes, more specifically to carry forward the Chinese culture, advocate democracy, contact fellow compatriots living abroad, provide charitable public welfare and seek welfare for fellow compatriots. Prior to 1972, the CCBA was solely governed by the Board of Directors, but the beginning in 1972, it changed its regulations. It worked as team, assigning the Board of Directors as the lawmaking body and the Board of Supervisors as the governing body.

Tin Gan Cheung was the first person to be elected as Chairman of the CCBA, and he nominated other members of the association to govern with him. From 1973 to 1974, members from the “Northern China Province Association” (located north of Guangdong) intended to join the CCBA. Because the new members were not members of the CCBA, ballots were distributed to vote for their entry, but due to their different customs and interests, their entry was denied. In 1979, the Eng Family Association, the Hoy Ping Province Association, and the Ma Association became the latest members of the CCBA.

Currently, the CCBA governs 27 member-associations: Bing Kong Tong Association, Bow On Family Association, Chew Lun Association, Chinese American Citizens Alliance, Chinese Women’s New Life Movement Club, Eng Family Benevolent Association, Fong Lun Association, Gee How Oak Tien Association, Gee Poy Kuo Association Gee Tuck Sam Tuck Association, Hop Sing Tong Association, Hoy Ping Benevolent Association of Southern California, Ning Kui Kong Wue Association, Jan Ying Benevolent Association, Kong Chow Benevolent Association, Kuo Ming Tang, Lee On Dong Benevolent Association, Lim’s Family Association, Louie Family Association, Lung Kung Tin Yee Association, Mar’s Family Association, Soo Yuen Fraternal Association, Southern California Yee Family Association, Wong Family Benevolent Association, Ying On Merchants & Labor Benevolent Association.

With the passing of time, the later generations of the founders of the Los Angeles New Chinatown Corporation (LANCC) stopped sending representatives to the CCBA’s Boards of Supervisors and Directors and participating in CCBA activities. However, to show our appreciation for and indebtedness to them, the CCBA annually on January 1st celebrates the inauguration of the Board of Directors and Board of Supervisors. Executive officials and representatives from foreign organizations come to congratulate LANCC’s founders, and we name the Los Angeles New Chinatown Corporation CCBA’s Emeritus Member.

There are two organizations that do not belong to CCBA. The first one is the Anti-Communist Save China Association. During the Cold War era of the 1950’s, the US government ran a campaign to purge the country of Marxists and Communists. Because Communist China practiced Marxism, Chinese Americans in Chinatown established the Anti-communist Save China Association to dissociate themselves from the Marxist and Communist ideologies, to preserve themselves, and to prove that Chinese living in America were anti-communists. With the dissolution of the Soviet Union in the 1990’s and the reforms and opening-up of China, the Anti-Communist Save China Association is no longer relevant, with its mission naturally ended.

The other is the U. S. Chinese Welfare Association of Los Angeles, established to fight for the rights of Chinese American citizens. It frequently holds events that relates to immigration, legal and citizen rights issues in conjunction with the CCBA, and associates with other associations through the CCBA.

CCBA member associations each appoint their representative(s) to sit on the CCBA’s Board of Directors and Board of Supervisors. The Board of Directors elects the CCBA’s President, and the Board of Supervisors elects its Chair. The two Boards form the Board of Directors of the Chinese Confucius Temple of Los Angeles, Chinese Cemetery of Los Angeles, and Chinese Welfare of CCBA.

After the Chinese Exclusion Act was passed by the federal government, for 60 long years it was essentially legal for Chinese immigrants to be discriminated against. The pain and torment endured by Chinese immigrants during this time taught them how difficult, frightening, and humiliating it was to live with no legal protection. Therefore, no one knows more than the old Chinese immigrants how important it can be for the Chinese community to take part in politics, and how painful it can be if there is no support from the government. Although the Chinese Exclusion Act ended with the cooperation between China and the United States on the pacific battlefield during WWII, the CCBA did not forget its original mission to continually strive for rights and benefits for all Chinese people, to intensively encourage them to take part in the government, and to maintain positive communications with government officials.

After World War II, with the national social welfare service and delivery systems still unstructured, the CCBA was authorized by the US government to sign and issue governmental welfare checks, which were a tremendous help to the Chinese community. Around the end of the 19th and early 20th centuries, with the passing of the Chinese Exclusion Act, Chinese workers in the US were prohibited from bringing their families to America, and they were not qualifed to become US citizens. Until the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 was signed into law, the CCBA played a vital, supportive role for the psychological and essential needs of the Chinese residents of Los Angeles. This included serious matters such as settling lawsuits and small but much-needed matters such as penning letters to families back home.

Tom Bradley, the past mayor of LA, kept building friendships with the CCBA and Chinatown during his term of service, and is one of the CCBA and Chinatown’s dearest friends. During the current Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s election, the CCBA encouraged Chinese communities to continue participating in politics. At the same time, the secretary of the state of California March Kong Fong Eu, the frst Chinese to become a state government official, frequently visited the CCBA and Chinatown, and is also a dear friend. The CCBA’s support of government events was not limited to California. In the 1990s, when the past American ambassador to China, Gary Fate Locke, was seeking for support from Chinatown during his election to become the governor of the state of Washington, the CCBA convened all of its member associations to support him. The CCBA throughout the years regularly welcomes government officials who visit Chinatown and holds special events to support them.