Chinese American History

Invisible and Unwelcomed People: Chinese Railroad Workers by Zhi Lin

Koplin Del Rio is pleased to debut a new series of work by Zhi Lin, titled Invisible and Unwelcomed People: Chinese Railroad Workers. The exhibition comprises an extensive series of small studies as well as large format drawings executed in Chinese Ink. This provocative body of work is intended to enlighten and document an aspect in American history that has for the most part, been cruelly ignored and forgotten, the brutal treatment that Chinese immigrants endured in building the epic Trans-continental railroad that spans the United States.

Between the years of 2005-2007, Zhi Lin took several research trips following the railroad lines through California and Wyoming as well as attending the annual Golden Spike ceremony in Promontory, Utah several years in a row. Before each trip, the artist researched archives of historical photographs, old maps, aerial photos and sought out oral historical accounts from elderly residents in an attempt to fully immerse himself in that specific time period and carve away at a century and a half of faded memories.

The execution of the ghostly studies are reminiscent of English watercolor masters; Girtin, Constable, Turner, and are intended to conjure up a familiar and nostalgic aesthetic of the same period that tended to glaze over and disguise the injustice and horrors that occurred on the frontiers of the Industrial Revolution in 19th Century America.

Depicted are dilapidated burial sites, graves marked by wooden sticks, a testimony to the thousands of workers who lost their lives in grueling conditions carving their way through cliffs and mountain passes. One drawing, represents the historic site of the Golden Spike location, but instead of illustrating the fanfare that accompanies the annual commemorative festivities, the artist chose to highlight the desolation of an empty section of track that recedes into the horizon, The artist’s notes in the bottom right corner read, “The ground on which Chinese workers were unwelcome. On May 10, 1869, after eight Chinese workers laid down the last rail for the Central Pacific Railway, they, along with 1,500 other Chinese workers who constructed the railway from California to Promontory Summit, Utah were kept away from the celebration of the Golden Spike – the completion of the first Transcontinental railroad.”

(Selected images from website. Please visit to view more)

Site of the Golden Spike CelebrationsAltar in the Joss House5graves

Time After Time

Asian and Pacific American History Timeline


If there is one thing we teach here at the Wing Luke Museum– it is that histories are never definitive. We have designed this presentation to highlight some events in the Asian and Pacific American timeline. We should always keep in mind that the details here are as much a part of American History as the suffragettes, abolitionists, civil rights struggle, and sock hops. The image should take any classroom directly to the presentation. To play– click play. Use the right and left arrow keys to navigate the presentation.

This timeline can be used for any grade level.

How Birthright Citizenship Became A Constitutional Right

“March 28, 1898 United States v. Kim Wong Ark

This landmark Supreme CourtWong Kim Ark case extended the protections of the 14th Amendment to all who were born in the U.S. regardless of the Chinese Exclusion Act. King Wong Ark, who was born in San Francisco to Chinese parents, attempted to return to the United States from a visit to China and was denied entry based on his lack of citizenship. The ruling of the court case was a significant victory for Chinese Americans and allowed this marginalized community to expand and flourish.” — From Belonging, Wing Luke Museum

Following the Geary Act– this check on the U.S. Constitution should have been a bigger surprise to the American people. Apparently it was a surprise– even to one of his descendants.

Here’s a well researched and enlightening article from the Washington Post

Belonging: Community Digital Exhibition



dåkot-ta (dakota alcantara-camacho)

Linalai (Chant)

Check out the rest of the online exhibition here

Remembering One of Seattle’s Pioneer Chinese Immigrants

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One of Seattle’s first Chinese immigrants, Chin Gee Hee, lead a particularly nuanced life. He arrived to Seattle in the early 1860s. He partnered with Chin Chun Hock to start the Wa Chong Company. They supplied many items including rice, teas and more. The company also supplied labor to industries such as the railroads. 12,000 Chinese men helped build America’s railroad system. It is said by Chin Gee Hee’s descendants that he was at the hammering of the Golden Spike.

In time he was wooed back to China, to invest in infrastructure that would build China’s future in a more modern, industrial world. And so he built the Sun Ning Railroad Company.