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Asian-American Ideas (Cultural Migration)

Influences On Mainstream Society

Asian-American culture has influenced American society at large. Grocery chains such as 99 Ranch Market attract both Asian and non-Asian clients. Many Americans consult acupuncture specialists or feng shui masters. Asian food is probably the most visible transplanted culture in America. Wherever they went, immigrants brought their cookery with them. A business directory in 1856 listed five restaurants and thirty-eight grocery stores among eighty-eight Chinese businesses in San Francisco. Obviously Chinese immigrants cooked their own meals and visited Chinese restaurants during their leisure time. However, as racial discrimination gradually forced the Chinese out of other occupations and channeled them into menial service jobs such as the restaurant or laundry business, many Chinese picked up cooking skills and worked as professional cooks. With numerous Chinese restaurants and laundry shops in metropolitan areas during the exclusion years, cooking and laundry became an ethnic label for Chinese-Americans. To adapt Chinese cuisine to American society, Chinese immigrants created "sweet and sour pork" or "chop suey" as "authentic" Chinese dishes in America and invented the "fortune cookie" as an additional incentive to American customers. Restaurants in China had no such thing as a "fortune cookie." Original "chop suey" consisted of intestines and giblets, as ordinary Chinese did not want to waste any part of butchered livestock. Hundreds of "chop suey houses" appeared in New York, Boston, Washington, Philadelphia, and Chicago in the 1900s after Li Hongzhang, a senior Chinese official, visited the United States in 1896. Chinese restaurant operators capitalized on the visit and marketed "chop suey" as Li's favorite dish. Being an authentic Chinese food in America, chop suey is defined in Webster's dictionary as "a dish prepared chiefly from bean sprouts, bamboo shoots, water chestnuts, onions, mushrooms, and meat or fish and served with rice and soy sauce." While the Chinese restaurant has become popular in America society, cooking is a false trademark of Chinese ethnicity.

Herbal medicine, on the other hand, is a true ethnic skill of the Chinese. Like Chinese restaurants, herbal stores began to appear as soon as the Chinese arrived in America. With the growth of Chinese immigrants, more and more herbal doctors arrived to serve the needs of the community. Soon the herbalists began to serve non-Chinese patients as well. By the 1930s, many Chinese herbal doctors had more Caucasian patients than Chinese. Unlike Chinese cuisine, herbal medicine could not change its ingredients, flavor, or dispensation to suit the taste of mainstream Americans. As a transplanted culture, it had to remain distinctively Chinese for its effectiveness. Herbal medicinal formulations were made from hundreds of indigenous herbs gathered in the mountains and valleys of China. The supply of medicine relied on the constant importation of herbs from China. In their efforts to bypass unfair restrictions and cross ethnic boundaries to serve a larger community, Chinese herbalists developed and expanded an ethnic career and business in a Western society where most of their patients were not familiar with Chinese culture and where the medical profession was becoming increasingly standardized and regulated. Acceptance of and respect for Chinese herbal medicine demonstrate how mainstream American patients adapted themselves to an Asian medical therapy. The history of Chinese herbal medicine is a case of reverse assimilation and an expression of ethnic resilience in cultural migration.


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Haiming Liu

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Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: A-series and B-series to Ballistic Missiles - Categories Of Ballistic MissileAsian-American Ideas (Cultural Migration) - The Migration Of Values: Religion And Education, Media And Festivals, Influences On Mainstream Society