Primary Source Documents

Chinese Exclusion Act in Oregon

By The OE Staff

Subjects: Labor, Politics, Race, Ethnicity, and Nationality


Chinese Immigration and Exclusion in Oregon

The heyday of nineteenth-century Cantonese-Chinese settlement in Oregon occurred from 1860 to 1885. Changing material conditions in Oregon and elsewhere in the American West opened up economic opportunities that attracted increasing numbers of Cantonese-Chinese from California and directly from Gwongdung. Major factors included (1) new and more diverse economic opportunities; (2) accelerated Chinese demographic growth; (3) urbanization, chiefly in the Portland area; (4) sociopolitical bifurcation—that is, communal leadership by a minority of merchant elites, with a demographically larger but sociopolitically subordinate mass of laborers; (5) institutional development by way of establishing community-wide social organizations with overlapping political, economic, and sociocultural functions; and (6) the anti-Chinese movement in the American West, including Oregon. Read the entire essay by Douglas Lee here.

Content Standards

  • HS.62 Identify historical and current events, issues, and problems when national and/or global interests are/have been in conflict, and provide analysis from multiple perspectives.
  • HS.63 Identify and analyze ethnic groups (including individuals who are American Indian/Alaska Native/Native Hawaiian or Americans of African, Asian, Pacific Island, Chicano, Latino, or Middle Eastern descent), religious groups, and other traditionally marginalized groups (women, people with disabilities, immigrants, refugees, and individuals who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender), their relevant historic and current contributions to Oregon the United States, and the world.
  • HS.65 Identify and analyze the nature of systemic oppression on ethnic and religious groups, as well as other traditionally marginalized groups, in the pursuit of justice and equality in Oregon, the United States and the world.
  • HS.66 Examine and analyze the multiple perspectives and contributions of ethnic and religious groups, as well as traditionally marginalized groups within a dominant society and how different values and views shape Oregon, the United States, and the world.
  • HS.67 Evaluate historical sources for perspective, limitations, accuracy, and historical context.
  • HS.68 Select and analyze historical information, including contradictory evidence, from a variety of primary and secondary sources to support or reject a claim.

Additional Sources

Oregon Encyclopedia Entries

"Ah Hee Diggings (Chinese Walls)," by Jodi Varon

"Seid Back," by Michael Schepps

"Baker City Chinatown," by Gary Dielman

"Chinese Massacre at Deep Creek," by Greg Nokes

"Chinese mining in Oregon," by Jeff LaLande

"Eldorado Ditch," by Jodi Caron

"Expulsion of Chinese from Oregon City, 1886," by Anjuli Grantham

"Ing Hay ("Doc Hay")," by Jodi Varon

"Huber's Cafe," by Michael Schepps

"Kwan Hsu," by Lisa Donnelly

"Kam Wah Chung and Co.," by Jodi Varon

"Lan Su Chinese Garden," by Joan Kent Kvitka

"Hazel Ying Lee," by Heather Burmeister

"The Myth of Chinese Tunnels in Pendleton," by Renae Campbell and Priscilla Wegars

"Lung On," by Jodi Varon

"Sparta Ditch," by Jodi Varon

"Two Dragon mining camp," by Jodi Varon

"Edward Wah," by Jodi Varon

"Mae Yih," by Kerry Tymchuk


The following Oregon Historical Quarterly articles are available to download for free here.

Coe, Aaron. ‘“well and favorably known”: Deciphering Chinese Merchant Status in the Immigration Office of Astoria, Oregon, 1900-1924.’ Oregon Historical Quarterly 114, no.2 (Summer 2013): 142-173.

Fang, Jennifer. “Erasure and Reclamation: Centering Diasporic Chinese Populations in Oregon History.” Oregon Historical Quarterly 122, no.4 (Winter, 2021): 324-341.

Fitzgerald, Kimberli and Kirsten Straus and Kylie Pine. “Searching for Salem’s Early Chinese Community.” Oregon Historical Quarterly 122, no. 4 (Winter, 2021): 456-485.

Lee, Myron Louie. “Portland’s Louie Chung (1876-1926).” Oregon Historical Quarterly 122, no.4 (Winter, 2021): 486-511.

Nagae, Peggy. “Asian Women: Immigration and Citizenship in Oregon.” Oregon Historical Quarterly 113, no.3 (Fall 2012): 334–359.

Reang, Putsata. "Bitter Harvest." Oregon Humanities This Land. April 17, 2017.

Rose, Chelsea and Jacqueline Y. Cheung, and Eric Gleason. “’Bona Fide Merchants’: Negotiating Life, Labor, and Transnational Mobility in the Time of Chinese Exclusion.” Oregon Historical Quarterly 122, no.4 (Winter, 2021): 412-441.

Online Exhibits and Resources

Chinese Historical Society of America. Teacher Resources.

Docs Teach: National Archives

Portland Chinatown Museum

Related Lesson Plans

Chinese American Exclusion/Inclusion. Classroom Materials for the Exhibition. New York Historical Society Museum & Library. 2014.

Chinese Exclusion Broadside Analysis. Documents Teach. National Archives.

The Chinese Village Exhibit at the 1899 Export Exposition. Documents Teach. National Archives.

Contextualizing a Photograph: On Exhibit at the “Chinese Village.” Documents Teach. National Archives.

The Impact of the Immigration Act of 1924. Documents Teach National Archives.

Oregon Public Broadcasting Oregon Experience Documentaries

Kam Wah Chung

Massacre at Hells Canyon


The OE Staff. Chinese Exclusion Act in Oregon. 2023. Retrieved from The Oregon Encyclopedia, (Accessed July 15, 2024.)

Teacher Guide

Print out this Teacher Guide here.

Have students read the following sections from The OE's "Chinese Americans in Oregon" essay, by Douglas Lee. The Sojourner Period, 1860-1885 and The Exclusion Period, 1885-1940.

After reading about Chinese Exclusion in Oregon and examining the photos and documents included in this primary source packet, have your students answer the following questions.

  1. Review document #1. Act to Prohibit the Intermarriage of Races, 1866, and document #2, From J.F. Caples to Portland City Council, 1879. What was the purpose of these laws? How did anti-Chinese legislation enacted before the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act affect Chinese workers in Oregon?

  2. After viewing the photos and documents in this packet answer the following questions: What types of jobs were available to Chinese workers in the mid-nineteenth century before the U.S. government passed the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act? Were Chinese laborers allowed to keep these jobs after the Exclusion Act passed?

  3. Where did Chinese laborers in Oregon live in the mid-nineteenth and early twentieth centuries? How did the Chinese Exclusion policies affect where Chinese immigrants settled and lived in the state?

  4. View document #4. Portland Chinatown, 1886, document #5 News Article, The Chinese Murderers, 1888 and #7 Brick Making, Near Portland, Oregon. How were Chinese communities portrayed in local media during the late 1800s? Did Chinese who lived in Oregon have a voice in local newspapers and magazines of the time?

  5. How did the Chinese Exclusion Act impact ongoing immigration policy throughout the first part of the twentieth century? What effect did this legislation have on the development of Chinese communities in Oregon?

  6. What is the cultural impact Chinese and Chinese Americans have had on Oregon? What art and designs do you see on buildings? What festivals have you been to? What food have you eaten?

  7. Do you see similarities across time in the way politicians talk about immigration and labor? What has stayed the same? Search through local news to see what issues and policies are most prominent. How do these discussions and policies affect your community?