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Artifacts Spark Stories: Archaeology and Oral History at Stanford's Arboretum Chinese Quarters.


The Arboretum Quarters at Stanford University was home to Chinese employees who worked for the Stanford family, and later for the university itself. Less than a century ago, its buildings still stood on the edge of the campus among trees and gardens that Ah Wah, Chung Wah, Jim Mock, and dozens of other employees helped to cultivate beginning in the 1870s. Chinese men paved campus roads and tended flowers, cooked and worked as janitors in dormitories and fraternities, and ran restaurants or laundries on campus and in the surrounding towns. Nearby landmarks like the Stanford Barn and the Arizona Garden remain fixtures of the university landscape, but the Arboretum Quarters was demolished in 1925, torn down by first-year students for a football game bonfire shortly after the last Chinese resident departed. Following its decades-long occupation, this rapid destruction turned the structures and their surroundings into a potential archaeological site. Subsequent excavations, most recently involving teams from both Stanford University and UC Berkeley in 2016 and 2017, yielded glass, ceramic, metal, and animal remains that provide evidence of what life was like at the turn of the twentieth century, during the era when successive Chinese exclusion laws systematically restricted the rights and livelihoods of the men who lived there.

Artifacts and historical documents are not the only resources for understanding life at the Arboretum Chinese Quarters. The memories of descendants and stories known to the wider Chinese community in the Bay Area are important lines of evidence, providing not only individual detail but also cultural and symbolic context for the site. Beginning prior to excavation in 2016 and continuing throughout the project, individual interviews and group events at the site and in archaeology labs not only provided unique information about the employees but also altered the course of research, generating new questions and even changing the way excavation look place. Among the interview-generated questions, some were general (What was the relationship of the Stanford employees to the Chinese communities around them?) while others were specific to families or even individuals ("I have been wanting to find out more information [about] how the Mocks became known and associated with flower growing" (1)). Seeking to answer stakeholder questions, rather than focusing on the interests of archaeologists alone, is imperative in research that involves local or descendant communities, that is, archaeology accountable to more than the academy. Doing so expands the ways of knowing the past, (2) strengthens the credibility of research through incorporating a wider pool of knowledge and experience, and produces information that is relevant for the stakeholders involved. (3) Of the many stories told, two intertwined topics--community relationships beyond the campus and the long-term impacts of Stanford employees involved in the flower growing industry--emerged repeatedly during interviews and community consultations. Seeking to answer questions raised by the community led to an exploration of how the residents maintained relationships with the wider Bay Area and China, and how their many ways of working continued to support their families and communities long after the quarters were demolished.


A Heinz ketchup bottle, octagonal glass body and embossed base broken into several shards, prompted animated discussions at a January 2017 meeting of cultural consultants and other stakeholders involved in the excavation of the Arboretum Chinese Quarters. The remains of the bottle, laid out on a table at the campus's Field Conservation Facility, represented just a few of the thousands of objects recovered during the series of surveys and excavations at the site (fig. 1). This object, stamped with the code "56" (indicating that it once contained ketchup and dating it to between 1890 and 1895), (4) inspired some excitement in part because of the familiar shape, but also because of its unique Chinese connection. "It came from ke-tsiap: 'ketchup' came from a Chinese term," repeated several of the people who picked up the remains of the bottle. The name for the tomato-based condiment, originally fermented soy sauce, passed through Indonesia (as kecap) and eventually to European traders and then to the United States. (5) Beyond this, the bottle itself was a reminder of the way Chinese and Chinese American traditions are woven deeply into past, and ongoing, everyday life for all people in the United States.

Archaeological artifacts, like the ketchup bottle, spark stories. Storytelling lies at both the start and the heart of archaeology; it "begins with storytelling, and the clamor of a multitude of voices goes into the final consistent thread we trace." (6) Memory, oriented toward sensation and perception, is influenced by the circumstances of the moment of recall. This includes the interlocutors, speaking and listening in turn or together, but the process incorporates physical objects and surroundings too. These are tactile, can be viewed and handled, and provide an immediacy and ongoing presence that affected lives in the past and continues to do so in the present. Archaeologists seek to understand these physical, material qualities of artifacts and their interplay with human actions, experiences, and values: that is, their materiality. (7) These same qualities are also powerful tools for oral history. The presence of artifacts affects what memories a person recalls or chooses to share. Given this materiality, "objects may be more effective mechanisms to 'conduct' an oral historical interview than a person." (8) Archaeological projects focused on the nineteenth and twentieth centuries possess the potentially rich resource of living memory. Recent sites can evoke strong, frequently personal memories for the people who knew their occupants, who are descendants themselves, or who have heard stories related as family or community narratives. Such has been the case in recent work focused on the African diaspora, (9) Japanese internment, (10) and tight-knit social organizations like college fraternities. (11)

Informed by long-term community involvement of both individuals and active historical societies in other archaeological projects in San Francisco and San Jose, (12) I conducted a series of interviews with stakeholders who identified themselves as interested in the site's history and future. These began in summer 2016 prior to excavation and continued after the dig's completion in summer 2017. During each interview, consultants interacted with artifacts as well as current and historical photographs, newspapers, maps, and other archival records. While in some cases specific artifacts led to an explanation of their use, more often they created a backdrop for a wider-ranging historical discussion, frequently prompting family stories, which emerged during the process of interacting with the material assemblage. Sometimes this had to do with recognition, whether of patterns in ceramic or of characters in the stamped lid of a medicine box: "I have one of those," or "My grandfather had that." By building memories around the site, from seemingly disparate times and places, consultants also impacted the direction of the continued research: both themes presented in this paper, chrysanthemum growing and wider community relationships, arose primarily from interviews inspired by artifacts or historical documents, in a dialog of questions and statements made by all involved. The result, like the dialog that created it, lies further in the realm of historical storytelling than it does object or site analysis, but nevertheless springs from and returns to material as an integral part of understanding the past.


Fragments of brightly colored ceramics invariably attracted attention from community consultants during interviews or lab visits. Gerry Low-Sabado, a fifth-generation Chinese American and activist whose family immigrated to the Monterey Bay area in the 1850s, brought her own bamboo pattern bowl to campus after seeing artifacts that looked nearly identical. Four Season Flower pattern bowls, cups, and ceramic spoons were the most colorful, and most common, of the decorative patterns. The predominantly pink and green ornamentation depicts four intertwining flowers: winter is represented by a plum blossom, spring by a peony, summer a lotus, and fall a chrysanthemum. These ceramics, along with the solid-colored Winter Green pattern, originated as export wares in the Jingdezhen kilns in northeast Jiangxi Province. (13) A 2016 archaeological survey conducted in Cangdong Village, along the Pearl River Delta in Siyi (Sze Yup, or Four Counties) in Guangdong Province, found no examples of Four Season Flower ceramics among late Qing era materials. (14) The pattern itself appeared less than a century prior to Chinese immigration to the United States, during the reign of the Jiaqing emperor (1796-1820). (15) However, the flowers and their symbolism possess a far longer history. Chrysanthemums in particular, symbolic of longevity and endurance, (16) have grown in abundance in southern China for millennia. (17) The flower continues to figure in cultural events and symbolism all over China, not only representative of the fall season but also included in the Confucian allegory of the "Four Gentlemen of the Garden," si junzi, a popular theme in Chinese paintings. (18) Chrysanthemums enjoyed special popularity in the Guangdong region. Most famously Xiaolan, a town in northwestern Zhongshan on the Pearl River Delta, remains home to chrysanthemum festivals with a tradition dating back hundreds of years. (19) One Western traveler described the love of chrysanthemum cultivation among flower growers in China during the nineteenth century: "So great a favorite is the chrysanthemum with the Chinese gardeners that no persuasion will deter them from its culture, and they will frequently resign their situations rather than be forbidden by their employers to grow it." (20) The ceramics themselves were not traditional, but the flower decorations would have carried meanings and memories for the men who used them at mealtimes at the Arboretum Quarters.

In addition to tending the gardens on the Stanford estate and the university, the Chinese employees also grew chrysanthemums to sell to students. An advertisement placed in the campus newspaper, then called the Daily Palo Alto, on November 26, 1895, reads: "Cardinal Chrysanthemums for sale. Apply to Jim Mok, Stanford Nursery, near residence" (fig. 2). Available in a profusion of colors, these flowers would have attracted students eager to represent Stanford with cardinal red. The great-granddaughter of the man who placed the ad, Lorraine Mock, still lives in the Bay Area today and shared her family stories with the project. Her great-grandfather worked as foreman of the Chinese gardeners on the Stanford estate throughout the 1880s and 1890s. He went by multiple names, like many Chinese men in the United States at the time, due to a combination of possessing formal and informal names and discrepancies in transliteration by non-Chinese writers: Ah Jim, Jim Mock or Mok, Jim Mok Joey You, and Jim Mok Goey You all appear in various documents. Historian Him Mark Lai, who interviewed some of his other descendants, wrote his Chinese name as Mo Zaiyao, or Mok Tsoi Yiu. (21)

Chrysanthemum cultivation was just one of the many ways Jim Mock worked to support himself and his family. According to Lorraine Mock, one of her aunties who remembered him personally recalled that he always seemed to have many keys, (22) a memory that matches the breadth of his jobs and responsibilities. Jim Mock and his wife, Lee Ho, arrived in California in 1875, one year before the Stanford family purchased the land that would become their stock farm and then the university. Lai recorded family stories that Jim Mock had worked on the Southern Pacific Railroad in the 1880s as well as becoming the foreman at the Stanford estate, where he and another employee, Ah King, also leased land from Jane Stanford. (23) Subsequently he became a part-owner of the Chung Sun Wo store at 832 Grant Avenue (then known as Dupont) in San Francisco. (24) As historian Julie Cain pointed out in her thesis on the Stanford family relationship with their Chinese employees, this "provided him with the highly respected status of merchant," a tactical choice in an era when immigration authorities discriminated against "laborers" in particular. (25) Lai also credits Jim Mock with fostering both the immigration and job placement of many people from his district, part of the Huangliang Du (Wong Leung Do) community living in San Francisco, San Mateo, and Santa Clara counties. (26) Although he died in 1909 according to papers from Lorraine Mock's family, much of his family and his extended kinship network from Zhongshan (Chungshan) were by then settled permanently on the Bay Area's peninsula.

Jim Mock, like the other employees, was familiar both with the chrysanthemum as the flower he grew and sold and with its symbolic significance. He owned an elaborately decorated jacket with a chrysanthemum pattern, which he wore for a photograph (fig. 3) now preserved as part of Lorraine Mock's meticulously crafted family album. It is possible that he chose this specific jacket because of the importance of chrysanthemum growing among fellow members of the Huangliang Du community. Jim Mock's first flower advertisement appeared in 1895, the same year as the founding of the Hee Shen Benevolent Association, the business organization or tong that supported Huangliang Du flower growers in the Bay Area. The tong helped to connect growers dealing with an increasing demand for chrysanthemums, a trend that began in the 1880s as a product of the entrepreneurship of predominantly Asian horticulturalists. The San Francisco Call on November 21, 1886, described how the chrysanthemum's "Asiatic varieties ... are all the rage with florists and flower lovers." The same year John Thorpe authored How to Grow Chrysanthemums, the first book on chrysanthemums published in the United States, (27) and three years later participated in the founding of the Chrysanthemum Society of America. The sudden emergence of both Chinese and non-Chinese chrysanthemum growing organizations within such a short span of years suggests the rapidity with which appreciation of the Chinese flower flourished in the United States.

Chrysanthemum growing was not the sole province of the Chinese community. According to Him Mark Lai's research, Jim Mock likely acquired his horticultural skills from a Japanese gardener. (28) While both Japanese and Italian families entered the flower business along with the Chinese, Japanese immigrants introduced a wide variety of chrysanthemums to California. One Japanese flower business, the Domoto family's nursery, also became one of the largest in the state. The Domoto brothers arrived in California in the early 1880s, and once established in Oakland they chose to specialize in chrysanthemums. (29) A newspaper advertisement placed in the Pacific Rural Press on May 9, 1891, highlighted their "500 different varieties of Choice Chrysanthemums and 300 new varieties from Japan." The Domoto brothers were not alone in turning to chrysanthemums as a primary crop. One year prior to Jim Mock's newspaper advertisement, another Oakland-based Japanese grower, H. Yoshike, issued a catalog devoted almost entirely to varieties of chrysanthemums. (30) Other Japanese nurseries sprang up south of Stanford, including Unosuke Oku's nursery in Mountain View, established in 1902, and Tsunegusa Yonemoto's chrysanthemum greenhouse built in Sunnyvale on land leased after his arrival in 1905. (31) For both Chinese and Japanese immigrants, the late-blooming Asian flowers aided their ability to establish themselves in the United States.

By the early 1920s, when a few of the original Stanford employees still occupied the Arboretum Quarters, a new generation of growers tended the chrysanthemums and other flowers in greenhouses and fields around the university. Some were classmates of Toichi Domoto, the son of one of the Domoto brothers, Kanetaro. During Toichi's years as a Stanford student, between 1921 and 1923, Asian American students sometimes turned to flower growing to pay the $96 per quarter tuition. Toichi recalled that over summers, "fellow (Japanese] students ... said they would be working out in the fields to earn money for tuition--their summer work was mostly agricultural work. They would go out to groups there." (32) The line between university student and flower grower could be a matter of the season. It is possible that Chinese and Chinese American students also sought employment in the flower fields where current and former Stanford employees continued to work. Certainly Jim Mock and his contemporaries established a business that supported their families and community throughout the following century. Dr. Ben Kwong recalled picking chrysanthemums and asters on land next to Stanford as a child in the 1950s. Even then, he remembered, a group of bachelors still occupied a house together on the border of Stanford and Menlo Park. (33) They were possibly some of the last of the former employees from Stanford's early days. By the 1960s chrysanthemums made up the most abundant crop produced in Santa Clara County; and Asian Americans, both Chinese and Japanese in origin, grew at least half of all the chrysanthemums. (34) These years fell within living memory of most of the community consultants on the project. This influenced research significantly in that personal knowledge of the flower growing businesses, and even participation in it, led to more stories and greater interest in this aspect of life for the Stanford employees. Yet the continued importance of chrysanthemums for people living today is also a testament to the long-term impact of the Stanford employees and their contemporaries.

One other memory, shared in conversation between Lorraine Mock and historian Connie Young Yu, related chrysanthemums to an ongoing Stanford tradition familiar to them both. As they recalled, at each November's "Big Game" football match between Stanford and rival University of California (now UC Berkeley), students used to wear large chrysanthemums as part of the campus festivities. Still in bloom for homecoming and Thanksgiving Day games across the country, Chinese chrysanthemums continue to be popular gameday adornments and remain known as "football mums." Chrysanthemums played a significant role in the Big Game beginning in 1895. That year the game's program bore yellow and red chrysanthemum decorations, symbolizing the University of California and Stanford, respectively. The flowers appeared on subsequent Big Game programs throughout the 1890s, and their use as Big Game decorations continued well into the twentieth century. The word chrysanthemum itself was a part of football parlance in the early days of the sport. During the 1890s padding was not yet mandatory, much less helmets. Athletes wore "chrysanthemum locks" or "chrysanthemum bangs," long and bushy hairstyles that added a little cushioning to the inevitable blows sustained during a game. (35) The San Francisco Call of November 28, 1895, illustrated a Big Game football player with chrysanthemum locks surrounded by a shower of the literal flowers (fig. 4).

As amusing--or headache-inducing--as the picture may be today, the date is significant because it links this longstanding Stanford tradition with the lives of the Chinese employees. Prior to 1895 chrysanthemums do not appear at all in Stanford's campus newspaper or associated in any way with the Big Game. Jim Mock placed his newspaper ad for cardinal-colored chrysanthemums in November 1895, in the lead-up to that year's Big Game. The flower was already popular enough to be in demand at Berkeley too, but Jim Mock nevertheless participated in the very first instance of a tradition that would go on long enough for his great-granddaughter to recognize it 120 years later.


John C. Young, the father of Connie Young Yu and a graduate of Stanford in 1937, was a member of the Hee Shen Benevolent Association, the same Huangliang Du tong to which many Stanford employees and Bay Area flower growers belonged. Connie Young Yu described her family as "descendants of this Tong," (36) language that underscores the multigenerational connections provided by such organizations. The Hee Shen Benevolent Association was just one of the many district, family, business, and fraternal societies that would have bound the Chinese employees at Stanford to the wider network of Chinese people in the Bay Area, as well as to their families, friends, and former neighbors still in China. These included the powerful Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association (the Chinese Six Companies in San Francisco) as well as individual family and district associations. (37) The latter provided social support for the many young single men who had yet to establish their own families on either side of the Pacific. (38) The associations helped recent immigrants find employment and housing, and could aid in travel arrangements or settling legal disputes. (39) Living outside of a Chinatown, the Stanford employees would have relied on these organizations, as well as gathering places in surrounding towns, for social events or festive occasions. Sometimes the employees would visit nearby Mayfield, where another hub of immigrants from Zhongshan resided; (40) at other times they would travel to the much larger communities in San Francisco and San Jose.

Away from the stock farm or the campus, general stores often provided vital gathering places for friends or extended kin to meet. They also supplied goods shipped from China. Connie Young Yu's grandfather, Young Soong Quong, ran one of the stores where Stanford employees would congregate during their time off. As Connie Young Yu described it, the Kwong Wo Chan store at 34 Cleveland Avenue in San Jose served as far more than a grocery store: it was a "post office, hiring hall, pawn shop, [and a] place for workers of the clan to rest and have tea." (41) Chung Sung Wo in San Francisco or Kwong Wo Chan in San Jose may have provided some of the bottles, jars, medicine boxes, or ceramics found at the

Arboretum site. John C. Young related stories of how Stanford employees ventured down to Kwong Wo Chan during breaks in their working hours. Born in 1912, he would have been a child listening to adults conversing in the store, but remembered that at the end of the day, they said that they had to return to work at the gwaijai guin. (42) Gwai jai guin, "little white devil boy clubs," were the employees' name for Stanford's fraternities.

The phrase, current during an era when anti-Chinese discrimination was rampant, sounds like the Chinese employees venting some frustration with their employers, which they very well might have done. However, it likely carried another meaning as well. According to Thomas W. Chinn, Him Mark Lai, and Philip P. Choy, household employees elsewhere in California referenced their employers to demonstrate their connections to influential White families: "A favorite expression used, after such a domestic's visitation into Chinatown among his cronies, was 'Well, I must return to the Kwei Lao.'" (43) Chinn and his coauthors point out that phrases like this could also be "an expression of pride, as being able to work in an environment away from Chinatown, for a prosperous [White person], was a status symbol." These connections could make critical differences for Chinese employees whose livelihoods hung in the balance based on the judgment of immigration authorities. Laws changed rapidly, becoming ever more restrictive and more difficult to navigate as successive laws expanded the original 1882 restrictions. An affidavit signed by Jane Stanford helped bring Jim Mock's son, Wah Foon, safely into the United States in 1897, although thirteen years later it took not only the affidavit but also the intervention of university museum curator Harry C. Peterson to allow the oldest Mock son, Wah Ham, to reenter the country. (44) In this light, however frustrating "little white devil boys" could be, they might also prove a tactical advantage for withstanding other forms of systematic racism.

Festivities provided another reason for the employees to leave campus. Mayfield possessed a large enough community to host Chinese New Year's festivities during the 1890s. Articles from the Daily Palo Alto recount multiple days of celebration culminating in a feast (the Year of the Snake began February 16, 1893) and similar celebrations held in subsequent years. The following year's holiday, which marked the beginning of the Year of the Horse (February 5, 1894), even included a merry-go-round. These celebrations, an opportunity for the employees to gather with other members of the Chinese community, might also include members of the non-Chinese community. Thomas Douglas, the first gardener hired by the university rather than for the stock farm, recorded in his diary that in 1890 the Chinese employees on the stock farm held a lunar New Year's feast to which he was invited. (45) The employees took the next day as a holiday too, and may have used this opportunity to visit Mayfield, San Jose, or San Francisco.

Even within the boundaries of Stanford land, the Arboretum Quarters was not the sole residence of the Chinese employees. There were as many as five different Chinese boarding houses scattered across the Stanford property, including one near San Francisquito Creek (46) and another near the original Roble Hall. (47) Jim Mock, with his wife and children, lived apart from the other employees, but likely knew the arboretum site well and may have eaten meals there with the men he oversaw in the gardens. Maps of the campus from the early twentieth century possess variable accuracy, making the exact number and orientation of the structures difficult to ascertain. The clearest, produced as a fire insurance map of the Stanford campus and its surroundings in 1917 (fig. 5), depicts three wooden structures, including a bunkhouse, an unmarked building that may have been a shed, and a large kitchen. The buildings faced each other, creating a space between them that could have functioned as a gathering place or an area to have meals. Depending on their work, employees might eat alone, bringing a bowl and utensils with them and eating outside, as Ah Sam did while working for the university's first president, David Starr Jordan. (48) However, given the mix of food storage containers and individual bowls, plates, cups, and utensils found at the site, it seems likely that both cooking and dining occurred in or around the kitchen.

Chinese employees helped create many parts of the Stanford campus that continue to define it today. They not only cultivated the original gardens and landscaping but also constructed some of the earliest roadways, like Alvarado Row, one of the first paved roads to connect the university with the planned neighborhood constructed at its edge. (49) Their work as cooks and janitors and in both dormitories and private households is less visible today, but no less important for the history of both the Chinese community and Stanford University. Despite these early impacts, the invisibility of the places they called home, like the Arboretum Quarters, makes it easier for successive generations of students, present for only a short time, to never know about their presence at all. A seemingly unmarked landscape aids forgetfulness as much as artifacts aid memory.


The site's destruction occurred after the last resident, Ah Wah, departed in 1925. The Immigration Act passed the previous year precluded movement back and forth between the United States and China, which would have done nothing to encourage Ah Wah, who was already elderly, to stay. Since the structures were apparently empty when Stanford first-year students ripped them apart and carted them off to fuel the bonfire, it was not an act of violence directed at any individual occupants. Nevertheless, the site's destruction formed part of a pattern that has rendered Chinese American history, outside of Chinatowns, frequently invisible. "There's so much relevance to today, people fail to connect the dots," commented Mackenzie Lee, who graduated from Stanford in 2010 and whose family has lived in the Bay Area for multiple generations. "A lot of this history is not discussed." (50) Connie Young Yu echoed those feelings during a group meeting in the lab: "If you ask people now 'who helped build this university,' no one would say 'the Chinese.'" (51) My own initial interest in the site arose partly because I grew up in Palo Alto and had attended Stanford for over a year before I heard anything about the Chinese involvement in the beginnings of the town and university. Only within the past few years has this received renewed attention, thanks in part to an exhibit in Stanford's Archaeology Center created by undergraduate Bright Zhou. (52) The archaeology, historical research, and continued presentation and publication of information associated with the Arboretum Quarters project is one response to this long invisibility.

The storytelling that created the twin subjects of this article, chrysanthemum growing and community connections, reflects the predominantly positive focus of many, although not all, of the interactions with community consultants. However, there is ample evidence of the great difficulties the Stanford employees faced along with other Chinese and Asian immigrants to California. Stories skew toward those who possess direct descendants, but of course not all did. The Daily Palo Alto of June 5, 1925, describing Ah Wah's departure noted that although he had one son who remained a cook in Palo Alto, three of his sons had died before him, two in Mexico and one in China. As the last Stanford-based record of one of its longest-serving employees, the article is a reminder of how dispersed families could be. Ben Kwong, who had family members who arrived in California in the nineteenth century, reflected on how difficult immigration must have been and what strength it would have taken: "Could I go to Africa and start a family? I don't know if I'd have the guts to do that. But my father did that." (53) later he added, "It's something that as a kid, you don't appreciate as much, you know, you just want to assimilate. But when you get older, you understand more what it took to do that." (54)

Gerry Low-Sabado expressed her reverence for the Chinese immigrant generation through her choice to treat them as ancestors to the wider community. Descended from Quock Mui, one of the first Chinese settlers in the Point Alones Chinese fishing village in Monterey, she had participated in a previous Stanford-led excavation in her family's ancestral hometown. Based on this prior experience, she requested that excavation not commence at the Arboretum Quarters until an acknowledgment of ancestors had taken place, volunteering to lead a ceremony for anyone who could attend (fig. 6). This is a clear example of how beginning a project collaboratively altered archaeological practice. On November 11, 2016, Gerry Low-Sabado set up an altar with traditional decorations, plates of fruit and seafood, cups of tea and alcohol, burning incense, and personal artifacts, including a bamboo pattern bowl. Later she explained that she drew on Bai Sun practices of ancestor veneration, something she has traditionally done with family members. (55) At the opening she emphasized the perseverance of Chinese immigrants and the way the Stanford employees had come to represent this:

"I just want to call to our minds that we're here to remember the lives of people who worked hard, who came [here] during a time that was tough for the Chinese.... This is the story, and the lesson that we learn: that even so many years later, the stories of these workers are being told. I think we need to remember that in light of what's happening in the world today: that we pay respect to others." (56)

She used the opportunity to highlight how sites like the Arboretum Chinese Quarters offer physical reminders of diversity in the past, and for this reason should be recognized and remembered. For her, a significant feature of the Stanford story was that it was not unique, but rather representative of the ways many other Chinese immigrants lived and supported their families.

Material analysis of the thousands of artifacts recovered from the Arboretum Quarters is ongoing at the time of writing, work that will hopefully begin to answer additional research questions identified by community members and academics alike: What role did gender play among the overwhelmingly male population of Stanford's Chinese employees? How did they relate to students, faculty, and their employers? What other research products might serve the ongoing Chinese American community beyond sharing results and information? Attending to just the two research questions identified here demonstrates one way to approach the storytelling of archaeology, emphasizing the interests and understandings of multiple kinds of descendants. Incorporating oral history into this research broke down both spatial and temporal boundaries surrounding the site. Rather than focus solely on activities at the site while it stood, the oral histories shifted the research emphasis toward individuals' multiple jobs, frequent visits to nearby stores or Chinatowns to see members of the same associations, and the long-term effects of the employees' work at Stanford on both their families and communities.


My thanks to Lorraine Mock, Connie Young Yu, Gerry Low-Sabado, Ben Kwong, and Mackenzie Lee for sharing their family stories, and for their guidance and interest throughout the research process. Thanks to Laurie Wilkie, Rosemary Joyce, Jun Sunseri, and Michael Omi at UC Berkeley, and for the support of the Gan Aston Fellowship, the Stahl Grant, and the Lowie Olson Fund. Archaeologists and historians from both UC Berkeley and Stanford University helped make this project possible, especially Stanford campus archaeologist Laura Jones and Stanford historian Julie Cain, as well as Lauren Conway, Garrett Trask, and the rest of the Stanford archaeology team. Thanks also to Annelise Morris, Kirsten Vacca, Annie Danis, Alexandra McCleary, Katrina Eichner, Alyssa Scott, David Hyde, Halee Yue, Becca Fielding, Josie Miller, and Minxing Chen from UC Berkeley. Thanks also to Kelly Fong, Bright Zhou, Ezra Bergson-Michelson, and Ethan Bresnick (for photography and videography).


(1.) Lorraine Mock, personal communication with the author, April 10, 2018.

(2.) Sonya Atalay, Community-Based Archaeology: Research with, by, and for Indigenous and Local Communities (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2012).

(3.) Alison Wylie, "A Plurality of Pluralisms: Collaborative Practice in Archaeology," in Objectivity in Science, ed. Jonathan Y. Tsou, Alan Richardson, and Flavia Padovani (New York: Springer, 2015), 189-210.

(4.) "Heinz Bottle Codes" provided by Consumer Affairs Representative Andi Cartwright to the Society for Historical Archaeology, January 18, 2006. (accessed March 30, 2018).

(5.) E. N. Anderson, "Chapter 2: China," in Food in Time and Place, ed. Paul Freedman, Joyce E. Chaplin, and Ken Albala (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2014), 51.

(6.) Rosemary Joyce, The Languages of Archaeology: Dialogue, Narrative, and Writing (Oxford: Blackwell, 2002), 6.

(7.) Carl Knappet, "Materiality in Archaeological Theory," in Encyclopedia of Global Archaeology, ed. Claire Smith (New York: Springer-Verlag, 2014).

(8.) Paul Mullins, "The Rhetoric of Things: Historical Archaeology and Oral History," Historical Archaeology 48, no.1 (2014): 107.

(9.) Annelise Morris, "Materialities of Homeplace," Historical Archaeology 51, no. I (2017): 28-42.

(10.) Bonnie J. Clark, "Digging Yesterday: The Archaeology of Living Memory at Amache," in Historical Archaeology Through a Western Lens, ed. Mark Warner and Margaret Purser (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press and the Society of Historical Archaeology, 2017), 210-232.

(11.) Laurie A. Wilkie, The Lost Boys of Zeta Psi: A Historical Archaeology of Masculinity at a University Fraternity (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2010).

(12.) Barbara L. Voss, "The Archaeology of Overseas Chinese Communities," World Archaeology 37, no. 3 (2005): 424-39.

(13.) Philip P Choy, "Interpreting 'Overseas Chinese' Ceramics Found on Historical Archaeology Sites: Manufacture, Marks, Classification, and Social Use," Society for Historical Archaeology Research Resources (2014): 7, http://www.sha.orgfindex.php/view/page/chineseCeramics.

(14.) Barbara L. Voss, J. Ryan Kennedy, Jinhua (Selia) Tan, and Laura W Ng, "The Archaeology of Home: Qiaoxing and Nonstate Actors in the Archaeology of the Chinese Diaspora," American Antiquity 83, no. 3 (2018): 417.

(15.) Choy, "Interpreting 'Overseas Chinese' Ceramics," 7.

(16.) Rosemary Gong, Good Luck Life: The Essential Guide to Chinese American Celebrations and Culture (New York: HarperCollins, 2009), 12.

(17.) Jing Li, Qian Wan, Yan-Ping Guo, Richard J. Abbott, and Guang-Yuan Rao, "Should I Stay or Should I Go: Biogeographic and Evolutionary History of a Polyploid Complex (Chrysanthemum indicum complex) in Response to Pleistocene Climate Change in China," New Phytologist 20, no. 3 (2014): 1031-44.

(18.) Teresa Tse Batholomew, Hidden Meanings in Chinese Art (San Francisco: Asian Art Museum, 2006), 176.

(19.) Helen E Siu, "RecyclingTradition: Culture, History, and Political Economy in the Chrysanthemum Festivals of South China," Comparative Studies in Society and History 32, no. 4 (1990): 766.

(20.) James Morton, Chiysanthemum Culture for America: A Book about Chrysanthemums, Their History, Classification and Care (New York: Rural Publishing Company, 1891), 8.

(21.) Him Mark Lai, "The Huangliang Du (Wong Leung Do) Community in Northern California," Hee Sheti Benevolent Association Centennial Celebration 1895-1995, 24; see also Julie Cain, "The Chinese and the Stanfords: Immigration Rhetoric in Nineteenth-Century California" (master's thesis, California State University, East Bay, 2011), 123.

(22.) Lorraine Mock, personal communication with the author, March 8, 2017.

(23.) Him Mark Lai, Becoming Chinese American: A History of Communities and Institutions (Lanham, Md.: AltaMira Press, 2004), 190.

(24.) Lai, "Huangliang Du (Wong Leung Do) Community," 24.

(25.) Cain, "The Chinese and the Stanfords," 127.

(26.) Lai, "Huangliang Du (Wong Leung Do) Community."

(27.) Michael Barker, The American Chrysanthemum Annual (Floral Park, N.Y.: Mayflower Publishing Company, 1895).

(28.) Lai, "Huangliang Du (Wong Leung Do) Community," 33.

(29.) Judith Taylor and Harry M. Butterfield, Tangible Memories: Californians and Their Gardens, 1800-1950 (Bloomington, Ind.: Xlibris, 2003), 97-98.

(30.) Taylor and Butterfield, 349.

(31.) Timothy J. Lukes and Gary Y. Okihiro, Japanese Legacy: Farming and Community Life in California's Santa Clara Valley (Cupertino: California History Center, 1985), 106-7.

(32.) Toichi Domoto, "A Japanese-American Nurseryman's Life in California: Floriculture and Family, 1883-1992." Oral history conducted by Susan B. Reiss (Berkeley: Regional Oral History Library, Bancroft Library, University of California, 1992), 88.

(33.) Ben Kwong, personal communication with the author, July 2, 2016.

(34.) Michael Culbertson, "The Chinese Involvement in the Development of the Flower Growing Industry in Santa Clara County," in Chinese Argonauts, ed. Gloria Sun Horn (Los Alto Hills, Calif.: Foothill Community College, 1971), 49.

(35.) Sol Metzger, "Boys Parents, and Football," St. Nicholas: An Illustrated Magazine for Boys and Girls 48 (1920): 67.

(36.) Connie Young Yu, personal communication with the author, February 4, 2018.

(37.) Lai, Becoming Chinese American, 62.

(38.) Connie Young Yu, Chinatown, San Jose, USA (San Jose, Calif.: San Jose Historical Museum Association, 1991), 68.

(39.) Kelly Fong, "Excavating Chinese America in the Delta: Race and the Historical Archaeology of the Isleton Chinese American community" (PhD diss., University of California, Los Angeles, 2013), 56.

(40.) Him Mark Lai, "Potato King and Film Producer, Flower Growers, Professionals, and Activists: The Huangliang Du Community in Northern California," Chinese America: History & Perspectives (1998): 8.

(41.) Connie Young Yu, personal communication with the author, March 8, 2017.

(42.) Yu, personal communication, March 8, 2017.

(43.) Thomas W Chinn, Him Mark Lai, and Philip P Choy, eds., A History of the Chinese in California: A Syllabus (San Francisco: Chinese Historical Society of America, 1969), 64.

(44.) Cain, "The Chinese and the Stanfords," 128.

(45.) Cain, 101.

(46.) Map, "Residence and Grounds of Leland Stanford at Palo Alto," SC1049, M158, Stanford University archives.

(47.) Untitled short article, Daily Palo Alto, April 26, 1898.

(48.) Ellen Coit Elliot, It Happened This Way, American Scene (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1940), 185.

(49.) Elliot, 222.

(50.) Mackenzie Lee, personal communication with the author, March 9, 2017.

(51.) Connie Young Yu, in conversation with the author, January 31, 2018.

(52.) Barbara Wilcox, "Stanford Student Exhibit Reveals a Legacy of Chinese-American Engagement," Stanford News, July 16, 2017, See also Cain, "The Chinese and the Stanfords"; and Alison Carpenter Davis, Letters Home from Stanford: 125 Years of Correspondence from Stanford University Students (St. Louis: Reedy Press, 2017).

(53.) Ben Kwong, personal communication with the author, July 2, 2016.

(54.) Kwong, personal communication, July 27, 2018.

(55.) Gerry Low-Sabado, personal communication with the author, July 27, 2018.

(56.) Gerry Low-Sabado, message at the opening of excavations, Stanford Arboretum Chinese Quarters, November 11, 2016.

Caption: Fig. 1. Artifacts assembled on lab tables for a community visit to Stanford's Field Conservation Facility, January 31, 2018.

Caption: Fig. 2. Jim Mock chrysanthemum advertisement placed in the Daily Palo Alto.

Caption: Fig. 3. Jim Mock wearing a jacket with chrysanthemum decoration.

Caption: Fig. 4. The San Francisco Call's November 28, 1895, illustration for the Big Game.

Caption: Fig. 5. Arboretum Chinese Quarters; digital drawing based on Leland Stanford Junior University Insurance Maps (M801) 1917 Oct., SC1049, Stanford University.

Caption: Fig. 6. Gerry Low-Sabado performing her acknowledgment of ancestors, November 11, 2016.
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Author:Lowman, Christopher B.
Publication:Chinese America: History and Perspectives
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2018
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