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-   A Yee Fow Center Draft Proposal   -

The Yee Fow Center, for History, Culture, and Trade

Sacramento Deserves No Less


When the Chinese came to California in the 1800s, their point of entry was San Francisco. They designated San Francisco, Dai Fow (Big City), Sacramento was known as Yee Fow (Second City) and Marysville and Stockton were called Sam Fow (Third City).

In February of 2007, St. Hope 40 Acre Gallery hosted a Panel Discussion, "Telling Our Story: The Chinese in California." The discussion began with the moderator, William Wong, a pioneer among Asian American journalist and Bay Area native, stating Sacramento should be designated Dai Fow (The Big City), since so much of the significant events in Chinese-American history happened in the Sacramento area. All of the distinguish panelist, Timothy P. Fong Ph.D., Flo Oy Wong, Gang Situ, Jon Jang, and Jerry Fat, most who were from the Bay Area, agreed.

Sacramento has always been designated as Yee Fow (Second City). But, since the beginnings of Sacramento, with the influence of Kearney's Workingman's Party and the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, there has been a climate of omission in Sacramento in regards to commemorating the contributions of the Chinese both locally and throughout California.

Some of the most significant events in Chinese-American and California history are attributed to the Chinese that originally came from Sacramento's very own Chinatown known as China Slough, for example:

  • California Gold Rush history cannot be fully explained without the role of the Chinese that came though Sacramento.
  • 90% of the human face of railroading was Chinese that built the Central Pacific Railroad in the 1860's, most of them later settled in Sacramento's China Slough.
  • The Sacramento - San Joaquin Delta levees were built in the 1880s by thousands of Chinese immigrants that turned the valley swampland into America's richest farmland.
  • The role of the Chinese in California agriculture during the later decades of the 19th century and early part of the 20th century was an integral aspect of the agricultural history of the western United States.

Currently, at the Sacramento Rail Road Depot there is a minimal plaque, California's Historic Landmark #594, the site of China Slough, which dates back to Sacramento's Yee Fow Chinatown of the 1800's.

Back then, it was the least desired part of town and the majority of Sacramentans viewed the area as a health hazard and wasteland. The Chinese developed the area into a thriving Chinatown that became a vibrant asset to Sacramento. But many incidents of deadly violence and ethnic cleansing occurred against the Chinese.

This period of American history is now known as " The Driving Out." In July 1855 one of many mysterious fires struck Sacramento's Chinatown and roared through the area so rapidly, in minutes an entire half block was destroyed. This time the Sacramento Fire Department allowed for the fire to burn as long as the wind was shifting northward towards the slough and away from the rest of the town. Many Chinese lives were lost, their community destroyed, and their belongings scattered.

In a final effort to "drive out" the Chinese from Sacramento, the Board of Trustees, forerunner to the City Council, amended ordinances and created laws making it difficult for the Chinese to exist. With actions often in the form of legislation, this was America’s first systematic profiling of immigrants as “illegals” based on race.

A mere plaque is not enough.

We applaud the efforts of the California State Historical Resources Commission's involvement in the development of Angels Island to include the experience of the Chinese that were held there. We strongly feel the contributions of the Chinese from the China Slough era deserve the same level of recognition.

Museum Concept
Sacramento civic and community leaders would be remiss to overlook the potential a Yee Fow Museum would provide. It would be a companion to the California Indian Heritage Museum and contribute to the city's concept of a Museum Mile.

Marysville Chinese population is less than 0.2% but generates major revenue from featuring the Bok Kai Temple and their annual Bok Kai Festival. Locke has become a worldwide destination point because of its status as the only town in the United States built exclusively by the Chinese for the Chinese.

China is the new superpower, corporate America is strategically building relationships and partnering with the global powerhouse. A Yee Fow Museum will position Sacramento as a friendly partner which honors its rich Chinese heritage. In a February 17, 2007 article in the Sacramento Bee's Business Section, Associated Press writer, Ryan Nakashima, reports that in Las Vegas, even with the NBA All-Star game in town for the first time and the President's Day holiday falling on the same weekend, the business people are focused on celebrating Chinese New Year to cater to the Chinese consumer. "I'd say Chinese New Year was more important." says John Unwin, general manager of Caesar's Palace when as to the importance of the NBA All-Star game. On February 18th, 2007, even the most successful search engine, Google, had transformed their logo to include the Year of the Pig!

The proposed Yee Fow Museum will be located in the Railyard, home to the Chinatown of China Slough. The Yee Fow Museum will be:

  • A cultural and education center
  • A worldwide destination point for history and sinological enthusiast
  • A venue for international conferences, workshops, lectures, book readings, art and film
  • an online presence for international e-commerce and marketing

More about the Yee Fow Museum will be included on this site as time progresses.

Friends of the Yee Fow Museum | 427 Chinatown Mall | Sacramento, CA 95814