With a Single Step: Stories in the Making of America

MOCA's permanent exhibition presents the rich diversity of the Chinese American experience, while examining America's journey as a nation of immigrants

Welcome to the Museum of Chinese in America! This virtual exhibition allows you to explore an interactive 360° view of the museum space and watch short educational videos about the exhibit's contents.

With a Single StepMuseum of Chinese in America

Go East! Go West! (1784-1870)

Go East! Go West! (1784-1870) opens the exhibition with the flows and exchange of and people between the United States and China in the nineteenth century; how this encounter helped shape the formation of new American identities and brought America into the industrial revolution; and the diverse roles Chinese workers played in the industrialization of America.

Highlights of this section explore the origins of China-U.S. trade beginning in the early 19th century. A porcelain beer stein created with Chinese artistic elements symbolizes how products made in China were luxuries sought after by American consumers. Images show how internal strife in China and the influence of foreign powers led to a mass migration of Chinese labor to America's shores during the Gold Rush and the building of the Transcontinental Railroad.

Go East! Go West! 1784 1870Museum of Chinese in America

Down with Monopolies! The Chinese Must Go! (1870-1930s)

Down With Monopolies! The Chinese Must Go! (1870-1930s) examines the political climate in America leading up to the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act, and its impact as the first federal law to restrict the immigration of a specific group based on nationality, defining in legal terms who could not “become American.”

Images in this section show various propaganda and illustrations vilifying Chinese in America and culminating with the passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 prohibiting all immigration of Chinese laborers into the U.S.

Down with Monopolies! The Chinese Must Go! 1870 1930sMuseum of Chinese in America

Imagined and Intimate (1900-1930s)

Imagined and Intimate (1900-1930s) shows how the idea of “Chinatown” as a foreign place developed in the American imagination through the intimate genre of photography; while Chinese laborers, excluded from entering the skilled trades, were forced to make a living by providing services to whites on an intimate level by doing laundry, cooking food, and keeping house.

Irons once used by Chinese laundry workers bring to life the burden of the "Eight Pound Livelihood". The "eight pounds" refer to the weight of the heavy irons that laundrymen wielded on a daily basis.

Imagined and Intimate 1900 1930sMuseum of Chinese in America

Welcome to Chinatown!

Welcome to Chinatown! presents examples of “yellowface” in mainstream culture, and how Chinese Americans have survived in economically marginalized environments through such creative inventions like chop suey.

A selection of images show Hollywood stereotypes of Chinese Americans. Menus from Chinese restaurants demonstrate the double-edged sword of catering Chinese cuisine to western tastes.

Welcome to Chinatown!Museum of Chinese in America

Building Community

Building Community showcases an old general store – a composite of salvaged objects and memories from Chinatown stores across the United States (Los Angeles, Boston, and New York City). General stores are, at once, a supplier of everyday and specialty Chinese goods, pharmacy, post office, travel agency, and community center.

Explore this Chinatown general store, faithfully rebuilt and preserved from actual neighborhood businesses. In the cabinets, you will find dried goods, antique Chinese medicine boxes and original letters written from "bachelor society" men to their wives and families still in China.

Building CommunityMuseum of Chinese in America

The Rising Spirit

The Rising Spirit addresses how cultural traditions and social/political networking have knit isolated people and fragmented families and communities together.

Highlights of this section include an antique lion head costume, and a Cantonese opera costume from MOCA's Chinese Musical and Theatrical Association collection.

The Rising SpiritMuseum of Chinese in America

Allies and Enemies (1940-1950s)

Allies and Enemies (1940-1950s) presents the dramatic changes of fortune for Chinese Americans. The U.S. and China become Allies during WWII, and the Chinese Exclusion Act is repealed; political refugees of the Chinese Civil War and students stranded in the U.S. create a new wave of Chinese immigration to America; and the Cold War creates a political environment that targets Chinese Americans as potential enemies of the state.

A selection of images show how China's relationship with the U.S. during WWII and afterward impacts Chinese Americans.

Allies and Enemies 1940 1950sMuseum of Chinese in America

Towards a More Perfect Union (1960- Present)

Towards a More Perfect Union (1960- Present) invites visitors to explore the impact of the American social movements of the 1960s, the normalization of U.S.-China relations, and the de-racialization of immigration laws in 1965 on the changes in the Chinese American community. MOCA presents projects inspired by an idea, a question, or a discovery, that have caused ripples in the society in which we live. Through these examples, we come to see that the Chinese American experience is an ongoing project, an adventurous undertaking with changing players and inspired outcomes. Visitors are asked to tell the Museum of ongoing projects and/or personal stories that represent the journey we all make in finding community and home.

Images and artifacts in this section tackle identity from the rise of the Asian American movement to the model minority myth.

Towards a More Perfect Union 1960 PresentMuseum of Chinese in America

Credits: Story

Executive Producer

Project Manager

Audio Narration Written and Adapted by

Mandarin and Cantonese Translation by

Voiceover Artists
AMY LU (English)
MINGSI MA (Mandarin and Cantonese)

Sound Editing and Mixing by
AMY LU (English)
CHAO SUN and KYLE CHENG (Mandarin and Cantonese)

Original Concept, Research and Development

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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