8 episodes

1871 Los Angeles was a dangerous place, especially for the refugees, migrants and troublemakers who lived on Calle De Los Negros, at the heart of Chinatown.

Yut Ho, a beautiful young refugee, came to LA and fell in love, only to be drawn into a showdown between two of Chinatown's most notorious gangsters. Before long, the entire city was caught up in a life or death struggle where old-world values of kinship, honor and loyalty clashed with new-world issues of race, sex, and identity. The ensuing conflict would threaten the lives of Yut Ho and all the denizens of Chinatown– and would change the face of Los Angeles forever.

This true but largely forgotten event from California's past is brought to you by the Holmes Performing Arts Fund of the Claremont Colleges, the Music Department of Scripps College, the Pacific Basin Institute of Pomona College, the Entrepreneurial Musicianship Department at The New England Conservatory, and the Public Events Office at Scripps College.

It is hosted by Hao Huang, Micah Huang, and Emma Gies, featuring original music by Micah Huang and The Flower Pistils. A special thanks to Evo Terra from Simpler Media Productions for his expertise and support.

Blood on Gold Mountain: A Story from the 1871 LA Chinatown Massacre Hao Huang, Emma Gies, and Micah Huang

    • History
    • 4.8 • 28 Ratings

1871 Los Angeles was a dangerous place, especially for the refugees, migrants and troublemakers who lived on Calle De Los Negros, at the heart of Chinatown.

Yut Ho, a beautiful young refugee, came to LA and fell in love, only to be drawn into a showdown between two of Chinatown's most notorious gangsters. Before long, the entire city was caught up in a life or death struggle where old-world values of kinship, honor and loyalty clashed with new-world issues of race, sex, and identity. The ensuing conflict would threaten the lives of Yut Ho and all the denizens of Chinatown– and would change the face of Los Angeles forever.

This true but largely forgotten event from California's past is brought to you by the Holmes Performing Arts Fund of the Claremont Colleges, the Music Department of Scripps College, the Pacific Basin Institute of Pomona College, the Entrepreneurial Musicianship Department at The New England Conservatory, and the Public Events Office at Scripps College.

It is hosted by Hao Huang, Micah Huang, and Emma Gies, featuring original music by Micah Huang and The Flower Pistils. A special thanks to Evo Terra from Simpler Media Productions for his expertise and support.

    The Underworld

    The Underworld

    Yut Ho and Lee Yong devise a plan to run away together, assisted by Chinatown’s most notorious gangster: Yo Hing.

    • 40 min
    Beasts of Prey

    Beasts of Prey

    Sam Yuen
    Sam Yuen is one of the larger-than-life characters that drive the historical narrative of the LA Chinatown massacre. Historical sources paint a picture of a laconic, stoic-minded business leader whose traditional methods and lack of adaptability made him and his company vulnerable to disruption.
    Sam Yuen was the leader of a conservative faction who thought that the Chinese community should restrict its contact with outsiders as much as possible. They were willing to provide services to wealthy non-Chinese residents of the surrounding area, but they did not go into business with people of different backgrounds. It was this attitude against which the upstart, Yo Hing was rebelling when he split off from the original Sze Yup company. By collaborating with wealthier and more influential Anglo and Latino business partners, Yo Hing aimed to fundamentally change the structure of Chinatown’s economic system. Traditionalists like Sam Yuen saw this as excessively risky. Tying up their money in joint ventures with “Gwailo,” who could turn on them at any moment was a grave cause for concern among the traditionalists, who were badly traumatized by the ethnic and political conflicts which had torn apart Qing Dynasty China.
    Though he rarely spoke to the press, Sam Yuen was influential enough that certain aspects of his personality come down to us. He was indicted for fist fighting with Yo Hing on multiple occasions, though other than that, his criminal record seems to have been relatively clean. In one particularly famous incident, Sam Yuen managed to get several of Yo Hing’s associates jailed for the egregious maltreatment of an enslaved Chinese prostitute, who was working for them. Yo Hing’s actions in the case of Yut Ho and Lee Yong were probably partially motivated by a desire to retaliate.
    Sam Yuen’s most famous quotation was given in an interview with the Los Angeles Star newspaper: “That brave fellow Yo Hing will be killed by those he has insulted and maligned.” Sam Yuen endeavored to make good on this public threat. Clearly, he was not averse to using force or violence in order to get his way. He was also a dangerous man with a six-shooter, as we shall see.
    Information about the historical Sam Yuen can be found in Scott Zsech’s wonderful book, The Chinatown War, which also contains a fantastic bibliography that can be used to locate primary sources.
    Micah’s personal spin on Sam Yuen is to play up certain aspects of a socially conservative strain, which exists in Chinese culture. This style of relating to the world is a vestige of a militaristic outlook, which was instrumental in securing and retaining power under feudal, imperial rule. Like American masculine culture of the early 20th century, Qing dynasty “conservatives” were preoccupied with physical and mental strength above all things. This preoccupation was paired with a meritocratic belief that the strongest had a natural right to rule over everybody else. In China, this type of outlook was severely impacted by contact with the West, whose superior military technology took away the title of strongest from the warrior class who had held it for millennia. This led to an obtusely anachronistic pride in hand-to-hand fighting skills, which persists to this day as a negative stereotype about Chinese and East Asian men. For this reason, Micah wrote Sam Yuen as a practitioner of external martial arts in Blood on Gold Mountain.
    If you have questions, thoughts, your own family stories, or historical context to share, please send us a message at @bloodongoldmountain on http://www.facebook.com/bloodongoldmountain (Facebook) or http://www.instagram.com/bloodongoldmountain (Instagram).
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    Blood on Gold Mountain is brought to you by https://services.claremont.edu/holmes-endowment/ (The Holmes Performing Arts Fund of The Claremont Colleges), https://w

    • 27 min
    Empire of Orphans

    Empire of Orphans

    No one knows just how the historical Yut Ho and Lee Yong met. Perhaps, as in our story, it was in the course of their daily routines. Yut Ho would almost certainly have lived a secluded life with her new husband. In Chinese immigrant society, most women worked alongside their menfolk. As a wealthy married woman Yut Ho had the uncommon luxury of staying home, but in practice, that luxury probably felt like a gilded cage. Chinatown was the most violent part of a violent, dangerous town, and Hing Sing’s close relationship with Sam Yuen meant that Yut Ho was automatically a target for Yo Hing’s machinations.
    The politics of LA Chinatown were much as Lee Yong describes them in this episode. I have changed a couple of names for clarity: After the split in the Sze Yup Company, Sam Yuen’s faction did not actually retain the original company’s name. They started calling themselves the Nin Yung company- I thought it was too confusing with all the names changing, but I did decide to call Sam Yuen’s store Nin Yung (It was actually called Wing Chung) because of the importance of that name in the history.
    As Lee Yong tells Yut HO in the story, Yo Hing’s company was really called the Hong Chow Tong. He was popular and charismatic, with a knack for getting out of trouble. The piece about Opium is my own invention, though it is not historically improbable. Opium was accessible to Chinese immigrants, who used it to varying degrees. It would not be much of a stretch for an enterprising polyglot like Yo Hing to open a line of business selling it to western doctors; this was Civil War era medicine, and painkillers were essential to the primitive, unsanitary and invasive practices of frontier medical men.
    Yut Ho mentioned the (first) Opium War in Episode 2 because it was a direct cause of the Taiping rebellion. Though less bloody than the domestic conflicts that followed, the Opium war was the tipping point after which the Qing government descended into chaos. The fact that China was too large and too rich in human and natural resources to make outright conquest practical means that the impact of Colonial forays such as the Opium wars is often understated in the west. The period following the British wars is one of the most violent and tragic epochs in human history; Fighting continued in China until the communist victory in 1949, and was followed by the terrible famines of the Great Leap Forward, and the trauma of the cultural revolution. All told, well over 100 million people lost their lives during the collapse of Imperial China-nearly 20 times the number killed in the Holocaust or (estimated number) transatlantic slave trade.
    To this day, many Chinese and Chinese Americans maintain a negative view of drugs, and opiates in particular because of the consequences of the very first Drug War: The one where the British told China to “Just Say Yes.”
    In the Story, Sam Yuen’s decision to sell Opium in Chinatown is indicative of his hyper-competitive, myopic mindset. His disregard of Chinatown and its people would ultimately cost him his position as Company Headman, as well as causing the spillage of a large quantity of other people’s blood.
    For more in-depth on LA Chinatown and the causes of migration, check out Scott Zesch’s thoroughly researched book, The Chinatown War.
    If you have questions, thoughts, your own family stories, or historical context to share, please send us a message at @bloodongoldmountain on http://www.facebook.com/bloodongoldmountain (Facebook) or http://www.instagram.com/bloodongoldmountain (Instagram).
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    Blood on Gold Mountain is brought to you by https://services.claremont.edu/holmes-endowment/ (The Holmes Performing Arts Fund of The Claremont Colleges), https://www.pomona.edu/administration/pacific-basin-institute (The Pacific Basin Institute of Pomona College), https://www.scrippscollege.edu/of

    • 32 min
    Bride Price

    Bride Price

    Life in California’s early Chinese communities was challenging and dangerous, particularly for women. Discriminatory laws made it harder for women to emigrate, leading to a severe gender imbalance in California’s Chinatowns.
    Eve of Exclusion
    Initially, the gender gap was a result of American employers’ perception that men were a more desirable form of cheap labor. However, the exclusion of women quickly became a mechanism for preventing Chinese communities from taking root in America. Yut Ho was fortunate to arrive before the Page Act of 1875, which severely restricted emigration of Chinese women by asserting that they were all prostitutes. This was the first US law explicitly restricting immigration and set the precedent for the Chinese Exclusion act.
    https://www.jstor.org/stable/27500484 (Forbidden Families: Emigration Experiences of Chinese Women under the Page Law, 1875-1882)
    Women’s Lives on the Frontier
    In fact, most of the Chinese women in California were married and worked as laborers or business owners. According to the 1870 census, there were thirty-four women in LA Chinatown and more than half of them were married. https://www.google.com/books/edition/The_Chinatown_War/3yZpAgAAQBAJ?hl=enandgbpv=1andprintsec=frontcover ((Zesch, The Chinatown War, 61))
    Of those who were unmarried, many were actually prostitutes. This was a normal state of affairs in the wild west; prostitution was was one of few ways American women could make money in frontier towns. https://pdxscholar.library.pdx.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1141andcontext=younghistorians (Some estimates) say that there were over 50,000 prostitutes of all nationalities in the West at the time of the Chinatown Massacre. Frontier society was dominated by rough men and rule of law was a questionable proposition at best. Under these conditions, most women were forced to rely on men, either through marriage or prostitution.
    Where East and West Collide
    The descriptions of Chinese marriage customs in this episode are based on inside information. While Western portrayals of Chinese women are usually demeaning and disempowering, traditional family structures had an elaborate system of checks and balances between the sexes. This is not to say that Chinese society was immune to patriarchy; it’s just that it contained matriarchal elements as well. The most famous 19th century Chinese matriarch was the https://www.britannica.com/biography/Cixi (Empress Dowager Cixi), who came to power after the first opium war and ruled China until her death in 1908. She belonged to an ancient tradition of female rulers, which dates back at least to the Tang dynasty. On a domestic scale, family matriarchs are still celebrated to this day as in the case of the writer’s grandmother, Yi-Yin Huang, or the fictional “Nai Nai” in the film, Crazy Rich Asians. Gendered divisions of labor are fluid and hard to pin down. However, https://www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2016-08/31/content_26656826.htm (some polls indicate) that women still control finances in the majority of households in China.
    Political Theater
    Yut Ho’s unusual marital situation is a product of the bizarre ways in which respectability politics shaped LA Chinatown. While many of the details are fictional, it is indisputable that Yut Ho and a number of other Chinese women played a major role in the struggle between factions who vied for control over Chinatown. Yo Hing and Sam Yuen were both fond of accusing their rivals of mistreating women in order to damage their credibility in the press. The strategy was very effective in shaping public opinion, which was crucial in the tight-knit community of LA Chinatown.
    If you have questions, thoughts, your own family stories, or historical context to share, please send us a message at @bloodongoldmountain on http://www.facebook.com/bloodongoldmountain (Facebook) or http://www.i

    • 38 min
    The Widow

    The Widow

    This episode addresses one of the most important and neglected aspects of early Chinese immigrants’ experience in California.
    Relations between Chinese immigrants and their Anglo counterparts were not always hostile. Despite the fact that there were few women in California when Chinese men started arriving, sometimes relationships would form. The only references to such relationships that we have in the primary sources have to do with the Anglo establishment’s attempts to prevent them. Some examples include rhetoric associating Chinese men with drug use and debauchery.
    https://dash.harvard.edu/bitstream/handle/1/42004195/MCCAFFREY-DOCUMENT-2019.pdf?sequence=1 (See pg. 30 of this article from Harvard's online archive. )
    Other sources refer to legal measures taken to prevent Asian men from marrying white Women.
    https://ufdc.ufl.edu/UFE0042801/00001 (INTERRACIAL MARRIAGES AMONG ASIAN AMERICANS IN THE U.S. WEST, 1880- 1954)
    Sources from the early 20th century show that white women who married Asian men would lose their citizenship and become social outcasts. However, prior to the Chinese exclusion act of 1882, sources are scarce. Because of this, our writer, Micah Huang, turned to popular fiction accounts from the time in order to get a sense of what these characters’ experience might have been.
    Forbidden Liaisons
    The most compelling story of this kind that Micah was able to find was “Poor Ah Toy” by Mary Mote published circa 1870.
    https://sites.middlebury.edu/soan191/files/2013/08/LeeThirdSex.pdf (See PDF Page 5- The Third Sex by Robert G. Lee)
    Poor Ah Toy tells the story of a Chinese man who is hired as a servant by a white woman named Fanny Siddons. Over the course of the story, it becomes clear that Ah Toy has fallen in love with Fanny. Eventually she gets engaged to a white man named Jeremiah Ward, whom Ah Toy confronts, prompting Fanny to fire him. At the end of the story, Ah Toy hangs himself. Fanny marries Ward but continues to visit Ah Toy’s grave for the rest of her life.
    The events in this story are informed by the sensibilities and constraints under which white women authors at the time were operating. On the face of it, it is a cautionary tale about what happens when non-white servants forget their place. However, there are sub-textual clues to a deeper, darker meaning. First off, the use of the word “Toy” in the titular character’s name is not coincidental. While it would have been totally unacceptable for a white author (especially a woman) to explicitly refer to sexual contact between a white woman and a Chinese man, the events in the story suggest and evoke a secret or “illicit” sexual relationship between Fanny and Ah Toy.
    The power dynamic between the two characters is an inversion of standard portrayals of male/female relations in American popular literature at the time; a quiet rebellion on the part of Mary Mote which is reflected in Ah Toy’s name and the fact that he is ultimately disposed of like a used plaything. His defiance and Fanny’s ultimate penitence represent a nod to the impossibility of his situation–something to which Mote’s female readers might have been able to relate in 19th century America.
    Star-Crossed Lovers
    When Micah encountered Mary Mote’s story during his research, he was immediately struck by the similarity between the names Ah Toy and Ah Choy. This was reinforced by the frequency with which Anglo people mispronounce Chinese names. Micah began thinking about what kind of woman would be a fitting romantic partner for a character like Ah Choy, and he arrived at an archetypal romance-on-the-edge, something along the lines of Romeo and Juliet or Bonnie and Clyde. The Wild-West setting lends itself to a particular kind of hard-bitten romance, and Micah was aware of the substantial parallels between the situations endured by Chinese men and white women

    • 33 min
    Rebels

    Rebels

    In some ways, one might think of this episode as containing our version of a land acknowledgement. Immigrants are always trying to listen to natives and learn from them, and I thought Yut Ho and Ah Choy deserved a chance to do so.
    Indian Camp is a fictional waypost in the foothills of the coastal range near Big Sur. The Elder who dwells there is called only by his title, Haya, which is a transliteration of the Esselen word for “Father.” He is a member of the Esselen tribe who, like many other groups, received exceedingly brutal treatment from the governments of Mexico and then the United States as their ancestral home was conquered and fought over by the two imperial powers. They are still not recognized by the US government’s Bureau of Indian Affairs, but they are still here, and you can read more about them on the tribal web site https://www.esselentribe.org/history (https://www.esselentribe.org/history)
    Our group does not have any known association with the living Esselen or Olhone people. However, we have walked on their native land, drunk from the streams from which their ancestors drank, and worshipped the spirits of their homeland in foreign tongues. It behooves us to learn as much as we can about their history and culture.
    California was and is home to a staggering diversity of indigenous cultures. In Los Angeles, the Tongva people are very vocal and active in the reclamation of indigeonous and pre-colonial history. The Tongva are a large, diverse group in themselves, and our group has worked with activists from Tongva communities on other projects. Another LA indigenous group is the Tataviam. UCLA has a very engaging interactive site with information on Indignous LA here: https://www.arcgis.com/apps/MapJournal/index.html?appid=a9e370db955a45ba99c52fb31f31f1fc (https://www.arcgis.com/apps/MapJournal/index.html?appid=a9e370db955a45ba99c52fb31f31f1fc)
    Yut Ho’s story is, in substance, historically accurate. The Taiping Rebellion was fought between the two Opium wars. It was a rebellion against both British and North-Chinese imperialism, and was spearheaded by the Hakka (or Kejia) tribes of the South-Chinese interior. The Huang Family is Hakka, and likely had members on both sides of the conflict. In many ways, the Taiping Rebellion foreshadowed the Communist uprisings of the 20th century in its ideology (populist egalitarianism) and scale (at least 20 million killed, which is comparable to the figure from World War 1.) However, it was far from the first Chinese rebellion against a hated imperial regime. China is huge, with an immense level of linguistic, cultural and ethnic diversity. Every time one group has conquered many of the others to form a dynasty, injustice and resentment have led to large scale rebellions. The Chinese Communist Party is only the latest wave of conquest to subjugate the entire region to the northern capital of Beijing. Their repressive policies are partly founded on fear of rebellion.
    Yut Ho mistakes the Esselen elder for a Chinese elder for good reason: Native Americans and East Asians are closely related not only on a genetic level, but also culturally. Certainly, both my father and I are frequently mistaken for Indigenous men (at least, by indigenous people) but the connection is more than skin deep. During the years my father (that is to say, our narrator, Dr. Huang) spent studying traditional music with Tewa elder Peter Garcia in San Juan Pueblo, NM, he was struck again and again by the similarities in family structure, social etiquette, and mythology between the Tewa and our own Hakka/Baihue family. Mr. Garcia said that the Tewa were Turtle People (a trope also touched on by writer Sherman Alexie) and that long ago, in the old country, the Turtle people had lived alongside the Snake people, but the two groups had quarreled, and the Turtle People had come to this land as a result.

    • 20 min

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5
28 Ratings

28 Ratings

Mizkilla ,

Fantastic!

Really compelling characters and great writing!

Piero Bonissone ,

Story teller needs works

The person reading this is boring and ruins the history; too bad as the story would be interesting

Twinsmom Needs a Break ,

Wonderful voices - a great listen!

The readers have good tone and pitch. They are interesting and emotional without sounding fake or silly. The descriptive language is beautiful and include several metaphors. I also learned a lot of new vocabulary and history. Highly recommended!

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