The role of the huiguan is an interesting topic for discussion. It is an association that was created to provide mutual aid. Qin states that “there were striking similarities in the functions carried out by the San Francisco huiguan and those elsewhere” (28). Differently put, no fundamental changes to the way it functions were made. The establishment of these organizations was necessary for Chinese immigrants in America.
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It is paramount to understand the reasoning behind the creation of such associations, and their primary functions. The huiguan regulated economic relations among members and helped with loans. Each member has a list of duties, and there is a set of rules that should be followed. It is hard to argue with the importance of the huiguan from the point of view of religion. Each one had an altar that was visited by every member. Ceremonies were highly necessary because they are an essential part of the culture. Reburials were also an important element of the tradition, and the huiguan helped to organize them. It should be said that it was the only way for immigrants to cooperate at that time. Jurisdiction is one of the essential functions of the huiguan (Wang 105). However, it should be said that some influential individuals and groups were able to control such organizations. Every member of an association was supportive of others and was ready to offer any kind of help.
Disputes among the people were solved with the help of organization (Lai 46). It is interesting that the decisions of the huiguan were respected more than the decisions of the Amercian courts (Quin 30). Elections were also conducted, and voting was a necessary process (Chen 72). The amounts of members were astounding. One of the biggest accomplishments is the organization of the publishing of newspapers in Chinese. Membership dues were also highly necessary, and the funds were spent according to interests of members (Chen 72). And it was often a place of charity for those who were sick or not able to work. Lai states that “each huiguan maintained a cemetery, provided medicine and burial expenses for the poor, and donated passage money to China for the infirm and indigent elderly” (47). In other words, some funds were spent to help those in need.
However, there were some issues associated with such organizations. It should be said that there were some disagreements and fights because of antagonism between families (McKeown 79). Numerous conflicts between clans often led to severe problems. These confrontations were very controversial and caused anti-Chinese movements (Lai 49). Also, there were some issues with the membership eligibility, and connections were also limited compared to professional associations (Tan 133). Nevertheless, positive aspects are dominating, and such associations had a mostly positive influence of communities. It can also be said that every member of such organization felt like there is a connection between the huiguan and China.
In conclusion, the establishment of these organizations was essential for early Chinese American communities. One of the most important factors is that these associations voiced their opinions about the critique of the Chinese community. However, it should be said that there were issues such as antagonism between clans and others. It helped to organize activities and had many crucial functions. Overall, the establishment of this system was necessary, and a part of the tradition.
Chen, Yong. Chinese San Francisco, 1850-1943. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2000. Print.
Lai, Mark H. Becoming Chinese American. Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira Press, 2004. Print.
McKeown, Adam. Chinese Migrant Networks and Cultural Change. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2001. Print.
Qin, Yucheng. The Diplomacy of Nationalism. Honolulu, HI: University of Hawaii Press, 2009. Print.
Tan, Chee-Beng. Routledge Handbook of the Chinese Diaspora. London, United Kingdom: Routledge, 2013. Print.
Wang, Xinyang. Surviving the City: The Chinese Immigrant Experience in New York City, 1890-1970. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2001. Print.