Chinese Ohioans

From Ohio History Central

Numerous Ohioans are descended from Chinese ancestors. Today, Chinese Ohioans continue to enhance Ohio's cultural and social landscape.

During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, millions of immigrants migrated to the United States of America, hoping to live the American Dream. Before the American Civil War, most immigrants arrived in the United States from Great Britain, Germany, and Ireland. By the 1880s, the home countries of immigrants began to change. Many of the new immigrants to arrive in the United States came from Eastern and Southern European countries, like Romania, Montenegro, Albania, Poland, Hungary, Lithuania, and Czechoslovakia, rather than from Western European countries, like Great Britain, Ireland, and Germany.

In 1860, 328,249 immigrants lived in Ohio. These people accounted for fourteen percent of the state's population. By 1900, the number of immigrants in Ohio rose to 458,734, but the percentage of the population that was foreign-born declined to eleven percent. Most of these immigrants in 1900 came from Germany, Great Britain, and Ireland, yet a growing number of Eastern and Southern Europeans were also migrating to the state.

The first Chinese people to come to Ohio arrived in the mid nineteenth century. Most of these migrants were not native Chinese. These people tended to be descendents of Chinese immigrants who had arrived in the United States one or two generations before and who had primarily settled in California or other West Coast states. Over time, their children or grandchildren began to move eastward. A majority of Chinese Ohioans lived in northeastern Ohio, where they worked in factories or established their own businesses to provide their fellow Chinese Americans with traditional Chinese products. For most of the second half of the nineteenth century, Cleveland, which had the largest Chinese-American population in Ohio, boasted fewer than one hundred Chinese residents. By World War II, the city's Chinese population increased to almost nine hundred people and even had its own Chinatown, which was located on Ontario Street. With the communist takeover of China in the late 1940s, an increase in Chinese immigration occurred to the United States, including to Ohio. Most of these new migrants came from Hong Kong or Taiwan, areas that escaped communism but their residents still feared the ideology's expansion. At the start of the twenty-first century, a small number of Chinese people continued to come to Ohio each year. Many of these Chinese were students, who came to the United States to further their education. In 2000, 30,425 Ohioans claimed Chinese ancestry. These people comprised less than three-tenths of one percent of Ohio's entire populace, but they did live in all of the state's major communities.

Although most Chinese Ohioans were not first generation Americans, they still tried to retain close ties to Chinese culture and their ancestors' homeland. For example, Cleveland's Chinese population formed at least two merchant organizations, the On Leong Tong and the Hip Sing Tong, to encourage Chinese business development. Ohio's Chinese also provided monetary support to China and its people during such conflicts as the Sino-Japanese War. Cleveland's Chinese residents donated more than 180,000 dollars worth of funds to China during this war, and they also lobbied, through the publication of the Voice of China, a quarterly newsletter, the United States government to end any aid to Japan. As late as the 1960s, Cleveland's Chinese held Saturday schools to teach Chinese-American children the Chinese language and history. Interestingly, despite these efforts to preserve Chinese culture, most of Ohio's Chinese forsook traditional Chinese religious beliefs and became Christian. All of Ohio's major cities have at least one predominantly Chinese-Christian Church.

See Also


  1. Van Tassel, David D., and John J. Grabowski, eds. The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1996.