Because May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Month, I would like to briefly outline some major points that I feel make East Asian Studies critically important for understanding modern society. This is especially true when you live in the United States as East Asians and other people from the Pacific Rim have contributed to the growth and vitality of the United States. This series will focus on a few regions or nations over the course of several blog posts and highlight their major contributions to the larger world around them, or interesting anecdotes about the area.
Asian American and Pacific Islander Month is a celebration of the culture of East Asia and the Pacific islands. It was originally named Asian Pacific American heritage month (APAHM) when it was began in 1978. It was designed to commemorate Asian-American and Pacific Islander contributions to the building of modern American society, specifically the first Japanese immigrants that arrived in the United States in 1843 and the completion of the transcontinental railroad on May 10, 1869, which was predominantly constructed by Chinese and East Asian immigrants. Now we will talk about the first country: China.
China is one of the oldest countries in the world and has had a great influence on culture and art throughout history. With 1.35 billion people, China is the world’s most populous nation and Chinese is an official language of Singapore and Taiwan. In the United States, as mentioned above, predominantly Chinese immigrants built the western half of America’s first transcontinental railroad in 1869, while many Irish immigrants built the eastern half. A lesser-known fact is that Chinese immigrants also built the levies in California’s Sacramento Valley.There are also numerous Chinese contributions today. Classical music contributions, as well as the more stereotypical martial arts, food, and tea are common contributions from modern China. Tai Chi has been shown to have numerous health benefits including stress reduction. Tai Chi is often described as meditation in motion and promotes serenity by using gently flowing movements and is ideal for both old and young. And of course, China is a premier economic power in both production of consumer goods and financial support for countries with emerging markets throughout the world.
In the next post, I will discuss Japan and Korea as well as the contributions of Japanese immigrants in American society.