Broken Families, Broken Promises

Whether before or during the arduous journey to the Golden Mountain or working under discriminatory environment in California, there was never a moment where the Chinese immigrants did not think of family and relatives left behind in China. Always homesick and lonely, detainees describe their longing to be with family back home like in these poems: "I wish I could travel on a cloud far away, reunite with my wife and son. / When the moonlight shines on me alone, the nights seem even longer." (Poem 21); "I reminisce the native village far away, cut off by clouds and mountains."(Poem 38)

Oftentimes because the wealth of the entire village went into sending their most intelligent scholar to the land of opportunity, these young men, and occasionally women, burdened by the expectation of success and sending money home, constantly thought of those at home who sacrificed to ensure his or her a successful future. Poem 34 says,

 For what reason must I sit in jail?

It is only because my country is weak and my family poor.

My parents wait at the door but there is no news.

My wife and child wrap themselves in guilt, sighing with loneliness.

Even if my petition is approved and I can enter the country,

When can I return to the Mountains of Tang with a full load?

From ancient times, those who venture out usually become worthless.

How many people ever return from battles? (Lai 84)


However, their plans and hopes were often delayed or terminated by their detainment on Angel Island as this one prisoner critiques, "I left the village well behind me, bade farewell to my father and mother. / Now I gaze at distant clouds and mountains, tears forming like pearls./ The wandering son longed to be wealthy like Taoszhu. / Who would have known I would be imprisoned on Island?" (Poem 42 from Lai 92). Not understanding a word of English, the detainees patiently and passively waited to be released and finally enjoy the new opportunities of unbounded freedom all the while always faithfully reflecting on and reminded of those back home waiting for news of wealth and success.


Introduction | Voyage | Outpour | Poetry | Conclusion



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