Friday, January 31, 2014

Chinaman's festal period.

The Mansfield Daily Shield out of Mansfield, PA, profiled the Lunar New Year in 1902. The language and the tone are about what one would expect, though the piece does tell us how many Chinese women lived in Pittsburgh at the time:
This is the Chinaman's festal period. His New Year, which lasts for ten days, is being celebrated. It began Saturday. He is doing a little work, and a great deal of feasting and visiting, and entertaining and is so combining business with pleasure as to make a jolly good fellow of himself at just as little cost of time as possible. Any celestial, who does not spend a great deal of money during the ten days that began Saturday is either extremely unfortunate in not having the money or is more close-fisted than the great majority of the frugal race. This year in the Chinese calendar, is away up in the thousands. The Chinese began counting and recording cycles long before the birth of Christ.

In the homes and the business houses of the patriotic Chinese there are decorations and fire works. There is much teak and saki consumed. Fruits and liquid refreshment are always presented to visitors. When Americans call at the homes of the Chinamen, they are given liquors, if they desire to indulge, and cigars. Chinamen have about foregone the dopey of the opium pipe and the little ball. They have shown an increasing preference for the American smoke.

Although there are but two Chinese women in Pittsburgh that is two more than the majority of the inland towns. The females are potent factors in the celebration. At the festivals, the tables are trimmed with flowers, and laden down with Chinese delicacies. Rats, mice and dogs are not included in the menus of the Chinese in this country, and many of them indignantly repudiate the idea of eating them. The familiar dishes, nuts and preserves, sold at Chinese restaurants every where, are in evidence, and many that are so rare and costly that no one would care to buy them. The edible birds' nest, is served to the honored guests of the day, and rare preserves fruits, put up in spices known only to the far off land of Peking are handed around.

In the rooms where the feast is spread the air is heavy with the aromatic smell of burning sandal wood and spices. A Chinese banquet is no inexpensive matter, either, and the little sweet-meats and delicacies of the orient are brought to San Francisco by the shipload, and distributed over the country for this occasion.

As the guests step inside the host's door they will stop and bow profoundly, laugh merrily and greet their host with a "Kone he fa toi," which literally means "good year to you." They are then shown to seats of honor in their host's private apartments, and spend perhaps an hour in talk, and then pass out and call on another friend.
According to the 12th Census of the United States (page 569), 270 Chinese lived in Allegheny county in 1900, and two in in Mansfield's Tioga. In order to both limit prostitution and discourage Chinese men from settling in the United States permanently, Chinese women were usually excluded from entering the country.