The Chinese-American Press
H. M. LAI
Most students of the subject date the beginning of the modern Chinese press from the introduction of the concepts of Western jounalism first implemented by the publication of Reverend William Milne Chinese Monthly Magazine in Malacca on August 5, 1815. 1 This magazine and most of its immediate successors, many published by missionaries, were not commercial ventures, copies being distributed gratis; they contained basically expository and evangelistic essays along with a few news items. However, their targets were people in all walks of life, and thus, these publications were in conformance with the precepts of modern journalism. The same progenitor also gave birth to the Chinese-- American press, which evolved parallel to the Chinese--language press in China and Hong Kong and was closely related to and influenced by the latter. Existence within a small ethnic enclave in a dominant Western society, however, led to development of a number of characteristics which in themselves set it apart.
Three decades after Milne's pioneer journalistic effort, the Gold Rush in California attracted thousands of argonauts from areas all over the globe, including China. The Chinese population in the Golden State increased rapidly from about 800 in 1849 to 25,000 in 1852, and a Chinese community was established in San Francisco,, the principal port of entry. The open Western society with flourishing technology and commerce in which the new community found itself provided a favorable environment for the birth of Chinese--American journalism.
San Francisco had expanded from a village to become the largest city in California within a few years during the 1850s. As different groups settled among the growing population, a number of diverse institutions sprang up to fill their needs, including places of worship, clubs and associations, hospitals, newspapers, and so on. These conditions undoubtedly contributed to the motivation to