History & Importance
The land for the cemetery was deeded to representatives of the Chinese American community in 1900.
However, this was not the first Chinese American cemetery in San Jose.
The previous Chinese American cemetery was forced to move because of urban development,
and the bodies were moved to the existing Chinese American cemetery or shipped back to China.
The reason for the establishment of the cemetery was that early Chinese immigrants were not allowed
to be buried in the other cemeteries. The cemetery contains more than 249 graves of early Chinese
pioneers in the country.
The Historic Chinese American Cemetery of San Jose is important principally as one of the last
few remaining Chinese American historic sites in the country.
San Jose once had a thriving Chinese American community. The first Chinese pioneers arrived in
Santa Clara County during the Gold Rush. Most were on the way to the southern mines in the
Mother Lode; but some stayed in San Jose as suppliers for the Chinese miners. Others worked in the
New Almaden Mines in San Jose.
Later, they worked on railroad construction, land reclamation, and agriculture. They cleared fields
and built walls with the rocks in Los Gatos. They worked on flood control and built leavees in
Alvisio. Their careful labor was the mainstay of the strawberry industry and the flower growers.
They also worked in canneries and the fruit drying plants.
The early chinese pioneers were not all laborers. In 1870 the community included 25 merchants,
5 grocers, 16 musicians, 2 tailors, 12 carpenters, 6 butchers, 2 restaurants operators, 8 house
lodging workers, 4 fishermen, an astrologer, 6 employment officers, and an interpreter. Later,
the Bay Side Cannery, owned by Chinese Americans, was established in Alviso.
Early Chinese pioneers not only worked in San Jose, but they suffered the pain and disadvantages of
discrimination and prejudice. San Jose was the place where the Anti-Chinese Labor Leaque were
formed in the 1870's but the early Chinese Americans did not suffer in silence. One laundry-man
in Santa Clara brought a lawsuit against racial bigots who tried to drive him out of business.
San Jose also produced patriots like Sing Kee, who was awarded a medal for his bravery in Europe
during World War I. The hard work, bravery, and strength of the early Chinese pioneers made it
possible for today's Chinese Americans to live a good life in San Jose. It is only right that we
honor them by preserving their history and the historic sites they have left us.