History of the Chinese Americans in Houston

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According to the American Community Survey, as of 2013, Greater Houston (Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown metropolitan area) has 72,320 residents of Chinese origin.[1]


The first Chinese to enter Houston were 250 men coming in 1870 to do construction work. The 1880 census showed 7 Chinese residents in Houston. Nester Rodriguez, author of "Hispanic and Asian Immigration Waves in Houston," concluded that most of the original men left. The first Chinese business district opened in the early 1900s.[2]

Some Chinese moved from rural Mississippi to Houston. They had operated small stores in Mississippi but they decided to move because many of their previous clientele, African-Americans, left the state during the Great Migration.[3]

In the late 1930s there were fewer than 50 Chinese in Houston.[2] At that time, most families of Chinese ethnicity operated restaurants and small groceries. They usually lived in residences behind their business or residences on the upper floors of the buildings housing their businesses. Due to racial discrimination they were unable to join labor unions or obtain high quality jobs.[3]

The number of Chinese in Houston increased to 121 by the start of World War II. During the war, many Chinese from southern states migrated to take advantage of the economy and the population increased by more than twice its size.[2] There were under 1,000 persons of Chinese origin in 1950.[4]

In the early 1950s the Chinese Merchants' Association moved into an area in the southeastern edge of Downtown Houston in what is today East Downtown, and this Chinatown grew during the 1970s.[2]

In the decade of the 1970s the first schools teaching the Chinese language appeared.[3]

In 1983 there were about 30,000 people of Chinese origin in the Houston area.[4] The first businesses of the new Houston Chinatown opened that year.[5] The new Chinatown began to expand in the 1990s when Houston-area Asian American entrepreneurs moved their businesses from older neighborhoods, especially the "Old Chinatown" on the eastern end of Downtown Houston (in the process of redevelopment), in a search for more inexpensive properties.[6]

In 2000 the estimate of the Chinese-American population in Houston was 24,000. Moises Mendoza of the Houston Chronicle said in 2010 that "the population is thought to have grown by tens of thousands" since the 2000 estimate.[7]

In 2001 Gordon Quan, a member of the Houston City Council, urged Asian Americans and Chinese Americans to become more involved in politics.[8]

In 2004 China Airlines started a flight from Houston to Taipei stopping in Seattle, making it the first Asian carrier to fly to Houston.[9] The airline stated that many Taiwanese companies had offices in Houston.[10] In 2008, China Airlines announced that it was discontinuing service to Houston.[9]

In 2013 Air China announced that it would begin nonstop service from Beijing to Houston. Xu Erwen (许尔文[11]), the consul general of the Consulate-General of China in Houston, said that the new flight "means a lot" to Houston's Chinese population.[1]

In 2015 EVA Air began services to Taipei from Houston.[12] Mayor of Houston Annise Parker stated that the growing Asian population of Houston made this flight an important one.[13]


According to the 2010 Census there were 43,940 persons of Chinese/Taiwanese descent in Harris County, making up 15.7% of all Asians in the county.[14] This figure includes those with origins from Mainland China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong.[15] In 2010 the ethnic Chinese were the second largest Asian ethnic group in Fort Bend County, making up 21% of that county's Asians. As of the same year the ethnic Chinese were the second largest Asian ethnic group in Montgomery County.[14]

In 1980 the ethnic Chinese were Harris County's largest Asian population. In 1990 there were 25,019 persons of Chinese/Taiwanese descent, making up 22.8% of the Asians in the county. By 1990 the Chinese were Harris County's second largest Asian community after the Vietnamese. In 2000 there were 34,673 persons of Chinese/Taiwanese descent, making up 18% of the Asians in the county. If the Indian, Pakistani, and Bangladeshi populations of Harris County are combined into a single group, then in 2000 the Chinese were the third largest Asian ethnic group, slightly behind the second-largest Indian/Pakistani/Bangladeshi group. From 2000 to 2010 the ethnic Chinese population in Harris County grew by 27%.[14]


Southern News Group, a publishing business owned by a Chinese-American, has its headquarters in Houston.[16]

The Southwest Chinese Journal once served ethnic Chinese Houstonians.[17]


The People's Republic of China operates the Consulate-General of the People's Republic of China in Houston in Montrose.[18] The Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Houston of Taiwan (Republic of China) is located in Greenway Plaza. The Taiwanese mission also has the Chinese Cultural Center in the Westchase district.[19][20]

The Chinese Community Center (CCC, Traditional Chinese: 休士頓中華文化服務中心, Simplified Chinese: 休士顿中华文化服务中心, Hanyu Pinyin Xiūshìdùn Zhōnghuá Wénhuà Fúwù Zhōngxīn, "Houston Chinese Culture Service Center"), an IRS 501(c)(3) organization and a United Way affiliate, is located in the Bellaire Chinatown. The facility opened in 1979 as the Chinese Language School.[21] The CCC has several levels of English classes offered daily. As of 2006, at CCC about 80% of the students have university degrees, and the other 20% are the companions of the students with university degrees.[22]


In 1995 ethnic Chinese in the Houston area had a preference for the Republican Party. By 2013, due concerns about discrimination against Asians and immigration policies and the lessening importance of anti-Communism, the political preferences of ethnic Chinese shifted towards Democrats and independents.[23]


Texas Teo Chew Temple

The Texas Teo Chew Temple (Chinese: T: 德州潮州會館本頭公廟, S: 德州潮州会馆本头公庙; Vietnamese: Chùa Ông Bổn) is operated by the Teochew people, including those who originated from Vietnam.[24]

Notable individuals

  • Gordon Quan (Houston City Council member)
  • Martha Wong (Houston City Council member) - Houston Heights[25]
  • KevJumba (Kevin Wu) - Comedian and actor
  • UengMoney (Alan Ueng) - NBA Player and student at Texas A&M University
  • Wujabes (Philip Do) - Master shredder, First Asian American pro Skater.
  • Young Ritch (Ritchie Pham) - #1 VovInam & body builder in the World. 2015 Hair Awards "Best Bun" winner.
  • Fu Kevin (Kevin Fu) - World #1 Amateur poker player. 2015 x games runner up
  • Terry Chang Gee (died 2012) became a volunteer in Chinese American causes. Quan said "He's considered one of the pioneers of the Chinese community."[26]

See also



  1. 1.0 1.1 Collier, Kiah. "It's official: Air China to begin flights to Beijing." Houston Chronicle. January 15, 2013. Retrieved on April 21, 2013.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Rodriguez, Nestor, p. 38.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Brady, p. 20.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Cook, Allison. "The Grand Tour." Texas Monthly. Emmis Communications, January 1983. Vol. 11, No. 1. ISSN 0148-7736. START: p. 98. CITED: p. 111.
  5. Gray, Lisa. "Branding Chinatown: Neighborhood transforms." Houston Chronicle. January 8, 2008. Retrieved on August 11, 2011.
  6. Moreno, Jenalia. "Chinatown no longer." Houston Chronicle. October 17, 2009. Retrieved on October 19, 2009.
  7. Mendoza, Moises. "With a roar, Houstonians ring in Chinese New Year." Houston Chronicle. February 14, 2010. Retrieved on April 22, 2013.
  8. Zheng, Chunhua Zen. "Quan urges Chinese-Americans to become more active in politics." Houston Chronicle. Thursday June 28, 2001. ThisWeek 2. Retrieved on December 13, 2013.
  9. 9.0 9.1 Hensel, Bill Jr. "2 foreign airlines curtailing Houston passenger service." Houston Chronicle. January 12, 2008. Retrieved on December 11, 2013.
  10. "CI To Inaugurate Taipei-Seattle-Houston Service." (Archive) China Airlines. May 12, 2004. Retrieved on December 11, 2013.
  11. " 许尔文总领事会见波多黎各总督." (Archive) Consulate-General of China in Houston. Retrieved on April 21, 2013.
  12. "New Taiwan-Houston flight launches on unique jet." Houston Business Journal. June 19, 2015. Retrieved on October 25, 2015.
  13. "EVA Hello Kitty Shining Star Jet Lands in Houston." Houston Airport System. June 19, 2015. Retrieved on October 25, 2015.
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 Klineberg and Wu, p. 12.
  15. Klineberg and Wu, p. 37.
  16. Snyder, Mike. "Survey provides insight into Chinese community." Houston Chronicle. October 2, 2002. Retrieved on April 22, 2013.
  17. Southwest Chinese Journal (Houston, Tex.), Vol. 6, No. 20, Ed. 1 Wednesday, December 16, 1981 p. 15.
  18. Home. Consulate-General of the People's Republic of China in Houston. Retrieved on January 10, 2009.
  19. "Contact Us." Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Houston. Retrieved on March 11, 2009.
  20. "SECT7-key.gif." Westchase. Retrieved on March 11, 2009.
  21. "Welcome to the Chinese Community Center." Chinese Community Center. Retrieved on March 11, 2009.
  22. Rodriguez, Lori. "TRANSLATING A NEED / Language barriers / Immigrants see English as vital, but work, family limit time to learn." Houston Chronicle. Monday September 18, 2006. A1. Retrieved on December 30, 2011.
  23. Klineberg and Wu, p. 39.
  24. "Texas Teo Chew Temple gala features dragons, dancers and dignitaries" (Archive). International District. Retrieved on September 18, 2014.
  25. "Wong, Martha Wong transcript, 2 of 2" (PDF file). University of Houston. p. 1-3. Retrieved on August 18, 2015.
  26. Quiroz, Erica. "Chinese community pioneer Gee remembered for helping others." Houston Chronicle. September 8, 2012. Retrieved on April 22, 2013.

Further reading

External links