Chin-Hong-Dai-at-40-707x1024Chin Hong dai (aka chin lung) was 18 years old when he immigrated to the u.s. in 1881, one year before the Chinese exclusion act was enacted. In san Francisco he worked for his brother, owner of the sing kee rice company, a food import-export business. He sacked rice during the day and studied English at the Chinese Baptist church in the evening. After his brother died from a swimming accident, chin hong dai inherited the sing kee business. He had been a farmer in china and it was not unexpected that he would into farming in America. He made the move to farming shortly after he was introduced to the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta region. He was born and raised and farmed in the Pearl River Delta in Southern China. He recognized the similar fertility of the two delta regions and was confident about farming in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta area.Chin Hong Dai, knowing how to speak English, was able to negotiate with white land owners in the San Joaquin area and leased over one thousand acres of farm land on the basis of sharecropping arrangements. He grew a variety of vegetables, as well as hay for his farm horses. Potato was his main crop. He was so successful that he was dubbed the “Chinese Potato King.” He hired a few reliable men who were from his village to work year-round on the farm. The seasonal workers were mainly Chinese men from the Pearl River Delta region and some Latinos.

Chin Hong Dai continued to do well in his farming enterprise until California passed the “Alien Land Law” in 1913. This law had two major prohibitions: (1) It forbids aliens who are ineligible for naturalization to buy farm land and (2) aliens who are ineligible for naturalization are allowed to lease farm land for no more than three years. This law was aimed specifically at Asian immigrants, for they were the ones who were forbidden by federal law to become naturalized citizens of the U.s. Forced out of farming in California, chin Hong Dai moved to Oregon to continue farming, but in 1921 Oregon passed the same restrictive land law as California. Unable to continue farming, he returned to San Francisco, where he lived for a number of years operating a luggage business before rejoining his wife in Macao, China in the mid-1930’s. There he lived out his life in relative comfort, passing on at the age of seventy-nine.

>> Back to Many Faces