Chinese in San Jose and the Santa Clara Valley

A Book Sponsored by the Chinese Historical and Cultural Project


The fertile Santa Clara Valley–once called the Valley of Heart’s Delight and later Silicon Valley–has long been home to a substantial Chinese population. Like other immigrants, they arrived seeking opportunity and armed with survival instincts and the ability to persevere, but the struggles they faced were unique. From 1866 to 1931, five distinct Chinatowns existed in San Jose, each one devastated by mysterious fires or stifled by unjust laws. Early Chinese in the region labored relentlessly, building railroads and levees and toiling as laundrymen, grocers, cooks, servants, field hands, and factory workers. In the 20th century, new industries replaced agriculture, and an influx of Chinese invigorated the valley with innovative ideas, helping it emerge as a leader in technology.

This exceptional story is told through compelling images from personal collections and institutional photographic archives under the auspices of the Chinese Historical and Cultural Project (CHCP), whose founders, the late Lillian Gong-Guy and Gerrye Wong, are the principal authors of this book.

Chinese in San Jose and the Santa Clara Valley is available online (shop at to fundraise for CHCP), at the gift shop at History Park San Jose, and in various branches of the San Jose Public Library.