Mrs. Zin and the Carrot Tower
Mrs. Zin and the Carrot Tower, Tasty Kitchen Chinese Restaurant, 2013, Grants, New Mexico Digital Image, Manuel Guerzoni (reproduction)
Credit: Courtesy Maxwell Museum

Celebrate the opening of “Earth, Fire and Life: Six Thousand Years of Chinese Ceramics and Chinese American New Mexicans” on Friday, April 8, at 6 p.m. in a free event open to all. 

Chinese immigrants first came to New Mexico in in large numbers in the 1800s and like other immigrant groups, were looking for jobs.

Lee Chin C. 1885, Las Vegas, New Mexico; Cabinet Card, Albumen Print, Crispen Art Parlor (reproduction) Courtesy of the Palace of the Governors Photo Archive
Lee Chin, c. 1885, Las Vegas, New Mexico; Cabinet Card, Albumen Print, Crispen Art Parlor (reproduction) Courtesy of the Palace of the Governors Photo Archives

Legal discrimination against immigrants included the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, designed to prevent the Chinese from establishing themselves in the country. Because of the harsh laws and other discrimination, the Chinese in the “first wave” of immigrants were unable to create lasting communities in New Mexico.

In the early 1900s, a small but permanent Chinese-American community took root in New Mexico. New Mexico’s Chinese-American community became more diverse after World War II. The growing community included refugees from the Communist takeover of mainland China, along with immigrants from Taiwan.

Portrait of a Chinese Woman, 1885-1886, Socorro, New Mexico; Glass negative, Joseph E. Smith (reproduction) Courtesy of The Palace of the Governors Photo Archives
Portrait of a Chinese Woman, 1885-1886, Socorro, New Mexico; Glass negative, Joseph E. Smith (reproduction) Courtesy of the Palace of the Governors Photo Archives

New Mexico’s Chinese Americans are proud to be U.S. citizens, but also remember their ancient heritage. Teapots and other household objects serve as reminders: of life in the old country, of family left behind, of the journey and its challenges, and of accomplishments. As Dr. Siu Wong, a member of the Chinese American community in Albuquerque, said of the tea cups displayed in this exhibit, and brought by her parents from Shanghai:

“Throughout my childhood these tea cups were never used; they were too fragile for everyday life. Instead they were a reminder of my family's affluent lifestyle prior to the Japanese occupation of China in the late 1930s and early 1940s.”

The Maxwell Museum of Anthropology is open Tuesday – Saturday, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.