Chinese Six Companies

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Chinese Six Companies A group of six organizations in San Francisco that assisted the many Chinese laborers who immigrated to the United States in the 19th century, protected them and helped them find jobs, mainly building the railroads or working in laundries. Most of the Chinese immigrants to the United States borrowed money from brokers to pay their passage, which they had to repay with interest. The Six Companies were established along the lines of traditional clan and regional associations in China, where all the members of a single clan claiming a common ancestor usually resided in one village or a cluster of adjacent villages. When Chinese laborers immigrated to the United States, they maintained their lineage connections and established clan and regional associations, known as hui-gan (hui-kuan), for self-protection. These became known as the Chinese Six Companies. The first company was the Zhonghua Gongsuo (Chung-hua Kung-so; Public Hall of the Middle Kingdom), established by Chinese immigrants on Sacramento Street in San Francisco. When a ship arrived from China, the company sent an interpreter to greet the immigrants and to offer them free rooms, water and fuel for about a month, until they could find jobs. By the early 1850s there were so many Chinese in San Francisco that the company could not take care of everyone, so members of various clans organized their own companies to help relatives who emigrated from their own districts in China. The Six Companies assisted their immigrant members, helped the sick and poor and arranged to send the bodies of deceased Chinese back to China. In their halls, members could perform rituals to honor their deceased ancestors in China, known as ancestor worship, and could conduct business negotiations. The Six Companies usually elected as their leaders Chinese businessmen

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