Montana Historical Society

Big Sky ~ Big History

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No Need to Rush: The Chinese, Placer Mining, and the Western Environment

By Liping Zhu

Download and read the article in PDF format.


The boom-and-bust situations that mining produced

Ethnic and racial groups in the American West-- then and now Push and pull factors in human migration


1)    What two gold discoveries does the author use as bookends for the gold rush time period?

2)    According to the author, what was so significant about the Chinese versus other ethnic group prospectors?

3)    How and why did Australia learn of the California gold discovery before the news reached the East Coast of the United States?

4)    What event in China prompted people to leave their homeland for the California gold fields?

5)    As early as the 1500s and 1600s, Chinese ventured to foreign lands in search of economic opportunities. In what countries were they then seeking fortune?

6)    Describe the natural process that releases gold from igneous rock.

7)    What are the differences between placer mining and hard-rock mining?

8)    What were some of the benefits of forming a mining company?

9)    How did the Chinese fare when it came to adapting to frontier conditions?   What made them succeed or fail?

10)    What causes scurvy? How did the Chinese prevent it?

11)    Explain the traditional medical practices that the Chinese used to treat illness and injury.

12)    Describe in detail the Chinese relationship with water. Why did they know so much about it? How did their use of it in China differ from their use in America?   How did they benefit from their knowledge?

13)    How were Chinese miners able to take a mining claim that white Americans believed was played out and make it prosperous?

14)    Why did the shift from placer to lode mining lead to a decline in the number of Chinese miners?

15)    Why were Chinese immigrants so skilled at building? What techniques did they employ when encountered with a dearth of timber?

16)    Why were Chinese miners so quick to exploit and destroy America's natural resources?

17)    How are the Chinese acknowledged for helping change the western landscape, both positively and negatively?


Watch the video entitled From the Far East to the Old West: Chinese and Japanese Settlers in Montana, Mansfield Center for Pacific Affairs - 29 minutes. (Check your library. Copies of the video and study guide were distributed free of charge to all Montana public schools.)



Taiping Rebellion

Placer mining

Lode mining



Igneous rock

Chinese Exclusion Act