The implementation of this dissertation can be actually conducted through choosing some typical early Chinese immigrants and at the same time selecting some classical poems written by those early Chinese immigrants for the vivid and convincing elaboration of the identity of early Chinese immigrants. That is to say, it will explore the identity of early Chinese immigrants through carrying out the analysis of their written poems. Therefore, I will only refer to some typical early Chinese immigrants and select some representative poems of them from my own point of view. With a certain number of early Chinese immigrants and their respective poems chosen, this paper will explore the impact of Chinese traditional culture on those early Chinese immigrants, evaluate the social and historical elements that force immigration through 20th century early Chinese immigrants’ poems and at the same time summarize the diversified cultural identities reflected by those early Chinese immigrants.
The cultural memory that has been displayed in the poetry of Angel Island has haunted the Chinese American Literature. Shawn Wong’s Homebase (1979) claims, “My grandfather’s island is Angel Island . . . It was there that he almost died, and that makes it his island ” (Shuang, 2015). The protagonist dreamed that he himself was his grandfather, who was facing the interrogation at Angel Island. Fae Myenne Ng’s Bone published in the year 1993 recollects the memories of his stepfather being interrogated. Maxine Hong Kingston has also included the reference of Angel Island in her book China Men, which was published in the year 1980. The narrator of the story dreamed that a poem was written by her father on the barrack walls of Angel Island and to protect himself from the American authorities, he has not signed his name under his poetry. Such examples of Angel Island reference can be seen in many other Chinese American literatures. Due to their historical circumscription, the Chinese poetry on the walls of Immigration Station has social and economic mobility as the main subject. Most literature collected in all the three corpuses mentioned above is about the issue of early Chinese immigrants from different perspectives. In addition, only two books involve these poems, including Island: Poetry and History of Chinese Immigrants on Angel Island, 1910-1940 and The Heath Anthology of American Literature, 1000. Therefore, it adopts the qualitative and descriptive approach to review these poems written by early Chinese immigrants in order to explore the characteristics and main topics of these poems. Zhou and Kim (2001) on the other hand explored their identity historically.
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