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Chinese Influence on American Culture

Updated February 21, 2017

The first Chinese immigrants began moving to the United States in 1820, but immigration did not become popular until the 1848 California Gold Rush when thousands of Chinese nationals moved to the Western United States. Despite a ban on Chinese immigration between 1885 and 1943, Chinese culture has influenced modern American culture.

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Chinese nationals brought their strong and unique food tradition to the United States and were successful in implanting it in American culture. Indeed, in 2007 there were 40,000 Chinese restaurants in the United States, which is more than the combined number of McDonalds and Taco Bell restaurants, according to National Public Radio. The Chinese cuisine brought by immigrants has transformed into a fusion of American and Chinese dishes. Common Chinese dishes in the United States that are unavailable in China include sweet and sour pork, chop suey and General Tso chicken. The fortune cookie is also a synthesis of pastry available in America and Chinese techniques.


Chinese culture has a strong vein of herbal remedies and medicine that has been transmitted to American culture. Today, Chinese herbal remedies are common on the United States including the use of echinacea when sick or the common use of acupuncture to relieve tension and pain. In fact, today many health insurance plans cover acupuncture.


Chinese spirituality has influenced mainstream America through Zen Buddhism. According to a Pew Research Center survey, Buddhism accounted for the fourth largest religious belief in the United States in 2007. A number of these Buddhists are American converts to the religion.


Feng Shui is a code of Chinese aesthetics that has dictated the way in which a building in positioned on the land, furniture is positioned in a room and plants are put into a garden. Today, modern American designers and architects have embraced feng shui. They claim that its properties of heaven and earth allow for a more relaxed environment.


Several words commonly used in the United States have their origin in the Chinese language. For example, chop is used to hurry another person. In Cantonese the words mean to hurry or that something is urgent. Additionally, chow is used by Americans to refer to food. In Cantonese, chowchow literally means food. Finally, ketchup in Cantonese means tomato juice or sauce.

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About the Author

Kaye Wagner has been working in the fields of journalism and public relations since 2006 and is a recipient of a National Hearst Award. She is particularly interested in home-and-garden projects, as well as beauty and fashion writing. An avid traveler, she also writes travel reviews and guides. Wagner earned a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Brigham Young University.

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