Chinese New Year in Dutch Flat

From the Colfax Sentinel, February 1, 1895

Chinese New Year

A Trip Through Dutch Flat Chinatown

Chinese Are on the Wane

Their Holiday Season Commenced Jan.24 and Will Close Feb. 5

Thursday, January 24th, marked the commencement of what is known as Chinese New Year.

The Chinese holiday season continues for thirteen days, or until Tuesday February 5th, when the closing day is given over to hilarity, bomb throwing and a sort of Olympic sport program.

Thinking that an article on their manner of celebrating the Chinese New Year might prove interesting to some of our readers, on Friday last we visited Dutch Flat, where is located the largest Chinatown in Placer county.

The census, taken as provided by law last spring, shows that Placer county contains a total of 1627 natives of China, 361 of whom were registered at Dutch Flat. In the palmy mining days it is said that Dutch Flat Chinatown had a population of 800. In conversation with those who claim to be posted we learned that the Chinaman strives to pay all his debts before the China New Year commences. It is a well known fact to all that a Chinaman will not transact business on the first day of their holiday season: you cannot buy of him, neither can you sell him anything.

The first thing the Chinaman does when preparing for the annual festivities is to have his face and a portion of his head shaved, his pigtail braided anew and greased, his ears dug out and his neck washed. Some of them take a bath. One greasy Celestial informed us that he was "heap clean;" that he always took a bath once in three months, whether he needed one or not.

The first day of their new year the Chinese devote to feasts and the good things of earth. They don their best clothing and the day is given over to unalloyed pleasure. At 7 p.m. the Sentinel man, accompanied by a personal friend, enlisted the services of the genial Ed. Duffey as guide and started to visit Chinatown. The snow was over four feet deep, but as the town is only a short distance below Dutch Flat Station, we soon reached the main street of the Celestial city.

One of the first places we visited was that of Mrs. Ah Hee. Her husband was once a business man, but has long since passed to the realms of Confucius. We found her devoutly burning punk and incense of sandal wood.

All of the business houses were visited and among them were familiar names such as Wing On Wo, Mow Kee, Ah Kite, Yee Sang, Fook Wah, Wing Ching, Duck Tai, Wee Kee and many others.

At each successive place we were treated with cigars, and packages of candy, nuts and oranges. The bundles Duffey would place on the counter with the remark: "Jim, I lay him here, I ketch him when we come back." Enough bundles were secured to load a delivery wagon. We are of the impression that the cigars were all what is known as "out-door" cigars, at any rate we don't smoke.

Nearly all the houses were profusely decorated. The walls were hung with numerous mottos, a few of which were translated with considerable difficulty. Those translated read as follows: "There's No Place Like Home," "When Shall We Three Meet Again," "What Is Home Without A Mother," "Virtue Is Its Own Reward."

No gambling is indulged in, but just for fun and pastime some of the heathens engaged in Chinese Craps, Tan or Fan Tan, and those who have had advantages of civilization were deeply absorbed in the harmless game of poker. We found many of the inhabitants eating or sitting leisurely about, a number of them, however were "hitting the pipe" (opium) and dreaming of their wives and sweethearts in China.

The joss house and China Mason building were visited, both of which have been buildings of great splendor.

The Chinese population on the Coast is on the wane. Each year finds thousands of them leaving for their native land and but few of them return. As a race they have become addicts to opium, drink, and the tobacco habit. Had they the courage of the average American, they would easily be able, with their 400,000,000 people and the money within the bounds of the Chinese Empire, to conquer the world. But a small number of the little brown men from Japan have put them to rout and practically conquered the most populous nation on earth.