Rene Yung helps to recount experiences of Chinese workers

Rene Yung, the interdisciplinary artist and director of Chinese Whispers, created the multimedia storytelling program, which recounts the experiences and impact of Chinese immigrants during the building of the Transcontinental Railroad. For more information, visit

What led to Chinese Whispers? I was invited to work on a project in Idaho. As a first-generation immigrant, I was amazed by how much I didn’t know about the history of Chinese workers there. That research led me back to San Francisco.

What’s something you were surprised to learn? In Idaho, I discovered that in 1870, 46 percent of the Idaho Territory population was Chinese immigrant workers. Now it’s nothing close to that.

What happened to them?
The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 was a factor. It created a population of “Chinese bachelors,” who couldn’t bring their families, so many of them left the area.

Who were your sources in the Bay Area? It was a combination of organizations and individuals.

What do you hope people take away from the program?
I hope people will gain a greater understanding of that era.

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