On May 25, 2019, Chinese Historical Society dedicated a plaque to the Lung Kong Tin Yee Association for the important role it played in the lives of Chinese pioneers in the Mid-South. It is also the first historical marker to commemorate Chinese in Memphis’s 200 years of history.
The Chinese arrived in the Mid-South between 1865–1877. In 1869, Memphis hosted a labor convention attended by southern plantation owners to debate hiring Chinese labor to replace freed Negroes. However, the particular circumstances of emancipation and Reconstruction in the United States did not provide the necessary conditions for the widespread use of Chinese labor in the South.
Based on our research, Chinese settled in Memphis in the 1870s first as laundrymen followed by restaurant and grocery store owners. The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 banned Chinese laborers from entering the United States but allowed merchants as an exception. This gave Chinese an opportunity to establish businesses throughout the Mid-South region.
In the 1920s, the Chinese settlers established the Lung Kong Tin Yee Association at 233 South Third Street, later moving to 250 Vance Avenue, to offer mutual assistance in the New World. Most of these settlers came from the Sze Yap region near Canton city in Guangdong Province.
As a community center for Chinese living in Tennessee, Mississippi, and Arkansas, Lung Kong sponsored picnics, zoo trips, birthday and graduation parties, wedding banquets, and Chinese holiday celebrations. It extended mutual assistance to the sick and provided funerals for the deceased. It also served as a boarding house for bachelors who could not be with their families in China after passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882.
This object was featured in the Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA)'s exhibit, "Gathering: Collecting and Documenting Chinese American History," October 17, 2019 - March 22, 2020.
– Chinese Historical Society of Memphis and the Mid-South