In 1902, the Santa Clara Chinese community banded together to raise funds and buy a plot of land to bury their dead. As they were not allowed to bury their dead in existing cemeteries, this land was passed down and maintained by the Santa Clara Chinese American community for over 100 years to the modern day.
The historic Chinese American Cemetery of San Jose is located on Curtner Avenue, adjacent to the Oak Hill Cemetery. It is a small plot of land, 140 feet by 160 feet, with an altar and a burner for paper offerings. The cemetery contains more than 249 graves of early Chinese pioneers in the country.
Today, our goal is to preserve the history of this cemetery through various means. These include archiving and recording oral histories of members of the organization to provide resources for current and future historians, building a monument memorializing the Chinese Americans who lived and died in Santa Clara and those still in the cemetery, and engaging with local youths to keep the story alive in the next generation.
The South Bay Historic Chinese American Cemetery Corporation is responsible for maintaining the cemetery's appearance, educating the community at large about the cemetery's historic significance, and adding only those improvements that will not detract from its historic value. The corporation is governed by a Board of Directors and several officers, and anyone who agrees with its goals can apply for membership.
Ching Ming Jie is an annual event held at the cemetery, where people pay their respects to the deceased by cleaning graves, burning incense, and offering paper offerings. The holiday dates back to ancient China, and in America, it has a specific history in the Chinese American community. In the past, Chinese Americans were not allowed to buy burial plots in most cemeteries, and their graves were often desecrated. However, Ching Ming Jie became an opportunity to reclaim the Chinese American identity and honor their ancestors. Today, the holiday is still widely celebrated in the Chinese American community and beyond, and it is an essential part of the cemetery's history.
The South Bay Historic Chinese Cemetery, located in San Jose, California, has a rich and unique history. Here's a timeline of some of the significant events
San Jose declares Chinatown a “public nuisance” and an act of arson destroyed the community, displacing 1,400 members of the Chinese Community
Members of the Santa Clara Chinese Community banded together to raise funds and buy a plot of land to bury their dead. The land for the cemetery was deeded to representatives of the Chinese American community.
Chinese Americans were active in the strawberry and flower-growing industries, as well as working in canneries and fruit drying plants. Frank Lowe takes on stewardship of the land and begins working with the community to preserve the history. Donations were small and from many community members.
The South Bay Historic Chinese American Cemetery Corporation was established as a non-profit corporation to preserve the cemetery's historic significance.