Chapter 6

Chapter 6 studies two largest Fuzhounese in Chinatown, – the Church of Grace to the Fujianese and the New York House Church. Both of these congregations exclusively serve the Fuzhounese immigrant community within the Chinese ethnic enclave of Chinatown. From this chapter, it is apparent that language proves to be a significant barrier with the Fuzhounese constituency. In Ling Liang Church, a group of Fuzhounese immigrants formed the Fujian Agape Fellowship, which shared space with the main congregation of Cantonese speaking people, but mostly remained separate, due to the exclusive use of the Fuzhounese dialect in the gatherings.

Not does language prevent the various communities of Chinatown to congregate, it proves to be an obstacle as these groups strive to flourish and be recognized within the legalities of the government. A lack of English fluency or literacy within the increasing Fuzhounese immigrant community proves to be a continuing setback as they struggle to plow through the tedious process of registering a religious institution, as well as getting the permission to legally operate.

The Fuzhounese community’s adaptation to comply with government regulations has led to a disparity between the Christian rituals in America and China. One aspect in conflict is the question of the frequency of having communion. Back in the homeland, communion occurs on a weekly basis, but the long and demanding working hours in New York leads to a hectic schedule, leading to a decrease in attendance for the communion. Thus, congressional members have considered having communion occur on a monthly basis instead.

The hardships of maintaining religious traditions gives an outcome opposite of what the Fuzhounese immigrant community desires, for it makes the congregation less appealing to join for clerical leaders. The struggle to be an official institution to draw in religious leaders that are lacked is only backfired by its failure to be continuous in belief and practice from China to the United States.

Overall, language imprisons immigrant communities from actual coexistence and cooperation. Chapter 6 displays the hardship that arises within an ethnic enclave of communities that are separate and unwilling to budge in one’s culture because of the limitations language provides. The perception on Chinatown is very deceptive, for they people actually are not one, but are divided by dialect. An effort to learn and use other dialects or languages would make practicing religion in Chinatown less of an issue.

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The Language of Religion

Traditional Jewish teaching encourages an individual to study the week’s Torah portion three times throughout the week- twice in Hebrew, and once in translation. Why in translation? Because though Hebrew is the original language of the Bible, we understand that not all Jews speak it fluently. Therefore, Judaism recognizes that you should study additionally in the language in which you are most comfortable.

This chapter of God in Chinatown also addresses the topics of language and understanding. As Fuzhounese immigrants came to the United States, they were thrown into a world of predominantly Cantonese speaking Chinese. Reverend Liu Yangfen, Chen Shufan, and other Fuzhou natives recognized this dilemma and created a congregation, named The New York Christian Church of Grace to the Fujianese. Through the use of the unique Fuzhou dialect in its worship, this church created a more comfortable religion and communal environment for recent Fuzhounese immigrants, and also projected the Fuzhounese identity into the wider Chinatown community.

St. George’s Episcopal Church, which has been the focus of my fieldwork in this class, also emphasizes the importance of language. Every Sunday, it offers worship in English, in Spanish, and in Chinese (where there was once only English mass) so that each member of the diverse Flushing Christian community can feel comfortable in their prayers and in the church environment.

Sociologist Steven Warner suggests that “because religion is so important to an immigrant group, and because the group’s circumstances have been changed so drastically by migration, the religion must take on new forms to be capable of survival in a new land” (157). All three of these religious communities recognize this fact and have thus adapted to the changing times and peoples. I believe it is through such analysis and adaptation that such communities and religions will remain strong.

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More St. George’s Pictures

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St. George’s Episcopal Church – Pictures

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Islam Notes

Notes I took down while we were at the Muslim Center of NY.

  • People come everyday. Students come after school to learn about the Quran
  • Majority of the people are from the South Continent, which includes India, Pakistan. Some Europeans attend as well.
  • Around 3 generations of immigrants in America that attend.
  • Congregants hardly live around the mosque.
  • The mosque a functional pre-k to eighth grade school downstairs. Parents build a relationship with this specific mosque as they pick up their children
  • Sunday – Quran School
  • On a regular basis not that many people come. It depends on the circumstance, such as job obligations. People cannot afford to attend everyday, 5 times a day.
  • Friday is the largest prayer and between 500-600 people come. There is usually something wrong if you miss Friday prayer.
  • Unofficially the mosque was started in 1975 in a small apartment. In 1997 the official mosque was built, as the center purchased nearby houses. It was developed to satisfy the needs of the community.
  • People do go to other mosques. If they have free time they choose to come to this specific mosque. In fact people are invited to offer prayer at other mosques. There are many other mosques in flushing. 2 mosques at northern; 1 at 73rd avenue, and 2-3 mosques east of here.
  • These mosques do not plan events together but they do let other mosques know about the events. There Is some competition among mosques as they compete for students on education.
  • The school underneath the mosque was started because of community needs.
  • The mosque also resolves marriage issues, offer consultations, and holds marriages.
  • There is an Islamic requirement for marriage and couples need certification to wed them.
  • The mosque does not offer divorce. In Islam, when the women brings up the initial thought of divorce or says she wants a divorce, the couple is already divorced. Over here, married couples must go to city hall.
  • Indian, Pakistan, and Afghanistan congregants speak Urdu and Arabic
  • Services are offered in English to avoid problems. Teenagers know primarily English. Sometimes pesdu and urdu are spoken.
  • This is a Sunni mosque. A majority of NY muslims are Sunnis
  • The difference between Sunnis and Shiites is a historic difference. Alli, who was a cousin of the prophet was the cause of this division. When the prophet died, the Shiites believed that Alli should assume his position next. The Sunnis disagreed. Approximately 5% Shiites in NY. Even in muslim countries, there is a majority of Sunnis.
  • Some people in Iraq/Bahran are Shiites.
  • There are 5 dated prayers each day. 5:00AM-5:15AM; 1:00PM-1:15PM; 6:15PM; 7:15PM; 9:30PM
  • There are two major muslim holidays. Ramadan – celebration of breaking the fast. And the second is in memory of prophet Abraham. It is a holiday where animals are sacrificed.
  • Muslims follow the lunar calender.
  • After 9/11 the center experienced vandalism on its property.
  • People of the community looked at muslims with doubt. Now, a majority of people have good relations with muslims. Police also has developed good relations with the muslims at this center.
  • At this center a majority of the people are from the middle, lower class, with jobs such as car drivers or shop owners.
  • In Long Island, the people usually have a higher social status.
  • Males and female are separated during prayer but they listen to the same prayer. They face Mecca with no shoes on. When they start they placed their hands to their faces. The prayer timings are derived from the Quran. It is normal for the Imam to be in front and children to form the second completing line but this is not a must.
  • The person who leads the prayer is equal to the congregants in the eyes of god. He only leads the prayer because he is more educated.
  • Everyone must wear modest clothing.
  • People can pray anywhere even at home. The place just has to be clean and they have to face mecca.
  • Job of Imam is usually male and he leads both the male and females. In this mosque people were praying on different floors but there were speakers so everyone could hear the prayer.
  • Men and women are separated because a place of worship is a place of worship only. If male and women are together, it creates distraction. Separation is not mandary.
  • In Islam, men and women are equal under god.
  • Friday service uses televisions. Muslim concept – Friday is special and Muslims should not miss it. There is a similar concept for Christians on Sundays and Jews on Saturdays.
  • Clothing should be clean, modest and preferably white. Men do not have to cover head.
  • Prophet Mohammad covered his head. Customs such as covering your head are out of respect and love to the prophet.
  • When you face Mecca, you are directing your intentions toward God.
  • You are discouraged to eat garlic/onion before the prayer. You should not do anything that may disturb others.
  • The mosque offers several forms of service including marriage, child birth celebrations, and memorization of Quran celebrations.
  • People pray individually if they miss group prayers.
  • In Islam there are 5 pillars of faith.
  • All prophets and messengers are equal.
  • There are programs that are referred to “Opening the Doors” to inform others about Islam.
  • Alms giving (charity) Is a part of Islam.
  • There are no threats at this mosque currently. At other mosques, 9/11 has had a larger impact on children and many people call other muslims terrorists.
  • Muslim kids become confused about their identity because they do not want to be seen as terrorists or different from other kids.
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Chinatown Chapter 5

Before our study of Chinatown I never payed much attention to it nor to the religious communities that thrive there simply because I never visited that area.  Before reading this book I didn’t know which religion would dominate Chinatown.  However, after coming to Queens College and after going on our Flushing tour I was surprised to see how dominate Christianity was among Chinese immigrants in New York City.  However, now I remember the countless stories I read and saw of missionaries in China.  As a result, I was surprised that there were still popular Buddhist and Daoist temples located in Chinatown because I expected the book to spotlight on Christian churches in Chinatown.

However, I’m going to focus on what all these places of worship in Chinatown have in common whether they are Buddhist, Daoist, or Christian and that is they help Chinese immigrants who come to New York City retain a familiar connection to their homeland.  This is evident because congregations from each church reflect certain immigration patterns from China.  This is similar to the Italians in Italian Harlem because the familiar domus centered community in their church helped preserve the values upheld by the Italian community which was associated with their homeland.

One particular temple in this chapter which shows another example of a religious community helping immigrants in New York City keep a connection to their homeland was the He Xian Jun Buddhist Temple.  This book states the founder for this temple was a man who called himself Master Lu who claimed to be divinely inspired and have a direct connection to G-d.  However, he does seem like a suspicious character supported by many questionable actions on Master Lu’s part but that’s another story.  Master Lu helps his congregation maintain ties to China by sending money back to China to help build temples, regularly making visits to the congregation back in China, but also by providing services to the new and unfortunately sometimes illegal Chinese immigrants who come to New York City.

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Chapter 5

Considering the Chinese population in New York is so vast, I found it interesting that there were no in depth studies of the religion of these people prior to guest’s work. I also found it interesting how many different Chinese religious institutions there are in the city. There are sixty-two institutions in total for one people.  I also found it interesting how he showed how each wave of immigration is represented by a certain congregation. By looking at the people there guest mentioned when the people came to America and where from.

From what I can tell the focus of this chapter was the fuzhounese religious communities and he specifically spoke about three  different places of worship one a Buddhist temple called he xian jun Buddhist temple and the other two are churches. One entitled the temple of the holy thanksgiving and the other called st josephs. I found it really cool how even though these communities are on two different continents, there still very connected. For example master lu sends money back to china to help build roads and build.a temple. Moreover, he goes back and visits and holds services for the people there. He also helps people who have just come to the country if the temple has money available. The temple of the holy thanksgiving also helps people when they first arrive. They have rooms within for people to stay temporarily. They also help their congregants find jobs around the country. Chinese food restaurants seem to be the most popular. These people are all illegals though which means that it benefits both the owners who get cheap labor and the illegals who get a job. Although this hurts real Americans who have legal citizenship, it helps these people who have come to a foreign country. It helps them make a live for themselves, as well as stay connected with those back in the mainland of China.


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Chapter 5

Chapter 5 examines the complexity of the religious institutions in Chinatown. Although its nature is focused on a condensed location, many of these characteristics are also embodied in the cases we have studied throughout the class. The Fuzhounese involvement of the Assumption of the Blessed Mother procession is reminiscent of the Italian Harlem’s procession of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel. The undocumented status of the immigrants living in Chinatown is reminiscent of those who immigrated from Mexico. Even ethnic division is seen in the reading, for the Fuzhounese is still a separate group from the other ethnic groups in the Transfiguration Church despite attempts to bring them together, much like the Lubavitch and African American communities in Crown Heights, though the former example is not as extreme. Even the Muslim Day Parade ( La Antorcha as well) is remembered whilst reading this chapter, for many small processions take place in the Lower East Side that may not amount to the St. Patrick’s Day parade, but serve as awareness of their presence in the community.


Chinatown is a microcosm that shows how immigrants adapt to American opportunity in order to advocate their existence through a religious institution. However, that also means that the issues that arise as a result are magnified within the community. Thus, it is important that there is an increased understanding of the nature of the immigrants that arrive so that there can be an avoidance to the problem. One measure that needs to be reconsidered is the way religious organizations are registered, for many are multi-faceted to be put under one category. Additionally, there are many institutions that remain undocumented in record and on the map. In order to flourish, there must be a more accessible way to make all of the institutions official. Then, it might be easier to estimate and study the undocumented immigrants that belong to them.

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#6 Chinatown’s Religious Landscape

In this chapter we delve deeper into the religious communities of New York City, focusing particularly on religious institutions that are identified as Chinese. The study that was mentioned consists of eighty-four religious institutions, of which fifty-nine were identified as exclusively Chinese. In addition, fourteen of these congregations specifically serve the Fuzhounese in Chinatown, which is roughly 23% of the total Chinese congregations. It was mentioned that the religious communities reflect the diversity of the Chinese diaspora, which is indicative of the number of early Chinese immigrants from mainland China that were Fuzhounese.

The other immigrant groups brought different linguistic traditions, cultural backgrounds, economic resources, and religious experiences. Moreover these differences, especially language, were used with separate religious services within the same institution as a determined effort to “stick to one over the others.” Earlier in the book as we explored cultural boundaries, we learned of the distinct types of Chinese, and of the barriers that exist among these groups. One barrier, for instance, is dialect, which is often the deciding factor that distinguishes other Chinese from one another. In terms of the reading, religious communities sometimes experienced a blending of tradition, as religious services would be given in different combinations of languages. This is one such instance worth mentioning, in which cultural barriers are overcome as a result of religion.

As we progress through the chapter the idea of religious life being representative of the Chinese surfaces again. A short section of the chapter is devoted to details on a survey studying the number of Chinese who associated with a particular religion. The results were laughable and not representative of the actual demographic. This result was to be expected, as Chinese religious life and practice in New York was much broader than previously defined notions. Individual, family, and business-oriented religious expressions were not easily identifiable in a U.S. context. In Chinese customs there exists a kitchen god known as Zao Jun. Offerings of food and incense are made to Zao Jun on the third day of the eighth lunar month. Rituals such as these are also representative of Chinese religious customs; however, many Chinese would still not identify themselves as Protestants, Buddhists, or Daoists.

The congregations that are considered here serve to emphasize the Chinese immigrant’s response to a harsher foreign context. These religious communities are created for both survival and emotional purposes. Although many Chinese may not necessarily identify themselves with a religious group, these customs, traditions, and home-practiced beliefs, are in a sense , part of cultural and religious identity.

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The Link

In chapter 5 we are faced with the question of religion and what defines how religious one is. Coming from communist China where religion was very oppressed, many immigrants were unsure of their religious affiliation. This was partly due to the fact that in China a religious institution had to be approved and affiliated with the government so at times people would have Buddhism and Taoism mixed together under a Buddhist affiliation.

A common theme explored in this book along with everything else we’ve read this semester is the purpose of religion on immigrants. Religion brings them together and forms a community. As stated, “The religious community…clearly serves as a site in the immigrant journey for fellow believers” (Guest 136). These communities became “central networks for survival, both material and emotional” (Guest 145). They also helped serve as a place where people could go to find more information on “jobs, housing, health care, and coping mechanisms for dealing with any of the struggles of daily life” (Guest 131).

One interesting thing that I noticed is that these communities also form a link between the mother country and the new world. A great example being the He Xian Jun Temple. Master Lu built 2 of them, one in New York and the other in Fuqi Village. Master Lu was only able to get to New York safely with the help of the Chinese people and of course He Xian Jun, and I found it very gracious of him to pay back every single penny that he borrowed and then build these 2 temples in honor of He Xian Jun. It shows that he wasn’t there to con them and was truly a devout man.

After reading one of his little excerpts a question arose in my mind that was also sparked partly by our class discussions; US citizenship. Master Lu has lived solely as a permanent resident for 11 years without applying to become a US citizen simply because he can’t speak the language. Now, is that wrong of him? Should he make the effort to learn English and become a citizen if he chose to live and work here?


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