Chinese Civic Organizations

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Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association

In old Chinatown, associations were mainly in the form of clan groups or merchant groups (Tongs). The main purpose of these organizations was to help the workers gain employment, help them with social work and hold economic activities. They even went as far as to shield Chinatown from outsiders to maintain the integrity of the community. One of the most important social organizations for the Chinese was the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association. The CCBA was a group representing sixty organizations in Chinatown, including family associations, guilds, tongs etc. It ran an unofficial government in Chinatown.[1] For more information on the CBC, go to our Chinese_Immigrants_and_Politics section.

New York Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association
New York Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association

Chinese Hand Laundrymen Alliance

During the years of the Depression of 1920’s, the Chinese laundrymen felt compelled to organize during the depression.[2] Due to the changing technology and the economy of the time, Chinese Laundrymen were in distress. During this time, the large scale Laundromats convinced the Board of Aldermen to “pass a laundry ordinance establishing a $25 yearly registration fee and requiring laundries run by one person to post a $1000 bond upon applying for license.” Since the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association did not help the laundrymen, they decided to organize the Chinese Hand Laundrymen Alliance, bought a lawyer and forced the Board of Aldermen to reduce the registration fee and bond prices.

Chinese Hand Laundrymen Alliance
Chinese Hand Laundrymen Alliance

Fang (House)

In 1888, the all-purpose store-centers in Chinatown were now run by mutual aid and protection societies known as Fang (house), organized by kin or area of origin. These houses provided temporary lodging and financial assistance, along with sponsoring social events and cultural festivals. They also helped to provide proper funerals for deceased members, shipping them back to Canton or to the home village for a truly proper burial.[3]

In response to the Chinese Exclusion Act, New York's Chinatown turned further inward. In 1883, the city's fang and clan associations combined into one large organization called the Zhonghua Gong Suo, a group that served as Chinatown's local (but unofficial) government for the next century or so. This same organization later became the famous CCBA which is mentioned above.


  1. Foner, Nancy. New Immigrants in New York. Columbia UP, 2001. (Page 156)
  2. Foner, Nancy. New Immigrants in New York. Columbia UP, 2001. (Page 186)
  3. Burrows, Edwin G., and Mike Wallace. Gotham. A History of New York City to 1898. Oxford UP, 1998. (Page 1129)