Performances honor 1871 Chinatown massacre victims

Greta Taylor
Staff Writer

The glow of lanterns illuminated Scripps College’s Bowling Green Lawn at the Chinatown Massacre Commemorative Performance on Oct. 21.

It was in remembrance of the 20 Chinese victims that were lynched by a crowd of nearly 500 people in 1871.

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the L.A. Chinatown Massacre.

The program was narrated by Hao Huang, professor of music at Scripps College, and featured music and dance performances.

“Given the recent COVID attacks on Asian Americans, it’s particularly relevant to talk about anti-Asian violence in America and specifically in L.A.,” Huang said. “Because sadly it hasn’t stopped 150 years later. We want to humanize these people, we want people to feel something for them.”

Huang said although the massacre was the largest scale lynching on the West Coast, most people are not aware of it.

In 1871, the population of Los Angeles was just under 6,000 and Asians made up 3% with a total of 172 people.

Pianists Chi-Wei Lo and Xiaopei Xu provided the music for Huang’s narration.

“A lot of people… may think (Asian hate) is happening now but this was happening in 1871 and earlier and it never died,” Lo said. “The pandemic brought this sentiment out. Telling this history is to give more context and more awareness.”

The Flower Pistils played a folk song while movement actor Young-Tseng Wong told the story without words through dance.

“A lot of my work is with balance. Lately, I have been playing with gravity a lot,” Wong said. “Being out of control, also being restricted..that seemed to work very well with the narrative.”

The program also featured a modern dance group performing pieces choreographed by Kevin Williamson, Scripps adjunct professor of dance.

The audience was emotionally touched by the performances.

Lynne Marsenich, Pomona resident, said she knew about the massacre because her husband taught one of the first Asian American studies classes at the Claremont colleges. She said hearing about it in such depth was emotional.

“A friend commented…we keep learning about history that we were never taught, it makes me angry,” Marsenich said. “For me it’s not anger, it’s this profound and deep sadness.”

“In many ways commemoration it’s certainly not just a lecture, it’s just a remembrance that there were people who haven’t mattered for 150 years and maybe it’s time for them to matter now,” Huang said. “Let’s not forget and let’s learn to care for each other, that’s the main thing of the whole event.”

For the in-depth story, listen to the Blood on Gold Mountain podcast on the Scripps College website.

Greta Taylor can be reached at

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