(American Culture and Institutions Through Literature, 1960-1969)

In Mountain of Gold: The Chinese in America, Sung directly challenged prevalent stereotypes of Chinese as “unassimilable aliens” who supposedly could not become respectably productive, fully integrated members of American society. Drawing on individual case studies, social surveys, demographic reports, popular media, and a wide range of scholarship, Sung argued that the “Chinese have been able [in the 1960’s] to utilize their abilities in this country to their fullest extent.” She also documented the hardships endured by Chinese from 1848 to the mid-1960’s in their struggle for civil and legal rights. Overall, Sung attempted to show that “the experiences of this group, once hated and persecuted, may serve as a guide to dealing with present-day minority problems and peoples.” Accordingly, she emphasized the courageous pioneer spirit of early immigrants who built the Central Pacific railroad and transformed California wilderness into farmland, the harshly tested strength of Chinese who remained in the United States during periods of public persecution and anti-Chinese legislation, and the remarkable achievements of second-, third-, and fourth-generation Chinese Americans who proved that their people were as capable as any other. Sung carefully researched such aspects of Chinese American history as the causes, forms, and consequences of anti-Chinese sentiment; changing attitudes among the general public toward Chinese Americans (officially marked by the 1943 repeal of the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act); and the often painful experiences of Chinese Americans trying to reconcile traditional and modern values.