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The Chinese In Jamaica
9 Popular Questions, Answered.

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The Chinese In Jamaica
by Wellesley Gayle 

Miss Chinese Jamaican, Marie Chance Wining Pageant Photo 1960Miss Chinese Jamaican, Marie Chance Wining Pageant Photo 1960

If I say They Came And Conquered, it would be hard for you, or anyone, to argue with me and win! 

Wanna try :-)

The truth is though, the Chinese, one of the minority groups in Jamaica, has a tremendous impact on the Jamaican society, particularly in the areas of culture, business and economy.

Many individual Chinese Jamaicans have also achieved prominence in the country's civic, industrial and political life.

Since the 1960's they are have also been an increasing visibility of Chinese professionals in the island.

Today I'll attempt to answer some  frequently asked questions, about these, the Chinese in Jamaica.


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9 Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About The Chinese In Jamaica

Business Mogul, Michael Lee- Chin, Chinese DescendantBusiness Mogul, Michael Lee- Chin, Chinese Descendant
  1. Are there Chinese people in Jamaica?

  2. ANSWER:  Oh Yes! That's  the purpose of this article. To answer the popular questions related to their life and impact in Jamaica.


  3. How many Chinese are in Jamaica?

    ANSWER:  The last population census was taken in 2011, and prior to that 2001. On both occasions, the recorded number Chinese in Jamaica was trending at 0.2%. 

    And so, at the end of December 2019, the number of Chinese in Jamaica was projected to be 59,030.

    That's 0.2% of the approximately 2,951,461 Jamaicans.

    Bear in mind that these are based on persons who would (or would have) identified themselves as Chinese or of the Chinese race.

    But remember that there are hundreds of thousands of Jamaicans who would have been mixed or have some Chinese descent but may not readily identify themselves as Chinese on a population census.


  4. When did the Chinese arrived in Jamaica?

    ANSWER:  The first recorded way of Chinese came to Jamaican in 1854 on the Epsom ship, arriving on the 31st of July after a three month voyage, having left Hong Kion with 267 men.

    Unfortunately 43 reportedly died at sea and several more upon arrival. Another group came from Panana in November the same yea.

    Another 195 men arrived on the Vampire ship on the 1st of November and 10 more on the Theresa Jane on the 18th of November.


    Those who came from Panama came from a larger group who came to work on the construction of the Panama railroad but died as a result of disease and harsh conditions there.

    Others came in subsequent years and spread across the Caribbean.

    The next major (single) set of Chinese to arrive in Jamaica came in 1884 on the Prinz Alexander ship with 680, arriving on July 12. 

    This reportedly, was the first arrival of Chinese women. There were 122 women in the group.

    It is interesting that this group started the voyage on another ship, The Diamond, which was disabled at sea because of a storm, before they were transferred to The Prinz Alexander.

    The majority of the Chinese arriving in Jamaica came however in the 20th century as free immigrants through family and other connections, primarily in the years 1910 and 1940. 

    By late 1930's, Jamaica was said to have the largest number of Chinese community in the Caribbean, outside of Cuba.

    There were 11,700 Chinese in Jamaica in 1970 but that declined to just over 5,000 in the 1980's following emigration to the USA and Canada, primarily, because of political reasons.

    Today, we see Chinese national come and go, even though, perhaps not on that scale, but a lot more frequent.


  5. Why did the Chinese migrate to Jamaica?

    ANSWER:  The Chinese were first brought to Jamaica and other parts of the Caribbean (British West Indies) in the 19th century as contract (indentured) laborers  to work on the sugar estates, this following emancipation in 1834.

    But as indicated above, the majority came later as free immigrants because of family and business connections the first half of the 1900s.

    Many were lured by recruiting agents who offered a great alternative to the harsh conditions brought by hears of drought, family, civil war and floods.


  6. Where did Chinese came from?

    ANSWER:  The first Chinese Arrivals, in 1854, came from Hong Kong.

    The next major set that arrived on the Prinz Alexander were mainly poor villagers with a farming background, arriving mainly form the southern province of Guangdong.

    The majority of those who came here were Hakka speakers from Fui Yung, Dung Gon and Pao Onn, near modern Shen Zhen.


  7. What did the Chinese contribute to Jamaican culture and economy?

    ANSWER:  Initially, the early arrivers who were joined in the 1900s by free immigrants started to grow rice and went into gardening, but the majority found their niche in small grocery shops, across Jamaica.

    In fact the local food retail business was synonymous the the term 'Chiney Shop', and were the hub of economic activity in the communities and towns.

    Over time, these small family groceries developed into large enterprises and took on wholesaling and manufacturing.

    The Chinese became active also in the bakery, bottling, hardware, catering and ice-cream businesses.

    They had also established a newspaper in the 1940's and a community club, the Chinese Athletic Club in Kingston, benevolent societies and Freemasonry

    By the way, the also had the esteemed Ms Chinese Jamaica pageant of which
    Marie Chance won in 1960.

    Chinese restaurants appeared in the 1950's and became extremely popular by 1960.

    Today, Chinese food have been a strong influence on the Jamaican cuisine.  Jamaican stir fried, steamed and sweet and sour recipes all have their roots in Chinese culture.

    Read more in the contribution of ethic groups to Jamaica.

    And, if you are a fan of the Drop Pan (Cash Pot) gambling game, you can thank the Chinese for that too!

    Other games of chance that they pioneered in Jamaica were the Peaka-Peow  and Whe Whe.


    Other contributions of the Chinese in Jamaica, includes their fireworks celebration, their culture of industry and family relationships.

    Chinese and Chinese descendants have also strongly influenced the politics and music with notable public stewards like Delroy Chuck, Horace Chang, Ferdinand Yap-Sam and Rose Leon in the political arena and Vincent Chin (Randy), his wife Patricia (via their record label VP),  Byron Lee, and Tessane Chin, 2013 winner of The Voice, perhaps most easily recognizable.



  8. Who are some of the notable Chinese Jamaican celebrities?

    ANSWER:  I assume you also mean persons of Chinese descent in Jamaica right?

    The few that comes to mind easily, in addition to the persons in politics and music mentioned above are...

    >Michael Lee- Chin (Businessman)
    >Ivy Cooke (wife of GG. Horward Cooke)
    >Sean Paul, DJ/Musician (his mother is English and Chinese-Jamaican, father is Portuguese and Indo-Jamaican descent),
    >Mona Hammond (Actress)
    >Sheila Mechtilde Chong (Jamaica's first World representative, 1959)
    >Patrick Chung (Jamaican born American football player
    >G. Raymond Chang, Businessman,
    >Lesley Kong (Record Producer, Beverly's) &
    >Herman Chin Loy (Record Producer)

    Wikipedia has an extensive list here.


  9. How Can I Contact The Chinese Embassy In Jamaica?

    ANSWER:  If you are interested in current news, information, visa application information, you can contact The Chinese Embassy In Jamaica at 8 Seaview Ave, Kingston.

    Their phone number is (876) 927-3871,  Fax:(1876) 9276920 and E-mail:chinaemb_jm@mfa.gov.cn

    and now the fun one...


  10. Did China Buy Jamaica?

  11. ANSWER:  Interesting question! No, Not that I am aware of, Jamaica is still an independent nation, duly owned by Jamaicans since 1962! 

    I agree there are some massive investments and ongoing partnerships with Jamaica by China, but no we are all free - and not for sale :-)

I hope this helps!

Appendix 1: Table Showing Chinese In Jamaica By Year

YearJamaica Population EstimateChinese Jamaicans
2001 2,607,632 52153
2011 2,697,983 53960
2018 2,726,667 54534
2019 2,951,461 59030

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About The Author

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A patriotic Jamaican who adores his culture, Wellesley has been using this medium to share what he calls 'the uniqueness of Jamaica with the world' since April 2007.  

To date, he serves over 9,300 unique readers / viewers per day.

His efforts have earned him featured positions in local publications, including the Jamaica Gleaner's Hospitality Jamaica, Carlong Publishers, as well as recognition from numerous prestigious international agencies and universities.  Read more about him here.

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