Chinese Builders of Gold Mountain
Video - Nimbus Films, 2015 44 minutes

We’ve reviewed Bill George’s work before.  He wrote Rails, Tales, and Trails which was reviewed in our April, ’14 Heirloom and we had a summary of  his video, Hidden Wonder of the World (the transcontinental railroad over the Sierra) in our June, ’12 Heirloom.

“Chinese Builders of Gold Mountain” (California) follows in the quality of “Hidden Wonder…” and “Rails, Tales….”  It’s good.   “Chinese Builders of Gold Mountain” is not specific to Donner Summit but it’s a good historical introduction and given that our Heirloom will, in a few months, carry articles about Summit Camp (the railroad work camp occupied for years by the Chinese on Donner Summit) and the Chinese railroad workers, this is a good fit.

Most Chinese came to California, excited like the rest of the world, for better lives and/or gold.  The Chinese did not just help themselves but they helped China and Asia through trans-Pacific trade, California through what they built, and the rest of the United States by opening California to the world (through the transcontinental railroad), and all of that the video explores along with the basic history.  For example, Chinese came mostly from Guandong Province and from there to Hong Kong, San Francisco, Sacramento and Marysville (one of the larges cities in California with 10,000 people) and from there to lots of little towns all over the West.

The video is narrated by Bill George and through interviews with experts, old photographs, old documents, historical quotes, and visits to Marysville, Oroville, Locke, the Sierra Summit, Calistoga, two Chinese temples, the State Railroad Museum, and a Chinese museum in Marysville, the story of Chinese contributions to California is explored along with the tribulations and prejudice Chinese faced.

There are some interesting thoughts in the video beyond the basic history.  For example, Westerners were and are individualists but the Chinese had a different outlook on life, the community.  They worked in organized groups and for group benefit not just individual benefit. The Chinese did not just work the gold fields (or tailings left by whites) and the railroad.  They had other contributions.  The video says the Chinese had the most advanced agriculture in the world and they used that technology in California, reclaiming the delta for example.  They also had the most advanced fishing techniques, which they applied to the fisheries off the California coast.  Their preservation technology enabled them to send fish back to Asia and so, they mined the fisheries just as they mined for gold and helped build trans-Pacific trade.  Of course, once the Chinese became successful, whites took over. 

There are interesting facts too.  For example, in some years, the tax on Chinese gold miners made up 10% of the State budget’s income.  California gold rebuilt many villages in China and California Chinese supported many people in China.

At the end there is a slide show of old photographs which is interesting too.

The video is 14.99 and available from Bill George at 4520- Shari Wy. In Granite Bay (95746) You can contact Mr. George at or via the website at,