Never At Rest: Chinese Burial Practices in America’s West


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Tombstone from Helena’s China Row Cemetery

Physical remnants of Helena, Montana’s historic Chinese community are few. The buildings of Helena’s once thriving Chinatown were mostly removed during urban renewal of the 1970s. However, just outside of the city’s Forestvale Cemetery, the China Row Cemetery gives powerful testament to Helena’s once thriving Chinese community. Concordia International School Shanghai students inspected the site itself, which includes remnants of tombstones, a ceremonial alter, and ritual offerings. Additionally, students investigated primary source accounts of the use of the cemetery and studies of Chinese burial practices. The understanding that emerged is of a community straddling two worlds, both fully taking part in and helping to build the American West, but always mindful of the need to return to Chinese soil where their spirit would be at rest.

 

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The research team investigates, finding remnants of pottery and other artifacts used in the funeral rituals.

 

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PhD Cathy Gorn, Executive Director of National History Day, visits China Row Cemetery.

 

 

Download the above podcast: Helena’s China Row Cemetery