The Diary of Wang Da Li

By Lydia Guo, Lily Meng, Saniyah Sami, Sydney Wilson

Wang Da Li

July 9, 1852

Today, I arrived at the Gold Mountain. Gam Saan, the land of opportunities. I have finally left China, the country of starvation and war, where there was no work to be found and I had to beg for food. Everyday in China, I had to sleep with an empty stomach. But now I am here, in the midst of work and wealth. Unlike others, I have decided to stay in America.

Richard Davis

July 9, 1852

A group of Chinese men came to California. They all looked similar, long black hair, in braids, their clothes were tattered, and old. All of them were barefoot. The (white) men around me greeted them warmly, but I could tell they weren’t excited about their appearances. Personally, I disliked the Chinese being here, it meant more competition over gold. I had traveled far distances to arrive here, and I was going to be the one with the fortune. As we (myself and the white men) walked back to the mines, I heard a Caucasian man talk about the new arrivals, “...(they were) all speaking at once, gabbling and chattering their horrid jargon, and producing a noise like that of a flock of geese.” I snickered at the thought and agreed with him.

Wang Da Li

July 10, 1852

Today I rose early, beating the sun. I was prepared to work hard, for if I were to become rich, I must have perseverance. I was prepared to be anyone, a carpenter, a worker, or even a cook. At the Gam Saan, there were many available jobs. I pulled on a pair of knee-high boots, preparing myself for the day. Everyone was sifting through the water, looking for gold. Jealousy filled me when I heard someone shout, “Gold! Yes! Gold!” My English was not that good, but I could recognize one word. Gold, the thing I had come seeking for. My spirit lifted every time I would find a yellow rock. It quickly vanished once I had realized the “gold” was just a pebble. In the first few days, all I found was rocks and stones. Still no gold. I was disappointed, but when I was started my trip to California, I knew the task wouldn’t be easy.

Richard Davis

July 10, 1852

Today was like every other day. I woke up early, got dressed, and went out to the gold mines. My pickaxe was resting on my shoulder, as I walked into the mine. Because of the early hour, there were few miners. Frenchmen, Mexicans, Chileans, Chinese, they were all there. We each found a private spot and began mining. The only sound you could hear was the banging of the axes on hard stone. After a couple minutes, blisters started to appear on my hands from gripping onto the handle of the tool for so long, and my hands started to get sooty from the rock dust. After finding nothing for hours, I decided to start panning the gold instead. I kneeled next to the river with my gold pan, sifting through the sediments. After hours of kneeling, my legs started to cramp. I was about to quit for the day when I saw a glimmer in my pan. I held the small ore to the sunlight and my eyes grew wide. I stood up, a little too quickly, the numbness in my legs almost bringing me down, but I was too excited to feel it. “Gold! Yes! Gold!” My hand wrapped tightly around the nugget, protectively. There was a Chinese man standing across from me, glaring at me with envy. I smirked in triumph. Today was my lucky day.

Wang Da Li

July 13, 1852

Many people have been arriving lately, I have noticed changes in the Caucasians’ attitudes. Before, my people and I (the Chinamen) were welcomed, but now they have been treating us coldly. I see their staring eyes, hatred pointing at us. I have found some gold, but I had to be wary because bandits often preyed on foreigners, trying to steal it, I started melting down the rare ore to make household goods, like pots and other utensils, hiding my wealth. Afterwards I would re-melt the seemingly ordinary-looking items, covered in black soot to obscure its true nature, and recover the gold.

I stood up after hours of panning, a bamboo stick laying on my shoulders, holding the water buckets. A white man, the same one that had found gold a couple days ago, marched toward me, grabbing my queue, and tugged on it. I shouted in pain. “Where’s your gold?! Stop stealing all the gold! Go back to your own poor country!” As he shouted, bits of saliva flew at my face. The words were gibberish to my ears, the English mixed together. He raised an axe, bringing it down, chopping my queue off. He pushed me away and then angrily stomped back to his wagon. I kneeled down, and picked up the strands. My hands clenched, my fury growing. I will start my life over, no matter how they criticize me.

Richard Davis

July 13, 1852

Heaving my knapsack over my back, I walked over to where the other gold miners were panning gold, and took out my own pan. I was getting rather annoyed of the foreigners. They are stealing all the gold! As I sit panning, the foreigners are all grinning, happy over their findings. After several more hours, I can’t stand these foreigners. I walk over to the nearest Chinamen, and drag him up by his long, black braid. “Where’s your gold?!” I yelled angrily, my ears turning bright red. “Stop stealing all the gold! Go back to your own poor country!” I then grabbed my axe, harshly bringing it down on the Chinaman’s braid. Turning around quickly, I grabbed my pan and marched back to my covered wagon, too angry to pan for gold anymore.