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Current Projects

Market Street Chinatown Archaeology Project (2002–present)

The Market Street Chinatown Archaeology Project (2002–present) is the foundation of my current research program in Chinese diaspora archaeology. This project began in 2002 as a three-month collaboration between the Historical Archaeology Laboratory at the Stanford Archaeology Center and two local NGOs: History San José and Chinese Historical and Cultural Project. Nearly twenty years later, we are still going strong.

The focus of our partnership is a remarkable collection of artifacts that were excavated from the site of San Jose’s first Chinatown during urban redevelopment in the 1980s. Hailed at the time as the largest and most important assemblage of Chinese American artifacts in the United States, this “orphaned” collection was neglected and unstudied until our collaboration recovered it for research and education.

The first decade focused on stabilizing and rehousing the artifacts and assessing their interpretive potential. The initial suite of publications consequently focus on key issues in collections management and community-academic collaboration. In 2012, we collectively turned the project’s focus to the May 5, 1887, arson fire that consumed the Market Street Chinatown. Additional current research examines specific categories of material culture. The Market Street Chinatown Archaeology Project also has a strong community outreach component, including museum and digital exhibits, art installations, and public archaeology activities. Project reports, publiations, and student projects are all available for download on the Market Street Chinatown Archaeology Project website.


Cooperation on Home Cultures of Chinese Migrants (2015–present)

This transnational research agreement supports archaeological investigations of Chinese migrants’ home villages (qiaoxiang) in the Pearl River Delta region of southern China. It is a partnership among the Stanford Archaeology Center, the Guangdong Provincial Institute of Archaeology and Cultural Relics, and the Guangdong Qiaoxiang Cultural Research Center at Wuyi University (Jiangmen). I serve as co-PI for this partnership alongside co-PI Dr. Jinhua (Selia) Tan, Associate Professor of Architectural History at Wuyi University.

Our first field project, the Cangdong Village Project, was a study of historic material practices and folk life at a migrants’ home village in Kaiping County, Guangdong Province. Through pedestrian survey, surface collection, and subsurface testing in 2016 and 2017, our international research team successfully located several subsurface deposits of material culture dating to the Late Qing (1875–1912) and Early Republic (1912–1927), recovering over 14,000 specimens. These materials provide an intimate view into villagers’ daily life during and after the peak periods of out-migration, and complement the above-ground architectural studies conducted by Dr. Tan and her students.

In 2018–2019, PhD candidate Laura Ng conducted the second field project under this cooperation: a study of material culture and architecture at Wo Hing Hamlet, Gom Benn Village, Taishan County.

Plans for additional projects have been suspended due to COVID-19, and we look forward to resuming this collaboration as soon as it is safe to do so.


Archaeology and Heritage of Asian Diaspora Labor on Campus Lands (2018–present)

I serve as Faculty Advisor to Archaeology and Heritage of Asian Diaspora Labor on Campus Lands, a field and laboratory research program directed by Dr. Laura Jones at Stanford University Heritage Services. The aim of this program is to identify, investigate, excavate, and analyze material traces of the Chinese, Japanese, and Filipinx workers employed by the Stanford family and Stanford University during ca. 1870–1940.

Our first major research project under this program is the Arboretum Chinese Labor Quarters Project. This study investigates the largest Chinese work camp on Stanford University lands, which between the 1870s and 1930s housed anywhere from 30 to 200 residents at any given time. These workers constructed and maintained many of the Stanford Campus’s prominent landscape features, such as Palm Drive, Lake Lagunita, and the Oval, along with the arboretum plantation and many ornamental gardens. Field research conducted during 2018–2019 identified the location of one of the camp buildings as well as a large trash pit containing artifacts from all aspects of daily life.