Amelie Lee ’23
Telling the story of the 1871 Los Angeles Chinatown Massacre, Scripps College Professor Hao Huang is tackling historical storytelling with the podcast “Blood on Gold Mountain.”
The podcast uses a narrative format to tell the story of how a dispute between rival tongs Nin Yung and Hong Chow led to a coordinated racially motivated massacre of Chinese immigrants in 1871. From the perspective of Yut-Ho, a Chinese American woman involved in the incident, the podcast uses a historically-based narrative to bring attention to the attack, where 19 Chinese immigrants were killed by a mob of 500. Despite many eyewitnesses, none of the accused killers served prison terms.
“The whole event was forgotten,” Hao Huang said. “The people in this massacre were forgotten. They never mattered when they were alive, so we’re trying to make them matter now.”
Hao Huang, a music professor at Scripps College, worked on this project with co-creators Micah Huang and Emma Gies. Hao Huang is the narrator of the podcast, with his son Micah Huang writing the script and producing the music.
The release of “Blood on Gold Mountain” comes during a period of increased racialized violence against the APIDA community, and in the weeks after the Atlanta shooting of eight individuals, six of which were Asian women.
“There was a huge anti-Chinese feeling,” Hao Huang said of the time period of the LA Chinatown massacre. “There was anti-immigration sentiment and this huge economic depression. People started blaming Chinese and thought they were diluting American culture. There’s very much a relationship between white supremacy then and white supremacy now.”
With historical erasure of the event and contradictory eyewitness reports of the massacre, Hao Huang said that creating the podcast required significant time and research to delve into available resources. As there are not many written details about the protagonist of the story Yut-Ho in historical documents, the podcast gives the forgotten Asian American woman a voice through having her tell her perspective of what happened. In the end, the team chose to use a first-person storytelling style with historical-fictional elements to portray the story, taking creative liberties to add details, create a coherent narrative, and emphasize the humanity of the victims.
“Nobody knows exactly what happened — it was a riot, a massacre, so even right after, eyewitnesses contradicted each other,” Hao Huand said. “I didn’t feel it would be honest to give a historical documentary because nobody knows exactly what happened.”
While the podcast relies on creative storytelling, Hao Huang said he drew from personal experiences of racism growing up and rooted the story in experiences that are historically accurate.
“What roots us is that a lot of what happened to these people, also happened to my family,” Hao Huang said. “It’s real because it really happened. It’s not just made-up fairy-tale stuff, it’s what happens to us.”
Hao Huang said he worked to humanize those whose stories have been forgotten and emphasized the necessity to remember cultural violence throughout history.
“There’s a Chinese saying, ‘If you don’t understand the past, you can’t deal with the present.’ That’s why we go back,” Hao Huang said. “There were people there 150 years ago, and their lives are worth remembering. It’s not just about the deaths. Why don’t people care about Asian Americans who are alive?”
The podcast is supported by various Claremont institutions, as it is co-sponsored by the Holmes Performing Arts Fund of the Claremont Colleges, Pacific Basin Institute at Pomona College, and the Harper Lecture Fund at Scripps College.
“It’s a totally Claremont College production,” Hao Huang said. “Without the Claremont Colleges, this would not have happened. We can all be proud of that.”
The seven episode series releases an episode every other Wednesday, with the first 20 minute episode released on Mar. 24, 2021. The podcast can be found online, linked here.
“What I’m trying to convey to my listeners is: If you let them turn you bitter and angry — and that’s all you are — they’ve won,” Hao Huang said. “They want us to be angry, scared and divided. My parents always used to say, ‘The best revenge is to live well.’ So let’s live well. And let’s share our stories.”
Image Source: KCRW