Chinese Brazilians

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Chinese Brazilians
China Taiwan Brazil
Total population
c. 250,000[1]
Regions with significant populations
São Paulo City, Belo Horizonte, Curitiba and Rio de Janeiro
Predominantly: Portuguese
Minority: Cantonese, Mandarin and Macanese Patois
Predominantly: Christianity (mainly Roman Catholicism, with a minority of Protestants) Minority: Unaffiliated
Related ethnic groups
Asian Brazilians, Asian Americans, Macanese people

Chinese Brazilians (Portuguese: Sino-brasileiro or Chinês-brasileiro; Chinese: 巴西華人 / 巴西华人 or 巴西華裔 / 巴西华裔) are people of Chinese ancestry who were born in or have immigrated to Brazil. The Chinese Brazilian population was estimated to be approximately 250,000 in 2007.[1]

The first Chinese people came to Brazil in 1814, when Chinese tea planters were sent from Portugal to the Royal Botanical Garden in Rio de Janeiro.[2] Following the end of transatlantic slave trade in 1850, there was a growing labor shortage in the booming coffee plantations of southwestern Brazil during the second half of the 19th century, which led the Brazilian government to look for alternative sources of labor elsewhere.[3] The main sources of replacement labor were Europe and, later on, Japan, but small numbers of Chinese immigrants are said to have reached Brazil during the 19th century (less than 3 thousand total).[3] There are reports of Chinese laborers arriving in Brazil exist as early as the 1870s, but those early flows were limited due to restrictions imposed by the Chinese government; therefore, the vast majority of the contemporary population of Chinese ancestry in Brazil is descended of much later flows of immigrants into the country, starting in the 1900s.

São Paulo now has the largest Chinese Brazilian population, in particular in the district of Liberdade. The majority of the Chinese immigrants settle in São Paulo. Some Chinese immigrants work as merchants for international trade, lawyers, member of the parliament and the house of representatives and doctors. Chinese immigrants have integrated into the Brazilian society by building inter-cultural exchange in the communities.[4] Besides being an area famous for its strong Japanese presence, a significant number of Taiwanese immigrants out of 70,000 in total,[5] have settled in Liberdade, and many Chinese immigrants have come to Liberdade following the Communist revolution in 1949.[6][7] Many Cantonese from Hong Kong and Portuguese-speaking Macau, including some Macanese of mixed Cantonese and Portuguese descent, have also settled in Brazil. These Macau immigrants can usually speak and understand Portuguese (its Creole, Macanese or Patuá, is also spoken), allowing them to adjust more easily to life in Brazil.[8] Today, the majority of Chinese Brazilians only speak Portuguese, although some may be bilingual, speaking Portuguese and Chinese.[4]


It is known that there were Chinese in Brazil as far back as the early 19th century; Rugendas painted a depiction of Chinese Tea planters in Rio de Janeiro during the period of the Portuguese Royal family in Brazil.[8] In 1814 John VI of Portugal brought 300 Chinese from Macau to work in the Botanical Garden of Rio de Janeiro.[8]

Chinese people started moving to Brazil in the late 19th century when Brazil abolished the slave trade, which had as a necessary consequence the eventual doom of slavery.[3] As a result, the number of Afro-Brazilians slaves decreased gradually, which created labor shortages.[3] To solve the problem, the Brazilians came up with a plan of having immigrants to the country to replace the slaves.[3] The Brazilian government and plantation owners started looking to different areas of the world to try to find suitable groups to import into the country, Europe ended up being the most relevant, and, later on, Japan and the Ottoman Empire were also major sources of immigration to Brazil, but India and China were also considered.

In this context, the Brazilian government also considered importing Chinese laborers, just like other tropical nations which had done the same since the 1840s.[3] However, as China had known that the Chinese laborers had received harsh labor treatments in countries like Cuba and Peru, China had prohibited all other forms of immigration but the voluntary ones, and allowed importation of laborers only to countries with commercial treaties.[3] Despite the barriers set by the Chinese government, Brazilian companies still managed to have 1,000 Chinese to work as tea planters in 1874.[3] In 1875, the Brazilian companies tried to bring in more Chinese workers to Brazil by recruiting those in the province of Guangdong (Canton) and California.[3] To legally import more Chinese laborers, the Brazilian government negotiated a commercial treaty with China, but China signed the commercial treaty with reluctance in Tianjin, China on September 5, 1880 with a revised contract on October 3, 1881.[3] With the low cost of transportation that is 35 milreis per passenger, which was less than 20 U.S dollars, the new Brazilian companies tried to seek more laborers from China by connecting with the director of the China Merchants Steam Navigation Company called Tong King Sing.[3] Despite the plans to transport more Chinese laborers to Brazil, the Chinese government continued displaying hesitant attitude in the 1890s. Therefore, China was not a viable alternative for Brazil in its search for new sources of labor in the second half of the 19th century and early 20th century.[3]

The issue of how to replace slave labor raised huge controversies in Brazil, and there were both sides that defended and criticized the alternative of inviting in Chinese immigrants to work in the coffee plantations [3] One such argument that was a cause of much controversy was the idea of racial "whitening", which is a concept inspired in the ideas of Social Darwinism and eugenics that defended the need to import more European immigrants into Brazil in order to "whiten" its population. In this context, the idea of inviting Asian workers, including those of Japanese and Chinese origin, was seen by some as a possible set back that could harm the process of "europeanizing" Brazil, due to perceived cultural and racial inferiority to the Europeans, and feared the consequences of introducing "alien populations" that did not match the traditional composition of the Brazilian population at the time (mostly of European and African ancestry).[3] On the other hand, some, such as the Republican leader Quintino Bocayuva, defended the notion that having Chinese laborers would benefit Brazil.[8]

The most important waves of Chinese immigration to Brazil took place after World War 2, and particularly in the late 1970s when Chinese immigrants from the provinces Guangdong and Zhejiang, and from the cities of Shanghai and Beijing settled in Brazil.[4] These new immigrants came to comprise the vast majority of the population of Chinese ancestry in Brazil, and changed the landscape of the population of Asian ancestry in the country, up to that point comprised almost exclusively of Japanese descendants.[4]

20th and 21st Century Immigration[edit]

The vast majority of Chinese immigration to Brazil took place in the 20th and 21st centuries. Officially, the first ship bringing Chinese immigrants arrived in the country in 1900, and the number of immigrants started to increase particularly after the end of the Chinese Civil War. There was a second wave of immigration in the 1970s and 1980s, when China opened its economy, and a third wave more recently in the 2000s due to the increasing presence of Chinese companies and investments in Latin America. Nowadays, about 40 thousand Chinese citizens and a total of around 200 thousand people of Chinese ancestry live in Brazil.

Life in São Paulo[edit]

There are currently a total of around 350,000 Chinese immigrants and descendants in Brazil. About 200,000 of them reside in São Paulo, São Paulo.[4]

Chinese merchants started to expand their business after immigration, but some negative influences hindered the growth.[7] For instance, in 2007, the Brazilian judicial system had settled down the largest shopping center and 50 stores in São Paulo, and arrested six merchants. Even though there were illegal operations and smuggling among the Chinese immigrants, it was not the majority.[7]

The Brazilian Dream[edit]

25 de Março street in São Paulo is a place with 2.5 km in length (approximately 1.55 miles) where some Chinese Brazilians mainly sell their merchandise to make a living.[7] There are more than 3,000 Chinese Brazilian-run stores out of 4,000 shops in total, and the expansion took place in less than 30 years, replacing a previous generation of mostly Arab shop-owners. A similar phenomenon exists in the SAARA commercial district of Rio de Janeiro, where around 20% of the shops are owned by Chinese immigrants and their descendants when traditionally that area was dominated by Syrian and Lebanese businesses.

Recognition and Legacy[edit]

The Brazilian House of Representatives and the city of São Paulo Parliament passed the proposal of setting August 15 as "Chinese Immigrants Day."[6]

Notable people[edit]

  • Ken Chang, a Brazilian actor of Chinese descent, popular TV series star in Taiwan and Mainland China (born in Taiwan)
  • Gui Lin, an Olympic Athlete in Table Tennis (born in Nanning, Guangxi, China)
  • Felipe Almeida Wu, 2016 Olympic silver medalist in shooting - 10 m air pistol (born in São Paulo, Brazil)
  • Shaoyu Li (李少玉), as a Cantonese descent, was elected as a member of parliament for São Paulo in 2010, which she was the first Chinese Brazilian woman in politics.[9] With the mission of promoting Chinese culture and serving Chinese overseas, Li has been assisting youth Chinese Brazilians finding their cultural heritage and having other political members and Chinese overseas to participate in cultural events.[4] With her involvement in Chinese culture promotion, acupuncture is now popular among Brazilians for chronic arthritis, martial arts has been a popular self-defense with large number of schools, and Peking Opera has widely used in performances which was performed by Brazilians.[4]
  • William Woo (威廉巫): a second generation Chinese Brazilian.[4] In 2000, he was elected as a member of parliament for the city of São Paulo and continued through re-election in 2004. Wu was elected as a federal house of representative, which he was the first Chinese Brazilian in political position.[10]
  • Lucia Wu (吳映香), a Brazilian singer of Chinese descent, born and raised in São Paulo. Relocating to Beijing at 8 years-old, she was one of the participants in Produce 101 and concluded with No.22.
  • Leung Ka Hai, Brazilian footballer of Chinese descent.
  • Bo Bichette, American baseball player; maternal background is Chinese-Brazilian.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "'Estou orgulhoso com a minha raíz da China' --Leone Da Silveira Lee, primeiro e único general brasileiro com descendência chinesa" ['I am proud of my Chinese roots' --Leone Da Silveira Lee, the first and only Brazilian general of Chinese descent]. China Radio International online (in Portuguese). 22 May 2007. Retrieved 8 January 2017.
  2. ^ Lesser, Jeffrey (1999). Negotiating National Identity: Immigrants, Minorities and the Struggle for Ethnicity in Brazil. Durham & London: Duke University Press. p. 16. ISBN 0-8223-2260-9.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Conrad, Robert (1975). "The Planter Class and the Debate over Chinese Immigration to Brazil, 1850- 1893". International Migration Review. 9 (1): 41–55. doi:10.2307/3002529. JSTOR 3002529.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h 凯迪网络. "中国人移民巴西简史 【猫眼看人】-凯迪社区". Retrieved 2018-03-28.
  5. ^ "僑委會全球資訊網". Archived from the original on 2012-09-16.
  6. ^ a b L_3139. "巴西设中国移民日 侨胞两百年辛苦打拼终获认可 - 华人新闻_海外华人新闻网 - 海外网". Retrieved 2018-03-28.
  7. ^ a b c d "原创 这些华人在南美打拼,风光背后满是辛酸". Retrieved 2018-03-28.
  8. ^ a b c d Lesser, Jeffrey (1999). Negotiating national identity: immigrants, minorities, and the struggle for ethnicity in Brazil. Durham, N.C: Duke University Press. pp. 17–21. ISBN 0-8223-2260-9.
  9. ^ "Candidate: Shaoyu Li".
  10. ^ "Brazilian Federal The House of Representatives". Archived from the original on February 4, 2016.


External links[edit]