This thread took a bit of hunting down, but here it is at last. In the latter half of the 19th century, the Chinese began to worm their way into the public eye in many strange ways. Benighted pagans, puppy eaters, cheap labor, the best washpeople in the West, doll-sized women...the list of strangeness goes on and on.
China was a favorite place to send missionaries to. These missionaries would generally go out for a set amount of time (around 6 years) and then come back for a year. This could be really hard on the families. Another result could be that the missionaries' children "went native." This led to split families and other sorts of awkwardness as the children came back to the states and had a huge amount of trouble re-adjusting. Some of them never did.
In Californa, the Chinese people were feared and despised at times. Part of this was the strangeness of these "yellow" people and part of it was the fact that they were willing to work for a lot less than many other nationalities. Chinese men, in particular, went into mines, blew tunnels, and laid track for the trains under unspeakable circumstances.
The women were very seldom seen at all. When they were, the smallness of their bound feet and the "quacking and singing" of their speech did not inspire confidence.
However, we worked our way into America. And we are here to stay.
--a proud second-generation half Chinese girl.
Pearl S. Buck: The Good Earth and other works
Jules Verne: The Trials and Tribulations of a Chinaman in China