Places: The Chickencoop Chinaman

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: 1981, with The Year of the Dragon

First produced: 1972, at the American Place Theatre, New York City

Type of work: Drama

Type of plot: Comedy

Time of work: Late 1960’s

Asterisk denotes entries on real places.

Places Discussed*Oakland

*Oakland. Chickencoop Chinaman, ThePrincipally African American district of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where the protagonist’s friend Kenji has an apartment, in which most of the play is set.


Chinatown. Chinese district of an unspecified American city. Tam Lum comes from California, so he may be from San Francisco or Oakland’s Chinatown districts. The “chickencoop” in the title refers to Chin’s perception of American Chinatowns as zoos or dirty, noisy, foul-smelling places occupied by people who speak an unintelligible language. In many of his works, Chin depicts the Chinese of Chinatown as insects or frogs. He does not regard Chinatown as an ethnic enclave where the Chinese congregated to preserve their culture. Instead, he sees it as a product of American racism, of discriminatory housing laws.

*Hong Kong

*Hong Kong. Chinese port city that was a prosperous British colony at the time this play was written. The play opens with Tam conversing with his “Hong Kong Dream Girl,” who appears on stage, a beautiful Asian in a drill-team uniform. Tam’s conversation with her during his flight to Pittsburgh constitutes the first scene of the play.

Suggested ReadingsChin, Frank, et al. Aiiieeee! An Anthology of Asian American Writers. New York: Mentor, 1991. Contains Act I of The Chickencoop Chinaman and some biographical information.Chin, Frank. “Confessions of the Chinatown Cowboy,” in Bulletin of Concerned Asian Scholars. IV (Fall, 1972), pp. 58-65.Chin, Frank. Interview by Roland Winters, in Amerasia Journal. II (Fall, 1973), pp. 1-19.Chen, Jack. The Chinese of America. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1980.Davis, Robert Murray. “Frank Chin: Iconoclastic Icon.” Redneck Review of Literature 23 (Fall, 1992): 75-78. A brief analysis of many of Chin’s works, including The Chickencoop Chinaman.Kim, Elaine H. Asian American Literature: An Introduction to the Writings and Their Social Context. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1982. Contains a synopsis and an evaluation of many of Chin’s works, including The Chickencoop Chinaman.Kim, Elaine H. “Frank Chin: The Chinatown Cowboy and His Backtalk,” in Midwest Quarterly. XX (Autumn, 1978), pp. 78-91.Li, David Leiwei. “The Formation of Frank Chin and Formations of Chinese-American Literature.” In Asian Americans: Comparative and Global Perspectives. Edited by Shirley Hune et al. Pullman: Washington State University Press, 1991. Explains Chin’s reordering of Chinese American history and his application of that history to The Chickencoop Chinaman. Evaluates Chin’s impact on Asian American literature.McDonald, Dorothy Ritsuko. “An Introduction to Frank Chin’s The Chickencoop Chinaman and The Year of the Dragon.” In Three American Literatures: Essays in Chicano, Native American, and Asian-American Literature for Teachers of American Literature. Edited by Houston A. Baker. New York: Modern Language Association of America, 1982. Probably the best critical analysis of The Chickencoop Chinaman and The Year of the Dragon (1974).Samarth, Manini. “Affirmations: Speaking the Self into Being.” Parnassus: Poetry in Review 17, no. 1 (1992): 88-101.
Categories: Places