“Gold Mountain” is another name for America, particularly California, where the men in Kingston’s family had agreed to meet after immigrating from their native Canton province in China. The Gold Mountain represents opportunity. Its description as “gold” references the California Gold Rush of 1848-1852. Though all of the gold had been extracted from the western mountains long before Kingston’s family had arrived, it remained a place where they could reap profits through opening a laundry business. Kingston’s family was never wealthy but, as her mother notes, America is a place where work never ceases: “Here midnight comes and the floor’s not swept, the ironing’s not ready, the money’s not made.” Thus, while America is a place where the family found economic success and peace from political upheaval, in some ways, they were happier in China where they had more leisure time and were not burdened by the racism that was prevalent in their new country. America offered an escape from the hardships of China, but that escape came at a price—even the literal price of Kingston’s father losing his land. The name “Gold Mountain” is, therefore, double-edged: America is a place replete with opportunities to make money, but those opportunities are always a little out of reach. Brave Orchid, who in her old age lends herself out as a farmhand, is like so many immigrants who strive constantly, seeking to extract as much wealth from the land as it has to offer, as though mining for gold in a mountain.
The timeline below shows where the symbol Gold Mountain appears in The Woman Warrior. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
1. No Name Woman