Artist: Hoxxoh, Photo: by Edel Mohr

Chenlin Cai / 蔡陈林

About Chenlin Cai / 蔡陈林

Based out of: Philadelphia
Chenlin Cai is a visual artist lives in Philadelphia. Cai received his MFA from two world-renowned universities in fine arts, the Tsinghua University in China and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia. Cai is a Commissioner at Pennsylvania Governor’s Advisory Commission on Asian Pacific American Affairs from 2022-2023.

Artist Statement

This mural design is inspired by the little-known story of the Chinese American frontier’s contribution to the construction of the First Transcontinental Railroad, also known as the Pacific Railroad. It captures the spirit of their remarkable journey for American dreams and reminds their invaluable role in shaping US nation’s progress.

For a century until now, their stories and contributions still remain hidden from the public awareness. During the 1869 celebration marking the railway’s completion, surprisingly and sadly, none of these Chinese laborers was found on the news photos taken at that time. The completion of the First Transcontinental Railroad was a significant achievement that wouldn’t have been possible without the hard work and dedication of many Chinese laborers who made up a substantial part of the workforce.

In 1919, the remaining three elderly Chinese laborers were invited to participate in the 50th anniversary celebration of the completion of the First Transcontinental Railroad. They served as representatives of the countless, hardworking, and often forgotten Chinese American frontiers who contributed significantly to this historic endeavor. Their inclusion in the celebration was a significant step towards recognizing the vital role played by Chinese American laborers in building the railroad.

With a poignant re-imagination of history, I took these three figures by my brushstroke back to the pivotal moment—the celebration of the railroad's completion in the 19th century. Though they stand in the background, obscured by the jubilant crowds reveling in this monumental achievement, their presence is etched into the annals of history.

One among them is captured in the act of reading a letter from his family, a symbol of his profound longing for his distant hometown and beloved family left behind. Another, with eyes fixed upon the distant horizon, embodies their integral contribution to the development and construction of the United States, the promise of a brighter future on the horizon. The third figure planted a budding grass which crowned with a resilient dandelion, representing the Chinese American people taking root in a foreign land. This act signifies their determination to not only survive but thrive, passing down their cultural and historical legacies to the generations that follow.

The choice of black and white in these figures, reminiscent of traditional Chinese ink painting, serves as a visual bridge to the past, emphasizing the historical memory and enduring significance of this moment in time. Together, these elements paint a vivid and heartfelt tableau that ensures the indelible remembrance of these unsung heroes in the tapestry of American history.

The color scheme of the mural draws its inspiration from the iconic orange color of Florida and the elements of the James Museum's facade, infusing the mural with a sense of heritage and connection to the past and present. In the distance, the resplendent golden mountains symbolize a daunting chapter in the railroad construction—the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Here, countless Chinese laborers made profound sacrifices, with many giving their lives to surmount this challenging terrain. Remarkably, they achieved a construction miracle, completing an astonishing 10 miles in a single day. The term “Golden Mountain” holds dual significance, as it not only signifies this treacherous landscape but also serves as the Chinese American translation for San Francisco, where the early Chinese laborers embarked on their immigration journey, forging their place in American history.

Against the backdrop of this rugged terrain, the sun rises, casting its warm glow—a beacon of rising hope. In contrast, the moon emerges, a tearful emblem of homesickness, rooted in traditional Chinese culture.

Together, these celestial bodies embody the intricate duality of the Chinese American laborers; experience, marked by aspirations for a brighter future in a new land and the enduring ache for their distant homes. This harmonious fusion of colors, symbols, and cultural elements results in a poignant masterpiece that pays homage to the indomitable spirit and complex emotions of those who built the First Transcontinental Railroad, ensuring their legacy shines brightly through the ages.

About the Mural

The James Museum partners with Chenlin Cai to create a mural for the SHINE Mural Festival that is an extension of The James Museum's special exhibition From Far East to West: The Chinese American Frontier to highlight the resiliency and self-determination of Chinese Americans who helped build the American West. Cai's work explores the dichotomy between the two cultures he inhabits, this project speaks to identity and community and how the past can impact the present.

Title: The Path We Came / 我们来的路

Address: 1927 4th Ave S

Building: Lantmännen Unibake

Installation Date: 2023

Artist Jones2023

Rhys Meatyard2023

Greater Public Studio2023

Andrea Wan2023

The Happy Mural Project2023

Kelly Quinn2023

Bunnie Reiss2023


Chris Dyer2023

Max Sansing2023

Dave Bonzai2023


Michael Vasquez2023

Chenlin Cai / 蔡陈林2023

Loretta Lizzio2023

Sarah Sheppard2023

Bryan Beyung & James Lee Chiahan2023

Hannah Eddy2023

James Bullough2022


Ben Johnston2022


Marina Capdevila2022


Reginald O'Neal 2022

Van Der Luc2022

Jeff Williams2022

Dream Weaver2022

Sydney Prusso2022

Ashley Cantero2022

Egypt Hagan2022



Nneka Jones2022

Amy Ilic-Volpe2022

Jason Harvin2022

Vitale Bros2022

Chad Mize2022

The Happy Mural Project2022

Greg Mike2021

Mwanel Pierre-Louis2021

Jenipher Chandley2021

Case Maclaim2021

Jared Wright2021

Bakpak Durden2021

Nicole Salgar2021

Ricky Watts2021


Woes Martin2021

Jason Harvin2021

Miss Crit2021

Michael Fatutoa2021

Emily Ding2021

Reid Jenkins2021

Aurailieus Artist2021


Leo Gomez2021

Ya La'Ford2021


Chad Mize 2021

Brain Storm2020

Brian Butler2020

Lili Yuan2020

Happy Mural Project2020


Tatiana Suarez2020

Elle LeBlanc2020

Mason Schwacke2020

Alex Yanes2020

Kenny Coil and Marc Berenguer2020

Nneka Jones and Bianca Burrows2020


Cecilia Lueza2019

George Rose2019

Morning Breath2019

Vitale Brothers2019

Cory Robinson-CLEAN Campaign2019


Taylor White2019


Princess Smith2019

Brian McAlister, Gibbs High Mural Club and Boys & Girls Club Members2019

JR-Inside Out2019

Paola Delfin2019

Jimmy Breen and Anthony Freese2019

Drew Merritt2019

Low Bros2019

Jay Hoff2019

Taj Tenfold2019

Leo Gomez2019


Blaine Fontana and Plastic Birdie2019

David Charlton2019

Todd Frain and Creative Clay2019

Haider Ali2018

Ya La Ford2018

Gibbs Rounsavall2018

Angela Faustina2018

Bekky Beukes2018

LOOK The Weird2018


Melanie Posner2018


J and S Signs2018

Sarah Page2018

Nomad Clan2018


Cecilia Lueza2018

Matt Kress2018

Michael Vahl2018

Noirs One2018


Justin Wagher2018


Matthew Hoffman2018


Joram Roukes2017

Jose Mertz2017

Stephen Palladino2017

Yok and Shero2017

Herbert Scott Davis2017


Lauren YS2017

Mikael B2017

ZuluPainter and Thirst2017

Axel Void and L.E.O.2017

Suarez Art2017


Daniel "R5" Barojas2017

Sam Yong2017

Ali Vasquez and Todd Frain2016

Angela Delaplane2016


Arlin Graff2016

Pep Rally Inc.-The CLEAN Campaign2016

Daniel Mrgan2016

Pixel Pancho2016

Michael Reeder2016

Alex Pardee2016

Cecilia Lueza2016





Dasic Fernandez2016


Mark Gmehling2016

Ya La Ford2016

Ink Werkz Crew2016

Andrew Spear2015

Chad Mize, James Oleson and Pinellas County Center for the Arts2015

Erik Jones2015



Michael Vasquez2015

Shark Toof2015

Morning Breath2015

Ricky Watts2015


Carrie Jadus2015


Greg Mike2015

Tes One and Palehorse2015


Ya La Ford2015

Carrie Jadus2015

Vitale Brothers2015

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