The situation was so severe that the imperial Chinese government even sent investigators to Cuba in 1873 to look into a large number of suicides by Chinese laborers in Cuba, as well as allegations of abuse and breach of contract by plantation owners. From Wikipedia: A coolie (alternatively spelled cooli, cooly, kuli, quli, koelie and other such variations), during the 19th and early 20th century, was a label applied to a person from Asia, particularly if they were from Southern China, the Indian subcontinent, the Philippines or Indonesia. If I were to write its history, I would fancy it would involve a Chinese baker, a Chinese Almond cookie, a Jewish Baker, and a dollop of chocolate and of course ground walnuts. They were mainly impoverished Chinese immigrants who came to Singapore in the latter half of the 19th century to seek fortune, but instead served as indentured labourers. So instead of saying Chinese from China, they said Celestrials from the Celestrial Empire. I was watching an Asian movie and this rich landlord lady called her poor Renters "Coolies" and they really did look underprivileged so I think it does mean slaves as the answer before said. The word itself comes from two Chinese words, “koo” meaning to rent, and “lee” meaning muscle. The coolies are those who rent out their muscles, that is, unskilled laborers. In 1876, the census in Peru registered 49,956 Chinese (slightly underestimated) out of a population of 2,699,160. The history of the Chinese Drop cookie is not well documented. Actually, coolie also refers to Chinese laborers. I thought this was for East Asians, specifically Chinese or Japanese people. Chinese coolies, who were engaged mostly in unskilled, hard labour, formed the early backbone of Singapore’s labour force. By Justina Hwang. Such laborers were ignorantly called “coolies” by those who were not familiar with the Chinese language. In many cases, these Chinese “coolies” were treated just as the enslaved Africans were. From the blending of cultures, the Chinese Drop Cookie is born as a somewhat crumbly and crispy treat. Furthermore chinese immigrants called coolies were brought to build the from HISTORY 203 at Ransom Everglades School It is because western romantics in the 19th century use to refer to China by its poetic name - Tianchao (天朝), which means Celestrial Empire. Between 1849 and 1874, more than 100,000 coolies arrived in Peru as a result of Ley China, which allowed for the importation of an indentured work force of Chinese laborers in order to meet Peruvian need for labor after the slaves were emancipated in 1854.