Chinatown (Chinese: 唐人街; pinyin: Tángrénjiē; Jyutping:
tong4 yan4 gaai1) is an ethnic enclave of Chinese or Han people
located outside mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, or Taiwan, most
often in an urban setting. Areas known as "Chinatown" exist throughout
the world, including Asia, Australia, the Americas, Africa and Europe.
The development of most Chinatowns typically resulted from mass
migration to an area without any, or with very few Chinese residents.
Binondo in Manila, established in 1594, is recognised as the world's
oldest Chinatown. Notable early examples outside Asia include San
Chinatown in the
United States and Melbourne's Chinatown
in Australia, which were founded in the mid-19th century during the
California gold rush
California gold rush and
Victoria gold rush
Victoria gold rush respectively. A more
modern example, in Montville, Connecticut, was caused by the
displacement of Chinese workers in the
Manhattan Chinatown following
September 11th attacks
September 11th attacks in 2001.
2.1 In Asia
2.2 In the West
2.3 1970s to the present
2.4 Chinese-themed shopping centers
3.2 Architectural styles
Chinese language signs
3.4 Chinese restaurants
Cantonese seafood restaurants
3.4.3 Localized cuisines
Chop suey and chow mein eateries (United States)
126.96.36.199 Chifas (Peru)
3.5 Chinese and Asian businesses
3.5.1 Markets and supermarkets
3.5.2 Chinese bakeries
3.5.3 Religious supplies
3.6 Antiquated features
3.7 Annual events
3.7.1 Chinese New Year
3.7.2 Mid-Autumn Festival
Chinatown Beauty Pageant
4 Benevolent and business associations
5.3 Other languages
6.4 Australia and Oceania
7 In popular culture
8 See also
Oxford Dictionary defines "Chinatown" as "... a district of any
non-Chinese town, especially a city or seaport, in which the
population is predominantly of Chinese origin". However, some
Chinatowns may have little to do with China. Some "Vietnamese"
enclaves are in fact a city's "second Chinatown", and some Chinatowns
are in fact pan-Asian, meaning they could also be counted as a
Koreatown or Little India. One example includes Asiatown in
Cleveland, Ohio. It was initially referred to as a
Chinatown but was
subsequently renamed due to the influx of non-Chinese Asian Americans
who opened businesses there. Today the district acts as a unifying
factor for the Chinese, Taiwanese, Korean, Japanese, Filipino, Indian,
Vietnamese, Cambodian, Laotian, Nepalese and Thai communities of
Further ambiguities with the term can include Chinese ethnoburbs which
by definition are "...suburban ethnic clusters of residential areas
and business districts in large metropolitan areas  where the
intended purpose is to be "... as isolated from the white population
as Hispanics". A
New York Times
New York Times article blurs the line further by
categorizing very different Chinatowns such as Chinatown, Manhattan,
which exists in an urban setting as "traditional"; Monterey Park's
Chinatown, which exists in a "suburban" setting (and labeled as such);
and Austin, Texas's Chinatown, which is in essence a "Chinese themed
mall", known as "fabricated". This contrasts with narrower
definitions, where the term only described
Chinatown in a city
In some cities in Spain, the term denotes an area, neighborhood or
district where prostitution or other businesses related to the sex
industry are concentrated; i.e. a red-light district. Some examples of
this are the
Chinatown of Salamanca and the
Chinatown of Barcelona,
Barcelona there was a small Chinese community in the
See also: Chinese emigration
Trading centres populated predominantly by Chinese men and their
native spouses have long existed throughout Southeast Asia. Emigration
to other parts of the world from
China accelerated in the 1860s with
the signing of the
Treaty of Peking
Treaty of Peking (1860), which opened the border
for free movement. Early emigrants came primarily from the coastal
Guangdong (Canton, Kwangtung) and
Hokkien) in southeastern
China – where the people generally speak
Toishanese, Cantonese, Hakka, Teochew (Chiuchow) and Hokkien. In the
late 19th century and early 20th century, a significant number of
Chinese emigration to
North America originated from four counties
called Sze Yup, located west of the
Pearl River Delta
Pearl River Delta in Guangdong
province, making Toishanese a dominant variety of the Chinese language
Chinatowns in Canada
Chinatowns in Canada and the United States.
As conditions in
China have improved in recent decades, many
Chinatowns have lost their initial mission, which was to provide a
transitional place into a new culture. As net migration has slowed
into them, the smaller Chinatowns have slowly decayed, often to the
point of becoming purely historical and no longer serving as ethnic
Chinese New Year
Chinese New Year celebrated in Chinatown, Kolkata
Chinatown located in Manila,
Philippines is the oldest
Chinatown in the world, established in 1594.
Several Asian Chinatowns, although not yet called by that name, have a
long history. Those in Nagasaki, Japan,
Binondo in Manila, Hoi An
and Bao Vinh in central Vietnam all existed in 1600. Glodok, the
Chinese quarter of Jakarta, Indonesia, dates to 1740.
Chinese presence in
India dates back to the 5th century AD. A
Chinatown first appeared in the Indian city of Calcutta (now renamed
Kolkata) and subsequently in Mumbai and Chennai. The first Chinese
settler in Calcutta was Young Atchew around 1780.
Chinatown centered on
Yaowarat Road in Bangkok, Thailand, was
founded at the same time as the city itself, in 1782.
In the West
Chinese seamen established one of the earliest Chinatowns around the
Liverpool in the mid-19th century.
An early enclave of
Chinese people emerged in the 1830s in Liverpool,
England when the first direct trading vessel from
China arrived in
Liverpool's docks to trade in goods including silk and cotton
wool. Many Chinese immigrants arrived in
Liverpool in the late
1850s in the employ of the Blue Funnel Shipping Line, a cargo
transport company established by Alfred Holt. The commercial shipping
line created strong trade links between the cities of Shanghai, Hong
Kong and Liverpool, mainly in the importation of silk, cotton and
San Francisco is one of the largest in North America
and the oldest north of Mexico. It served as a port of entry for early
Chinese immigrants from the 1850s to the 1900s. The area was the
one geographical region deeded by the city government and private
property owners which allowed Chinese persons to inherit and inhabit
dwellings within the city. Many Chinese found jobs working for large
companies seeking a source of labor, most famously as part of the
Central Pacific on the Transcontinental Railroad. Other early
immigrants worked as mine workers or independent prospectors hoping to
strike it rich during the 1849 Gold Rush. Other cities in North
America where Chinatowns were founded in the mid-nineteenth century
include almost every major settlement along the West Coast from San
Diego to Victoria.
Economic opportunity drove the building of further Chinatowns in the
United States. The initial Chinatowns were built in the Western United
States in states such as California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Utah,
Colorado, and Arizona. As the transcontinental railroad was built,
more Chinatowns started to appear in railroad towns such as St. Louis,
Chicago, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Butte Montana, and many east coast
cities such as New York City, Boston, Philadelphia, Providence, and
Baltimore. With the passage of the Emancipation Proclamation, many
southern states such as Arkansas, Louisiana, and Georgia began to hire
Chinese for work in place of slave labor.
The history of Chinatowns was not always peaceful, especially when
labor disputes arose. Racial tensions flared when lower-paid Chinese
workers replaced white miners in many mountain-area Chinatowns, such
as in Wyoming with the Rock Springs Massacre. Many of these frontier
Chinatowns became extinct as American racism surged and the Chinese
Exclusion Act was passed.
Other Chinatowns in European capitals, including Paris and London,
were established at the turn of the 20th century. The first Chinatown
in London was located in the
Limehouse area of the East End of
London at the start of the 20th century. The Chinese population
engaged in business which catered to the Chinese sailors who
frequented the Docklands. The area acquired a bad reputation from
exaggerated reports of opium dens and slum housing.
France received a large settlement of Chinese immigrant laborers,
mostly from the city of Wenzhou, in the
Zhejiang province of China.
Significant Chinatowns sprung up in Belleville and the 13th
arrondissement of Paris.
The busy intersection of Main Street, Kissena Boulevard, and 41st
Avenue in the
Flushing Chinatown (法拉盛華埠), Queens, New York
City. The segment of Main Street between
Kissena Boulevard and
Roosevelt Avenue, punctuated by the
Long Island Rail Road
Long Island Rail Road trestle
overpass, represents the cultural heart of Flushing Chinatown. Housing
over 30,000 individuals born in
China alone, the largest by this
metric outside Asia, Flushing has become home to one of the largest
and fastest-growing Chinatowns in the world.
Manhattan's Chinatown, the largest concentration of
Chinese people in
the Western Hemisphere
Chinatown, San Francisco, one of the largest Chinatowns in North
Paifang gate to Chinatown, Boston
1970s to the present
By the late 1970s, refugees and exiles from the
Vietnam War played a
significant part in the redevelopment of Chinatowns in developed
Western countries. As a result, many existing Chinatowns have become
pan-Asian business districts and residential neighborhoods. By
contrast, most Chinatowns in the past had been largely inhabited by
Chinese from southeastern China.
In 2001, the events of September 11 have resulted in a mass migration
of about 14,000 Chinese workers from Manhattan's
Montville, Connecticut due to the fall of the garment industry and
workers transitioning to casino jobs fueled by the development of the
Mohegan Sun casino.
In 2012, Tijuana's
Chinatown formed as a result of availability of
direct flights to China. The La Mesa District of Tijuana was formerly
a small enclave, but has tripled in size as a result of direct flights
to Shanghai, with an ethnic Chinese population rise from 5,000 in 2009
to roughly 15,000 in 2012, overtaking Mexicali's
Chinatown as the
largest Chinese enclave in Mexico.
Chinese-themed shopping centers
China Mall in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
In recent years, Chinese-themed shopping centers have started to take
on a role as historical and touristic centers, though the centers
themselves are not "Chinatowns" by definition, usually as they are
built in areas where the Chinese populations are intermixed with the
general population at large. For example, the "Chinatown" in Albany,
New York has been created as an attraction rather than an enclave,
intended to give the feeling of the "old Chinatown" in an upscale
setting. The new
Raleigh, North Carolina
Raleigh, North Carolina will be
built with a five-star hotel, and is intended mainly as a visitor
attraction. Other examples of Chinese-themed malls exist in
Richmond, British Columbia, Houston, Las Vegas, Dubai, and Santo
Domingo have received official recognition as a "Chinatown". While
many Chinese-themed areas have in many cases displaced original
Chinese enclaves as places where authentic
Chinese cuisine restaurants
and shopping can be found, they are not considered tourist attractions
as the most notable historic
Chinatown districts are. Bonnie Tsui
in her book states that the newer "commercial Chinatowns" rely on the
Chinatown being built before the local Chinese population arrives.
The features described below are characteristic of many modern
The early Chinatowns such as those in
San Francisco and
United States were naturally destinations for people of Chinese
descent as migration were the result of opportunities such as the
Gold Rush and the Transcontinental Railroad drawing the
population in, creating natural Chinese enclaves that were almost
always 100% exclusively Han Chinese, which included both people born
China and in the enclave, in this case American born Chinese.
In some free countries such as the
United States and Canada, housing
laws that prevent discrimination also allows neighborhoods that may
have been characterized as "All Chinese" to also allow non-Chinese to
reside in these communities. For example, the
Philadelphia show sizeable white and black races residing within the
community. A recent study also suggests that the demographic
change is also driven by gentrification of what were previously
Chinatown neighborhoods. The influx of luxury housing is speeding up
the gentrification of such neighborhoods. The trend for emergence of
these types of natural enclaves is on the decline (with the exceptions
being the continued growth and emergence of newer Chinatowns in Queens
and Brooklyn in New York City), only to be replaced by newer
"Disneyland-like" attractions, such as a new
Chinatown that will be
built in the
Catskills region of New York. This includes the
endangerment of existing historical Chinatowns that will eventually
stop serving the needs of Chinese immigrants. Newer developments like
Norwich, Connecticut and the San Gabriel Valley, which are
not necessarily considered "Chinatowns" in the sense that they do not
necessarily contain the Chinese architectures or Chinese language
signs as signatures of an officially sanctioned area that was
designated either in law or signage stating so, differentiate areas
that are called "Chinatowns" versus locations that have "significant"
populations of people of Chinese descent. For example, San Jose,
California in the
United States has 63,434 people (2010 U.S. Census)
of Chinese descent, and yet "does not have a Chinatown." Some
"official" Chinatowns have Chinese populations much lower than
Main article: Chinese architecture
Many tourist-destination metropolitan Chinatowns can be distinguished
by large red arch entrance structures known in Mandarin Chinese as
Paifang (sometimes accompanied by imperial guardian lion statues on
either side of the structure, to greet visitors). Other Chinese
architectural styles such as the Chinese Garden of Friendship in
Sydney Chinatown and the
Chinese stone lions
Chinese stone lions at the gate to the
Victoria, British Columbia
Victoria, British Columbia
Chinatown are present in some Chinatowns.
Mahale Chiniha, the
Chinatown in Iran, contains many buildings that
were constructed in the Chinese architectural style.
Paifangs usually have special inscriptions in Chinese. Historically,
these gateways were donated to a particular city as a gift from the
China and People's Republic of China, or local governments
(such as Chinatown, San Francisco), and business organizations. The
Chinatown in Havana, Cuba, received materials for its
paifang from the People's Republic of
China as part of the Chinatown's
gradual renaissance. Construction of these red arches is often
financed by local financial contributions from the Chinatown
community. Some of these structures span an entire intersection, and
some are smaller in height and width. Some paifang can be made of
wood, masonry, or steel and may incorporate an elaborate or simple
Entrance to Chinatown, Sydney
Paifang in Philadelphia
Paifang in Buenos Aires, Argentina
Boston looking towards the paifang
Gate of Chinatown, Portland, Oregon
Chinatown entry arch in Newcastle, England
Chinese Garden of Friendship, part of Sydney Chinatown
Chinese stone lions
Chinese stone lions at the
Chinatown gate in Victoria, British
Harbin Gates in
Chinatown of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
Millennium Gate on Pender Street in
Chinatown of Vancouver, British
Chinese Cultural Centre in Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Chinese Temple "Toong On Church" in Kolkata, India.
Chinese language signs
Chinese characters are very commonly seen in areas officially labeled
as "Chinatown", and many stores that are located in such districts use
Chinese calligraphy on storefront signs. Many Chinatowns, such as the
one in Oakland, California, employ bilingual street signs that are in
Chinese as well as English.
In Washington, DC's Chinatown, storefront signs are required to have a
Chinese characters when the establishment is located in
this district, whether the store is Chinese in nature or not. Local
franchises of national chains, such as
Starbucks coffeeshops and CVS
drugstores conform to this rule.
Street signs in Oakland
Chinatown in English and Chinese
McDonald's in the Triangle de Choisy in Paris
The 700 block of H Street,
Northwest, Washington, D.C.
Northwest, Washington, D.C. showing a
Subway restaurant with Chinese characters.
Neon signs in Chinese and Thai adorn buildings alongside Yaowarat Road
in Bangkok's Chinatown
Chinese restaurant and Chinese cuisine
This section contains weasel words: vague phrasing that often
accompanies biased or unverifiable information. Such statements should
be clarified or removed. (March 2015)
Cooks at a
Manhattan Chinatown restaurant taking a break
Most Chinatowns are centered on food, and as a result Chinatowns
worldwide are usually popular destinations for various ethnic Chinese
and other Asian cuisines such as Vietnamese, Thai, and Malaysian. Some
Chinatowns, such as in Singapore, have developed their own localized
style of Chinese cuisine.
Chinatown restaurants serve both as major
economic components and as social gathering places. In the Chinatowns
in many western countries, restaurant work may be the only type of
employment available for poorer immigrants, especially those who
cannot converse fluently in the language of the adopted country. Most
Chinatowns generally have a range of authentic and tourist-oriented
Some restaurants in
Chinatown do not cater towards non-Chinese
customers. Because of ethnic Chinese immigration and the expanded
palate of many contemporary cultures, the remaining American Chinese
Chinese cuisine restaurants are seen as
anachronisms,[who?] but remain popular and profitable. In many
Chinatowns, there are now many large, authentic
restaurants, restaurants specializing in other varieties of Chinese
cuisine such as Hakka cuisine, Szechuan cuisine,
Shanghai cuisine, and
small restaurants with delicatessen foods.
Cantonese seafood restaurants
See also: List of seafood restaurants
Cantonese seafood restaurants (海鮮酒家, Pinyin: Hǎixiān
Jiǔjiā, pronounced in
Cantonese as hoy seen jau ga) typically use a
large dining room layout, have ornate designs, and specialize in
seafood such as expensive Chinese-style lobsters, crabs, prawns,
clams, and oysters, all kept live in fish tanks until preparation.
Some seafood restaurants may also offer dim sum in the morning through
the early afternoon hours, as waiters announce the names of dishes
while pushing steaming carts of food and pastries around the
restaurant. These restaurants are also a popular place for weddings,
banquets, and other special events.
These types of restaurants flourished and became in vogue in Hong Kong
during the 1960s, and subsequently began opening in various Chinatowns
overseas. Owing to their higher menu prices and greater amount of
investment capital required to open and manage one (due to higher
levels of staffing needed), they tend to be more common in Chinatowns
and satellite communities in developed countries and in fairly
affluent Chinese immigrant communities, notably in Australia, Canada,
and the United States, where they have received significant population
Hong Kong Chinese émigrés. Poorer immigrants usually cannot start
these kinds of restaurants, although they too are employed in them.
There are generally fewer of them in the older Chinatowns; for
example, they are practically non-existent in Vancouver's Chinatown,
but are found in its suburbs such as Richmond, British Columbia,
Canada. Competition between these restaurants is often fierce; hence
owners of seafood restaurants hire and even "steal" the best chefs,
many of whom are from Hong Kong.
A display of
Cantonese roast duck for sale in a delicatessen in
Chinatown, Los Angeles
Also, Chinese barbecue deli restaurants, called siu laap (燒臘 shāo
là) and sometimes called a "noodle house" or mein ga (麵家 miàn
jiā), are generally more modest in size and decor, and serve less
expensive fare such as wonton noodles (or wonton mein), chow fun
(炒粉 chǎo fěn, stir-fry rice noodles), Yeung Chow fried rice
(揚州炒飯 Yángzhōu chǎofàn), and rice porridge or congee,
known as juk in
Cantonese Chinese. They also tend to have displays of
whole pre-cooked roasted ducks and suckling pigs hanging in their
windows, a common feature in most Chinatowns worldwide. These delis
also serve barbecue pork (叉燒 chāshāo, cha siu), tripe, chicken
feet, and other Chinese-style items less familiar to the typical
Western palate. Food is usually intended for take-out. Some of these
Chinatown restaurants sometimes have reputations for being "greasy
spoons" and for poor service, whereas others may be clean and
well-lit, with suitable decor and attentive waitstaff.
Vietnamese immigrants, both ethnic Chinese and non-Chinese, have
opened restaurants in many Chinatowns, serving Vietnamese pho beef
noodle soups and Franco-Vietnamese sandwiches. Some immigrants have
also started restaurants serving Teochew Chinese cuisine. Some
Chinatowns both old and new may also contain several pan-Asian
restaurants offering a variety of Asian noodles under one roof.
Chop suey and chow mein eateries (United States)
Often lit by neon signage, restaurants offering chop suey or chow
mein, mainly for the benefit of non-Chinese customers, were frequent
in older Chinatowns. These dishes also are offered in standard
barbecue restaurants and takeouts (take-away restaurants).
A special feature of the
Lima, Peru (
Barrio Chino de
Lima) is the chifa, a
Chinese-Peruvian type of restaurant which mixes
Chinese cuisine with local Peruvian flavors. Chifa is the
Peruvian Spanish derivative of the
Cantonese phrase jee fon (饎飯
chì fàn), which renders as "cook rice" or as "cook meal'". This type
of restaurant is popular with native Peruvians.
Chinese and Asian businesses
Typical grocery store on 8th Avenue in one of the Brooklyn Chinatowns
on Long Island, New York, USA. New York City's satellite Chinatowns in
Queens and Brooklyn are thriving as traditionally urban enclaves, as
large-scale Chinese immigration continues into New York,
with the largest metropolitan Chinese population outside Asia.
Chinatown businesses are engaged in the import-export and
wholesale businesses; hence a large number of trading companies are
found in Chinatowns.
Markets and supermarkets
Main article: Asian supermarket
In addition to the restaurant trade, grocery stores and seafood
markets serve a key function in
Chinatown economies, and these stores
sell Chinese ingredients to such restaurants as well as to the general
public. Some markets are wholesalers, while smaller
and markets are often characterized by sidewalk vegetable and fruit
stalls, a quintessential image of many Chinatowns. Many local
residents buy fresh food daily, taking advantage of its ready
availability, and also avoiding the space, ventilation, and electrical
requirements of large refrigerators at home.
Stores also sell a variety of grocery items imported from East Asia
(chiefly Mainland China, Taiwan, Japan, and South Korea) and Southeast
Asia (principally Vietnam, Thailand, and Malaysia). For example, most
Chinatown markets stock items such as sacks of Thai jasmine rice,
Chinese chrysanthemum and oolong teas, bottles of oyster sauce, rice
Hong Kong soybean beverages, Malaysian snack items,
Taiwanese rice crackers, and Japanese seaweed and Chinese specialties
such as black duck eggs (often used in rice porridge), bok choy, and
water chestnuts. These markets may also sell fish (especially tilapia)
and other seafood items, which are kept alive in aquariums, for
Chinese and other Asian cuisine dishes. Until recently, these items
generally could not be found outside the
Chinatown enclaves, although
since the 1970s Asian supermarkets have proliferated in the suburbs of
North America and Australia, competing strongly with the old Chinatown
Main article: Chinese bakery products
Many Chinatowns have had ethnic bakeries for years, offering a large
variety of steamed, boiled, or fried delicacies as well as baked
goods. Most of the foods on offer were of Chinese origin, but
storekeepers often added items adopted or adapted from the surrounding
national culture. Chinese bakeries in Hong Kong, Singapore, and Taiwan
were especially influential in mixing ingredients and techniques from
other world cultures, developing new foods that have become standard
North America and elsewhere, the non-Chinese population has
gradually discovered these delicacies, and Chinese bakeries have begun
to sell their products to a wider market.
In keeping with
Taoist funeral traditions, Chinese
specialty shops also sell incense and funeral items which provide
material comfort in the afterlife of the deceased. Shops sell
specially crafted paper replicas of small houses, radios, televisions,
telephones, jewelry, and other symbolic material items. They also sell
"hell money" currency notes, intended to be ritually burned in a
These businesses also sell red, wooden
Buddhist altars and small
statues for worship. Per Chinese custom, an offering of fresh oranges
is usually placed in front of the statue in the altar. Sometimes
altars are stacked atop each other. These altars may be found in many
Chinatown businesses as well as homes, to bring good luck and
Far East Chop Suey restaurant in Little Tokyo, Los Angeles:
Restaurants like this are now rare, but were once a common sight in
the United States
Many early Chinatowns featured large numbers of Chinese-owned chop
suey restaurants, laundry businesses, and opium dens, until around the
mid-20th century when most of these businesses began to disappear.
Though some remain, they are generally seen as anachronisms.[citation
needed] In early years of Chinatowns, the opium dens were patronized
as a relaxation and to escape the harsh and brutal realities of a
hostile non-Chinese society, although in North American Chinatowns,
they were also frequented by non-Chinese. Additionally, due to the
inability on the part of Chinese immigrant men to bring a wife and
lack of available local Chinese women for men to marry, brothels
became common in some Chinatowns of the 19th century. Chinese
laundries, which were labor-intensive but required very little capital
or language fluency, were fairly common.
These traditional businesses no longer exist in many Chinatowns and
have been replaced by Chinese grocery stores, restaurants that serve
more authentic Chinese cuisine, and other establishments. While opium
dens no longer exist, illegal basement gambling parlors are still
places of recreation in many Chinatowns, where men gather to play
mahjong and other games.
Many Chinatowns close off streets for parades, street festivals,
Chinese acrobatics and martial arts demonstrations, and amusement
rides, under the request of the promoters or organizers for the major
event. Smaller festivals may also be held in a parking lot/car park,
playground, local park, or school grounds within Chinatown.
Chinese New Year
Main article: Chinese New Year
Most Chinatowns present
Chinese New Year
Chinese New Year (also known as Lunar New
Year) festivities with dragon and lion dances accompanied by the
rhythm of clashing cymbals, clanging on a gong, clapping of hardwood
clappers, pounding of drums, and loud Chinese firecrackers. Special
performances are held in front of Chinese businesses, where the "lion"
character attempts to "eat" a head of lettuce or to catch an orange in
its mouth. The lion costume typically contains two dancers, and
performances may involve several athletic stunts. Dragon dancers often
perform in larger groups, animating a long tubular dragon costume. In
return, storekeepers usually donate some money to the performers, who
usually belong to local martial arts clubs.
Ironically, many lion and dragon dances are considered better
preserved in true form in overseas Chinatowns rather than in China
itself. This discrepancy is attributed to the fact that traditional
Chinese customs, including lion and dragon dances, were unable to
flourish during the political and social instabilities of Imperial
China under rule of the Qing Dynasty, and were almost eliminated
completely under the
Communist regime of the People's Republic of
China under Chairman Mao Zedong. However, due to the migration of
Chinese all over the world (particularly Southeast Asia), these dance
traditions were continued by overseas Chinese and performed in
Chinese New Year
Chinese New Year dragon and lion dances are intended particularly to
scare off evil spirits and bring good fortune to the community. They
are also specially commissioned to celebrate a grand opening of a new
Chinatown business, such as a restaurant or bank. Ceremonial wreaths
and leafy green plants with red-colored ribbons strewn across are also
usually placed in front of new
Chinatown businesses by well-wishers
(particularly family members, wholesalers, community organizations,
and so on), to assure future success.
Main article: Mid-Autumn Festival
Mid-Autumn Festival or "August Moon Festival" is an annual
celebration that occurs sometime between August to October, depending
on the lunar calendar and local customs. Many stores sell special
mooncakes in conjunction with this particular festival. In addition to
street celebrations, dragon boat races are held on this occasion in
Chinatown Beauty Pageant
Some Chinatowns hold an annual "Miss Chinatown" beauty pageant, such
Miss New York Chinese Pageant (formerly known as Miss Greater
Chinatown NYC Beauty Pageant), "Miss
Chinatown San Francisco," "Mr
Chinatown Philippines," "Miss
Chinatown Hawaii," "Miss
Chinatown Houston" or "Miss
Chinatown Atlanta".
Chinese New Year
Chinese New Year on 8th Avenue in Brooklyn Chinatown
Moon festival lantern parade in Chinatown, Los Angeles, 1954
Like Chinese worldwide, the people in Calgary, Alberta's Chinatown
perform dragon dances for good luck
Mooncakes, often eaten during the Mid-Autumn festival
Benevolent and business associations
Main article: Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association
Headquarters of the
Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association
Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association in
Chinatown, San Francisco.
A major component of many Chinatowns is the family benevolent
association, which provides some degree of aid to immigrants. These
associations generally provide social support, religious services,
death benefits (members' names in Chinese are generally enshrined on
tablets and posted on walls), meals, and recreational activities for
ethnic Chinese, especially for older Chinese migrants. Membership in
these associations can be based on members sharing a common Chinese
surname or belonging to a common clan, spoken Chinese dialect,
specific village, region or country of origin, and so on. Many have
their own facilities.
Some examples include San Francisco's prominent Chinese Consolidated
Benevolent Association (中華總會館 Zhōnghuá Zǒng Huìguǎn),
aka Chinese Six Companies, and Los Angeles' Southern California
Teochew Association. The Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association
is among the largest umbrella groups of benevolent associations in the
North America, which branches in several Chinatowns. Politically, the
CCBA has traditionally been aligned with the
Kuomintang and the
Republic of China.
Chinatown Chinese Association is active in Chinatown,
Chinatown, Paris has an institution in the Association des
France d'origine indochinoise and it servicing overseas
Chinese immigrants in Paris who were born in the former French
Traditionally, Chinatown-based associations have also been aligned
with ethnic Chinese business interests, such as restaurant, grocery,
and laundry (antiquated) associations in Chinatowns in North America.
In Chicago's Chinatown, the On Leong Merchants Association was active.
Official signs in
Boston pointing towards "Chinatown"
Although the term "Chinatown" was first used in Asia, it does not come
from a Chinese language. Its earliest appearance seems to have been in
connection with the Chinese quarter of Singapore, which by 1844 was
already being called "
China Town" or "Chinatown" by the British
colonial government. This may have been a word-for-word
translation into English of the Malay name for that quarter, which in
those days was probably "Kampong China" or possibly "Kota China" or
The first appearance of a
Singapore may have been in
1852, in a book by the Rev. Hatfield, who applied the term to the
Chinese part of the main settlement on the remote South Atlantic
island of St. Helena. The island was a regular way-station on the
voyage to Europe and
North America from Indian Ocean ports, including
Sign inside Jefferson Station in
Philadelphia pointing to "Chinatown"
One of the earliest American usages dates to 1855, when San Francisco
newspaper The Daily Alta
California described a "pitched battle on the
streets of [SF's] Chinatown."  Other Alta articles from the late
1850s make it clear that areas called "Chinatown" existed at that time
in several other
California cities, including Oroville and San
Andres. By 1869, "
Chinatown had acquired its full modern
meaning all over the U.S. and Canada. For instance, an
San Diego to Sitka..., every town and hamlet has its
In British publications before the 1890s, "Chinatown" appeared mainly
in connection with California. At first, Australian and New Zealand
journalists also regarded Chinatowns as Californian phenomena.
However, they began using the term to denote local Chinese communities
as early as 1861 in Australia and 1873 in New Zealand. In most
other countries, the custom of calling local Chinese communities
"Chinatowns" is not older than the twentieth century.
Several alternate English names for
(generally used in British and Australian English), The Chinese
District, Chinese Quarter, and
China Alley (an antiquated term used
primarily in several rural towns in the western
United States for a
Chinese community; some of these are now historical sites). In the
case of Lillooet, British Columbia, Canada,
China Alley was a parallel
commercial street adjacent to the town's Main Street, enjoying a view
over the river valley adjacent and also over the main residential part
of Chinatown, which was largely of adobe construction. All traces of
China Alley there have disappeared, despite a once large
and prosperous community.
Street sign in
Chinatown, Newcastle with 唐人街 below the street
Chinatown is usually called 唐人街, in
yan gai, in Mandarin Tángrénjiē, in Hakka Tong ngin gai, and in
Toisan Hong ngin gai, literally meaning "Tang people's street(s)". The
Tang Dynasty was a zenith of the Chinese civilization, after which
some Chinese call themselves. Some Chinatowns are indeed just one
single street, such as the relatively short Fisgard Street in
Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.
A more modern Chinese name is 華埠 (Cantonese: Waa Fau, Mandarin:
Huábù) meaning "Chinese City", used in the semi-official Chinese
translations of some cities' documents and signs. Bù, pronounced
sometimes in Mandarin as fù, usually means seaport; but in this
sense, it means city or town. Likewise, Tong yan fau (唐人埠
Tángrén bù "Tang people's town") is also used in Cantonese
nowadays. The literal word-for-word translation of
Chinatown—Zhōngguó Chéng (中國城) is also used, but more
frequently by visiting Chinese nationals rather than immigrants of
Chinese descent who live in various Chinatowns.
Some Chinatowns have unique Chinese names used by the local Chinese.
For example, the Chinese name for
Hokkien POJ: Gû-chia-chúi), which
literally means "ox-cart water" from the Malay 'Kreta Ayer' in
reference to the water carts that used to ply the area. The Chinatown
in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, while officially known as Petaling Street
(Malay: Jalan Petaling), is referred to by Malaysian Chinese by its
Cantonese name ci4 cong2 gaai1 (茨厂街, pinyin: Cíchǎng Jiē),
literally "tapioca factory street", after a tapioca starch factory
that once stood in the area. In Manila, the area is called
Mínlúnluò Qū 岷倫洛區, literally the "district near the Rivers
Mín Coherent to the River Luò". This is however a transliteration of
the local term "Binondo" and an allusion to its proximity to the Pasig
Francophone regions (such as
France and Quebec),
Chinatown is often
referred to as le quartier chinois (the Chinese Quarter; plural: les
quartiers chinois). The most prominent
Francophone Chinatowns are
located in Paris and Montreal.
The Spanish-language term is usually barrio chino (Chinese
neighborhood; plural: barrios chinos), used in
Spain and Latin
America. (However, barrio chino or its Catalan cognate barri xinès do
not always refer to a Chinese neighborhood: these are also common
terms for a disreputable district with drugs and prostitution, and
often no connection to the Chinese.).
The Vietnamese term for
Chinatown is Khu người Hoa (Chinese
district) or phố Tàu (Chinese street). Vietnamese language is
prevalent in Chinatowns of Paris, Los Angeles, Toronto, and Montreal
as ethnic Chinese from
Vietnam have set up shop in them.
In Japanese, the term "chūkagai" (literally "Chinese Street") is the
translation used for Yokohama and Nagasaki Chinatown.
In Indonesia, chinatown is known as Pecinan, a shortened term of
pe-cina-an, means everything related to the Chinese people. Most of
these pecinans usually located in Java.
Some languages have adopted the English-language term, such as Dutch
Street scene of the
Chinatown in Cyrildene, Johannesburg
Main article: Chinatowns in Africa
There are three noteworthy
Chinatowns in Africa
Chinatowns in Africa located in the coastal
African nations of Madagascar, Mauritius, and South Africa. South
Africa has the largest
Chinatown and the largest Chinese population of
any African country and remains a popular destination for Chinese
immigrants coming to Africa. Derrick Avenue in Cyrildene, Johannesburg
hosts South Africa's largest Chinatown.
Main article: Chinatowns in the Americas
In the Americas, which includes North America, Central America and
South America, Chinatowns have been around since the 1800s. The most
prominent ones exist in the
United States and
Canada in New York City,
San Francisco, and Vancouver.
New York City
New York City is home to the largest
ethnic Chinese population outside of Asia, including several
Chinatowns in and around Manhattan, Flushing, and Brooklyn. There is
Little Fuzhou developing in Manhattan and in a nearby area of
Brooklyn. San Francisco, a Pacific port city, has the oldest and
longest continuous running
Chinatown in the Western
Hemisphere. In Canada, Vancouver's
Chinatown is the
Chinatown in the
Americas is in
Mexico City and dates back
to at least the early 17th century. Since the 1970s, new arrivals
have typically hailed from Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan. Latin
American Chinatowns may include the descendants of original migrants
– often of mixed Chinese and
Latino parentage – and more recent
immigrants from East Asia. Most Asian Latin Americans are of Cantonese
and Hakka origin. Estimates widely vary on the number of Chinese
descendants in Latin America. Notable Chinatowns also exist in Buenos
Argentina and Lima, Peru.
Chinatowns in the Americas
San Francisco's Chinatown
Chinatown in Canada's Capital, Ottawa
Arch honors Chinese-Mexican community of
Mexico City, built in 2008,
Articulo 123 Street
Main article: Chinatowns in Asia
Chinatowns in Asia
Chinatowns in Asia are widespread with a large concentration of
overseas Chinese in
East Asia and
Southeast Asia and ethnic Chinese
whose ancestors came from southern
China – particularly the
provinces of Guangdong, Fujian, and
Hainan – and settled in
countries such as Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia,
Myanmar, Singapore, the Philippines, Thailand, and
ago—starting as early as the Tang Dynasty, but mostly notably in the
17th through the 19th centuries (during the reign of the Qing
Dynasty), and well into the 20th century. Today the Chinese diaspora
in Asia is largely concentrated in
Southeast Asia however the legacy
of the once widespread overseas Chinese communities in Asia is evident
in the many Chinatowns that are found across East, South and Southeast
Yokohama Chinatown's Goodwill Gate in Japan
Kan Yin Temple (Kwan Yin Si), a place of worship for Burmese Chinese
in Bago, also serves as a Mandarin school
Chinatown gate in Mangga Dua, Jakarta, Indonesia
Chinese New Year
Chinese New Year celebrated in Chinatown, Kolkata, India.
Australia and Oceania
Chinatowns in Australia
Chinatowns in Australia and Chinatowns in Oceania
Melbourne lies within the
Melbourne Central Business
District and centers on the eastern end of Little Bourke Street. It
extends between the corners of Swanston and Exhibition Streets.
Chinatown originated during the
Victorian gold rush
Victorian gold rush in
1851, and is notable as the oldest
Chinatown in Australia. It has also
been claimed to be the longest continuously running Chinese community
outside of Asia, but only because the 1906
San Francisco earthquake
all but destroyed the
San Francisco in
Chinatown centers on Sussex Street in the Sydney
downtown. It stretches from Central Station in the east to Darling
Harbour in the west, and is Australia's largest Chinatown.
Chinatown of Adelaide was originally built in the 1960s and was
renovated in the 1980s. It is located near Adelaide Central Market and
the Adelaide Bus Station.
Chinatown Gold Coast is a precinct in the Central Business District of
Southport, Queensland, that runs through Davenport Street and Young
Street. The precinct extends between Nerang Street in the north and
Garden Street/Scarborough Street east-west. Redevelopment of the
precinct was established in 2013 and completed in 2015 in time for
Chinese New Year
Chinese New Year celebrations.
There are additional Chinatowns in Brisbane, Perth and Broome in
Chinatowns in Australia
Chinatowns in Australia and Oceania
Paifang at Sydney Chinatown
Bendigo Chinese Precinct
Chinatown entrance at Little Bourke Street
Main article: Chinatowns in Europe
Several urban Chinatowns exist in major European capital cities. There
is Chinatown, London,
England as well as major Chinatowns in
Birmingham, Liverpool, Newcastle and Manchester. Berlin, Germany has
two established Chinatowns, with the Dong Xuan Center around
Herzbergstrasse of Lichtenberg in the East, and the area around
Charlottenburg in the West.
Antwerp, Belgium has also
seen an upstart Chinese community, that has been recognized by the
local authorities since 2011. The city council of
plans to recognize the Chinese Diaspora in the city.
Chinatown in Paris, located in the 13th arrondissement, is the
largest in Europe, where many Vietnamese – specifically ethnic
Chinese refugees from
Vietnam – have settled and in Belleville in
the northeast of Paris as well as in Lyon. In Italy, there is a
Milan between Via Luigi Canonica and
Via Paolo Sarpi
Via Paolo Sarpi and
Rome and Prato. In the Netherlands, Chinatowns exist in
Rotterdam and the Hague.
In the United Kingdom, several exist in Birmingham, Liverpool, London,
Manchester and Newcastle Upon Tyne. The
Liverpool is the
oldest Chinese community in Europe. The
Chinatown in London was
established in the
Limehouse district in the late 19th century. The
Manchester is located in central Manchester.
Gate of Chinatown,
Liverpool England, is the largest multiple-span
arch outside of China, in the oldest Chinese community in Europe
Gerrard Street, Chinatown, London
Chinatown in Birmingham, England
Chinese new year celebration in Lyon, France.
In popular culture
Chinatowns have been referenced in various films including The Joy
Luck Club, Big Trouble in Little China, and Chinatown. Also, many
films in which
Jackie Chan appears reference locations in Chinatown,
particularly the Rush Hour series with Chris Tucker.
Chinatowns have also been mentioned in the song "Kung Fu Fighting" by
Carl Douglas whose song lyrics says "... There was funky
from funky Chinatown...."
The martial arts actor
Bruce Lee is well known as a person who was
born in the
Chinatown of San Francisco. Other notable Chinese
Americans such as politician
Gary Locke and NBA player
Jeremy Lin grew
up in suburbs with lesser connections to traditional Chinatowns.
Neighborhood activists and politicians have increased in prominence in
some cities, and some are starting to attract support from non-Chinese
Wikimedia Commons has media related to:
Africans in Guangzhou, the largest people of the African diaspora
living in China
Chinatown bus lines
Europe Street, a street in
China dedicated to European culture
Jack Manion San Francisco's
List of U.S. cities with significant Chinese-American populations
List of named ethnic enclaves in North American cities
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