Learn more about Chinatown
This article is about sections of an urban area associated with a large number of Chinese residents or commercial activities. For specific Chinatowns, see List of Chinatowns. For other meanings, see: Chinatown (disambiguation)
A Chinatown is a section of an urban area associated with a large number of Chinese residents or commercial activities within a city outside China. Chinatowns are most common in Southeast Asia and North America.
In the past, overcrowded Chinatowns in urban areas were generally shunned by the non-Chinese public as ethnic ghettos, and seen as places of vice and cultural insularity where "unassimilable foreigners" congregated. Nowadays, many old and new Chinatowns are considered significant centers of commercialism and tourism. Some of them also serve, to various degrees, as centers of multiculturalism, if in a somewhat superficial manner. It is a misconception to assume that a city's 'Chinatown' constitutes the place where most of the city's people of Chinese ancestry live.
Many Chinatowns are focused on commercial tourism whereas others are actual living and working communities; some are a synthesis of both. Chinatowns also range from rundown ghettoes to sites of recent development. In some, recent investments have revitalized run-down and blighted areas and turned them into centers of economic and social activity. In some cases, this has led to gentrification and a reduction in the specifically Chinese character of the neighborhoods.
Many Chinatowns have a long history, such as Shinchimachi, the nearly three-century old Chinatown in Nagasaki, Japan, or Yaowarat Road in Bangkok, which was founded by Chinese traders more than 200 years ago. Melbourne Chinatown, established in the Victorian gold rush in 1854, is the longest continuously running Chinatown outside of Asia (San Francisco Chinatown was built earlier during the California Gold Rush, but rebuilt after it was destroyed by earthquakes). Other Chinatowns are much newer, for example, the Chinatown in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S. formed in the 1990s. Most Chinatowns grew without any organized plans, while a very few (such as the one in Las Vegas and a new area outside the city limits of Seoul, South Korea to be completed by late 2005) were developed following deliberate plans (sometimes as part of redevelopment projects to better the location). Indeed, many areas of the world promote the commercial development and redevelopment (or regeneration) of Chinatowns, such as Germany, the Netherlands, South Korea, and the United Kingdom. In Ireland and Italy, national-culture sentiments have blocked the establishment of separate Chinese residential-commercial colonies.
 History of the earliest Chinatowns by region
Trading centres populated mainly by Chinese men and their native wives had existed throughout Southeast Asia for many years but emigration to other parts of the world from China accelerated in the 1860s with the enactment of the Treaty of Peking, which opened the border for free movement. The early emigrants came primarily from coastal province of Guangdong and Fujian (Fukien) — where Cantonese, Min Nan (Hokkien), Hakka, and Chaozhou (Teochew, Chiu Chow) are largely spoken — in southeastern China. Initially, the Qing government of China did not care for these migrants social misfits leaving the country as they were likely considered socially undesirable and "traitorous" to China. Moneymaking was also frowned upon in Confucianist China, which Chinese migrants were intending to earn wages as sojourners. However, the Chinese were not a unified group but were divided upon sub-ethnic/linguistic lines, as feuds between those of Cantonese (Punti) and Hakka stocks were common. Generally, there were also sub-divisions based on Chinese clans/surnames.
Taishanese and Cantonese settled in the first North American (United States, Canada), Australian, and Latin American Chinatowns (Cuba, Mexico, Peru). As a group, the Cantonese are linguistically and ethnically distinct from other groups in China with migrants especially coming from mostly from the Siyi and Sanyi regions (with various variations of spoken Cantonese) of Guangdong; Cantonese remained the dominant language and heritage of many Chinatowns in Western countries until the 1970s. Due to laws in some countries barring the importation Chinese wives (for fear of the perceived Yellow Peril), some Chinatowns emerged as bachelor’s societies where males dominated and the male-to-female ratio population was generally skewed. In Latin America, many Cantonese-speaking migrants arrived as indentured labourers particularly in Peru (to work in the deadly guano fields) and Cuba (to labor in sugar plantations) giving those countries substantial Chinatowns.
The Hokkien and Teochew (both groups speaking the Minnan sub-group of Chinese dialects), along with Cantonese are the dominant group in Southeast Asian Chinatowns. Chinese migrants also pioneered some major Southeast Asian cities, such as Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and hence Chinese influence is felt there. The Hakka groups established Chinatowns in Africa (particularly Mauritius), Latin America and the Caribbean. Northern Chinese settled in Korea in the 1940s.
In Europe, early Chinese were generally seamen who jumped ship and began to provide services to to other Chinesed mariners. In the nineteenth century and early twentieth century the United Kingdom treated China as part of its unofficial Empire employing Chinese in its merchant marine in significant numbers. In consequence,from the 1890s onwards significant Chinese communities grew up in London and Liverpool - the main ports for the China trade. However, these communities were a mixture of Chinese men, their British wives and their Erasian children. Moreover, they were generally inhabited by those Chinese catering for Chinese seamen. The majority spread throughout these cities usually operating laundries at this time.
France received a large settlement of Chinese immigrant laborers, mostly from the city of Wenzhou, Zhejiang province of China (to this day, France continues to attract many Chinese immigrants from this particular province; Paris’ newest Chinatown in Belleville is heavily influenced by such immigrants). Chinatowns are also found in the Indian cities of Calcutta (once Hakka influenced) and Bombay.
By the late 1970s, the Vietnam War also played a significant part in the development and redevelopment of various Chinatowns in developed Western countries. As a result, many Chinatowns have become pan-Asian business districts and residential neighborhoods. By contrast, most Chinatowns in the past were solely inhabited by Chinese from southeastern China.
Historic Chinatowns such as San Francisco (see Chinatowns in North America#Northern California) has had a significant influence on the perception of Chinatowns in western countries. Although, in reality it and other North American Chinatowns fall outside the tradition of Chinese settlement in having significant numbers of Chinese women.
Yaowarat Road, Bangkok, Thailand
Established in the 1700s, Chinatown is located in one of the oldest areas in Bangkok. See Yaowarat Road.
Meaning Chinese Roads or Quarters, it covers almost a fifth of downtown Yangon. The lay-out of Chinatown dates back to the British expansion of Yangon, around the 1850s, thus being as old as the downtown.
Prior to the arrival of the Spaniards in 1571, trade between ethnic Filipino Malays and Chinese traders was already established in pre-colonial Manila. Manila's Chinatown is one of the oldest in Asia, established sometime in the late 17th century. It is home to many ethnic Chinese who left the Chinese mainland for a home in the Philippines. Binondo is a stone throw away from the District of Intramuros, the Philippine administrative capital under Spanish rule. The district is within the range of Intramuros' canons to quell any uprising the Chinese may brew. Binondo became a center of commerce during the American colonial era of the Philippines, since the Chinese were known to be experts in trading and finance. Banks, department stores, restaurants, insurance companies, nearly all giant commercial establishments were built in Binondo, the most prominent of which are located in the Escolta Avenue. World War II destroyed much of Binondo's commercial establishments. After the war, most companies relocated to Makati, the current central business district of Metro Manila.
Shinchimachi, Nagasaki, Japan
With the overthrow of the Ming Dynasty by the Qing in the late 17th century, some Chinese (supporters of the Ming) fled to Japan and formed a Chinatown community in Nagasaki before the start of the 18th century, making it (along with the Binondo district of Manila of the Philippines) one of the earliest Chinatowns to be established. Under the isolationist policies of the Tokugawa Shogunate of Japan, Chinese and Dutch traders and settlers were confined to Nagasaki. Trade was subsequently resumed with China and Shinchimachi became a trading hub. Shinchimachi has long been the ethnic Chinese cultural and commercial center in Japan, although it size pales in comparison to its counterpart in Yokohama.
Cholon, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
In the early 18th century, Chinese settlers established Chinatowns mainly in Southeast Asia, including the Cholon district of the former Saigon, Vietnam. Cholon was heavily fortified by Chinese to protect against frequent harassment by native Vietnamese Tay Son loyalists. It remains largely a bustling Cantonese-speaking enclave.
Chinatown, San Francisco, California, United States
As a port city, San Francisco's Chinatown formed in the 1850s and served as a gateway for incoming immigrants who arrived during the California gold rush and construction of the transcontinental railroads of the wild western United States. Chinatown was later reconceptualized as a tourist attraction in the 1910s. Once a community of predominantly Taishanese Chinese-speaking inhabitants, it has remained the preeminent Chinese center in the United States.
Chinatown, London, United Kingdom
London's original Chinatown was established in the Limehouse district in the late 19th century as Chinese seamen established themselves in the city. Limehouse would become synonymous with Chinese residents and hand laundries were a dominant mode of commerce in the community. Its reputation has come to define Chinatowns as exotic and dangerous with various vices, such as opium dens and gambling dens (called fan tans), as well as places where white girls disappeared mysteriously. Chinatown served as the setting for classic British anti-Chinese literature such as villainous Dr. Fu Manchu as well as a setting for one Sherlock Holmes story. Its end came as Limehouse was destroyed during the Blitz of London by the Nazi Luftwaffe during the Second World War. With an influx of new immigrants from then British possession of Hong Kong, a new Chinatown (mainly commercial) became established in the Soho district of Central London in the 1950s and 1960s.
Liverpool, United Kingdom
Similar in many respects to London's original Chinatown in its origins and the inter-marriage between local women and Chinese men, Liverpool's Chinatown never had the glamour of that of the nation's capital - London.
At the beginning of World War Two, however, there were 20,000 Chinese seamen based in the city. London's Chinatown was reduced to insignificance. Hundreds of Chinese sailors settled down with local women and in the war years the city's Eurasian population grew rapidly. By the end of the conflict it numbered around 1,000. But with the end of the War the men were forcibly repatriated leaving behind them their wives and their children. Few were ever to see their families again. see: 
With the Communist victory in China 1949, men were no longer recruited from the Mainland. Rather they came from Hong Kong and Singapore. Some did settle and marry local women but Liverpool's Chinese or rather Eurasian population had reached its peak and was in decline as they married into the local community.
In the late 1950s a new group of Chinese began to arrive in significant numbers from Hong Kong's New Territories. For the first time Liverpool and London had Chinese Chinatowns. Their mixed race past became forgotten.
Chinatown, le quartier chinois, Paris, France
The history, profile and even location, of Paris's Chinatown have followed political changes in both France and Asia in the last 100 years, resulting in Europe's biggest Chinatown.
During World War I, 140,000 Chinese arrived in France as temporary labour, replacing French male workers who went to the war. Most left after 1918, but a community of 2,000 stayed and created the first Chinatown (l'Ilot Chalon) near the Gare de Lyon. Nothing is left of it today.
In the 1930s and 1940s, waves of Wenzhou Chinese settled in Paris and worked as leather workers near the Jewish neighborhood in the 3e arrondissement. Taking over the wholesale trade lost by the Jews during the German occupation of France during World War II, this Chinese community still exists today, but remains extremely discreet. No obvious signs of Chinese culture are to be seen in the rue du Temple, though most shops in this wholesale neighborhood are held by overseas Chinese.
Today's main Chinatown was created in the 1970s in 13e arrondissement. Fleeing persecution and civil wars in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, those overseas Chinese, mostly Teochew and Cantonese, settled in this newly renovated area. Unlike the Wenzhou settlement in 3e arrondissement, clear and obvious signs of Chinese culture are more likely to be seen and strong community business has developed, a real city in the city: not only restaurants and food retail, but also banks, real estate agencies and other services. An estimated 68,000 residents of Chinese origin now live in this area of Paris.
With China opening up, more Chinese settlements are developing in Paris and its suburban areas. In Belleville (19e arrondissement), another wave of Wenzhou have settled and has taken over this originally North African settlement. Large communities are to be found in small towns outside Paris like Lognes/Torcy, or Noisy Le Grand, where earlier migrants settled, but again without bringing out the usual signs of Chinatown.
Illegal immigration from China is booming; authorities also fear that France's "Authorized Destination Status" with easier visa procedures for China nationals will only increase uncontrolled migration. Illegal workshops have been existing for several years, without always being located within "official" chinatowns and still exist and flourish in different areas in the 11e arrondissement and outside of the city of Paris.
The features described below are characteristic of most Chinatowns. In some cases, however, they may only apply to Chinatowns in Western countries, such as those in North America, Australia, and Western Europe. (See also: Chinatown patterns in North America)
 Arches or Paifang
Many tourist-destination metropolitan Chinatowns can be easily distinguished by large red arch entrance structures known in Mandarin Chinese as Paifang (sometimes accompanied by mason lion statues called "foo dogs" on the opposite sides of the street that greet visitors). They usually have special inscriptions in Chinese. Historically, these gateways were donated to a particular city as a gift from the Republic of China government (such as Chinatown, San Francisco) and business organizations - an exception is long-neglected Chinatown in Havana, Cuba, which received materials for its paifang from the People's Republic of China as part of Chinatown's gradual renaissance. Construction of these red arches was also financed by local financial contributions from the Chinatown community. The lengths of these arches generally vary from Chinatown to Chinatown; some 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 design.
However, some Chinatowns that still do not have the arch feature are now increasingly proposing for the installation of one in their respective communities, such as the Chinatowns in the U.S. cities of Seattle (artistic renderings at http://www.chinatowngate.org) and Houston and the Canadian city of Toronto, as these arches is believed to increase tourist traffic. Additionally, work is being done by the Chinese community of London, United Kingdom, to promote a newer, more authentic Chinese arch on Wardour Street - as opposed to existing gwei lo versions present on Gerrard Street (pictured above) - in Chinatown, London. Still, the popular perception of Chinatown often includes these arches.
 Bilingual signs
Many major metropolitan areas with Chinatowns have bilingual street signs in Chinese and the language of the adopted country.
 Antiquated features
Many early Chinatowns were characterized by the large number of Chinese-owned chop suey restaurants (chop suey itself is American Chinese cuisine and is not considered authentic Chinese cuisine), 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. In early years of Chinatowns, the opium dens were patronized as a relaxation and to escape the harsh and brutal realities of a non-Chinese society, although in North American Chinatowns they were also frequented by less reputable members of white society. 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 in the 19th century. Chinese laundries, which required very little capital and English ability, were fairly prosperous if long and grueling affairs. These businesses no longer exist in many Chinatowns and have been replaced by Chinese grocery stores, Chinese 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. These shady gambling venues are typically featured stereotypically, when portraying Chinatown, in the media such as an episode of The X-Files and the comedy film High School High.
All Chinatowns are universally centered on food and hence, Chinatowns worldwide are usually popular destinations for various ethnic Chinese and increasingly, other Asian cuisines such as Vietnamese, Thai, and Malaysian (as overseas Chinese from various countries flock to certain Chinatowns and open such as restaurants). Some Chinatowns such as Singapore have their localized style of Chinese cuisine. Restaurants serve many Chinatowns both as a major economic component and social gathering places. Many adjacent tourist-centric businesses rely on restaurants to bring in the customers, whether or not of Chinese descent. In the Chinatowns in the 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 touristy restaurants.
San Francisco's Chinatown retains many historic restaurants, including those established from the 1910s to the 1950s, although some that lasted for generations have shuttered in recent years and others have modernized their menus. Many Chinatown eateries from that era specialized in American Chinese cuisine (or, depending on where they were located, Canadian Chinese cuisine, Chinese Cuban cuisine, etc.), especially chop suey and chow mein. They often used gaudy neon lighting to attract non-Chinese customers, large red doors, Chinese paper lanterns, and zodiac placemats. Often these restaurants had English-language signs written in a typeface intended to appear stereotypically "Chinese" by being composed of strokes similar to those in hanzi writing.
Generally speaking, restaurants serving authentic Chinese food primarily to immigrant customers have never conformed to these Chinatown stereotypes as much as those aimed at non-Chinese tourists (although some banquet-oriented restaurants do use some of the same features). Because of new ethnic Chinese immigration and the expanded palate of many contemporary cultures, the remaining American Chinese and Canadian Chinese cuisine restaurants are seen as anachronisms but remain popular and profitable. In many Chinatowns, there are now many large, authentic Cantonese seafood restaurants, restaurants specializing in other varieties of Chinese cuisine such as Hakka cuisine, Szechuan cuisine, Shanghai cuisine, etc., and small restaurants with delis.
 Chop suey and chow mein eateries
Lit by neon signage, restaurants offering chop suey or chow mein mainly for the benefit for non-Chinese customers were fairly frequent fixtures in Chinatowns of old. These dishes are offered in standard barbecue restaurants and takeouts.
 Cantonese seafood restaurants
Cantonese seafood restaurants (海鮮酒家, 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 tanks until preparation. They also offer the delicacy of shark fin soup. Some seafood restaurants may also offer dim sum in the morning through the early afternoon hours as Chinese-speaking female waiters announce the names of dishes whilst pushing steamy carts (Britisher: trolleys) of food and other pastries across the restaurant. Despite the popularity of dim sum brunch among ethnic Chinese and often crowded and very chatty atmosphere of the dining rooms, they are generally considered loss leaders. These restaurants are also used 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 of Hong Kong Chinese emigres. Poorer immigrants usually cannot start these kinds of restaurants, although they too are employed in them. Some seafood restaurants are owned by prominent businessmen or backed by financiers. There are generally fewer of them in the older Chinatowns; for example, they are practically non-existent in Vancouver's Chinatown, but more 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" well-rounded chefs, many of whom are from Hong Kong.
 BBQ delicatessens/restaurants
Also, Chinese barbecue deli restaurants , called siu laap (燒臘) and sometimes called a "noodle house" (麵家, mein ga) in Cantonese, are generally low-key and serve less expensive fare such as wonton noodles (or wonton mein), chow fun, yang chow fried rice, 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 on their windows, a common feature in most Chinatowns worldwide and in which Chinatowns are widely known for. These delis also serve barbecue pork (cha siu), chicken feet and other Chinese-style items less welcome to the typical Western palate. Food is usually intended for takeaway (American: take-out). Some of these Chinatown restaurants sometimes have the reputation of being "greasy spoons" and reputation for poor service. Nonetheless, with their low prices, they are still generally patronized by hungry Chinese and other ethnic customers on a budget. One of the older and better-known of these is the multi-story Sam Wo Restaurant, on Washington Street and Grant Avenue in San Francisco's Chinatown. While historic and with a colorful past, Sam Wo Restaurant has since seen a series of different ownership over the years. Similarly, in Chinatown, London, a highly popular restaurant is the multi-storey Wong Kei (upon Wardour Street) and it too is reputable for its low price of food and poor quality of service.
Some small Chinese restaurants in Chinatowns may offer both Chinese American cuisine — for Western customers - and authentic Chinese cuisine for Chinese-speaking customers. According to an interview of Chinese cuisine chef Martin Yan (host of the television program Martin Yan's Chinatown), more and more non-Chinese are becoming acquainted with authentic cuisine.
In integrating with the larger population, Chinese cuisine has evolved. To adapt to local tastes, the best Chinese Mexican-style Cantonese cuisine is said to be found in Mexicali's Chinatown (or La Chinesca in its local Spanish) or the Chinese Peruvian cuisine in the Barrio Chino of Lima.
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 old and new may also contain several pan-Asian restaurants offering a variety of Asian noodles under one roof.
A special feature of Chinatown in Lima, Peru (Barrio Chino de Lima) is the chifa, a Peruvian Chinese type of restaurant which mixes Cantonese Chinese cuisine with local Peruvian flavors. Chifa is the Peruvian Spanish deriative of the Cantonese phrase jee fon (饎飯), which renders as "cook rice" or as "cook meal'". This type of restaurant is popular with native Peruvians.
 Street vendors
Besides restaurants, the Chinatowns of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and Singapore are noted for their street vendors selling local-style Chinese food from carts and stalls.
Most Chinatown businesses are engaged in the import-export and wholesale businesses; hence a large number of trading companies are found in Chinatowns.
 Ginseng, herbs and animal parts
Small ginseng and herb shops are common in most Chinatowns, selling products used in traditional Chinese medicine. The Canadian government has stepped up policing of Chinese traditional medicinal stores and on a few occasions several Chinese stores in Vancouvers and Toronto have been raided for products taken from the harvesting of rare and endangered species, such as tiger bone, tiger penis, bear paw and bear gall bladder.  This has been alleged by some Chinese to be racial persecution, despite environmental and moral concerns. Other products sold in this trade include sea cucumbers, sea horses, lizards, deer musk glands, seal penises, shark fins, swallows' nests, antlers, bear bile pills, crocodile bile pills, seal penis pills, dog penis pills, deer musk pills, rhino skin pills, and pangolin pills, as well as a wide range of mushrooms, herbs, bark, seaweed, roots and more.
As with the aforementioned Chinese restaurant trade, grocery stores and seafood markets serve a key function in typical Chinatown economies, and these stores sell essential Chinese ingredients to such restaurants. Such markets are wholesalers. Chinatown grocers and markets are often characterized by sidewalk vegetable and fruit stalls – a quintessential image of Chinatowns – and 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 vermicelli, 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 of 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 markets.
 Religious and funerary supplies
In keeping with Buddhist and Taoist funeral traditions, Chinese specialty shops also sell incense and a variety of funeral items which provide material comfort in the afterlife of the deceased. Shops typically sell specially-crafted replicas of small paper houses, paper radios, paper televisions, paper telephones, paper jewelry, and other material items. They also sell "hell money" currency notes. These items are intended to be burned in a furnace.
These businesses also sell red, wooden Buddhist altars and small statues for worship. Per Chinese custom, an offering of oranges are usually placed in front of the statue in the altar. Some altars are stacked atop each other. These altars may be found in many Chinatown businesses.
 Video CD stores
Chinatowns also typically contain small businesses that sell imported VCDs and DVDs of Chinese-language films and karaoke. The VCDs are mainly titles of Hong Kong and PRC films, while there are also VCDs of Japanese anime and occasionally pornography. Often, imported bootleg DVDs and VCDs are sold owing to lax enforcement of copyright laws.
 Street merchants
Street merchants selling low-priced vegetables, fruits, clothes, newspapers, and knickknacks are fairly common in most, if not all, Chinatowns. Most of the peddlers tend to be elderly (Cantonese: lo wah cue).
 Benevolent and business associations
A major component of many old Chinatowns worldwide 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), aka Chinese Six Companies, and Los Angeles's 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.
The London Chinatown Chinese Association is active in Chinatown, London. Paris has an institution in the Association des Résidents en France d'origine indochinoise and it servicing overseas Chinese immmigrants in Paris who were born in the former French Indochina.
Traditionally, Chinatown-based associations have also been aligned on specific 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.
 Annual events in Chinatown
Most Chinatowns the world over present Chinese New Year (or also known as Lunar New Year) festivities with ubiquitous dragon and lion dances accompanied by the rhythm of clashing of cymbals, clanging on a gong, clapping of hardwood clappers, by pounding of drums, and by loud Chinese firecrackers, set off especially in front of ethnic Chinese storefronts, where the "lion" character attempts to reach for a lettuce or catch an orange. The lion typically contains two performers and performances may involves several stunts. In return, storekeepers usually donate some money to the performers, some of whom belong to local martial arts affiliations.
In addition, some streets of Chinatowns are usually closed off for parades, Chinese acrobatics and martial arts demonstrations, street festivals, and carnival rides — this is dependent on the promoters or organizers of the events. Other festivals may also be held in a parking lot/car park, local park, or school grounds within Chinatown. These events are popular with the local ethnic community and also to a non-Chinese audience.
 Dragon and lion dances
Dragon and lion dances are performed in Chinatown every Chinese New Year, particularly to scare off evil spirits and bring good fortune to the community. They are also performed to celebrate a grand opening of a new Chinatown business, such as a restaurant or bank. In Chinatowns of Western countries, the performers of dragon and lion dances in Chinatown are not necessarily all ethnic Chinese.
Ironically, many lion and dragon dances are considered more preserved in true form in various Chinatowns than in China itself. This discrepancy is largely attirbuted 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 order 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), the dances were continually practiced by overseas Chinese and performed in Chinatowns. Some of the top dance instructors come out of overseas Chinese communities.
Ceremonial wreaths and various leafy green plants with red-coloured 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.
 Social problems in Chinatown
Overcoming an earlier reputation of being dirty slums, Chinatowns currently enjoy the rewards of attracting tourists with Chinese cuisine and culture. The economic success brings with it Chinese triad and organized crimes with rival gangs competing for new lucrative opportunities in extortion, people smuggling, gambling, prostitution and drug trafficking. This has led to high profile shoot-outs where innocent bystanders and police have been killed. Although some Chinatowns have experienced recent growth and success, many others are facing the difficult challenges of decay and abandonment. This has led some to fear that redevelopment initiatives will erase struggling Chinatowns completely. In 2003, along with these social problems, SARS hit Chinese Canadians' and Chinese Americans' core tourist businesses the hardest, as tourists and local residents became reluctant to risk infection.
 Developments of newer Chinese retail from 1970s to present day
Newer arrivals of Chinese immigrants - from Mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and even Vietnam - brought forth and very generally ignored the older Chinatowns that were originally established by the old-stock immigrants. Developments were generally made possible by political instabilities and upheavals in occurrence in East Asia during the 1970s and 1980s, which caused a massive influx of new immigration. Additionally, investors and developers were taking advantange of major real estate opportunities. For example, developers have built up strip malls. Later waves of immigrants from Hong Kong and Taiwan have arrived with comparative affluence (in contrast with earlier Chinese migrants of the 19th and early 20th centuries) and typicall have no need for the benevolent associatons described above. These communities contain the similar restaurants and various stores described above but in generally sprawled out fashion (some in suburban form), rather than in cramped conditions. They are not called "Chinatowns" per se, but serve as quasi-Chinatowns. In place of the term "Chinatown", some, not all, of such Chinese-oriented business districts have earned nicknames which correspond to the cities of the immigrants' origins, such as "Little Taipei" (Monterey Park, California, United States), "Little Shanghai" (Ashfield, New South Wales, Australia), and "Little Hong Kong" (Richmond, British Columbia, Canada).
Overseas Chinese from Vietnam have generally settled in older Chinatowns or established new ones.
These new forms of Chinese retail are typically to be located in the cities of Australia, Canada, and the United States and serve as newer centers of Chinese in lieu of their older, touristy counterparts. As a result, some cities that received significant amounts of recent Chinese - namely San Francisco, Los Angeles, Vancouver, Toronto, and Sydney - have one main Chinatown (often of historic value) and another newer alternative yet major Chinese center of retail and cultural activities in outlying communities putting them into competition.
The article Chinatown patterns in North America analyzes further of these developments as well as implications and effects on the old Chinatowns are mentioned in Social problems in Chinatown. Some insight on several local conflicts when these communities were developed are also covered.
 Factors influencing developments of newer quasi-Chinatowns
|People's Republic of China ("Mainlander")||Capitalism reforms in communist China allowing for migration, growing social stratification forcing poor to seek to their fortunes elsewhere (some as illegal immigrants).|
|Taiwan ("Taiwanese")||Pro-Kuomintang Chinese exiles perceive they did not belong in the island of Taiwan, but could not expect return to Mainland China either, so went to United States.|
|Hong Kong ("Hongkonger")||Fear by businessmen of implications of 1997 handover of laissez-faire Hong Kong from Britain to Communist China|
|Vietnam (Hoa)||Persecution of Vietnamese-born ethnic Chinese by the Vietnamese government; left Vietnam as impoverished boat people|
 Examples of new "Chinatowns"
For more examples of old Chinatowns vis-a-vis newer Chinese retail areas and some of their compositions, more than can be covered in this section, the articles Chinatowns in North America and Chinatowns in Australasia provide extensive detail while the List of Chinatowns has general locations.
Flushing, Queens, New York (New York City)
In the 1970s and 1980s, Flushing was settled by an influx of Chinese immigrants from Taiwan - who have largely avoided Chinatown, Manhattan for the most part. The vibrant Chinese business district is located on Roosevelt Avenue. Today, the community is not exclusively Taiwanese/Chinese but also contains an adjacent Korean flare.
Cabramatta, New South Wales, Australia (Sydney)
A new Chinese retail district was formed by Vietnamese Chinese refugees in the heavily working-class Sydney suburb of Cabramatta.
Richmond, British Columbia, Canada (Vancouver)
Hong Kong Chinese immigrants settled in the Vancouver area in the 1980s and 1990s. The shopping malls are located upon No. 3 Road (in an area called the Golden Village) in the fairly affluent suburb of Richmond, which have replaced the cultural influence of the poorer Chinatown in downtown Vancouver.
 Names for Chinatowns
In Chinese, Chinatown is usually called, in Standard Mandarin, Tángrénjiē (唐人街): "Tang people streets". Indeed, some Chinatowns are just a street, such as the relatively short Fisgard Street in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada or the sprawling 4-mile (6.4km) long new Chinatown of Bellaire Boulevard in Houston, Texas. In Cantonese, it is called Tong yan gai (Tang people street) and the modern Tong yan fau (唐人埠), which literally means Tang people town or more accurately, Chinese town. Hong ngin gai is used in the Taishan dialect, the once prevalent dialect spoken in North American Chinatowns. It is Tong ngin gai in Hakka, one of the widely spoken and diffused dialects among overseas Chinese. Tang and Tong refer to the Tang Dynasty, an era in Chinese history.
A more modern Chinese name is Huábù (華埠: Chinese City), used in the semi-official Chinese translations of some cities' documents and signs. Bù, pronounced sometimes as fù, usually means seaport; but in this sense, it means city or town. The literal word-for-word translation of Chinatown is Zhōngguó Chéng (中國城), occasionally used in Chinese writing.
In Francophone regions (such as France and Quebec), Chinatown is often referred to as le quartier Chinois (the Chinese Quarter; plural: les quartiers Chinois) and the Spanish-language term is usually el barrio chino (the Chinese neighborhood; plural: los barrios chinos), used in Spain and Latin America. (However, barrio chino or its Catalan cognate barri xines 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.) Other countries also have idiosyncratic names for Chinatown in local languages and in Chinese; however, some local terms may not necessarily translate as Chinatown. For example, Singapore's tourist-centric Chinatown is called in local Singaporean Mandarin Niúchēshǔi (牛车水), which literally means "Ox-cart water" from the Malay 'Kreta Ayer' in reference to the water carts that used to ply the area. Some languages have adopted the English-language term, such as Dutch, German, and Bahasa Malaysia. In Malaysia, the term Chinatown is named under administrative reason. Instead, the name Chee Chong Kai（ 茨厂街）is preferred and agreed upon by the locals. Chee in Hakka means tapioca, chong means factory and kai means street. This is originated from a factory that was set up by Yap Ah Loy, a rich Kapitan (a Chinese immigrant that has administrative and political power under the British rule) that made tapioca. Chee Chong Kai is also called jalan Petaling or "Petaling Street".
Several alternate English names for Chinatown include China Town (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 ald also over the main residential part of Chinatown, which was largely of adobe construction. All traces of Chinatown and China Alley there have disappeared, despite a once large and prosperous community.
 Chinatowns worldwide
|Chinatowns in Africa|
|Chinatowns in Asia|
|Chinatowns in Europe|
|Chinatowns in Latin America|
|Chinatowns in the Middle East|
|Chinatowns in North America|
|Chinatown patterns in North America|
|Chinatowns in Oceania|
- See also: List of Chinatowns
Chinatowns are most common in North America, Asia, Australia and Europe, but are common across much of the globe. Immigration patterns determine the economic, political and social character of individual Chinatowns, as do their intranational locations (urban, suburban or rural). Most Chinatowns grow organically but some countries have taken to building and promoting Chinatowns within their bigger cities.
 Artificial Chinatowns
The latest trend of Chinatowns has been to build-up artificial Chinatowns, constructed as Chinese-themed shopping malls in lieu of actual traditional communities. Examples are in Las Vegas (United States - see Chinatown, Las Vegas), Dubai (United Arab Emirates), Glasgow (United Kingdom), Incheon (South Korea), Dobroieşti (Romania), St. Petersburg (Russia) and Darwin (Australia) and in some Canadian cities, most notably the Golden Village in Richmond, British Columbia.
There is even one such mall going up in 2006 in Manila in the Philippines, in which the project is called "Neo Chinatown" and is to be developed in conjunction with Filipino Chinese and Mainland Chinese businessmen.
 Chinatown in film, television, and the arts
- Broken Blossoms (1919) directed by D.W. Griffith starring Lillian Gish.
- The Hatchet Man (1931), Los Angeles, Edward G. Robinson
- Mr. Wong in Chinatown (1939), Boris Karloff
- Mr. Wong in Phantom of Chinatown (1940), Boris Karloff
- Chinatown (1974), Los Angeles, Jack Nicholson, Faye Dunaway (despite the title, very little footage in Chinatown, which functions more as a metaphor)
- Blade Runner (1982), Los Angeles Chinatown of 2019, Harrison Ford, Sean Young
- Chan Is Missing (1982) directed by Wayne Wang, set in San Francisco's Chinatown.
- Year of the Dragon (1985), Manhattan Chinatown, Mickey Rourke
- Big Trouble in Little China (1986), San Francisco, Kurt Russell, Kim Cattrall
- China Girl (1987), filmed in NYC Chinatown
- Eat a Bowl of Tea (1989), set in the New York Chinatown of the 1940s
- Bird on a Wire (1990), Chinatown, Victoria, British Columbia, Mel Gibson, Goldie Hawn (Note: Victoria's Chinatown in this film is standing in for a fictional Chinatown in Racine, Wisconsin. Racine has no actual Chinatown.)
- The Joy Luck Club (1992), based on the novel by Amy Tan (see below)
- Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story (1993), San Francisco
- Golden Gate (1994), San Francisco, Matt Dillon and Joan Chen
- Jade (1995), San Francisco, with David Caruso, Linda Fiorentino
- Jackie Chan's First Strike (1996), Brisbane (Australia) Chinatown, Jackie Chan
- The Game (1997), San Francisco, Michael Douglas and Sean Penn
- Mr. Nice Guy (1997), Melbourne (Australia) Chinatown, Jackie Chan
- Tomorrow Never Dies (1997), Pierce Brosnan, motorcycle chase scene supposedly set in Ho Chi Minh City's Cholon district (Vietnam) but actually filmed in Bangkok's Yaowarat (Thailand)
- Lethal Weapon 4 (1998), Los Angeles
- Rush Hour (1998), Los Angeles Chinatown, Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker
- The Corruptor (1999), set in Manhattan Chinatown but filmed in Toronto, Canada Chinatown, Chow Yun-Fat and Mark Wahlberg
- Entrapment (1999), Sean Connery and Catherine Zeta Jones, a scene filmed in Chinatown of Malacca (Malaysia)
- Now Chinatown (2000), independent film, Los Angeles Chinatown
- Romeo Must Die (2000), San Francisco Chinatown but filmed in part in Vancouver, Canada, Jet Li and Aaliyah
- Long Life, Happiness & Prosperity (2002), Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
- Freaky Friday (2003), several key scenes are set in the Los Angeles Chinatown
- The Departed (2006), Martin Scorsese's Boston-set crime epic with Matt Damon, Leonardo DiCaprio and Jack Nicholson features one key scene in the city's Chinatown neighborhood.
- Hawaii Five-O (1978) - episode titled "A Death in the Family", Honolulu Chinatown
- The Incredible Hulk (1981) - episode titled "East Winds"
- Reading Rainbow (1980) - educational series, "Liang & the Magic Paintbrush" episode, Manhattan Chinatown
- My Secret Identity (1989) - episode titled "The Eyes of the Shadow"
- The Simpsons (1989-2006) - animated series. Characters visit the Manhattan Chinatown in the episode "The City of New York vs. Homer Simpson." The first part of the episode titled "A Hunka Hunka Burns in Love" takes place in the fictitious Springfield Chinatown. Included are many exaggerated or ridiculous depictions of a dragon dance, fortune cookies, and an imagining of a "Tibettown."
- Kung Fu: The Legend Continues (1993-1997) - starring David Carradine and Chris Potter. Numerous episodes are set in the Chinatown of an unnamed major U.S. city as the protagonist lives in one. Filmed in Toronto.
- The X-Files (1996) - episode titled "Hell Money", portraying San Francisco's Chinatown. Filmed in Vancouver.
- Charmed (1998) - episode titled "Dead Man Dating", San Francisco's Chinatown
- Law and Order: Special Victims Unit (1999-2006) - two episodes in Manhattan Chinatown. The episode "Debt" deals with the issue of immigrant smuggling, whereas "Inheritance" deals with a serial offender who targets members of the Chinese community.
- Time Machine: Chinatown: Strangers in a Strange Land (2000) - documentary, The History Channel
- Law and Order: Criminal Intent (2001) - cold open of the episode "Chinoiserie" features a heinous crime taking place in Manhattan Chinatown.
- Martin Yan's Chinatowns (2002-2004) - cooking show on Food Network Canada, shows multiple worldwide Chinatowns and their various Chinese cuisine
- Sucker Free City (2004) filmed for cable television and directed by Spike Lee, set and filmed on-location in San Francisco's Chinatown, a vignette dealing with a teenage Chinatown racketeer and selling of pirated gangsta rap CDs in Chinatown
- Flower Drum Song (1958), musical, San Francisco
- The Joy Luck Club (1988), novel by Amy Tan
- Lethal Enforcers (1992) - video game. The assignment "Chinatown Assault" takes place in Chicago's Chinatown.
- Driver: You Are The Wheelman (1999), video game, San Francisco Chinatown
- Kill the Messenger (2006), novel by Tami Hoag
 See also
- Asian supermarket
- Chinatown bus
- Little Saigon
- Thai Town
- List of U.S. cities with large Chinese American populations
- List of cities with large Chinese Canadian populations
- List of named ethnic enclaves in North American cities
- Overseas Chinese
- Sunset Park, home to "Brooklyn Chinatown"
- Jack Manion San Francisco's Chinatown squad
- List of Chinatowns
- Europe Street, a street in China dedicated to the European culture (other way around)
 External links
- Chinatown New York City Blog
- Yamashita's Web Site - Pictures of Chinatowns worldwide
- Asian-Nation: Ethnic Enclaves & Communities
 Australian Chinatowns
 African Chinatowns
 Asian Chinatowns
 Latin American Chinatowns
 Middle East Chinatowns
 North American Chinatowns
 European Chinatowns
 Further reading
- Sons of the Yellow Emperor: A History of the Chinese Diaspora (1994) by Lynn Pan. Book with detailed histories of Chinese diaspora communities (Chinatowns) from San Francisco, Honolulu, Bangkok, Manila, Johannesburg, Sydney, London, Lima, etc.
- Chew, James R. "Boyhood Days in Winnemucca, 1901-1910." Nevada Historical Society Quarterly 1998 41(3): 206-209. ISSN 0047-9462 Oral history (1981) describes the Chinatown of Winnemucca, Nevada, during 1901-10. Though many Chinese left Winnemucca after the Central Pacific Railroad was completed in 1869, around four hundred Chinese had formed a community in the town by the 1890's. Among the prominent buildings was the Joss House, a place of worship and celebration that was visited by Chinese president Sun Yat-Sen in 1911. Beyond describing the physical layout of the Chinatown, the author recalls some of the commercial and gambling activities in the community.
- Chinatown: Conflicting Images, Contested Terrain, K. Scott Wong, Melus (Vol. 20, Issue 1), 1995. Scholarly work discussing the negative perceptions and imagery of old Chinatowns
- Daniel Williams, Chinatown Is a Hard Sell in Italy Washington Post Foreign Service, March 1, 2004; Page A11da:Chinatown
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