San Francisco Chinatown
San Francisco Sightseeing Attraction
San Francisco’s Chinatown has the largest population of Chinese in one area outside of mainland China. Founded as a shantytown for the Chinese immigrant laborers on the railroad and in the goldmines, it has grown to a thriving city within a city.
During the 1850s, San Francisco’s Chinatown was the doorway through which thousands of Chinese immigrants entered America. It was the only part of the city, at the time, in which Chinese people could inherit and inhabit dwellings. The majority of people in Chinatown were Taishanese men for a long time, because American policies made it difficult for women to emigrate. In the mid 1870s following the Panic of 1873, racial tensions erupted as unemployment soared. Out of the violence was born the Consolidated Chinese Six Companies, an organization providing the inhabitants of Chinatown with a voice to the business community and to city government. All of Chinatown was destroyed in the 1906 Earthquake, and racist city officials planned to relocate its inhabitants to Hunter’s point, Daly City, and even back to China, and take back the area that was Chinatown. However, The Consolidated China Six convinced city government to trash the plan, promising to rebuild Chinatown as a Western friendly tourist attraction. The Chinatown we know today resembles those plans. In the 1950s and 60s, a wave of immigrants from Hong Kong caused Chinatown to become mainly Cantonese speaking.
Chinatown is known for several things, like a profusion of authentic Chinese restaurants, representing all styles of Chinese cuisine, like Dim Sum, Szechuan, and Peking. Also, Chinatown is colored with local produce stands and markets, selling fresh fish, meat, and produce like mushrooms, and various vegetables popular in China. Most of the markets are open to the street, so that there is a constant flow of people on the street. There are also a number of tea shops, flower shops, and import stores. Chinatown is the kind of place that a visitor has to spend time walking around and exploring, wandering through the stores and markets. Chinatown densely populated, which means that the streets are constantly full of interesting people. It’s a small area, with a lot of Chinese themed architecture. The Dragon Gate on Grant Ave. at Bush, installed in 1969, was a gift from the Republic of China (Taiwan). It’s one of the most distinctive features of Chinatown.
Other points of interest within Chinatown include the First Chinese Baptist Church which has served the community since 1880 by providing language classes and youth programs. The church itself has been open since 1908. Old St. Mary’s was the first building built as a cathedral in 1854. The stone for the cathedral was quarried in China and brought to California by ship. The Fortune Cookie Factory in Ross Alley, established in 1962, supplies fortune cookies to San Francisco’s Chinatown and all around the world. The Chinese Culture Center, in the Holiday Inn downtown, offers a number of cultural events, including exhibits of traditional and contemporary art, genealogy, workshops, and exchange programs. The facilities include a 350-seat auditorium, two galleries, a bookshop classroom and offices. Portsmouth Square is called the “Heart of Chinatown” because the district was founded along one side of the square. Portsmouth Square has been the sight of many an important event in San Francisco and California history, including the announcement of the discovery of gold. St. Mary’s Square is the location of the 12-foot-tall statue of Dr. Sun Yat Sen, the founder of the Republic of China.
Chinatown is a famous and important part of San Francisco’s life and history. It is the center of San Francisco’s Asian community, and a valuable contributor to its cultural life. One of the reasons for San Francisco’s impressive level of diversity, without Chinatown, San Francisco could not be the place that it is. A world unto itself, stepping into Chinatown is like stepping into a completely foreign world. An abundance of new sights, sounds and smells invade the senses. It’s an experience that cannot be found anywhere else in the world; the ability to step out of one world and into another is one of a kind. Chinatown will prove to be an adventure, no matter how long you’re there for, or why.