World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article
 

Chinatown, San Francisco

Chinatown
Neighborhood
The Gateway Arch (Dragon Gate) on Grant Avenue at Bush Street in Chinatown
The Gateway Arch (Dragon Gate) on Grant Avenue at Bush Street in Chinatown
Chinatown is located in San Francisco
Chinatown
Chinatown
Location within Central San Francisco
Coordinates:
Country  United States
State  California
City-county San Francisco
Government
 • Supervisor Julie Christensen
 • Assemblymember David Chiu (D)[1]
 • State senator Mark Leno (D)[1]
 • U. S. rep. Nancy Pelosi (D)[2]
Area[3]
 • Total 1.34 sq mi (3.5 km2)
 • Land 1.34 sq mi (3.5 km2)
Population (2000)[3]
 • Total 100,574
 • Density 75,055/sq mi (28,979/km2)
Time zone Pacific (UTC−8)
 • Summer (DST) PDT (UTC−7)
ZIP codes 94108, 94111, 94104, 94133
Area codes 415/628

The Chinatown centered on Grant Avenue and Stockton Street in San Francisco, California, (Chinese: 唐人街; pinyin: tángrénjiē; Jyutping: tong4 jan4 gaai1) is the oldest Chinatown in North America and the second-largest Chinese community outside Asia. It is the oldest of the four notable Chinatowns in the city.[4][5][6][7][8][9][10] Since its establishment in 1848,[11] it has been highly important and influential in the history and culture of ethnic Chinese immigrants in North America. Chinatown is an enclave that continues to retain its own customs, languages, places of worship, social clubs, and identity. There are two hospitals, numerous parks and squares, a post office, and other infrastructure. While recent immigrants and the elderly choose to live in here because of the availability of affordable housing and their familiarity with the culture,[12] the place is also a major tourist attraction, drawing more visitors annually than the Golden Gate Bridge.[13]

Contents

  • Geography and location 1
  • Demographics 2
    • Demographic history 2.1
  • History 3
    • Early history 3.1
      • Ah Toy 3.1.1
    • 1870s to the 1906 earthquake 3.2
      • Tong wars 3.2.1
      • Bubonic plague 3.2.2
    • 1906 to the 1960s 3.3
      • Frank Wong dioramas 3.3.1
    • 1960s–present 3.4
      • Triad violence 3.4.1
  • Culture 4
    • Institutions 4.1
    • Autumn Moon Festival 4.2
    • Chinatown Community Development Center 4.3
  • Media and politics 5
  • Fame 6
  • See also 7
  • References 8
  • Further reading 9
  • External links 10

Geography and location

Washington Street in Chinatown with Transamerica Pyramid in the background.

Chinatown has been traditionally defined by the neighborhoods of North Beach, and Telegraph Hill areas as bound by Bush Street, Taylor Street, Bay Street, and the water.[14] Officially, Chinatown is located in downtown San Francisco, covers 24 square blocks,[15] and overlaps five postal ZIP codes. It is within an area of roughly 1 mile long by 1.34 miles wide. The current boundary is roughly Montgomery Street, Columbus Avenue and The City's Financial District in the east, Union Street and North Beach in the north all the way to its Northernmost point from the intersection of Jones Street and Lombard Street in Russian Hill to Lombard Street and Grant Avenue (都板街) in Telegraph Hill. The southeast is bounded by Bush Street with Union Square.

Stockton Street

Within Chinatown there are two major thoroughfares. One is Grant Avenue (都板街), with the Dragon Gate (aka "Chinatown Gate" on some maps; in Bush St & Grant Ave, San Francisco, California 94108) on the intersection of Bush Street and Grant Avenue; St. Mary's Square with a statue of Dr. Sun Yat-Sen by Benjamin Bufano;[15] a war memorial to Chinese war veterans; and stores, restaurants and mini-malls that cater mainly to tourists. The other, Stockton Street (市德頓街), is frequented less often by tourists, and it presents an authentic Chinese look and feel, reminiscent of Hong Kong, with its produce and fish markets, stores, and restaurants. It is dominated by mixed-use buildings that are three to four stories high, with shops on the ground floor and residential apartments upstairs.[16]

A major focal point in Chinatown is Portsmouth Square.[15] Since it is one of the few open spaces in Chinatown and sits above a large underground parking lot, Portsmouth Square bustles with activity such as T'ai Chi and old men playing Chinese chess.[15] A replica of the Goddess of Democracy used in the Tiananmen Square protest was built in 1999 by Thomas Marsh, and stands in the square. It is made of bronze and weighs approximately 600 lb (270 kg).

Demographics

According to the San Francisco Planning Department, Chinatown is "the most densely populated urban area west of Manhattan", with 15,000 residents living in 20 square blocks.[17] In the 1970s, the population density in Chinatown was seven times the San Francisco average.[18] The estimated total population in the 2000 Census was at 100,574 residents.[3]

During the time from 2009 to 2013, the median household income was $20,000 - compared to $76,000 city-wide - with 29% of residents below the national poverty threshold. The median age was 50 years, the oldest of any neighborhood.[19] Many of those Chinese immigrants who gain some wealth while living in Chinatown leave it for the Richmond District, the Sunset District or the suburbs.[19] Most residents are monolingual speakers of Mandarin or Cantonese.[19]

Demographic history

Grant Avenue during Chinese New Year.

Working-class Hong Kong Chinese immigrants began arriving in large numbers in the 1960s. Despite their status and professional qualifications in Hong Kong, many took low-paying employment in restaurants and garment factories in Chinatown because of limited English. An increase in Cantonese-speaking immigrants from Hong Kong and Mainland China has gradually led to the replacement in Chinatown of the Hoisanese/Taishanese dialect by the standard Cantonese dialect.

Due to such overcrowding and poverty, other Chinese areas have been established within the city of San Francisco proper, including one in its Richmond and three more in its Sunset districts, as well as a recently established one in the Visitacion Valley neighborhood. These outer neighborhoods have been settled largely by Chinese from Southeast Asia. There are also many suburban Chinese communities in the San Francisco Bay Area, especially in Silicon Valley, such as Cupertino, Fremont, and Milpitas, where Taiwanese Americans are dominant. Despite these developments, many continue to commute in from these outer neighborhoods and cities to shop in Chinatown, causing gridlock on roads and delays in public transit, especially on weekends. To address this problem, the local public transit agency, Muni, is planning to extend the city's subway network to the neighborhood via the new Central Subway.[20]

Unlike in most Chinatowns in the United States, ethnic Chinese refugees from Vietnam have not established businesses in San Francisco's Chinatown district, due to high property values and rents. Instead, many Chinese-Vietnamese – as opposed to ethnic Vietnamese who tended to congregate in larger numbers in San Jose – have established a separate Vietnamese enclave on Larkin Street in the heavily working-class Tenderloin district of San Francisco, where it is now known as the city's "Little Saigon" and not as a "Chinatown" per se.

History

Early history

The Street of Gamblers (Ross Alley), Arnold Genthe, 1898. The population was predominantly male because U.S. policies at the time made it difficult for Chinese women to enter the country.
The headquarters of the Chinese Six Companies

San Francisco's Chinatown was the port of entry for early Hoisanese and Zhongshanese Chinese immigrants from the Guangdong province of southern China from the 1850s to the 1900s.[21] 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. The majority of these Chinese shopkeepers, restaurant owners, and hired workers in San Francisco Chinatown were predominantly Hoisanese and male. Many Chinese found jobs working for large companies seeking a source of labor, most famously as part of the Central Pacific[15] on the Transcontinental Railroad. Other early immigrants worked as mine workers or independent prospectors hoping to strike it rich during the 1849 Gold Rush.

Ah Toy

Ah Toy (c.1828 - 1928) was a Cantonese[22] prostitute and madam in San Francisco during the California Gold Rush, and purportedly the first Chinese prostitute in San Francisco.[23] Arriving from Hong Kong in 1849,[24] she quickly became the most well-known Asian woman in the Old West.[25] She reportedly was a tall, attractive woman with bound feet.[26] When Ah Toy left China for the United States, she originally traveled with her husband, who died during the voyage. Toy became the mistress of the ship's captain, who showered gold upon her, so much so that by the time she arrived in San Francisco in the 1840s,[27] Toy had a fair bit of money. Noticing the looks she drew from the men in her new town, she figured they would pay for a closer look. Her peep shows became quite successful, and she eventually became a high-priced prostitute. In 1850, Toy opened a chain of brothels at 34 and 36 Waverly Place[27] in Chinatown, importing girls from China as young as eleven years old to work in them. Towards the end of her life she supposedly returned to China a wealthy woman to live the rest of her days in comfort,[28] but came back to California not long afterward. From 1868 until her death in 1928, she lived a quiet life in Santa Clara County, returning to public attention only upon dying three months short of her hundredth birthday in San Jose.[29][30]

1870s to the 1906 earthquake

With nationwide unemployment in the wake of the Panic of 1873, racial tensions in the city boiled over into full blown race riots. In response to the violence, the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association, also known as the Chinese Six Companies, which evolved out of the labor recruiting organizations for different areas of Guangdong, was created to provide the community with a unified voice. The heads of these companies advocated for the Chinese community to the wider business community as a whole and to the city government.

Anti-immigrant sentiment became law as the United States Government passed the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882—the first immigration restriction law aimed at a single ethnic group. This law, along with other immigration restriction laws such as the Geary Act, greatly reduced the numbers of Chinese allowed into the country and the city, and in theory limited Chinese immigration to single males only. Exceptions were in fact granted to the families of wealthy merchants, but the law was still enough to reduce the population of the neighborhood to an all-time low in the 1920s. The Chinese Exclusion Act was repealed during World War II by the Magnuson Act in recognition of the important role of China as an ally in the war, but tight quotas still applied.

As in much of San Francisco, a period of criminality ensued in some [31]

Tong wars

From the mid-1870s, Tong wars sprang up over turf battles concerning criminal enterprises. At the height of the criminal tongs during the 1880s and 1890s, twenty to thirty tongs ran highly profitable gambling houses, brothels, opium dens, and slave trade enterprises in Chinatown. Overcrowding, segregation, graft, and the lack of governmental control contributed to conditions that sustained the criminal tongs until the early 1920s. Chinatown's isolation and compact geography intensified the criminal behavior that terrorized the community for decades despite efforts by the Six Companies and police/city officials[32] to stem the tide.

Bubonic plague

In March 1900, a Chinese-born man who was a long-time resident of Chinatown was found dead of bubonic plague. The next morning, all of Chinatown was quarantined, with policemen preventing "Asiatics" (people of Asian heritage) from either entering or leaving. The San Francisco Board of Health began looking for more cases of plague and began burning personal property and sanitizing buildings, streets and sewers within Chinatown. Chinese Americans protested and the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association threatened lawsuits.

The quarantine was lifted but the burning and fumigating continued. A federal court ruled that public health officials could not close off Chinatown without any proof that Chinese Americans were any more susceptible to plague than Anglo Americans. However, the delays caused by the political infighting probably allowed the plague to spread, and gave the plague its first foothold in North America. The four-year death toll of the plague was 113 people, almost all from a ten-block area of Chinatown.[33][34][35][36][37]

1906 to the 1960s

The Chinatown neighborhood was completely destroyed in the 1906 earthquake that leveled most of the city.

As the city rebuilt afterwards, certain city officials and real-estate developers hatched plans to move Chinatown to the Hunters Point neighborhood at the southern edge of the city, or even further south to Daly City. Abe Ruef, the political boss widely considered to be the power behind Mayor Eugene Schmitz, invited himself to become part of the Committee of Fifty and formed an additional Subcommittee on Relocating the Chinese, because he felt the land was too valuable for Chinese. These plans failed as the Chinese convinced the city government to relent.

When the earthquake destroyed Chinatown's wooden tenements, it also dealt a death blow to the tongs. Criminal tongs continued on until the 1920s, but after the earthquake legitimate Chinese merchants and a more capable police force under Jack Manion gained the upper hand. Stiffer legislation against prostitution and drugs ended the tongs.[38]

The famous Sam Wo restaurant opened in 1912.

Many early Chinese immigrants to San Francisco and beyond were processed at Angel Island, in the San Francisco Bay, which is now a state park. Unlike Ellis Island on the east coast where prospective European immigrants might be held for up to a week, Angel Island typically detained Chinese immigrants for months while they were interrogated closely to validate their papers. The detention facility was renovated in 2005 and 2006 under a federal grant.

The repeal of the Exclusion Act and the other immigration restriction laws, in conjunction with passage of the War Brides Act, allowed Chinese-American veterans to bring their families outside of national quotas and led to a major population boom in the area during the 1950s.

On September 30, 1955, Chinatown squad, upon request of influential Chinese World newspaper, which states that squad is an "affront to Americans of Chinese descent".[39]

Frank Wong dioramas

San Francisco artist Frank Wong created miniature dioramas that depict Chinatown during the 1930s and 1940s.[40] In 2004, Wong donated seven miniatures of scenes of Chinatown, titled “The Chinatown Miniatures Collection,” to Chinese Historical Society of America (CHSA).[41] The dioramas are on permanent display in CHSA’s Main Gallery:[40][41][42]

  • 1. “The Moon Festival”
  • 2. “Shoeshine Stand”
  • 3. “Chinese New Year”
  • 4. “Chinese Laundry”
  • 5. “Christmas Scene”
  • 6. “Single Room”
  • 7. “Herb Store”

1960s–present

In the 1960s, the shifting of underutilized national immigration quotas brought in another huge wave of immigrants, mostly from Hong Kong. This changed San Francisco Chinatown from predominantly Say Yip Wah(Cantonese sub-dialect of Hoisan and 3 other towns)-speaking to Sam Yip Wah(major Cantonese)-speaking. During the same decade, many stores moved from Grant Avenue to Stockton Street, drawn by lower rents and the better transportation enabled by the 30-Stockton Muni trolleybus line.[43] The end of the Vietnam War brought a wave of Vietnamese refugees of Chinese descent, who put their own stamp on San Francisco Chinatown.

There were areas where many Chinese in Northern California living outside of San Francisco Chinatown could maintain small communities or individual businesses, but except for in Oakland, they did not set up any special town with shopping and restaurants. Nonetheless, the historic rights of property owners to deed or sell their property to whomever they pleased was exercised enough to keep the Chinese community from spreading. However, in Shelley v. Kraemer, the Supreme Court had ruled it unconstitutional for property owners to exclude certain groups when deeding their rights. This ruling allowed the enlargement of Chinatown and an increase in the Chinese population of the city. At the same time, the declining white population of the city as a result of White Flight combined to change the demographics of the city. Neighborhoods that were once predominately white, such as Richmond District and Sunset District and in other suburbs across the San Francisco Bay Area became centers of new Chinese immigrant communities. This included new immigrant groups such as Mandarin-speaking immigrants from Taiwan who have tended to settle in suburban Millbrae, Cupertino, Milpitas, and Mountain View – avoiding San Francisco as well as Oakland entirely. This suburbanization continues today.

Triad violence

With these changes came a weakening of the Tongs' traditional grip on Chinese life. Newer Chinese groups often came from areas outside of the Tongs' control, so the influence of the Tongs and criminal groups associated with them, such as the Triads, grew weaker in Chinatown and the Chinese community. However, the presence of the Triads remained significant in the immigrant community, and in the summer of 1977, an ongoing rivalry between two Triads erupted in violence and bloodshed, culminating in a shooting spree at the Golden Dragon Restaurant on Washington Street (華盛頓街). Five people were killed and eleven wounded, none of whom were gang members. The incident has become infamously known as the Golden Dragon massacre. Five perpetrators, who were members of the Joe Boys gang, were convicted of murder and assault charges and were sentenced to prison.[44] The Golden Dragon closed in January 2006 because of health violations, and later reopened as the Imperial Palace Restaurant.[45]

Other notorious acts of violence have taken place in Chinatown. In May 1990, San Francisco residents who had just left the Purple Onion nightclub at the edge of Chinatown at 2 a.m. were fired upon as they entered their cars. 35-year-old Michael Bit Chen Wu was killed and six other people were injured, one of them a pregnant woman who was critically injured.[46] In June 1998, shots were fired at Chinese Playground, wounding six teenagers, three of them critically. A 16-year-old boy was arrested for the shooting, which was believed to be gang-related.[47]

Culture

Institutions

San Francisco's Chinatown is home to the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association (known as the Chinatown, Los Angeles and Chinatown, Portland.

The Chinese Historical Society of America is located on Clay.

Autumn Moon Festival

San Francisco Chinatown's annual Autumn Moon Festival celebrates seasonal change and the opportunity to give thanks to a bountiful summer harvest. The Moon Festival is popularly celebrated throughout China and surrounding countries each year, with local bazaars, entertainment, and mooncakes, the pastry filled with sweet bean paste and egg. The festival is held each year during mid-September, and is free to the public.

Chinatown Community Development Center

Chinatown Community Development Center is an organization formed in 1977 after the merger of the Chinatown Resource center and the Chinese Community Housing Corporation.[48] The organization was started by Gordon Chin, who served as Executive Director since 1977 until he was succeeded by the organization's Deputy Director Chinatown. They have also started many groups, Adopt-An-Alleyway Youth Empowerment Project being the most notable,[49] and have been involved with many tenant programs.[50]

Media and politics

In the city-wide Board of Supervisors elections, Chinatown forms part of District Three and in 2014 accounted for 44% of both registered voters and ballots cast.[19] The two main newspapers read among residents are Sing Tao Daily and World Journal.[19]

Fame

San Francisco Chinatown restaurants are considered to be the birthplace of Westernized Chinese cuisine such as food items like Chop Suey while introducing and popularizing Dim Sum to Western and American tastes, as its Dim Sum tea houses are a major tourist attraction. Johnny Kan was the proprietor of one of the first modern style Chinese restaurants, which opened in 1953. Many of the district's restaurants have been featured in food television programs on Chinese cuisine such as Martin Yan's Martin Yan - Quick & Easy.

Chinatown has served as a backdrop for several movies, television shows, plays and documentaries including The Maltese Falcon, Big Trouble in Little China, The Pursuit of Happyness, The Presidio, Flower Drum Song, The Dead Pool, and Godzilla.

Noted Chinese American writers grew up there such as Russell Leong, and Amy Tan whose experiences growing up in the neighborhood formed the basis of her book The Joy Luck Club and the subsequent film. Notable 1940s basketball player Willie "Woo Woo" Wong, who excelled in local schools, college and professional teams, was born in, and grew up playing basketball in, Chinatown; a local playground bears his name.[51][52][53] Actor Bruce Lee, who was born at San Francisco Chinese Hospital before moving back to Hong Kong three months later, returned to the United States at the age of eighteen, residing in San Francisco's Chinatown for the first few months before moving to Seattle.

See also

References

  1. ^ a b
  2. ^
  3. ^ a b c
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^ Hoiberg, Dale: The New Encyclopaedia Britannica MicroPaedia vol. 10, Page 388., Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc, 2007.
  7. ^ Wanning, Esther: Culture Shock! USA, Color Plateno. 2, after Page 180., Marshall Cavendish Editions, 2008
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^ "North Beach / Chinatown / Telegraph Hill." San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved on February 1, 2009.
  15. ^ a b c d e
  16. ^
  17. ^ Chinatown Broadway Street Design - Project Overview, San Francisco Planning Department.
  18. ^ Estella Habal, San Francisco's International Hotel: Mobilizing the Filipino American Community in the Anti-Eviction Movement 2007). Temple University Press: p. 80.
  19. ^ a b c d e
  20. ^
  21. ^ Documentary film about the early history of San Francisco's Chinatown, KPIX-TV, 1963.
  22. ^
  23. ^
  24. ^
  25. ^
  26. ^
  27. ^ a b Bacon, Daniel: Walking the Barbary Coast Trail 2nd ed., pages 52-53, Quicksilver Press, 1997
  28. ^
  29. ^
  30. ^
  31. ^
  32. ^
  33. ^
  34. ^
  35. ^
  36. ^
  37. ^
  38. ^ Bacon, Daniel: Walking San Francisco on the Barbary Coast Trail 2nd. Ed., Pages 59-62., Quicksilver Press, 1997
  39. ^
  40. ^ a b
  41. ^ a b
  42. ^
  43. ^
  44. ^
  45. ^
  46. ^
  47. ^
  48. ^ About
  49. ^ HONORING CHINATOWN A group of young people, most with roots in the historic district, began by scrubbing and sweeping its historic alleys. Now they're giving tours, too.
  50. ^ Chinatown Community Development center
  51. ^ http://www.parkscan.org/parks?parkId=33 ParkScan, San Francisco, Neighborhood Parks Council, retrieved February 17, 2012.
  52. ^ http://www.flickr.com/photos/steverivasone/2806622875/ Flickr photo, Steve Rivasone, retrieved February 17, 2012.
  53. ^ http://www.discoverchinatownsf.com/parks Parks, Discover Chinatown San Francisco, retrieved February 17, 2012.

Further reading

  • Chinn, Thomas W. Bridging the Pacific: San Francisco Chinatown and its People. Chinese Historical Society of America, 1989.
  • Risse, Guenter B. Plague, Fear, and Politics in San Francisco's Chinatown. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2012.
  • Tsui, Bonnie. American Chinatown: A People's History of Five Neighborhoods, 2009 ISBN 978-1-4165-5723-4 Official website
  • Ki Longfellow, China Blues, Eio Books 2012, ISBN 0-9759255-7-1
  • Barbassa, Juliana. "SF Chinatown Still Home to Young and Old." Associated Press at the Washington Post. Friday November 17, 2006.

External links

This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and USA.gov, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for USA.gov and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
 
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
 
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.
 


Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.