Asian “Island” in America

Lanterns and TransAmerica

Dating back to the 1850’s, Chinatown San Francisco is the oldest such district in North America and the largest outside of Asia. The first Chinese immigrants arrived in 1848, predating the California gold rush.

Where at first the Chinese faced exclusion in California and the rest of America -their children barred from public schools and their employment and housing opportunities diminished by targeted legislation, they persevered and created a thriving haven of inclusion and cultural celebration. The sights, sounds and aromas of present day Chinatown stir the soul, whether drawn in collectively as a sort of cultural potpourri or observed one lively detail at a time.

The Transamerica Pyramid rising a total of 260 meters in the distance is a familiar face of San Francisco and a startling contrast  to “old world” Chinatown when spotted beyond its dangling red lanterns.

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12 Comments to Asian “Island” in America

  1. I had no idea Chinatown was that extensive.

  2. Heather

    Graham: Chinatown SF is a bit over a square mile in size and larger than London’s historic core, I think. It is always a fun place to wander.

  3. Thse red lanterns are typical Chinese decoration during a festival. During Chinese new year, we can see red lanterns lining up at some of the major streets in town.

  4. That’s a striking image. i have yet to visit a Chinatown that I didn’t enjoy. I’m planning a trip to Chicago’s China Twon on a river taxi next week.

  5. Suzanne Perazzini

    I love the image. It looks like the needle-like point of that building is going to burst the balloon (lantern). We don’t have areas of our cities which are so radically different from the rest. It must be fascinating.

  6. I love San Francisco and the Bay Area. your post has left me with a bit of reflection and some new facts. I think I’ll be there in September on business. Great food, Great views….

  7. Yes, these upgrades can be a little painful. I’m looking forward to seeing the new improved site! Doug

  8. Rainfield: I’ve always liked the strands of red lanterns. ~Very festive even when they’re unlit.
    Fly Girl: It was surprising to spin around and spot the skyscraper looming above it all. It took a few shots to catch the lanterns in the right breeze.
      Chicago’s water taxis may be my favorite mode of transportation there. I’m still hoping to get one or more of my kids there in the next month or so. Chi’s Chinatown would be a fun visit!
    Suzanne: I do like exploring the pockets of other cultures within our cities here. It’s interesting that New Zealand is so homogenous.
    Intrepid: San Francisco is such a vibrant city and proves that urban weekends needn’t be relegated to the indoors (as they often are when the weather cools here in the midwest). ~Noticed some changes since my last visit (more “tourists”!) and am hoping to return with one of the kids who hasn’t been there yet…
    Doug: Oh yes! ~A bit more work than I expected, but that’s what happens when one upgrades from at least six versions back(!). Thanks for the encouragement.

  9. Wonderful image. In a number of cities, the Chinese area seems to be very vibrant and photogenic.

  10. Thanks Mark. It’s an engaging microcosm. My now 17-year old remembers an enormous and exotic Chinese pet store as a highlight of our trip to San Fran some seven years ago. -Tried to find it again, but ended up at a fish market instead!

  11. Chinatown SF is very extensive indeed.

    But what made me so surprise is that I met a Chinese women about 40 years old there, She told me they never went out of Chinatown!

  12. iWalk,
    It’s a fairly self-contained community with all the essentials and then some, but that’s surprising that the lady never left Chinatown! For some, there’s definitely a language barrier. Perhaps she didn’t speak English? It would be a shame to miss out on all the other exciting places in the San Francisco area.

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