Monday, April 19, 2010

the Old and New Chinatown

In Garcia’s A World of Its Own, he mentioned workers of various races, including Chinese. He told us that Chinese immigrants succeeded in the laundry industry of Los Angeles for a while in the late 19th century. Chinese were believed to arrive in Los Angeles as early as in 1852. They were mainly laundrymen, gardeners, agricultural and ranch workers, and road builders. As Garcia mentioned, Chinese became dominant in the laundry industry after their arrival. At the same time, their residential area, Chinatown came into being at where the Union Station is now. Old Chinatown celebrated its peak time from 1890 to 1910, when it became not only a residence region, but a commercial community as well. It had its own temples, opera houses, newspaper and telephone exchanges. However, the Old Chinatown did not enjoy its heyday for long. The Chinese Exclusion Act passed in 1882 gradually had its influence on immigration patterns and halted the growth of Chinese immigrants. Consequently, landlords felt that there was no need to renovate their houses because there was no swelling demand for housing. Not satisfied with dilapidated houses, people began to move out of the community, forcing landlords changing the function of houses from residence to vulgar entertainment such as gambling and opium center. When the California Supreme Court decided to relocate the Old Chinatown to make room for Union Station, there were few voices of opposition—unlike the relocation of Chavez Ravine in 1940s which ignited protests from Mexican communities.
After the relocation, the Chinese community spent several years looking for an ideal place for new Chinatown. Finally in 1938, the new Chinatown has its grand opening. The new Chinatown was designed to show that the Chinese community was willing to adopt modern ways of living—neat and orderly. With Hollywood style of exotic, the New Chinatown served as a center for tourists to explore the mysterious Oriental world. For the following 72 years, the New Chinatown experienced a slight downfall as a place a interest, but it remains to be a business center for Chinese community as well as a symbol of Oriental world for tourists and filmmakers.

The following is a simply travel guide of the New Chinatown:

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