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zh-tw:唐人街/繁 zh-cn:唐人街

Chinatown is a generic name for an urban region containing a large population of Chinese within a non-Chinese society. Chinatowns are found especially frequent in Southeast Asia and North America. (See more prominent examples) Chinatowns were formed in the 19th century in many areas of the United States and Canada as a result of discriminatory land laws which forbade the sale of land to Chinese outside of a restricted geographical area and which promotes the segregation of people of different ethnicities. However the location of a Chinatown in a particular city may change over time.

Chinatown in San Francisco.

Table of contents
1 Names
2 Chinatowns in North America
3 Prominent examples
4 External link
5 Alternate meanings


In Chinese, Chinatown is usually called Tng rn jiē (唐人街), meaning "the street of the Tang people" (an uncommon term for "the Chinese"). Indeed, some Chinatowns are just a street, such as Fisgard Street in Victoria, British Columbia.

A more modern Chinese name is Hub (華埠), or "Chinese City" , which is used in the semi-official Chinese translations of some cities' documents and signs. B, pronounced sometimes as f, usually means "seaport"; but in this sense, it means "city" or "town." The literal word-to-word translation of "Chinatown" is Zhōnggu Chng 中國城), which is occasionally used in Chinese writing.

Chinatowns in North America

Several small towns in the Western United States have or once had a Chinatown that sprang up as a result of early Chinese settlement during the late 1800s and early 1900s. Experiencing hardships, especially discrimination, the Chinese banded together and established their own distinct communities in the frontier areas.

Examples of small town Chinatowns include the communities of Locke and Weaverville, located north and northwest of San Francisco, California. Others include a "China Alley" in Hanford, California.

While most of these frontier-era Chinatowns have largely disappeared (including the extinct Chinatown in San Luis Obispo, California), other small Chinatowns still standing can be found, especially in the western region of the US. The majority of restaurants in these particular Chinatowns tend to serve American Chinese cuisine such as chop suey. Nowadays, there are few remaining pockets of Chinese that live in these towns. The Chinese population in these particular areas are aging and slowly dying out.

On the other hand, many large American and Canadian cities now have more than one Chinatown -- an older mainly urban one, and others attached to newly created suburban communities.

The older Chinatowns are more traditional and tend to be tourist attractions with restaurants serving both American Chinese cuisine and authentic cuisine. In addition, many old Chinatowns are situated near large downtown areas. The new Chinatowns tend to cater to ethnic Chinese, with more authentic Chinese restaurants and large shopping centers with Chinese merchants.

Metropolitan Chinatowns can often be easily distinguished by the large red gateways with bronze lion statues on the opposite sides of the street that greet visitors. These gateways are usually donated to the city as a gift from the Republic of China (Taiwan). Many of the businesses are more clustered and centralized in the older and cramped Chinatowns, making it easier to walk between merchants. Parking space in the old Chinatowns can be difficult to find, especially on weekends. The suburban Chinatowns, however, with their huge shopping centers and open air parking areas, tend to be more dispersed, decentralized, and spread out over a wider area making it quite difficult to go around without viable transportation.

Early Chinese immigrants were mostly from the Taishan area, close to Canton in Guangdong province, China. They immigrated to the US in the 19th century to lay railroad tracks, work in gold mines, and do laundry for the miners. Taishanese was the de facto official dialect of many Chinatowns. Today, the old Chinatowns are still heavily populated by Taishanese and Cantonese people, although most of the "assimilated" second-generation and other descendants of the early immigrants have merged into the general non-Chinese population. In addition, many Vietnamese and other Southeast Asians, especially those of Chinese heritage, have also settled and established businesses in Chinatowns.

New Chinatowns

The new Chinatowns were formed starting in the 1970s when a new wave of Chinese immigrants began coming mainly from Taiwan and Fujian province in the PRC. These new immigrants, who spoke Mandarin Chinese and Hokkien, generally did not find the old Cantonese-dominated Chinatowns attractive. Also, due to the high-tech boom in Taiwan in the 1980s and 1990s, many new millionaires invested in developing new Chinese communities in the US. The trend usually started with a huge Chinese supermarket and strip mall, leading the new immigrants to settle nearby for convenience. These new communities were also attractive to new immigrants from mainland China after the PRC government opened up the border for emigration in the 1980s and 1990s, and gradually the neighborhood turns into a new Chinatown.

Immigration Trends in North America

In recent years, immigration from Taiwan has begun to decrease, and new Chinese immigrants consist of two groups: well-educated professionals from the People's Republic of China, who tend to work in high-tech areas, and undocumented aliens from Fujian province working mostly in service industries. There has been relatively little immigration into the United States from Hong Kong, with most emigrants from Hong Kong ending up in Canada, usually Vancouver, British Columbia or Toronto, Ontario. This is a result of stricter requirements and limited US immigration quota (approx. 5000/year) allotted for the SAR, compared to 20000/year for a country. Canada offers easy entry for any family rich enough to invest in the Canadian economy. One can practically buy a citizenship by opening a small business in Canada. Vancouver attracts most of the Hong Kong emigrants because of its milder climate compared to the rest of Canada. The city of Richmond has a more modern and larger Chinatown than the one in Vancouver.

Changing relationships

The new Chinatowns and old Chinatowns have a number of differences. Traditionally, the older Chinatowns tended to be separate communities apart from the rest of American society and contained strong internal institutions such as the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association in New York City and the Six Companies in San Francisco. These institutions served as quasi-governments and mediated relationships between Chinese in Chinatown and non-Chinese.

The Chinese in the new Chinatowns, many of whom are wealthy professionals, tend not to be isolated from the rest of American society, and the institutions of the new Chinatowns, such as Asian Chambers of Commerce, are much less powerful. Also, in contrast to Chinese immigrants of the 19th century, there are large numbers of Chinese who live outside of Chinatown in suburbia.

There are also differences in the relationships between the Chinatowns and various Chinese political actors. Chinese politics in many old Chinatowns were dominated by the Kuomintang party tied to Taiwan. In newer Chinatowns, there are significant numbers of supporters of Taiwan independence who were estranged from the Republic of China government before the 1990s but who have been drawn much closer since the mid-1990s as the government on Taiwan has become more localized. Until the mid-1980s, the People's Republic of China generally ignored the Chinatowns in the United States, but more recently the PRC has made a stronger and somewhat successful attempt to gain sympathy and influence within American Chinatowns. Both the People's Republic of China and Taiwan's governments tend to be established in cities with large Chinese populations and both attempt to maintain close relationships with leaders of Chinatowns.


In the Greater Los Angeles area, there are several suburban Chinatowns throughout the San Gabriel Valley. Monterey Park and neighboring San Gabriel, California, have the largest Taiwanese-dominated communities, while the "Chinatown" in the city of Los Angeles remains tiny and Cantonese. However, the Taiwanese and smaller pockets of Cantonese do intermingle and interact in suburbia. Another so-called suburban "Chinatown," so to speak, includes Rowland Heights.
Other examples in California are suburban Milpitas and Cupertino in the South San Francisco Bay Area, as well as the urban Richmond and Sunset districts in San Francisco, compared to the original Chinatown in downtown San Francisco.

Although the popular image of Chinatown is urban and crowded, Monterey Park and Bellaire Avenue have quite interesting and unique architecture which is a mixture of the large shopping centers and shopping malls found in American suburbia with Chinese motifs.

Interestingly, tourist guides and travel books invariably refer to the more traditional old Chinatowns without mentioning the much larger, modern and vibrant new Chinatowns.

New York

The old Chinatown of New York City is centered around Canal Street in Manhattan, but at least two other satellite Chinatowns have cropped up in Flushing, Queens and Sunset Park, Brooklyn.

New York being an exception to many things, Flushing is hardly suburban, and the Manhattan Chinatown still has many Chinese markets and other businesses, as well as a large Chinese-American population, including first-generation immigrants who speak little or no English and work in garment factories in the neighborhood. Some of the Chinese that settle in New York are often undocumented immigrants from the Fujian province of China.


The only Chinatown in Las Vegas is actually a large shopping center. It is the so-called "first master planned Chinatown in America". It is located just west of the Las Vegas Strip.


Yet another example is Houston, Texas where there is an old and largely disappearing Chinatown near the Convention Center, and a new Chinatown on Bellaire Avenue in the Western part of the city.


Richmond near Vancouver, British Columbia is also an exception to these trends. Unlike the Mandarin-dominated new Chinatowns in the US, Richmond is practically a "HongKongTown". It is quite possibly the largest Chinatown in North America, complete with several malls, a large grocery store and an endless number of restaurants and small businesses. One third of Richmond's population of 166,219 (2002) are people of Chinese descent, which is approximately 55,000 people.

Toronto, Ontario's largest Chinatown is centred on Spadina Avenue and Dundas Street. There are multiple other Chinatowns throughout Toronto's suburbs. The Markham area is noted for its large concentration of Chinese strip malls. Toronto's Chinatowns include businesses from several regions of China, but they also are dominated by businesses set up by Hong Kong companies as well as immigrants from Hong Kong and their familes.

Montreal, Quebec's Chinatown is around St-Urbain and St-Laurent streets between René-Lévesque and Viger.

The cities of Edmonton and Calgary in Alberta also have Chinatowns.

Prominent examples

Well-known Chinatowns over the world with significant histories include:

External link

Alternate meanings