Visitors of Los Angeles may be captivated by numerous things for a short period of time: Hollywood with its Walk of Fame, Walt Disney Concert Hall, and Los Angeles City Hall. These sights tell much about American culture, interests of LA citizens, and America’s richness. However, there is one more significant landmark of Los Angeles that constantly attracts the attention of both LA visitors and its native citizens, and this landmark is Los Angeles Chinatown.
“If one will visit the stores, and other places of business of the Chinese of Los Angeles, he will gain a clearer idea of the industry and ingenuity of these people that the most learned books and treatises on the Chinese, both at home and abroad, could give” (Far, Ling, and Parks 208).
Chinatown in Los Angeles was founded at the end of the 1800s and underwent considerable changes since then: the division into Old and New Chinatown represent a kind of eras of this place development, the worth of money has become too much important and replaced such issues like culture and national spirit of Chinese people, and finally, the idea to meet true Chinese in Los Angeles Chinatown seems to be unreal or even impossible. And now, Chinatown with its all changes can be found on 977 N. Broadway Los Angeles, CA.
General Description of Chinatown. The history of Chinatown in Los Angeles is both complicated and captivating: this piece of China in Los Angeles has been already under the influence of three incarnations (Pitt 89), and each of them had a considerable impact on how this place is accepted by American citizens, by the visitors of Los Angeles, and by those people, who really appreciate Chinese cultures being far away from its heart, China.
Photo collection by Mark Dixon helps to concentrate on the details, which are hard to notice being in the center of this place. By means of his photos, it becomes possible to observe the rhythm of life that is inherent to Chinatown citizens and to realize that small dragons and other trifles serve not only as one more decoration but as a thing that makes Chinese life complete.
New and Old Chinatown. The time, we live in, requires certain changes and actions, which help to prove that we are ready to meet new demands and conditions. Chinatown is not an exception and requires for some changes as well in order to have a chance to attract people’s attention, to introduce appropriate services and be interesting to different people, to teach Chinese culture and customs to its visitors, and to help people to discover something new about China.
One of the most significant changes within Chinatown is its division into Old and New. Old Chinatown depicted true intentions, which were inherent to Chinatown founders: being residential and commercial community, Chinatown opened its doors to any Chinese person, who was eager to live there and spread native culture and traditions around the whole world.
“In 1933, Old Chinatown was demolished, and many residents relocated to New Chinatown in the following years” (Molina 150). The beginning of the 1900s was a kind of regeneration for the place itself and for its citizens. This very change was influenced by the instability of landowners and their uncertainty in own prosperity (Chinatown Los Angeles).
Housing conditions, street troubles, and constant fights because of land – all this did not create a pleasant picture for citizens of Chinatown; they want to live safely and peacefully. Those misunderstandings and the desire to achieve better living conditions led to the development of a new district, now known as New Chinatown.
Chinese People in Chinatown. Nowadays, those people, who are eager to visit Chinatown in order to find real Chinese and be closer to their culture, face numerous misunderstandings, because they discover a few native Chinese people there. The rapid development of China on the world arena makes people stay in their native country, this is why Los Angeles Chinatown is full of those Chinese people, who grew up in America and learn their native roots and traditions by means of parents or grandparents’ talks.
Interviewing people, who like visiting Chinatown, it has been discovered that many people are not satisfied with Los Angeles Chinatown conditions. First of all, people notice that business takes the first place in this district. People, who somehow connected to Chinese culture or just want to learn more about it, choose Chinatown as the place to develop own interests and check own skills. This is why it is not a surprise to meet a white or black American, who sells “true Chinese food”.
This very change influences visitors’ understanding of culture and realizing that because of the desire to develop business properly and successfully, it is possible to close eyes on many things and cultural priorities as well.
Culture and Business in Chinatown. As it has been mentioned above, modern business usually kills the desire to follow traditions and customs. People pay more attention to the things, which bring more money and help to gain respect and recognition. This is why money and culture become too close concepts in Los Angeles Chinatown.
However, it is necessary to remember that Chinatown is the community that has been born out of considerable struggle. Some people find Los Angeles Chinatown very noisy, full of people of different nations, and even dirty. But still, before another person believes these words, it is better to have a kind of overlook to its history, and comprehend that respect to Chinese culture, its heritage, and people grows day by day.
People fight to find their place under the sun, people die to provide their generation to live on this land, people cry to show how sincere their desires can be. People, who live in Los Angeles Chinatown, prove that their power, their unity, and their devotion to culture are really great.
In spite of the fact that money tries to conquer the whole world, Chinatown citizens still have efforts to exist and remember about own tradition. And the world change concerning the priority of money at expense of cultural traditions has an impact on Chinatown as well, because it proves that Chinese people are a powerful nation, and their traditions cannot be crushed.
On my opinion, all those changes in Chinatown may help to comprehend how true devotion to own culture and traditions should look like. The role of Chinese ideology is great indeed: Chinese people are not afraid of financial challenges, because the interest to their culture always helps to gain recognition;
Chinese people always have something to entertain, amaze, and share with other people; Chinese people never close their hearts before other people and try to help, even being sure that their help is not considerable; and finally, Chinese people represent another belief, another attitude to life and death, and this knowledge remains to be invaluable.
These three changes may be connected to each other because all of them are based on two important issues – time and human demands. Because of time, people like to change their minds, to change their principles, and to change their interests.
However, culture is a constant concept and cannot be changed because of any factor. Chinatown undergoes some changes from time to time, however, Chinese roots are remembered and their experience passes from parents to children in order to demonstrate how devoted people may be to their cultural heritage.
To my mind, Chinese ideology is one of the most powerful ones in the whole world, and those people, who try to claim the conditions of current Los Angeles conditions, have to check their own devotion to native traditions before talking about the traditions, which have been carried through many years and even centuries. And the changes, which have to be taken within Chinatown may be regarded as one more challenge that will improve Chinese belief and Chinese culture.
American Dream and its relation to Chinatown. The idea of the American Dream is about people’s life that has to be richer, happier, and better for everyone. This concept of the desirable social stability tells that people will be happier in case they are safe, free, and rich.
Taking into consideration this explanation of the issue, I cannot help but wonder whether it is true that Los Angeles Chinatown challenges the American Dream. Even more, I have several ideas to prove that my suggestion is correct. First of all, I agree that Chinatown is a perfect example of a community that has to maintain old traditions and introduce a foreign culture to American people.
However, this Chinatown is already named as a community, as a separate community that takes place within a city of one American culture. Chinatown is arranged properly, however, it represents a separate community that does not allow Americans to feel that there are unique, free, and safe. Misunderstandings, which happen between the representatives of Chinese and American society, hit American identity considerable and hinder the accomplishment of the American Dream.
People, who live in Chinatown and follow the traditions of China have less changes to make their American Dream come true, this is why it is not really correct or polite to unite the idea of the American Dream with the development of a foreign community that may easily divide people and lead to conflicts.
Los Angeles Chinatown introduces a magnificent piece of China with its own traditions and customs. On the one hand, this place proves that our world should not be divided into separate nations and cultures, and is able to support different interests within one country like the United States of America.
On the other hand, this Chinatown creates numerous challenges to the development of the American Dream, spreading and supporting American interests and preferences. People should have a chance to learn more about different countries and their cultures, but dividing such a wonderful and full of history city as Los Angeles into the parts according to traditions of different nations will never lead to something good and successful.
Chinatown Los Angeles. Chinatown Business Improvement District. 2009. Dec. 2009
< http://www.chinatownla.com/index.php >
Dixon, Mark. A Morning in Chinatown. The Los Angeles Photography. December, 2009,
< http://www.knowvantage.com/chinatown/ >
Far, Sui Sin, Ling, Amy, and Parks, Annette White. Mr. Spring Fragrance and Other Writings. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1995.
Molina, Natalia. Fit to Be Citizens?: Public Health and Race in Los Angele, 1879-1939. Los Angeles: University of California Pres, 2006.
Pitt, Dale. Los Angeles A to Z: An Encyclopedia of the City and County. Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1997.