Saturday, May 2, 2009

A new Chinatown with old roots

Painted dragons, trinket shops and herbal stores, all on one street in Los Angeles. Broadway is not just a main street in Los Angeles, but it is the main commercial artery running through the new Chinatown.

Though it may not seem so new, what we now know as Chinatown is actually the new Chinatown. It was previously located where Union Station is today.

From the Great Wall bookstore to the Golden Eagle store, Chinatown has many things to offer its visitors and regulars.

“It’s different than other places,” said Michael Huyn, the nephew of the owner of The Golden Eagle.

The Golden Eagle is a store that sells sandals, waving porcelain cats and bamboo umbrellas among many other trinkets and knickknacks that are common in Chinatown.

Paper lanterns, live turtles, little Buddahs and windchimes fill the Golden Eagle on Broadway Street in Chinatown.

Huyn said that his uncle’s store has been in operation for more than ten years.

He said that he grew up in Chinatown and that he comes back often.

“It’s kind of like our icon,” Huyn said.

Randy Bin, a friend of Huyn, said that he enjoys spending time in Chinatown and that one of the places he spends the most time at is the basketball court that is free to anyone who wants to play.

“It’s pretty cool,” Bin said.

Susie Ling, associate professor of Asian American studies and history at Pasadena City College is a member of the Chinese Historical Society of Southern California.

“We love Chinese American history and we are dedicated to bring awareness of it to the community,” Ling said.

“Chinatown is the historical foundation,” Ling said. “It exists because of both positive and negative forces.”

Ling said that because of discrimination in the 19th Century, Chinese in the United States could not live in regular communities and so they created their own community.

“Chinatown allowed early Chinese Americans and even someone like me to enjoy and celebrate the Chinese Culture,” Ling said. “It served as a home to celebrate the culture as well as a safe haven in early years.”

Ling said she came to the United States when she was 17.

“It’s a work place,” Ling said. “A very complex, very historically rooted place.”

“There’s history that’s right underneath you and often ignored,” Ling said.

New Chinatown was built in 1938 when the old Chinatown was demolished to make way for Union Station in Los Angeles. Old Chinatown was established in the late 1800s.

By 1900, according to the Chinatown Historical Society of Southern California, there were believed to be more than 3,000 Chinese residing in Los Angeles.

Though the Chinese in the U.S. faced discrimination and hardship, they came together at what is now a thriving historical landmark in Los Angeles.

Metro Gold Line has a Chinatown stop on Spring Street. The stop is just a short walk from shops and other attractions.

Ling said that some of the most fun things that happen in Chinatown are the annual parade and the New Years Firecracker 5K/10K Run/Walk.

This year the run helped to raise money for Castelar Elementary School, one of the oldest schools in Los Angeles.

Dragons painted in the crosswalk at the intersection of Broadway Street and Bernard Street lead the way to the various bakeries, herbal shops and other stores.

For the most recent New Year’s celebration, Chinatown celebrated the Year of the Ox with a parade and festivities that lasted for a week. The 2009 parade was the 110th Annual Golden Dragon Parade.

Chinatown is much more than a tourist attraction. It is a place that brings a city together and many of different generations to appreciate its rich history and to look to its continuing bright future.

Gas: About $3
Parking: Free (Not all of the parking is free)
Total amount spent: About $3