The term Chinatown refers to an ethnic and social enclave located within a larger city.
Historically, Chinese immigrants in Canada, Australia, England and the Untied States encountered very unfamiliar cultures. It was natural for them to settle together with others from China, so they could share familiar food, music, culture and language.
But in many places, the formation of "Chinatowns" went beyond individual preference. Chinese people were often discriminated against and prevented from living in many places. In some cases they even faced violence, and were forced to band together for safety.
Over time, however, many Chinatowns developed into vibrant cultural and commercial centers. Commercial ventures often include import-export businesses and wholesalers, giving local residents and visitors alike access to Chinese goods, including clothing, cookware, furnishings, artwork, books and magazines, herbs and specialty food items.
In addition to being living and working communities for millions of ethnic Chinese people, Chinatowns are often popular tourist attractions. Visitors can see Chinese architecture and art, learn about Chinese culture, and sample Chinese cuisine. Many Chinatowns feature vibrant markets offering poultry, fish, produce, teas, herbs spices, and even Chinese newspapers.
Most Chinatowns stage festivals or parades celebrating holidays and special events, such as the traditional Chinese New Year celebration. Festivities may include martial arts demonstrations, acrobatics, colorful dragon dances and fireworks.
In many places, Chinatown merchants and residents have formed formal associations to represent their interests and to preserve their character. These groups sometimes also serve charitable, educational, and cultural roles within their communities.
Every Chinatown has its own distinctive flavor. The Chinatown Directory provides detailed historical information, cultural information, and pictures for the best Chinatowns.
Top Chinatowns in the United States:
- Boston China Town • Chicago China Town • Los Angeles China Town • New York / Manhattan China Town
- Oakland China Town • Philadelphia China Town • San Francisco China Town
Top Chinatowns in Canada:
Top Chinatowns (Outside of North America):
San Francisco Chinatown Gate courtesy C. Couling ; Autumn Moon Festival performers courtesy Jennifer Woodard Maderazo ; Chinatown street / Bay Bridge courtesy Christian Mehlführer