Chinatown: Its culture, history, demographics and landscape Essay

This research paper encompasses parts of Chinatown’s culture, history, demographics and landscape. We will attempt to explain some of their beliefs and customs, as well as, link the present Chinese Americans to their past in Communist China. It’s hard to remain objective, particularly while taking this class (COMS540), but in an effort to remain somewhat neutral, we will limit our comments to just slightly closer to being opinionated. We will first cover our visits; when we went and what we saw, move into some not-so-pleasant material concerning practices and communism. Speak on President Sun Yat-Sen.

And finish with some proposed construction for the Chinatown area. We found the people to most accommodating and very friendly. We experienced some food, well for Richard (barbecued pork buns) a lot of food, and enjoyed our experience immensely. Chinatown: Its culture, history, demographics and landscape Introduction Diasporic History: The first Chinese immigrants arrived in Chicago in the 1870s, long after the other Chinese had settled in California, Oregon and Washington. It began with the completion of the transcontinental railroad which recruited Chinese as almost 80% of its work force.

When the last railroad track was laid in 1869 and work came to an end. Chinese population began to disperse to the mid-western and eastern states from the Pacific Coast where they originally concentrated. (http://www. chicago-chinatown. com) The first official report of Chinese in Chicago cultural group was could be traced in 1870 census report. Little was known about these settlers except they were residing in Morgan county of Southern Illinois. The largest influx of Chinese came in 1950s and 1960s, a time when communist took over mainland China in 1948 and when more lenient immigration law was practiced.

Improved Chinese – American relation helped spur this immigration surge also. During these two decades the Chinese population in Chicago doubled itself from 7,000 to 14,000. By 1970, Chicago ranked fourth in Chinese population in America. The first Chinese community was built around the Van Buren and Clark Streets. (http://www. chicago-chinatown. com) Discussion Going into Chinatown made us aware of our ethnocentrism. We went into Chinatown thinking about the cultures heterogeneous and homogeneous nature.

The Chinese immigrants created Chinatown, so younger immigrants did not have to “jump into the melting pot” of the United States. We didn’t stay in Chinatown long enough to have the opportunity for identity tourism. A lot of city officials employed a dialogical approach to the Chinatown community such as Chicago Alderman Danny Solis. Our first encounter in Chinatown was for the China Day Parade. China Day Parade is a parade celebrating the 60th anniversary of the Founding of the People’s Republic of China. The parade started at 24th Street Wentworth, north to Cermak then west to Archer.

A total of 74 marching units lined up on Wentworth Street, including 22 floats, 2 dragon teams, 3 lion teams, 30 marching groups, 8 marching bands, as well as city officials and dignitaries. The event was emceed by Fox Chicago’s, Nancy Loo and Gene Lee, deputy chief of staff at the Mayor’s Office in Chicago. Nancy Loo’s parents and brothers are first-generation Chinese-Americans from Hong Kong and she spoke only Cantonese until she discovered American television shows and started kindergarten. Her grandfather had come to America during the California Gold Rush and her great-grandfather had helped to build the Trans-Continental Railroad.

Liu Hong, president of the Chinese American Association of Greater Chicago and other City official were in attendance. During the celebration of 60th Anniversary of the People’s Republic of China, initially we felt Chinese-Americans would not talk to us. After trying to communicate with the Chinese people in Chinatown, we learned they were friendly and talkative. There were challenges in trying to communicate because we did know what to say and they speak very fast. Some characteristics that will be important in Chinatown would be to smile, talk slow, and ask question that will give short answers.

There were no unusual proximity issues in China Day parade in Chinatown. During the parade we noticed the masculinity-femininity value of the Chinese culture, the women were fully dressed with makeup and there were more women than men in the parade. In addition, it was a multicultural event; there were Black students from local area high school marching bands, Irish bag pipe players and the U S Navy in the parade. There was an estimated 22,000 people in attendance. The color red was everywhere in the parade. In China, red is the color of prosperity and joy.

At the end of the parade, 6 red envelopes were presented to the Lions Mouth of Lions Dances (Lions are considered to be good omens. The lion dance is believed to repel demons). Then they shot party poppers and bowed 3 times. After the parade we visited Chinatown Square; it’s a two-level retail center features a number of colorful shops and dining places. We went inside a book store and noticed some of the US publication in Chinese. In the middle of the square is included the Pan Asian Cultural Center surrounded by twelve bronze zodiac animal figures. Unlike the Greek zodiac, like Scorpio, Pisces, Taurus, etc. hich are determined by what month you’re born, your animal sign in the Chinese zodiac depends on what year you were born. The Chinese Lunar Calendar names each of the twelve years after an animal. Legend has it that the Lord Buddha summoned all the animals to come to him before he departed from earth. Only twelve came to bid him farewell and as a reward he named a year after each one in the order they arrived. The Chinese believe the animal ruling the year in which a person is born has a profound influence on personality, saying: “This is the animal that hides in your heart. ” (http://www. chicago-chinatown. com/)

Throughout the year, there are various celebrations and cultural performances in the square. At several entrances to the square there are bronze gates depicting the 4 greatest Chinese inventions. All the signs for the business were in English and Chinese including the Walgreens across the street. The Chicago Chinatown Chamber of Commerce is located inside the square. During our second encounter with Chinatown, we discovered Hidden and Political Histories. We started off looking for the bizarre at St. Therese Chinese Catholic School, but it was for children and sold American food. So we walked up and down Wentworth.

There were Chinese restaurants next door and above each other and across the street and all of them had customers inside. We stop at a bakery and noticed how aggressive -not submissive some Asian women were. In addition, at the bakery there was a backroom with older Asian men inside sitting around talking, like an American barbershop. We went inside the Hong Kong Noodle Co, which has been in the area for 50 years, there products are sold around the world. We stopped at the Chicago Public Library, the Chinese Heritage and History section was at the front, plus we toured the Chinese calligrapher exhibit.

On the side of the Chinese Christian Union Church were a group of protesters. That’s where we found a hidden history in excerpts from The Epoch Times and an interview with Sarina Ling. More than a decade after the fall of the former Soviet Union and Eastern European communist regimes, the international communist movement has been spurned worldwide. The demise of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is only a matter of time. Nevertheless, before its complete collapse, the CCP is trying to tie its fate to the Chinese nation, with its 5000 years of civilization.

This is a disaster for the Chinese people. The Chinese people must now face the impending questions of how to view the CCP, how to evolve China into a society without the CCP, and how to pass on the Chinese heritage. The Epoch Times is now publishing a special editorial series, “Nine Commentaries on the Communist Party. ” Before the lid is laid on the coffin of the CCP, we wish to pass a final judgment on it and on the international communist movement, which has been a scourge to humanity for over a century. Ms.

Ling went on to say…”That the opening ceremonies for the Chinese Olympics were a farce, with fake fireworks, a piano played by world-famous pianist played while the cover was closed”(Ling, 2009). This is an example of an oppositional reading, where a position occupied by the viewer, who is aware of the dominant encoded position, but who elects to decode within an alternative frame of reference. Throughout its 80-plus years, everything the CCP has touched has been marred with lies, wars, famine, tyranny, massacre and terror. Traditional faiths and principles have been violently destroyed.

Original ethical concepts and social structures have been disintegrated by force. Empathy, love and harmony among people have been twisted into struggle and hatred. Veneration and appreciation of the heaven and earth have been replaced by an arrogant desire to “fight with heaven and earth. ” The result has been a total collapse of social, moral and ecological systems, and a profound crisis for the Chinese people, and indeed for humanity. All these calamities have been brought about through the deliberate planning, organization, and control of the CCP. As a famous Chinese poem goes, “Deeply I sigh in vain for the falling flowers. The end is near for the communist regime, which is barely struggling to survive. The days before its collapse are numbered. The Epoch Times believes the time is now ripe, before the CCP’s total demise, for a comprehensive look back, in order to fully expose how this largest cult in history has embodied the wickedness of all times and places. We hope that those who are still deceived by the CCP will now see its nature clearly, purge its poison from their spirits, extricate their minds from its evil control, free themselves from the shackles of terror, and abandon for good all illusions about it.

The CCP’s rule is the darkest and the most ridiculous page in Chinese history. Among its unending list of crimes, the vilest must be its persecution of Falun Gong. In persecuting “Truthfulness, Compassion, Tolerance” Jiang Zemin has driven the last nail into the CCP’s coffin. The Epoch Times believes that by understanding the true history of the CCP, we can help prevent such tragedies from ever recurring. At the same time, we hope each one of us would reflect on our innermost thoughts and examine whether our cowardice and compromise have made us accomplices in many tragedies that could have been avoided (Epoch Times, 2009).

Falun Dafa (also called Falun Gong, or just Dafa) is a high-level cultivation practice guided by the characteristics of the universe—Truthfulness, Benevolence, and Forbearance. “Cultivation” means continuously striving to better harmonize oneself with these universal principles. “Practice” refers to the exercises – five sets of easy-to-learn gentle movements and meditation. Cultivating oneself is essential; practicing the exercises supplements the process. Over time, the principles of Dafa unveil the deepest and most profound truths of the universe.

Following the principles, practitioners of Falun Dafa are able to reach very high realms, enlightening to the true meanings of life, and finding the path of return to their origins and true selves. Ms. Ling describes to us the great lengths to which the Communist Government has gone to control the practice by these people. She relates the story of a friend, who is practicing in front of us, and his tribulations with his eventual escape to the United States. He was imprisoned and hung by his arms in a cell where only his feet barely touched the ground.

After escaping he stowed aboard a freighter bound for the U. S. and ended up in Houston before moving to Chicago. He tells us of beatings and torture at the hands of the red menace. This conflict is played out today, not only in China, but also parts of the United States and all over the globe. While the exercises have deep inner meanings, they also help to reduce stress and can bring great improvements in health and fitness. Falun Dafa has an ancient history. It was passed down over the ages from a single master to a single disciple in each generation.

The disciple would later have a disciple of his own, to whom he would pass on the teachings, thereby quietly passing the practice down throughout history. In 1992, Mr. Li Hongzhi (referred to respectfully by practitioners as “Master” or “Teacher”) first taught Falun Dafa publicly in the city of Changchun, China, and then continued to lecture all across the country. Those who attended experienced such profound benefits that they told friends and family. As a result, the number of practitioners grew very quickly, solely by word of mouth.

By 1998, at least 70 million people had taken up the practice in China alone. Today, Dafa is practiced and cherished by over 100 million people in over 100 countries, and has received a plethora of honors. (www. falundafaindia. org/) We decided to eat lunch at Won Kow Restaurant, but on our way there we found the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Museum of Chicago. In was on the second floor, but we had to walk up about 80 steps in a narrow hallway. At the museum is where we learned about the Republic of China Political history. In the turbulent and tangled history of modern China, Sun Yat-Sen holds a unique place.

Claimed as a personal inspiration and political guide by the most bitterly opposed political parties, he is known to millions as “the Father of the Chinese Revolution. ” Yet his own life was a constant scramble for livelihood and influence, he spent much of his time in exile, and almost none of his cherished schemes came near to fruition. The twin strands of inspiration and failure define the relationship between his life and the history of his country. Born in 1866 to a farming family in southeast China, not far from Macau and Hong Kong, Sun received a few years of local schooling in traditional Chinese texts.

At 13 he moved to Hawaii, where his elder brother had emigrated. Three years of study in a Honolulu boarding school run by the Church of England were followed by more than a decade in Hong Kong, where Sun was baptized a Christian and gained certificates of proficiency in medicine and surgery. He practiced medicine briefly in Hong Kong in 1893. Yet Sun was not typical of the rising class of Westernized Chinese intent on their own professional advancement within the swiftly changing tides of late 19th century imperialism and colonialism.

He was a Chinese patriot of a more traditional kind, an admirer of rebels who had pitted their lives against the ruling Manchu dynasty (or Qing) and was at home within the conspiratorial worlds of Chinese secret societies. His head was filled with dreams of strengthening China from within by drawing on its natural resources in conjunction with new technologies, and he tried to interest powerful officials in his schemes for economic development. By 1894, however, China was sliding into chaos as the Manchu dynasty weakened and Japan defeated China in a brief and humiliating war.

The main prize of victory for the Japanese was the island of Taiwan, which was ceded by China and made a Japanese colony. Sensing the time was ripe for an uprising, Sun returned to Hawaii, where he used his earlier contacts, along with some of his new friends in Hong Kong, to form an underground society dedicated to reviving China. Sun returned to Hong Kong in 1895 and attempted to lead an insurrection in southeast China. He failed. At the Chinese government’s request, the British banned Sun from Hong Kong. For a time, Japan became his base for new revolutionary activities.

After he was banned there, he lived in various countries in Southeast Asia. He also traveled widely in Europe, Canada and the United States, seeking funds for future uprisings, all of which failed because of faulty planning and lack of adequate weapons. By 1905, Sun began to develop a more coherent set of guiding principles. These became, in turn, the ideology of a broader-based revolutionary society that he founded at the same time. In this new ideology, which he termed the “Three Principles of the People,” Sun sought to combine the fundamental aspects of nationalism, democracy and socialism.

Over the years, Sun developed these ideas into a comprehensive plan for restoring economic and moral strength to his country, first by expelling the Manchu and then by curbing the foreign powers. He also hoped to free Chinese from graver forms of social exploitation by building a central government that would counter the rampant forces of capitalism in industry and of powerful landlords in the countryside. It was Sun’s view that, in the early stages of China’s regeneration, the country should be controlled by a rigorously structured central party, dedicated in loyalty to him personally as absolute leader.

But through a carefully calibrated period of “tutelage,” the Chinese people would be introduced to the principles and practices of representative government, until finally the tutelage would end and China could emerge as a strong, full-fledged democracy. Sun Yat-Sen had extraordinary tenacity and great persuasive powers. During his long years of exile he was able to keep acquiring funds–especially from overseas Chinese in Southeast Asia and North America–and to hold his own against political rivals, within and outside his organization, who held different views of China’s destiny.

Thus, when the Manchu dynasty at last collapsed in 1911, in some measure because of the ceaseless pressure exerted by Sun and his revolutionary followers, he was named provisional President of the new Chinese republic. But Sun was shrewd enough to see that he lacked adequate military strength to hold China together, and he made the bold decision to transform his revolutionary organization into a mainstream political party. The Nationalist Party (or Kuomintang) won more seats than any of its rivals in China’s first-ever national elections in early 1913.

But Sun and his party still could not curb the emerging powers of the new military and political strongmen. Late in the year he was forced once more into exile, and Kuomintang members were expelled from parliament. The last decade of Sun’s life was spent trying to establish a more effective political and military base of operations. He was aided by a dedicated group of followers who strongly believed in his vision for China and by his second wife, Soong Ching-ling, whom he married in 1914 while in exile in Japan.

Some 26 years younger than her husband, Soong had an American college degree and came from a wealthy cosmopolitan family. She was also highly intelligent and politically radical. After 1916, when they returned to China from Japan, the two were constantly shuttling between Shanghai and Canton (now Guangzhou), the cities that seemed to offer them the best potential political bases. By 1923 they had settled on Canton, where Sun assembled a viable government supported by local military figures and by members of the old parliament.

There were also new allies, like the young military officer Chiang Kai-shek, who was later to marry Soong’s younger sister. But most important of Sun’s new allies were agents from the Communist International in Moscow, who had been instrumental in founding the Chinese Communist Party in the summer of 1921. Two years later, these agents persuaded Sun that if his Kuomintang nationalists would ally with the communists, whose numbers were still small, they could tap into the enormous latent energies of China’s peasants and industrial workers, who were just beginning to emerge on the political landscape.

Apparently convinced that his organization could control the communists within its ranks, Sun agreed to a formula by which individual communists could enter the Kuomintang as members. In return, the Soviet Union provided Sun with military advisers, arms, ammunition and technical help in strengthening his political organization. Sun’s goal was to use these new military forces to expand his Canton base so that he could break the hold of individual military leaders in south China and eventually link up with sympathetic forces in north China, thus creating a new, reunified government.

He was greatly encouraged by an invitation from powerful northern militarists in 1924 to meet with them to discuss future reunification moves. Though ill and tired, Sun undertook the journey, stopping off briefly in Japan on the way. Arriving in Beijing, he was so weak that he had to be taken to his guest house in an ambulance. Doctors speedily found that he had inoperable liver cancer. He died in Beijing in March 1925. Sun’s corpse quickly became a complex political symbol. His body was preserved and kept at a temple on the outskirts of Beijing.

Crowds of ordinary people and a mixture of generals and political figures came to pay homage. In an innovative use of new media techniques, phonograph records of Sun’s political speeches were played on loudspeakers and film clips of his public appearances in Canton were flashed on a screen. Three-and-a-half years after Sun’s death, Chiang Kai-shek was at last able to lead the reunification army from the south into Beijing. But Chiang purged the communists from the Kuomintang, starting a process of confrontation and civil war that was to continue for the next 20 years.

As victors, the Kuomintang reclaimed Sun. They built him an immense mausoleum near their new capital of Nanjing and sent his body across China by railway in an impressive mourning cortege, making his burial an event of political enshrinement. Sun’s writings thereafter became the central ideology of the Kuomintang on the mainland and later in Taiwan. The communists, after their victory over nationalist forces in 1949, also claimed Sun for themselves, citing his insistence that a communist alliance was essential to the political development of China.

So it is to this day, in both China and Taiwan, that Sun’s strong personality and oddly mixed political fortunes remain a central part of the national memories of revolution and transformation. The doctor was never able to heal the divisions among his people, but they remain united in their reverence for his efforts. (http://www. time. com/time/asia/asia/magazine/1999/990823/sun_yat_sen1. html) Our group has a personal connection with Chinatown. Cory Fleming’s father worked on the restoration of the Ping Tom Memorial Park. Mr. Fleming’s efforts in restoring this park are great example of cultural-group history. His work, with pictures and detail concerning the park are part of our appendix.


Chicago Chinatown Chamber of Commerce. (2009) http://www. chicagochinatown. org/ Chicago-Chinatown. com. (1996-2003) http://www. chicago-chinatown. com/cgi-bin/view. cgi? li=26 Falun Dafa India. (1999). http://www. falundafaindia. org/intro. htm (2002) Time Inc. http://www. time. com/time/asia/asia/magazine/1999/990823/sun_yat_sen1. html Epoch Times. (2009, October). Nine Commentaries on the Communist Party. Epoch Times International , p. 24. Ling, Sarina. (2009, October) Personal interview. Chicago, Illinois