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Chinatowns around the world

8 February 2019

It's not rare for an immigrant community to band together in foreign countries and make a home-away-from-home. In fact, thanks to those pockets of immigration, we've now got some fantastic things around the world that we wouldn't have. In England, the delicious korma, made by Indian immigrants to adhere to our more delicate palates. In America, a plethora of immigrants coming together to make an incredible variety of food. Of course, it's not just the cuisine that spreads, but the culture and the ways of life. If you've ever done a colour run, you can thank India's Holi festival, and the magical Notting Hill Carnival is thanks to the West Indian community celebrating black British culture.

But there is one community that have spread further, created iconic enclaves of vibrancy and beauty throughout the world, and that is the Chinese community. Chinatowns in cities in an incredible array of countries have become destinations all by themselves, and here are a few of our favourites.

San Francisco, U.S.A

One of the biggest centres of immigration for the Chinese community throughout the years has always been the United States of America, and San Francisco in particular. Immigration from China to San Francisco first began in the 1850s, with immigrants coming to work on the railroads. Of course, the Chinatown of the 19th century is completely different to what we would see nowadays, and that is mainly thanks to the horrific 1906 earthquake that destroyed most of San Francisco. It also made a name for itself during the Great Depression, with a plethora of nightclubs, as well as the Sam Wo restaurant, the oldest in the city, and the home to a man dubbed the 'world's rudest waiter'. One of the most photographed locations in Chinatown is the quietly Dragon Gate. Relatively young in the history of the city (after all, the oldest public square in San Francisco can also be found here), this was built in the 1970s and stands at the southern entrance on Grand Avenue. Though not overtly spectacular, this is an iconic sight in San Francisco, and holds a special place in the hearts of residents.

Manila, Philippines

Most Chinatown's were created in the later halves of the 19th century, as this was really when people started leaving China to search for new lives elsewhere, but the Chinatown in Manila in the nearby Philippines bucks the trend. This area was founded in 1594 and has its own name - Binondo. This makes it not only the oldest Chinatown on this list, but the oldest in the world. Surprisingly, Binondo wasn't created by the Chinese, but actually by the Spaniards as a place for Catholic Chinese people to settle. As such, you'll find some incredibly beautiful pieces of architecture with a distinctly Chinese twist, such as Binondo church, a beautiful structure outlined in red. Binondo has been the epicentre for a few historic occurrences, such as a revolt in 1603, bombing by the Americans in World War II, and even a Saint - Saint Lorenzo Ruiz - in the 17th century.

London, England

Fortunately, we don't have to travel too far to enjoy a taste of Chinese culture (unless you're from up north, in which case the trek to London is interminable). Situated in the City of Westminster, vibrant Chinatown in London came about during the early parts of the 20th century to cater to the

Chinese sailors coming through the nearby docklands. This is an incredible explosion of colour in an otherwise beautiful but fairly uniform city, and it's conveniently located near the West End, so you can enjoy a spot of dinner before or after a show. A fantastic spectacle to see must be the beautiful gate on Wardour Street. Although it's not totally dissimilar to many gates of its kind around the world, this is marvellous because it is a wonderful heralding of what is to come as you pass under it. Due to the increasing popularity of Chinese cuisine in London, as well as migrants from Hong Kong, you can find any number of delicious Chinese restaurants throughout London, but for a truly wonderful experience, always head to China.

Melbourne, Australia

Another one in the Eastern hemisphere, it's unsurprising that many Chinese immigrants end up in Australia. Originally coming over thanks to the gold rush that began (as in San Francisco) in the mid-19th century, this Chinatown started its life in Little Bourke Street, where it flourished into the dynamic community it still is today. At one point in its history, the residents of Chinatown made up a massive 8.5% of Victoria's population, and it is also famed for its spectacular light display in welcoming Prince Alfred, Queen Victoria's second son, in 1867. Here, you will find a variety of festivals celebrating the cultures of those from China, Thailand, Japan, India, Malaysia, Vietnam, and Korea, as well as the Chinese Museum which outlines the history of Chinese immigration to Australia throughout the centuries. There is also a spectacular Lunar New Year celebration held here annually, with Chinese opera, Lion Dances, and a Dai Loong Dragon Parade.

 

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