Free «Chinatown New York» Essay Paper
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New York is an example of an American city, inhabited by large numbers of people of the Chinese origin. Thus, Manhattan’s east lower side, which occupies the area of two square miles, is called Chinatown due to a high concentration of the Chinese people (“Chinatown New York City,” n.d.). The Chinese began arriving in the USA in the 1800s as workers in the construction and manufacturing industries (“Chinatown New York City,” n.d.). These immigrants organized their lives in socio-economic aspects, which made Americans feel threatened by their presence and forced them to respond by enacting the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882 (Vidgor, 2014). The Act hindered the Chinese immigration for a considerable period until 1968, when the law ceased to exist, thus promoting the growth of Chinatown due to a rapid growth of banks, many of which still exist, as well as garment and jewelry factories (“Chinatown New York City,” n.d.). Consequently, it is interesting to learn how the Chinese immigrants landed in the United States and became prosperous by exploring their residential and commercial type, cultural landscape, language, demography, and spatial patterns.
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Residential and Commercial Types
The households of the Chinese in Chinatown are relatively small since they do not prefer spacious homes. Thus, on average, 3.1 individuals live in a bit crowded houses, but most people own instead of renting them (“Chinatown New York City,” n.d.). Chinatown is a commercial hub since it is a home of retail, tourism, hospitality, manufacturing, banking, and hotel industries (“Chinatown New York City,” n.d.). The area also has a significant number of restaurants and tourist attraction sites for example, the Holiday Inn and Chatham Square respectively (“Chinatown New York City,” n.d.). The garment industry is a major source of employment as it pays hundreds of millions of dollars in salaries to employees every year, while the jewelry industry also has a significant revenue from selling gold and diamonds (“Chinatown New York City,” n.d.). Such banks as the Summit Mortgage Bank offer financial services to entrepreneurs (“Chinatown New York City,” n.d.). Therefore, it is evident that Chinatown is a hub for economic activities that give a livelihood to the people, residing in it.
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The Cultural Landscape
Chinese culture is clearly evident in Chinatown, which is predisposed by a high number of immigrants, residing there. Since the Chinese people honor prominent persons like philosopher Kim Lau, they have built a memorial arch in Chatham Square in his commemoration (“Chinatown New York City,” n.d.). Chinatown hosts museums, for instance, the Museum of Chinese in Americas to exhibit the history of the Chinese people as viewed through poetry and artifacts among others (“Chinatown New York City,” n.d.). Chinese Americans also express their culture through urban designs, which can be observed in the 41 Mott Street Building that has been built in the Chinese style (“Chinatown New York City,” n.d.). The Columbus Park provides a platform for fortune tellers, mahjong practice, and tai chi (“Chinatown New York City,” n.d.). The Americans of Chinese descent also have special occasions, during which they honor their culture. For instance, during the New Year celebrations between January and February, people decorate their houses with gold and red colors as well as give sweets to children (“Chinatown New York City,” n.d.). The traditional Chinese festivity is also the Lantern Festival, during which one can observe a dance of the Lion and the Chinese Dragon. Usually, people hang lamps in their homes, but streets are also decorated with lanterns (“Chinatown New York City,” n.d.). Further, the 15th day of the 7th lunar month is the celebration of the ghost festival when people seek to appease their spirits. The Double Yang festival presupposes visits to the graves to pay respect to the ancestors (“Chinatown New York City,” n.d.). Therefore, such a high number of festivities, held in Chinatown, shows Chinese Americans’ deep appreciation of their culture.
One can hear two major Chinese dialects in Chinatown. Cantonese, a Southern China dialect, was dominant in this area, but the Mandarin dialect became more popular. This dialect is spoken in China officially, so the latest generations of immigrants use it more as compared to Cantonese (Semple, 2009). Thus, Mandarin has become a common language in the public sphere. Moreover, despite not having proficiency in this dialect, some parents encourage their children to learn it (Semple, 2009). Cantonese and Mandarin have major similarities in letters, but pronunciations are quite different (Semple, 2009). Despite the knowledge of English among Chinese Americans, the majority of them also retain their language. However, for example, 88%, 63%, and 31% of seniors, adults, and children respectively do not speak English fluently (Asian American Federation, 2013). In Chinatown, several other dialects, including Wu Chinese, Min Nan, Fuzhou, Fujianese, Beijing, Wenzhounese, Suzhou, Shanghainese, and Taiwanese can be heard (Semple, 2009). Therefore, by learning their language, Chinese Americans maintain strong ties with their culture.
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The Chinatown of New York has been a home of different ethnic groups that consist of immigrants. In the 1800s, this area was a home to ex-slaves and German as well as Irish immigrants, while in the 1900s, Italians and Jews chose to reside there (“Chinatown New York City,” n.d.). Nowadays, people from the Chinese provinces of Guangdong, Tosian, and Fujian as well as Hong Kong inhabit it (Chinatown New York City,” n.d.). By 2000, Chinatown had the dominant population of Asians (64%), and in this group, the most dominant were Chinese, Asian Indians, while Hispanics and non-Hispanic whites where other significant groups of the entire population of this neighborhood (Asian American Federation of New York, 2003). The population has fewer children as compared to adults and the elderly (Asian American Federation of New York, 2003). The number of Asians born in Asia was high, and formal education was low as compared to other neighborhoods. Thus, 45% of adults did not even have a 9th grade education by 2000, while the literacy differences between genders were insignificant as well (Asian American Federation of New York, 2003). Obviously, Chinatown is primarily the home for Chinese and Asians in general as compared to other ethnic groups.
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The Spatial Pattern
The neighborhood in question has a great variety of buildings and venues. There are shops, monuments, residences, recreational areas, and landmarks. One can find the Kim Lau Memorial Arch right in the middle of the Chatham Square, which situated off the Bowery and Worth Streets, and this monument commemorates the Chinese American casualties of World War II (“Chinatown New York City,” n.d.). Moreover, the First Shearith Israel Cemetery can be found to the south of this landmark (“Chinatown New York City,” n.d.). To the north of the above-mentioned square is the Doyers Street, a famous location in TV shows and movies. The Fujianese Broadway, a shopping center for the Fujianese people, can be found near the Manhattan Bridge. Along the Mott Street are restaurants and shops, the Eastern States Buddhist Temple, and an old retail center (“Chinatown New York City,” n.d.). The Five Points, an area where German and Irish immigrants were accommodated upon their arrival to the city, is the junction of Mosco, Worth, and Baxter Streets (“Chinatown New York City,” n.d.). The Pell Street hosts beauty and barber shops, and on the Summit Mortgage Bank, hosted in the Edward Mooney House, is located on the corner of this street and Bowery (“Chinatown New York City,” n.d.). Thus, one can find plenty of places of interests in Chinatown since this neighborhood is filled with shops, landmarks, monuments, and markets.
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New York is one of many American cities that have accepted millions of immigrants over the years, and Chinatown in Manhattan is a home to many Americans of Chinese descent. This neighborhood is an interesting place to study due to its rich cultural landscape, language, demography, and spatial patterns. Thus, one average, local families consist of 3.1 people, and various industries range from manufacturing to banking and service sectors. Chinese culture is visible in the form of festivals and building styles in Chinatown. Mandarin is the dominant dialect here, partially due to its status as the Chinese national language. The majority of residents are Asians, especially the Chinese, while education levels are not very high. Chinatown has many famous streets, interesting landmarks and buildings that attract numerous tourists. Therefore, this neighborhood is a well-established part of New York regarding such aspects as language, settlement, and culture.