Whether a visitor to San Francisco visits its Chinatown or not, he or she will see the influence of Chinese culture throughout the city. This starts with the population and ethnic make-up of San Francisco itself. In 2012, more than one in five city residents was of Chinese descent and at least 150,000 Chinese people lived in the city. This puts San Francisco in first place for the highest number of residents of Chinese descent and second only to New York City for the largest Chinese population.
Asian Influences in San Francisco
Chinatown is the largest and most obvious Asian influence within the city. It has existed for 170 years and has the distinction of being the oldest Chinatown in the world not located in Asia. Chinatown begins behind the gate at the intersection of Grant Street and Bush Street and contains dozens of shops, restaurants, and more in an area that runs six blocks wide and eight blocks long.
Z & Y Restaurant is an award-winning restaurant in Chinatown where visitors can go to enjoy authentic Sichuan cuisine and cultural experiences. One of these is the Bian Lian acts, which is Chinese for face changing. The restaurant also hosts regular Kung Fu Tea events and is the first Chinese restaurant to do so. During Kung Fu Tea, a master holds rigid poses while pouring streaming hot water into the tea cups of guests using an extremely long pot.
Angel Island, informally known as the Ellis Island of the West, is where the United States government detained Chinese immigrants between 1910 and 1940 until they could pass their citizenship test. It is now a tourist area.
The Asian Art Museum in San Francisco is one of the largest on the West Coast dedicated to hosting Asian art. It holds more than 15,000 pieces that tell the history of the Chinese over a period of 6,000 years.
A visit to the Golden Gate Cookie Company on Ross Street will help curious travelers solve the question of how workers make these cookies. They can even receive a sample at the end of the tour.
Political Influence of the Chinese
Even local politics cannot escape the influence of a city with so many Chinese residents. Allegations have been leveled at Rose Pak, a political operator and recognized head of the Chamber of Commerce, that she has allowed politics to interfere with everything from the New Year’s Eve celebration to her having control of local elections.
San Francisco’s newspapers have run several stories about Beijing and how its leaders attempt to influence what goes on across the world in San Francisco. It has even suggested that officials in Beijing had something to do with the murder of Allen Leung, a well-known Chinatown leader, in 2006.
Experience the Chinese New Year
Visiting Chinatown during the Chinese New Year celebration is the most authentic experience that visitors to San Francisco can experience. The dates of the next two celebrations are Tuesday, February 5, 2019 and Saturday, January 25, 2020. Visitors should arrive early to ensure that they see fireworks, floats, and lion dancers in addition to the crowning of a new Miss China.
Suffice to say, someone visiting San Francisco for the first time won’t go too far without encountering at least one influence of Asian culture.