The first time I visited NY Chinatown, I was appalled: it was dirty, noisy and smelly. I felt like I’d been transported into a Chinese village in the '80s. 

As I settled in the city, I started following countless food guides to the Chinatown restaurants. I was amazed at how authentic the dishes were. Slowly, I caught myself wandering around the streets of Chinatown when I felt lonely or anxious. The street noises calmed me. I caught myself observing the Chinese grandmas and grandpas. I was subsumed in their bartering and bantering in Cantonese, and the occasional sound of mahjong tiles here and there. I caught myself dreaming of home- missing my aging grandparents who raised me back in China.

At the same time, I started studying the history of Chinese immigrants in graduate school. I went to talks and tours in Chinatown, encountered pictures of the same busy streets in archives. I finally understood that here on the same land, waves of Chinese immigrants had felt the same loneliness, the same dreams of home. Here they sweated, fought, and sacrificed so much to claim a new home in a hostile environment. This place might be too noisy and dirty for some, but it is rich in history, culture and activism. And it is home.

Here is a list of my three favorite cultural places in NYC Chinatown. It is not an ethnic enclave stuck in time. It is a neighborhood constantly being reinvigorated. Here, the old doesn’t stop evolving, and the new never forgets its roots. The next time you visit New York’s Chinatown, make sure to check out these places!



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Coco Xu