Chinese Culture By: Jerilyn dunn

Chinatown, San Francisco, CA

My mother is Japanese, but she was adopted on the day she was born by a Hawaiian and Filipino family, which are the cultures I most closely identify with. Although I didn't grow up with my father, he is of Irish, English and Native American descent.

Living in the Bay Area, I am fortunate to be exposed to a variety of different cultures. The Chinatown located in San Francisco, CA, is the largest Chinatown outside of Asia, and the oldest Chinatown in North America.

Chinese shops, late 1800's. Sacramento St, San Francisco, CA

The first Chinese immigrants arrived in 1848, a man and two women. Within two years, 20,000 more arrived from China! In January of 1848, gold was discovered in the Sierra Foothills, beginning the era of the famous 1849 gold rush. San Francisco was the port of entry, and Chinatown was the first place where miners could stop to buy provisions. Many Chinese immigrants built shops along the bay which is now known as Chinatown.

Seafood market

Many of the Chinese families still reside in Chinatown, usually in small, one-bedroom apartments above businesses. Most of them shop in the local markets for fresh seafood, meats and vegetables. The streets are lined with authentic Chinese restaurants, such as dim sum, bakeries, seafood and family style dining.

Various foods found in Chinatown
Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year is a two week festival that has been celebrated for over 5,000 years in China. January 28, 2017 will welcome the Year of the Rooster. Fireworks are traditionally burnt to ward off evil spirits. Bright red clothing is worn to scare off bad fortune, and families often give money in small red envelopes to children, married couples and the elderly to symbolize good luck.

Various tea and herbal medicine shops is Chinatown

Traditional Chinese Medicine originated in China thousands of years ago, and many remedies are still used today. Tea is considered the most beneficial of all herbs and is the only medicine that can be consumed daily. In more recent times, tea shops have been opening up in San Francisco's Chinatown (such as the photo in middle of the bottom row) that allow customers to sample teas at no cost while an employee educates you about the teas they offer.

"Humans, regardless of cultural background, engage in many of the same daily activities and have many of the same wants and desires." (Martin & Nakayama p. 115)

Some of the observations I made over the past two weeks:

  • The Chinese culture places a high respect on the elderly. Adults are typically seen walking with their parents and helping them out. Grandchildren are commonly seen walking hand in hand with their grandparents.
  • Senior citizens remain very active. Many seniors continue to work past retirement age, while others are actively walking the streets, exercising in the park, gathering with friends or meditating.
  • There were more similarities between my culture and the Chinese culture, than there were differences. Many of the people I observed spent time with family members, enjoyed meals together, exercised, and went shopping, things that all cultures place value on.

The activities I enjoyed over the past two weeks include:

  • Asian Art Museum, San Francisco, CA, on April 2, 2017
  • Chinese Historical Society of America, San Francisco, CA on April 2, 2017
  • Red Blossom Tea Company, Chinatown, San Francisco, CA on April 5th, 2017

Martin, Judith N., and Thomas K. Nakayama. Intercultural Communication in Contexts. Boston: McGraw-Hill, 2007. Print.

The Story of Chinatown. www.pbs.org/kqed/chinatown/resourceguide/story.html. Accessed Apr. 6, 2017.

History of San Francisco Chinatown- The largest Chinatown Outside of Asia. www.sanfranciscochinatown.com › history. Accessed Apr. 6, 2017.

Credits:

Created with images by seafaringwoman - "San Francisco's China Town"

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