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Chinatown Neighborhood of Philadelphia

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Chinatown Neighborhood of Philadelphia

Friendship Gate - Philadelphia Chinatown

Photo by John Fischer

Just north of Philadelphia's Center City District is Philadelphia's Chinatown. Compared to Chinatowns in several other U.S. cities, Philadelphia's Chinatown is relatively small. It is widely recognized that the first Chinese business opened in this area was in 1860 when Lee Fong opened a laundry at 913 Race Street.

Within this relative small area, however, are over 50 Chinese and other Asian restaurants as well as churches, a Buddhist temple, many gift shop, 15 grocery stores, oriental specialty markets. an Asian bank and several manufacturers of such items as fortune cookies and Chinese noodles.

Chinatown Past and Present:

The Historical Society of Pennsylvania has an excellent condensed history of Philadelphia's Chinatown from its beginnings in the mid 1800's to the present day where its residents have fought to establish an identity as "an engaged urban neighborhood."

This history concludes with these words: "Like many other historical sites, Chinatown has also become a tourist attraction, attracting thousands of visitors each year.

But Chinatown is more than an image or a tourist destination. It is a thriving urban village, a living neighborhood where residents create, work, socialize, worship, and raise families. Homes, professional offices, ethnic businesses, cultural centers, churches, murals, and gardens are visible signs of the community's life and commitment to be Asian and American. As it builds for its future and commemorates its past, Chinatown remains a stepping stone for recent immigrants as well as a cultural and social touchstone for Asian Americans in the Greater Philadelphia area."
Location:

Philadelphia's Chinatown is relatively small consisting of just 6 city blocks. between Vine Street and Race Street on the north and south, and 8th Street and 11th Street on the East and West. Chinatown's future growth is restricted by the Pennsylvania Convention Center to its west, the Vine Street Expressway on its north, the business district to its south and the city's historic district to its east. The Philadelphia Multicultural Affairs Congress defines the borders of Chinatown as a slightly larger area, lying between Arch and Callowhill Streets and 8th and 12th Streets.

Zip Code:

Chinatown is found within zip code is 19107.

Getting There:

Chinatown is easily accessed by SEPTA bus routes that serve Center City. SEPTA's Market Street East Station is located just blocks away allowing east access to Chinatown from any of SEPTA's Regional Train Lines.

The Market-Frankford El has stops at 11th Street, and 8th Street.

Parking is readily available along the fringes of Chinatown. The parking garages are at the Gallery shopping center as well as across from the Pennsylvania Convention Center. The Philadelphia Parking Authority has an excellent map of parking lots and garages in the Chinatown area. On-street parking is very difficult in Chinatown.

Demographics:

Precise demographic information is not available for Chinatown. It is estimated that the current resident population numbers about 3,000 but this number fluctuates greatly.

Education:

Holy Redeemer Chinese, a Roman Catholic church and school, first opened in 1941 and for many years was the only school in Chinatown. Holy Redeemer School offers kindergarten through 8th grade education for about 280 students, mostly from low income immigrant families. According to the school's Web Site "only three of these 280 students come from Catholic families; likewise Holy Redeemer's programs serve mostly children and adults who are not members of Holy Redeemer Church."

The Folk Arts Cultural Treasures Charter School was founded by Asian Americans United in association with the Philadelphia Folklore Project and opened in 2005. It serves students from grades kindergarten through sixth grade.

Things to Do

Due primarily to the opening of the Gallery Shopping Mall and the Pennsylvania Convention Center, foot traffic in Philadelphia's Chinatown has greatly increased over the past two decades. It has become the principal dining and shopping destination for many folks attending any of the numerous shows at the Pennsylvania Convention Center.
Dining:

Chinatown is not only home to many of the city's best Chinese restaurants. You will also find several excellent Burmese, Malaysian, Thai and Vietnamese restaurants. A favorite choice for many is Penang at 117 N. 10th Street which offers excellent Malaysian cuisine.

Check out our top picks for Chinese restaurants in the Philadelphia Area, many of which are located within Chinatown.

Shopping

With numerous gift and specialty shops as well as over 15 oriental grocery stores, Philadelphia's Chinatown is an excellent and very affordable place to shop whether it be for oriental gifts, cookware, Chinese porcelain and china, herbal remedies, or those special ingredients needed to make your own oriental dishes at home. PhillyChinaTown.com maintains a partial index of the various shops located within Philadelphia's Chinatown.

Attractions

The most popular and famous attraction in Chinatown is the Friendship Gate at 10th and Arch Streets (photo). This many-colored arch ornamented with fire-breathing dragons and Oriental lettering was a joint project between Philadelphia and her Chinese sister city Tianjin. Chinese artisans completed the Friendship Gate in 1984 with materials brought from Tianjin.

Another popular attraction is the History of Chinatown Mural (1995) by Arturo Ho located on the southeast corner of 10th and Winter Streets (photo). The mural was painted in commemoration of Chinatown's 125th anniversary.

Joy Tsin Lau Restaurant at 1026 Race Street (photo) offers perhaps the best facade of any Chinese restaurant in the city.

We invite you to view more photos of Philadelphia's Chinatown in our Philadelphia Chinatown Photo Gallery.

Web Resources

PhillyChinaTown.com
Operated by a Software design, Web design, and Internet Marketing company that specializes in bringing businesses together, and promoting businesses to successful markets, PhillyChinaTown.com maintains the most complete index of businesses in Philadelphia's Chinatown.

Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation
PCDC is a grassroots, non-profit, community-based organization whose mission is to preserve, protect, and promote Chinatown as a viable ethnic, residential, and business community.

The Historical Society of Pennsylvania
The Historical Society of Pennsylvania maintains several interesting articles focusing on the history and culture of Philadelphia's Chinatown.

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