WHICH CHINATOWN IS THE BEST?
'Which Chinatown rocks the world by storm? It's a Chinatown-off between Australia vs UK vs Cuba!'
We are patriotic so Sydney's Chinatown in Australia wins hands down!
Sydney’s Chinatown was first located in the Rocks before being permanently established on Dixon Street in Haymarket by the 1920s. Following the clean-up of Surry Hills at the time, Chinese immigrants began moving into Haymarket for fresh produce, setting up kitchens and lodges to cater to the growing community and market vendors.
In the 1970s, Chinatown faced a slump when Paddy’s Markets relocation to Flemington in 1968 influenced more Chinese to move towards the suburbs. In an effort to revitalise the area, the Local Council - City of Sydney - worked together with the Dixon Street Chinese Committee to develop Chinatown into a thriving tourist precinct.
By the 1980s, the refurbishment of the area as a prime retail sector renewed interest among Asian migrants arriving in Sydney, encouraging Chinatown to hold more initiatives which strengthen ties between Australia and Asia.
The Sydney Chinatown you see today with its two distinctive arches was established by a number of co-founding families dedicated to building a cohesive community for those new to Australia and to connect with the Chinese in Australia.
We love Sydney's Chinatown, but we think the international film and music industry love it even more. If you watch closely, you'll see why Sydney Chinatown stands out among the rest!
Check out Sydney's Chinatown in
David Bowie's music video for China Girl (1983)
The film, Two Hands (1999) starring Heath Ledger (RIP)
A scene for Dulcea's compound in Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie (1995)
The Wolverine (2012) starring Hugh Jackman
The upcoming film Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021)
Late 19th Century - located at the Rocks known as China Quarteres
1920s - Sydney Chinatown relocated to Dixon Street in Haymarket
1970s-80s - Renovated, gaining more Chinese iconography (red refurbishments, Chinese gates, statue lions, lanterns….)
1990s - Heralded a must-visit tourist destination by locals and international visitors alike
2017 - Pitt Street Mall, Guinness Book of Records for eating the most number of dumplings in 2 minutes was won an Aussie from Central coast, Isaac Harding Davies.
El Barrio Chino de La Habana (The Chinatown of Havana, Cuba)
Havana’s Chinatown was first established in the late 1850s by Chinese labourers working in Cuba’s sugar fields. Following the decline of the African slave trade, Cuban planations faced a shortage of workers and had to look for labourers elsewhere. Eventually, due to disaster and strife caused the First and Second Opiums, many Chinese farmers and peasants looking for better work opportunities overseas came to fill this shortage, be it willingly or otherwise.
During 1947 to 1974, a total of 120,000 Chinese male labourers were brought to Cuba to work on Cuban plantations on eight-year contracts. Following the end of their contracts, many of these labourers opted to stay in Cuba and opened up restaurants, stores and laundromats, working in factories as well as on the fields. Some Chinese men also intermarried with the local Cuban population, creating a unique Cuban-Chinese identity.
At its height, the Cuban-Chinese community was known as the largest Chinese community within Latin America. Cuban-Chinese style cuisine is also well-known outside of Cuba in New York City and Miami.
1847 or 1857* - The first ship from China, carrying 200 Chinese labourers, arrives in the small coastal town of Regla Saturday (Havana).
1858 - Chinese communities start to grow in the vicinity of the Havana streets of Zanja, Dragones, Amistad and San Nicolás.
1874 - The last boat of Chinese labourers arrive on Cuban shores. The Chinese labour trade is abolished.
1870s (late) - “El Barrio Chino” (Chinatown) is established in Havana. Numbering at 40000 people, the Cuban-Chinese are the largest Chinese community in Latin America.
1893 - The Casino Chung Wah is established.
1898 - Chinese Californians come to assist Cuban Chinese in the Spanish revolution. Following the revolution, many stayed, fuelling Chinatown Havana’s expansion.
1920s - An additional 30,000 Chinese (and some Japanese) immigrants arrive in Cuba.
1932 - Havana boasts almost 4,000 Chinese-owned businesses.
1944 - Cuba’s only Chinese publication Kwong Wah Po is founded.
1959 - The Cuban Revolution led many Chinese-Cubans to leave Cuba, most immigrating to the United States.
1994 - In a effor by a state agency to preserve and promote Havana's Chinatown, Caridad Amaran reunite with Georgina Wong and three other former performing partners, to relaunch their stage careers.
2019 - El Barrio Chino’s most famous street Zanja is revitalised. Establishments such as gallery-workshop for the renowned Painter Flora Fong and her children and a Cultural Circuit, a complex that will include a plaza called San Fang Kong, an ice cream parlour with traditional recipes and a space for meditation are included in the design plans.
London’s Chinatown first had its roots in London's East End as early as the 18th Century. However, due to perceptions of race at the time, its reputation among the London elite was not very glowing, and Limehouse Chinatown came to be known as a place for gambling and smoking opium.
During WWII, Limehouse Chinatown was among the many areas demolished by the East London bombing. Due to transport changes at the time and growing proverty within the area Limehousw Chinatown was not in a priority to be rebuilt. However, thanks to the establishments of Chinese restaurants on Gerald St, Londoners desire for a more deserve food palette brought a new Chinatown to Westminister.
London's Chinatown also Appeared In…
The film Ping Pong (1986)
The film Soursweet (1988)
A Mention in Crazy Rich Asians (2018)
Image from Wikimedia Commons by Chen Hualin
Bio: Nadya Labiba is an Indonesian-Australian currently in her fourth year of Journalism and Languages and Cultures at University of Technology Sydney. Aside from interning at Captain Bagrat, Nadya is an avid community volunteer and a published contributor at Central News.