Chinatown, Manhattan: One Of Nine Chinatown Neighborhoods

Chinatown, Manhattan is a neighborhood in Lower Manhattan. It’s one of the biggest Chinatowns in all of America. The neighborhood is bordered by the Lower East Side, Little Italy to the north, Civic Center to the south and Tribeca to the West.

Growth Of Manhattan’s Chinatown

This Chinatown is one of nine Chinatown neighborhoods in NYC. A man named Ah Ken is the first recorded immigrant to permanently settle in Manhattan. Ken, a Cantonese businessman, is believed to have arrived during the 1840s. He ended up founding a successful cigar store on Park Row.

More and more Chinese immigrants began to immigrate to the area in the mid-19th century. The numbers increased with the arrival of Chinese miners who were part of the gold rush in the 1840s. Most immigrants came for the sole purpose of working, earning money, and hoped to return to China with their earnings. For many immigrants, however, things turned out more difficult than they’d hoped.

Chinatown continued to grow throughout the end of the nineteenth century and more people continued to arrive well after the Chinese Exclusion Act was passed in 1882. After the act was lifted, steady growth continued throughout the 1940s and 1950s.

Demographics & Culture

This particular area doubles as a residential and commercial area. The population is generally estimated to be between 90,000 to 100,000 people. Originally, there were more Cantonese-speaking Chinese migrants, however, in the late 1980s to 90s new immigrants from Fuzhou moved into the area and they spoke Mandarin.

The majority of businesses in this area are Cantonese-owned, as there is still a big Cantonese population. There is a marked difference between the two communities living in Chinatown. While the Cantonese section primarily serves Chinese customers, it’s also a major tourist attraction. The Furzhou section of the neighborhood, on the other hand, doesn’t serve as many tourists. Furthermore, the housing in this area is still primarily made up of tight tenement buildings, some even dating back to over 100 years.

Top 4 Attractions

There’s so much history and culture in the area that it’s hard for us to pick a short list of things you should see. But if we had to choose, we’d highly recommend the following:

1. Museum Of Chinese In America

Located on Centre Street, the Museum Of The Chinese In America was founded in 1980. It is one of the neighborhood’s most cultured tourist attractions. The permanent exhibition space is dedicated to telling much of the history mentioned above including the influence Bruce Lee had on the culture all the way to modern day. Don’t think boring museum with a guide here, this museum is interactive and you get to experience first hand what the first Chinese immigrants experienced when they came to America. On Thursdays, admission is free and you have up until 9pm to make it through the door.

2. Mahayana Buddhist Temple

The Mahayana Buddhist Temple might be what you are looking for to get yourself grounded. The temple is open to the public at no charge and provides a vast meditation area with a lot of space to rest and reflect.

Reflection can take place while you look at a 16-foot-high golden Buddha. The Buddha isn’t the only highlight of this temple. You can also see intricately carved ivory, which is found on the second floor gift shop, but none can be bought.

3. Nom Wah Tea Parlor

The Nom Wah Tea Parlor was opened in 1920 and is the oldest dim sum parlor in New York City. The parlor has a charm to it that is reminiscent of the past.

In the early days, the parlor offered neighborhood staples like Chinese pastries, steamed buns, tea, and of course dim sum. Nom Wah Tea gained popularity for its almond cookie, red bean filling and lotus paste used for moon cake for the autumn festival.

4. New Kam Man

New Kam Man is a tri-level grocery store found on Canal Street. It’s a one-stop-shop, and by one-stop, we mean one stop. You can find roasted-meats, pork and chopped duck to order, a noodle bar, bubble tea as well as medicinal herbs. The top floor is dedicated to beauty products. You can also find kitchen goods like rice makers and dishware, as well as traditional Chinese porcelain and imported goods from Japan. It’s opened daily and it truly lives up to being an Asian specialty shop.

Getting There

The best starting point to get you there via subway is by taking the subway from Canal Street station using the 4, 6, J, N, Q, R, Z. Other subway routes to take are from Grand Street, B and D. Bus routes include the M5, M9, M15, M103.

Emergency Services

For emergency contact details, see the following hospital and police services:

Mount Sinai Doctors Chinatown

168 Centre Street, 3M Floor
New York, NY 10013
(212) 731-3610

NYPD 5th Precinct

19 Elizabeth Street,
New York, NY, 10013-4803
(212) 334-0711

By | 2018-01-12T16:40:57+00:00 March 1st, 2016|New York|

About the Author:

Laurence P. Banville is the managing partner of Banville Law. As an experienced personal injury attorney, Mr. Banville helps clients recover compensation from those responsible for his clients' injuries. Our firm is located in New York City, serving clients from the five boroughs: Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, The Bronx, and Staten Island.

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