Chinatown (Chinese: 唐人街; pinyin: tángrénjiē; Jyutping: tong4 jan4 gaai1), located on Grant Avenue and Stockton Street in San Francisco , California, is the oldest Chinatown in North America and the largest Chinese enclave outside Asia. The oldest and largest of San Francisco’s four major Chinese enclaves. It has been extremely important and influential in North American history and culture since it was established in 1848. Chinatown is a city where customs, languages, religious places, clubs and identity continue to be maintained. There are two hospitals, several parks and plazas, many churches, a post office, and many other facilities. New immigrants, many of whom are elderly, agree to live in Chinatown on the basis of affordable housing and cultural awareness. Also known as a major tourist attraction, San Francisco’s Chinatown draws more tourists than the Golden Gate Bridge every year.
San Francisco has been with a substantial Chinese population for over 150 years, and most Chinese in San Francisco lived in Chinatown until the 1940s. Most of China’s early immigration into the United States can be traced back to the mid-1800s. These early immigrants — about 25,000 in the 1850s alone — were looking for economic opportunities in America.
In San Francisco, the Chinese, who came primarily from the regions of Taishan and Zhongshan and the Guangdong Province of China mainland, did so at the California Gold Rush and many of them worked in mines in the northern region. Others took jobs in the “City by the Bay” as farmer or in the burgeoning garment industry. Increasingly, they became workers with the Central Pacific and Transcontinental railroads and were instrumental in building the transport infrastructure that helped fuel the expansion of the United States to the West before, during and after the Civil War.
The Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1965 further loosened immigration restrictions and encouraged yet another wave of immigration following the 1954 closure of Ellis Island. This provided a new opportunity for many Chinese and other Asians to avoid political oppression at home and further supported Chinese people throughout the United States. The neighborhood of San Francisco, where inhabitants of Chinatown rebuilt after the 1906 earthquake and fires, experienced new development and an influx of Chinese people from different regions.
The district is located in about 30 blocks from its renowned doors at the intersection of Grant and Bush streets and is lined with restaurants , bars, clubs and dedicated shops selling Chinese herbs, fabrics and gifts among other products , making it one of San Francisco’s most popular tourist attractions.