Pieces of history remain in Chinatown

By Annie Schugart

Each of the 100,000 pieces of glass on the Chinatown mural—pieces touched by both the hands of those in China years ago and the hands of the those in current Chinatown—form something greater than just a decorative mural.

The pieces serve not only a visual representation of the Chinese immigration, but also as a metaphorical representation of each of the pieces of modern day Chinatown fitting together to form a metaphorical image of the sense of family evident in Chinatown.

“In Chinatown Chicago, everyone is friendly,” said Rui Ma, 25, hostess at the Lao Sze Chuan restaurant. “Everyone gets along together.”

While the mural represents the pieces of Chinese history, it also represents the pieces of Chinatown today that form together to create a mural of a family-centered and culturally united community.

“The philosophy of filial piety—absolute loyalty to the family, that the family is number one—is (depicted in the mural through) Confucius,” said Rahsaan Liddell, Chinatown Chamber of Commerce Business Development employee.  “That same concept still governs China today.”

The importance of family is indeed evident throughout the streets of Chinatown.

Chinatown visitor Emily Dang, who is visiting with her father, is one example of this strong bond of family and culture.

“We’re here (in Chinatown) for a Father’s Day surprise,” said Dang, 21. “Our family likes the food here.”

Clayton and Denisse Huebner, husband and wife, also experience Chinatown through the sense of family.  Denisse was taking Clayton out for his birthday.

“We’re here for both (food and culture) and getting to experience interesting shops,” Denisse Huebner said.

Chinatown has continued to grow as a community since its formation in 1912 when the Chinese population was forced to move into a consolidated area due to the rise in rent prices.  Now with a population of 7,254, according to the 2010 United States Census, the sense of family and a pride of culture still remain strong.

Another piece of the overall image of Chinatown is the sign overlooking Chinatown— “Under the heavens for everyone,” written in Chinese—again portraying the strong community bond.

Shops and restaurants are another piece tying past Chinese culture together with the present.  There are currently over 60 restaurants in Chinatown, with one being Lao Sze Chuan.  Each serves a unique purpose of uniting not only past and present China culture, but also tying together all languages and separate cities of China.

“(In the past) there were more Cantonese people (in Chinatown), but right now there are more and more Chinese from different cities,” Ma said.  “(Chinatown) is kind of like a small China.”