Standing among some quiet residential buildings on 23rd Street and tucked not far from Chinatown’s cluster of restaurants, bakeries, and grocery stores on Wentworth is the Chinese-American Museum of Chicago (CAMOC). Even with its doors flanked by two stone lions, hand-carved by artisans in China’s Fujian Province and donated to the museum by Chinese officials, CAMOC is pretty inconspicuous, and you might miss it if you aren’t looking for it. CAMOC is about as small as museums get, but contains much more than one might expect.
Chicago Public Schools (CPS) revealed late last year in their 2017 capital plan that a new seventy-five million dollar high school would be coming to the South Side. Initially, CPS did not release the location of the new high school, and several neighborhoods, such as Chinatown and Englewood, had been organizing and campaigning to be involved in the decision-making process.
The Goldilocks of American Chinatowns, Chicago’s Chinatown is not the biggest in the country, nor is it the smallest. Here, new and old blend together—old village dialects aren’t heard quite as frequently as Cantonese and Mandarin, but survive nonetheless. Historic buildings like the Pui Tak center stand shoulder to shoulder with new restaurants and bustling souvenir stores.
Chicago’s Chinatown is changing. Geographically, the area can be divided into two parts: the long, familiar stretch along South Wentworth Avenue, and the somewhat brighter section surrounding the Chinatown Square mall, directly to the north. A recent increase in investment is apparent—the southern half in particular has hitherto unimaginably glitzy stores opening up alongside, or in place of, the older restaurants and kitsch shops. Continue reading
I walked past a kind of fool’s gold in South China Plaza; plastic bobble-headed cats nodded ni hao in windows full of glittering souvenir kitsch, inviting my gaze to skim the surface. Crossing Cermak Road and feeling unnerved by the sense of culture up for sale, I spotted a blue-eyed Siamese cat peeking its head out of the shop door at 243 West Cermak. Above the cat was a sign: “Nam Bac Hang.” Entering the tiny shop, I saw rows of boxes with Chinese characters written on them, and glass jars filled with mushrooms and dried herbs. Locals were walking up to the counter asking for tea and formulas for their colds and allergies. Curious, I asked a young man standing nearby about the nature of the shop; he told me it was owned by his father, Long Huynh, a practitioner of traditional Chinese medicine whose family traces their healing lineage back to the days of the emperor in ancient China. Intrigued, I sat down with Long Huynh to ask him about his family’s history, qi, and his medicine. Continue reading
At 2420 South Halsted Street, a heliport is set to break ground. Perched on the border of Bridgeport and Pilsen, the project is not alone—less than two and a half miles away, a Vertiport has begun to sprout thanks to sponsorship from Mayor Rahm Emanuel. That port will be built near Stroger Hospital, and will be used mostly for medical needs, although the city plans on opening it to corporate charters as well. Continue reading
Chinatown’s South Louie Parkway—just one block long, located squarely between Ping Tom Memorial Park and the Chinatown Square shopping district—is, for the most part, a quiet residential street. The rows of plain brick homes, built by the Richland Realty Group in 2002 as affordable housing for workers and recent immigrants, sit at the lot lines of the narrow road, lending it the feel of a suburban alley. Continue reading
Behind an ajar back door, two graying men play Chinese chess on a wooden board. The small room, held by a foam ceiling and walls of propped-up green acrylic boards, is the home of the Chicago Chinese Table Tennis Club, safely tucked away on West 23rd Street. Continue reading