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Annual Meeting
Chinatown: Far More Than a Tourist Attraction
Psychiatric News
Volume 38 Number 9 page 31-31
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The vibrant color and culture of San Francisco’s Chinatown is but one attraction of APA’s 2003 annual meeting this month. APA members and their guests can register on site for the meeting and CME courses. See related articles on pages 28 to 32.

How many Chinatowns are there in the San Francisco area? San Francisco writer Randolph Delehanty argues that there are four: the old Chinese neighborhood of 20,000 residents, a cultural mecca for the Bay Area’s assimilated Chinese Americans, a special shopping district for non-Chinese San Franciscans, and a famed tourist attraction.
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A 1969 gift from the Republic of China, the dragon-crested gate at Grant Avenue and Bush Street is the front door to San Francisco’s colorful, clangorous Chinatown.

Whatever the number, the area offers endless possibilities for exploration. Chinatown Gate, at the junction of Bush Street and Grant Avenue, leads to the area’s primary tourist thoroughfare.

Just one block to the west of Grant Avenue, however, lies Stockton Street, a more interesting destination for visitors who want to experience the Chinatown known to its residents.

Grocery stores, pastry shops, fishmongers, meat markets, and herbal shops line the street. Sidewalks are packed with Chinatown’s residents going about their shopping.

The headquarters of the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association (or Six Companies) is at 843 Stockton. This brightly colored building was the site of a great deal of historic drama, according to Delehanty. In 1882 the U.S. Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act, which prohibited Chinese laborers from entering the country for 10 years. It was the culmination of a series of anti-Chinese legislative actions and remained in effect until 1943.

Chinatown’s "mutually suspicious key associations" banded together in the face of the external threat to their well-being, and the organization became a "cockpit for personal and group political, economic, and social contention."

Today, Waverly Place (actually, an alley) is home to many of the area’s benevolent associations. From Stockton, go east at Clay Street to Waverly.

Portsmouth Square is at right angles to Clay and Kearney streets. This was the center of activity in the mid-1850s, when people rushed to the area as the result of the discovery of gold.

In fact, the famed Chinese laundry can trace its origins in the United States to the Gold Rush. Chinese immigrants established laundries and other businesses to serve the miners.

The Chinese Culture Center is near the square, at 750 Kearney Street.

The earthquake of 1906 also helped to shape the history of Chinatown. Buildings were leveled and later replaced by Edwardian architecture embellished with theatrical chinoiserie. The pagoda-capped buildings at California and Grant are typical of this period, as is the Pacific Telephone Exchange building located at the corner of those two streets.

For tea to go, try the Imperial Tea Court (1411 Powell Street). The shop has rows and rows of various dried tea leaves, which you can sample. The Wok Shop (781 Grant Avenue) features what you might expect, and the Great China Art Company (857 Washington Street) offers vases, china, and knickknacks for sale.

"Going out for Chinese" is not a simple matter in Chinatown. Almost everyone is familiar with Cantonese-style cooking, and many diners have learned that Hunan and Szechuan restaurants are known for the use of red chili peppers. But you might want to try food labeled Hakka (an ethnic group that populates southern China) for the less frequently encountered dishes of salt-baked chicken or fish-stuffed bean curd.

Shanghainese food features seafood and waterfowl, and Taiwanese restaurants are known for stews, soups, and poopia, a thin pancake used to wrap finely shredded meat and vegetables.

And, then there’s dim sum, which requires a vocabulary all its own. It can include such items as steamed octopus ball, chicken feet with black bean sauce, and shredded chicken fun roll.

Here are suggestions from online San Francisco guides:

Jai Yun (923 Pacific Avenue) on the border of Russian Hill and Chinatown, offers no menu, but has recently become the "hottest restaurant in Chinatown." Oriental Pearl (760 Clay Street) provides "a warm welcome, fair prices, fresh dim sum, and a bit of serenity."

Sam Lok Restaurant (655 Jackson Street) features Szechuan cooking. Preserved vegetables appetizer, sweet potato pancake, and braised fish dishes are recommended.

Lines form about an hour before opening for the House of Nanking (919 Kearny Street). Recommended dishes are tofu peanut sauce, chicken in beer sauce, and shrimp.

Dina Gan and Jeff Yang offer chopstick etiquette. Never stick your chopsticks upright in your rice bowl, they caution, because upright sticks look like the incense sticks used to honor the dead.

And, for the real novices, they include this bit of advice: use a spoon for soup.

Anchor for JumpAnchor for Jump

The vibrant color and culture of San Francisco’s Chinatown is but one attraction of APA’s 2003 annual meeting this month. APA members and their guests can register on site for the meeting and CME courses. See related articles on pages 28 to 32.

How many Chinatowns are there in the San Francisco area? San Francisco writer Randolph Delehanty argues that there are four: the old Chinese neighborhood of 20,000 residents, a cultural mecca for the Bay Area’s assimilated Chinese Americans, a special shopping district for non-Chinese San Franciscans, and a famed tourist attraction.
Anchor for JumpAnchor for Jump

A 1969 gift from the Republic of China, the dragon-crested gate at Grant Avenue and Bush Street is the front door to San Francisco’s colorful, clangorous Chinatown.

Whatever the number, the area offers endless possibilities for exploration. Chinatown Gate, at the junction of Bush Street and Grant Avenue, leads to the area’s primary tourist thoroughfare.

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