San Francisco has been called a city of small villages. Each neighborhood has its own culture. Chinatown is one of those villages. San Francisco’s Chinatown is the second largest Chinese community in the United States. Established in 1848, it is the oldest Chinatown in North America. It is one of the biggest tourist attractions in the city. But it is also a community in which you will find people engaged in the tasks of everyday life—shopping, dining out, visiting and strolling. It is an enclave that retains its own customs, languages, places of worship and cultural identity.
The grand entrance to Chinatown is through the famous Chinatown Gate at Bush Street and Grant Avenue. A pair of guardian lions, one male and one female, provide protection from harm for the inhabitants. There are two main streets in the community. One is Grant street. It is lined with curio shops and decorated with red lanterns. These red and gold lanterns represent wealth, fame and prosperity. The streetlights along Grant are supported by golden dragons that represent strength, wisdom, intelligence and wealth.
Venture on to Stockton, the other main street, for a totally different view of the neighborhood. Here you will see the parade of daily life. Browse produce and live animal markets. Check out Chinese apothecaries and small restaurants. Enjoy the interesting art of people watching.
For a peek at the religious culture, visit a couple of temples such as the Tien Hau that houses a temple on the top floor dedicated to the Goddess of Heaven. Another temple is Kong Chow famous for its colorful altars.
Like Cantonese food? Try the Great Eastern Restaurant on Jackson Street. Another fine restaurant is House of Nanking on Kearny Street. After lunch, be sure to stop by the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory where you can watch the cookies as they are created. You can also sample fresh fortune cookies. Make a stop at the Red Blossom Tea Company. Taste imported teas and purchase some to take home.
The Chinese Cultural Center offers guided tours. For about $30 you can learn a lot of history about this unique and interesting San Francisco neighborhood. Chinatown is one of the most interesting San Francisco Villages.