Tradition 傳統

The formation of New Chinatown enabled the Chinese community to create unique Chinese American traditions in Los Angeles. Like many immigrants to this country, the Chinese have sustained their cultural heritage while integrating into American society. Through festivals and celebrations, parades, food, and music, they invited all Angelenos to come and experience a distinctive Chinese culture. Discriminatory laws challenged many of their freedoms and denied them basic civil rights but could not suppress the celebration and preservation of their identity and beliefs.

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The Moon Festival! Let me see if I can find my sister-in-law, Lucy...I remember they had to walk in a parade and they had these Chinese paper lanterns. Actually, they weren't paper, they were silk, like gauze, and very pretty. They held a big Chinese flag and people would throw money to support the war effort.”

- Pat SooHoo Lem

Young women in traditional Chinese dress with lanterns at Moon Festival celebration (1940)

Traditional feast for Chinese New Year (1965)

The way we say 'tangerine', the fruit, in Chinese sounds like another word that means 'good luck', so we always had tangerines displayed during Chinese New Year. The chicken was served in its entirety as well as the fish. These dishes represented wishes for prosperity, abundance, and completion. Everything prepared for the new year was really saying to us, ‘Have a great year!’ ”

- Doré Hall Wong

Am I worried about the future of Chinatown? I'm concerned about people being displaced and forced out. But I'm also concerned about loss of historic culture and how our history can be preserved.”

- Eugene Moy

Chinese merchant with abacus in Old Chinatown (1915)

Lion dance for Chinese New Year in New Chinatown Central Plaza (1940s)

I think the most surprising thing is that even though they were trying to survive in this new world, they still participated in their home culture. Now a group called East Wind does the lion dancing in Chinatown. I'm friends with quite a few people in that.”

- Wesley Jiang

One of the things I love about looking at these old photos is it feels like a lot has changed, but at the same time it hasn't. The key things like the roof and the red gates...our main focal points that you still see.”

- Fanny Situ

Artist Tyrus Wong paints a dragon mural on building exterior in Chinatown Central Plaza (1941)

There they are with their lanterns. There's my cousin, Barbara Jean, she was the drum majorette. She never, ever took a bad picture, always smiled correctly like a Chinese Shirley Temple. When you came from China, you wanted to keep all the traditions and everything, but by my generation, they made a point of becoming more Americanized.”

- Pat SooHoo Lem

Barbara Jean Wong Lee leads the Mei Wah Drum Corps Lantern Parade for New Chinatown’s 2nd Anniversary celebration (1940)

Entrance to a Joss House, a Buddhist/Taoist temple, in Old Chinatown (c. 1900)

The things that attract people are food, family, religion, and culture. Those factors create an identity for the community...The Chinese in Chinatown were taking advantage of this desire on the part of the larger population to want to know more about Chinese history and culture.”

- Eugene Moy