Skip to main content
The Keyword

Arts & Culture

Time travel through the past, present and future of America’s Chinatowns

a person playing handball
Handball by Paul Calhoun

America's Chinatowns are vibrant cultural centers, representing a rich tapestry of history, identity and home for Americans. These neighborhoods are enduring symbols of the generations of immigrants who arrived with aspirations and built communities that have shaped America. Today, Chinatowns remain at risk, their existence imperiled by economic hardship and encroaching gentrification: which is why I am pleased to share that the National Trust for Historic Preservation1, Google Arts & Culture, and over 14 organizations across the country have partnered to create a new cultural hub celebrating the heritage and impact of Chinatowns. This new hub documents the unique stories, extraordinary individuals and cultural impact of Chinatowns across the US.

As a Chinese American cookbook author, I have long frequented Chinatowns in my native San Francisco and in New York, my home for over 40 years. I always find something new to discover — from multi-generational businesses and restaurants to food markets, bakeries and bubble tea shops that bring together visitors from all corners of the globe. When the COVID-19 pandemic arrived in 2020, I watched in horror as misinformation and xenophobia put further stress on these endangered communities; and I committed myself to increasing public awareness first by creating video documentaries, then doing countless media interviews and initiating social media campaigns. I also worked with community organizations to raise money and provide Chinatown with essential financial support.

I hope these stories encourage you to visit your local Chinatown and patronize their businesses so that they are there for generations to come. After all, without our support Chinatowns will not survive.

To get started, here are a few things to explore on Google Arts & Culture.

  • Start at the beginning: Take a deep dive into the history of Chinatowns. Explore the narratives that trace the history of Chinatowns across the United States, from the first small business owners to Chinese Opera Houses.
  • Explore Chinatowns today: Chinatowns today are vibrant hubs of cultural diversity. From expert craftspeople, to ever-evolving culinary traditions, to community clubs, discover some of what makes Chinatowns today so dynamic and understand the deep connection people have to Chinatowns.
    • Join the Asian American Arts Alliance in learning how to make Lo Hei during the Lunar New Year, also known as a Prosperity Toss, to ensure good luck in the year ahead.
    • Explore Riverside’s Chinatown Archaeological Site, one of the earliest Chinatown sites in the US, and learn about its history, preservation, and the community groups advocating for it to continue as a place of community and belonging.
    • Discover a cornerstone of Seattle's Chinatown International District: a significant gathering place steeped in history and cultural significance. Join the Asian & Pacific Islander Americans in Historic Preservation as they explore Hing Hay Park — a cherished gathering place where the vibrant soul of Chinatown comes to life.
  • Look to the future of Chinatowns: Learn about the vital work organizations and communities are doing to preserve the unique character and heritage of America's Chinatowns. Be inspired by their dedication to ensuring these cultural treasures continue to thrive for generations to come.
    • In 2023, Philadelphia’s Chinatown was one of two Chinatowns (the other was Seattle’s Chinatown-International District) named to the National Trust’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places. Learn more about the work being done to advocate for this neighborhood and the people that call it home.
    • Montreal’s Chinatown: Did you know that North America's only Francophone Chinatown is located in Montreal, Canada? Learn about the challenges to preserve this neighborhood.
    • Los Angeles Chinatown: Explore one of L.A.'s oldest neighborhoods — home to a diverse population that has established schools, businesses, community-serving organizations and more.

America's Chinatowns stand as vibrant cultural centers, embodying the rich history and identity for Asian Americans. These neighborhoods are not just physical spaces but living monuments to the generations of immigrants who arrived with dreams and determination, shaping communities that have left an indelible mark on America. However, Chinatowns face threats to their existence and the loss of their invaluable heritage. Let us ensure that Chinatowns continue to thrive as vital centers of cultural exchange, community empowerment, and historical preservation for generations to come.

Grace Young is an award winning cookbook author and culinary historian whose Chinatown advocacy has earned both the James Beard Foundation’s Humanitarian of the Year Award and the Julia Child Award. Learn more about Young’s work advocating for Chinatowns.

More Information


The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded nonprofit organization, works to save America’s historic places. In 2022, the National Trust launched the America’s Chinatowns initiative where we — together with partners and communities—are researching, elevating, and building coalitions that sustain and support historic Chinatowns across the United States.

Let’s stay in touch. Get the latest news from Google in your inbox.