Chicago’s Chinatown: What You Need To Know

Chicago is rich with culture and nothing is more steeped in it than our own Chinatown. Found on the South Side in the Armour Square area and founded around 1912 by Chinese immigrants who’d moved to Chicago to flee violence on the West Coast, Chinatown quickly flourished into the bustling, hustling, vibrant place it is today, according to the 2000 census, is home to more than 68,000 Chinese people. It’s the second largest Chinatown in the US and offers up so many attractions to the welcomed visitor.

Chinatown Square – Finished in 1993, this two-level retail and commercial center features many colorful shops and places to eat. At the heart of the square is the Pan Asian Cultural Center ringed by twelve bronze zodiac figures and it’s home to all sorts of cultural performances and celebrations throughout the year. Framing each end of the square are large bronze gates depicting the 4 greatest Chinese inventions.

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Nine Dragon Wall – Dragons are sacred and are believed to have magical powers just like the number nine. Walk across the street from the Chinatown Gate to experience the power of The Nine Dragon Wall. Modeled after the most sophisticated wall in BeiHai (North Sea) Park in Beijing, the Chinatown mural replicates the large dragons and over 500 smaller dragons painted in red, gold and blue signifying the Chinese focus on good fortune. The Nine Dragon Wall is one of the only three such replicas outside of China.

Pui Tak Center – The building on Wentworth anchors the bustling commercial district. Built in the 1920s, the architecture showcases traditional Chinese design. Imposing green and red pagoda towers topped with walls of terra cotta flowers and mother lions truly represent the majestic traditions of China. Inside, the reception hall represented the one and only indigenous Chinese shrine in the Midwest. Originally constructed as the On Leong Association Building, this historical landmark became known as the Pui Tak Center (Pui tak means to cultivate and enhance virtues), which is a social service agency run by the Chinese Christian Union Church, a local Christian organization headquartered in Chinatown.

Chinatown Memorial – This mosaic was finished at the same time as the rest of the square in 1993. 100,000 individually cut pieces of hand-painted glass were cut and painted in China specifically to be used in the construction of this landmark here in Chicago. The mural depicts the history of Chinese immigrants in the U.S as well as Chinese philosophies and social hierarchy.

There are also a multitude of restaurants – far too many to name here – but we’ve linked to a few lists. You can read Time Out’s list here. You can see Yelp’s list of the best Chinatown restaurants here. And a list from Zagat’s is right here. Enjoy your time in one of Chicago’s most precious places – Chinatown!