Chicago’s Chinatown: What You Need To Know

Chicago is a hotbed of culture and nowhere is it more exemplified than with Chinatown. It was founded back in 1912 by Chinese immigrants who were escaping violence on the West Coast and those humble beginnings have birthed a rich, bustling, popular place to live and/or visit. Today it’s home to almost 70,000 Chinese people and is known as the second-largest Chinatown in the country.


Chinatown Square – The Square – a bi-level plaza that’s home to great stores and fantastic restaurants – was built in 1993. At it’s center is the Pan Asian Cultural Center – you’ll be able to identify it from the twelve bronze figures of the zodiac – and it’s here you’ll find parties and celebrations all year long. Look closer at the ends of the square and you’ll see bronze gates that contain icons of the four best Chinese inventions.


Nine Dragon Wall – Simply walk across the street from the Chinatown Gate to see the Nine Dragon Wall. Why Dragons? And why nine? Well, Dragons are believed to be sacred and magical – as is the number nine. The structure is based on the wall in BeiHai Park over in Beijing but the mural in Chicago’s Chinatown portrays the huge dragons alongside 500 smaller ones.




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Pui Tak Center – The center, built in the ‘20s, is a testament to Chinese design and artwork. From the pagoda towers to the lions, this is a heartfelt love-letter to Chinese culture. Inside you’ll come across the only indigenous Chinese shrine in the Midwest part of the country. Pui Tak (meaning “to cultivate and enhance virtue” is a historical landmark.


Chinatown Memorial – The mosaic on hand here was finished in 1993 and is comprised of 100,000 hand-painted and hand-cut pieces of glass (all cut and painted in China, by the way!). The mural shows how Chinese immigrants in the US had to deal with a new country when they moved here – as well as highlighting Chinese philosophies.


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!