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Chinese Culture Center of San Francisco

About Chinatown

    San Francisco’s Chinatown is the oldest Chinatown in North America. It is also the largest Chinese community outside of Asia. Established in the 1850s, it was featured significantly in popular culture venues such as film, music, photography and literature. It is one of the largest and most prominent centers of Chinese activity outside of China.

    Between 1850s to the 1900s, most immigrants came from the Southern region of China – the Guangdong province. The Guangdong (aka Canton) port was the only port allowed by the Chinese government at the time to be opened for foreign trade, thus most of the travelers that lived in San Francisco are Cantonese speakers.

    Chinatown is now a community and a tourist attraction. It has many businesses, temples, churches, associations catering to those living in the community, as well as many restaurants and gift shops that attract the attention of the tourists.

Tour Highlights

    The walk will take you to places of interest such as Chinese temples, herbal & tea shops, food markets, church(es), school(s), community organizations and to other architectural and historical points of interest. Here are some of Chinatown’s points of interest:
  • Portsmouth Square: An historical site that is now one of the city’s most intensely used recreational spaces for the children and adults of Chinatown.
  • Chinese Telephone Exchange: The United Commercial Bank is the original site of the Chinese Telephone Exchange Company, the only foreign language telephone exchange made available in the US.
  • Tin How Temple: The Tin How Temple (or Tien How Miu) is a Taoist temple first established in 1852. It is the oldest Chinese temple in America.
  • Chinese Market: On Stockton Avenue. This is where locals from the Chinese community come to buy their groceries, the busiest day being Saturday.
  • Fortune Cookie Factory: Located in tiny Ross Alley, this is one of the Bay Area’s fortune cookie factories. But most importantly, this is the only one in the area where cookies are still made by hand!

Tour Info

  • Time : Our Heritage Walking Tours are available from Tuesday to Sunday. Tours are available at 10 am (except on Sunday), 12 pm and 2 pm. For an additional cost, lunch is available upon request for the 10 am tour.
  • Price: $25 per adult, $20 per child under 15, free for children under 5. Please note that special rates are available for school groups. Inquire with the Center’s staff.
  • Reservation: Group tours should allow for at least 2 weeks advance booking. Groups of 5 or less may be accommodated 3 days in advance, depending on availability. There is a minimum charge of $50. Late cancellations will be subject to a cancellation fee.
  • To book a tour: please call the Chinese Culture Center at: 415-986-1822, ext. 24 or send an email to: tour@c-c-c.org. If booking by email, please include the following: date and time of your choice, your name, telephone number(s), email address, and the number of adults and children.

~ Please note that your walk will not be booked unless you hear back by phone or email from the Chinese Culture Center ~

Our Docents

Lynn Eichinger: Lynn’s interest in the Chinese in America goes back decades, inspiring her to lead tours of Chinatown and Angel Island State Park, where she is a docent. Previous professions include working for IBM and McKesson Corporation as an information technology manager, as well as having taught in public schools for 9 years.

Blandina Farley (no picture available): Blandina’s interest in becoming a docent was inspired by her travels throughout the world , most especially, by the glorious summer she spent in Florence, Italy. Returning home after a wonderful stay, Blandina decided to become a Tour Guide in order to share her knowledge and personal experiences of San Francisco’s exciting history with visitors and tourists alike.

Shelly Ginenthal: Shelly has been a resident of San Francisco for 38 years. She’s been a docent for about 5 years, and is also a long time volunteer for SF Jazz, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco (deYoung, Legion of Honor). In her free time, Shelly enjoys spending her time oil painting, drawing, and doing yoga. Shelly is bilingual in English & Portuguese.

Janice Hom: Janice Hom, a native San Franciscan and has been a community volunteer for many years. Involved with the Asian Art Museum, Chinese Culture Center, Asian Business League, and the Oakland Asian Cultural Center, she has an extensive knowledge of Chinese culture, Chinese art and Chinatown. Janice speaks English & Cantonese.

Gwen Kuo: Gwen Kuo is a correspondent for Far East art magazines (ArtCo, Bijutsutecho). She now lives and works in San Francisco Bay Area. Her writing is specialized in the field of contemporary Asian art and design, Asian urbanism and pop culture. She graduated with M.A. of History and Theory of Contemporary Art in San Francisco Art Institute.
Gwen speaks English, Mandarin & Japanese.

Marjorie Leet Ford: Marjorie is a writer and published two novels: “The Diary of an American Au Pair” and “People in the Park”. For a long time, she produced a national public radio series called “Tell Me A Story,” where listeners got to go with her to the houses of John Updike, Eudora Welty, Amy Tan, Paul Bowles, Roald Dahl, and lots of great writers who read their short stories. Marjorie speaks English & French.

Mengxuan Liu: Mengxuan was born in Inner Mongolia Province, China. She has a BA from China Women’s University in Beijing and a MA in Asian Studies from University of Hawaii at Manoa. She has been very interested in Chinese American studies and hopes to share and explore more of the history and culture for the earliest Chinese immigrants in the United States by working at CCC. Mengxuan is bilingual in English & Mandarin.

Anita Rao (no picture available): Anita is of Indian-American origin… or rather, of a multi-cultural background. She has lived and worked in various countries and therefore has a keen interest in all the cultures that make up our diverse city. As she used to live in Hong-Kong, Anita had a lot of contact with the Chinese culture. She is a tour guide in the SF Bay area. Anita speaks English, French, Spanish, German, Hindi & Telegu.

To learn more about Chinatown

If you would like to dig more deeply into the history of Chinatown and its population, check out those books. They are available at discount prices at our gallery shop.

  • “San Francisco’s Chinatown” (Images of America), by Judy Yung and Chinese Historical Society of America
  • “San Francisco’s Chinatown” (Postcard History Series), by Robert W. Bowen and Brenda Young Bowen
  • “Driven Out: the Forgotten War Against the Chinese Americans”, by Jean Pfaelzer
  • “Genthe’s Photographs of San Francisco’s Old Chinatown”, by Arnold Genthe & John Kuo Wei Tchen
  • “Picturing Chinatown: Art & Orientalism in San Francisco”, by Anthony W. Lee


Find more images like this on Chinese Culture Center Online Gallery



CHINESE CULINARY WALK /LUNCHEON (temporarily unavailable)

Mystified by exotic Chinese cuisine? This introductory tour helps to explain the different styles of Chinese cooking and shopping for the ingredients, visits to various markets, stores and factories. Points of interest may include fortune cookie factories, herb or tea shops, fish and poultry markets, Chinese grocery and hardware stores. The growing variety of restaurants and other Asian food components are also pointed out. The walk culminates in a "dim sum" luncheon, a culinary specialty which includes delicately flavored minced beef, pork and shrimp-filled dumplings wrapped in paper-thin dough.