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.
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
- 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!
- 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: firstname.lastname@example.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 ~
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
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 &
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.