China is one of the world’s biggest economic players, but that is a recent thing. Before being an economic might China was the center of culture and civilization for centuries. Different Chinese dynasties have ruled large swathes of land and even though the prosperity which China has seen in the recent times is a source of great envy for many, this was not always the case.
When the Western nations were enjoying the benefits of industrialization, China was facing the brunt of Britain’s Opium wars in the 19th century and widespread famines which led Chinese workers to look to the rest of the world. Modern day China is the most populous country in the entire world and it was the same case almost a century ago. There were too many people and too few resources, so it was only natural for them to look for better opportunities. The places where these Chinese immigrants made their abodes are known as Chinatowns and these exist all over the world, especially in Asian countries.
Chinatown in The Philippines
Binondo is usually considered the oldest Chinatown in the world. It is located in Manila, Philippines and was established officially in 1594 by the Spanish Colonial government which designated the area as a permanent settlement place for the Chinese who had converted to Christianity. This is the predecessor to all modern Chinatowns.
Chinatown in India
India was seen as a place of commerce and business which saw an influx of Chinese people who came to settle in different parts of India. Two of the largest community centers are the Chinatown of Calcutta and the Chinatown in Mumbai. Most Chinese in India are involved in the business of Chinese restaurants and leather tanneries. Business was the main drive for their move to India.
Chinatown in Japan
The largest Chinatown in Asia is perhaps located in the city of Yokohama in Japan. This Chinatown was founded towards the end of the 17th century and was inhabited by people who were coming from Taiwan during the colonial period of the Japanese. Shopping from Chinatown doesn’t have to be expensive but you don’t need to go to the largest Chinatown in Asia to get some souvenirs, you can use Groupon to get them at a discount.
Chinatown in South Korea
The major Chinatowns in South Korea are located in Seoul and Incheon. The Chinatown of Incheon was founded in 1884 and is the country’s only officially declared Chinatown. The Chinese people came to Korea for better opportunities but due to institutionalized discrimination, most of them have moved to Taiwan or the United States and most businesses today in Korea’s Chinatown are owned by the Koreans.
Chinatown in Malaysia
Nearly a quarter of the entire population of Malaysia is of Chinese origin, however the only places which are called Chinatown are done for the promotion of tourism in the country and it has been working. The areas which are called Chinatown include Petaling Street which is the heart of Chinese business in Kuala Lumpur. Since the numbers of ethnic Chinese is very high in Malaysian cities, these are often considered as the largest Chinatowns in the world.
Chinatown in Singapore
Singapore is a multi-racial society but it is the only country outside of China where people of Chinese origin are the majority. Singapore has an area which was specifically developed as a hub for the Chinese people by the British colonial government. The area has now mainly become a tourist attraction with people coming to buy souvenirs and visiting the traditional stores and restaurants in the area. These areas take full part in the celebration of predominantly Chinese cultural celebrations such as the Mid-Autumn Festival or the Chinese New Year.
Chinatown in Vietnam
The migration from China to Vietnam can be traced back for centuries. The oldest example can be found when the center of power changed in China and Qing Dynasty eventually replaced the once mighty Ming Dynasty. The anti-Qing elements started moving out of the country for a fear of their lives with the majority choosing the nearby island of Vietnam. The Vietnamese government sent these people to the south of the country to avoid any confrontation with the Chinese government where these people started populating the scarcely populated areas. These settlements went on to establish great cities such as Saigon etc. which have a strong Chinese presence today and have their own Chinatowns.
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