A Chinatown is a section of an urban area with a large number of Chinese residents, usually outside of Greater China. Chinatowns are present throughout the world, including those in East Asia, Southeast Asia, North America, South America, Australasia, and Europe.
In the past, crowded Chinatowns in urban areas were seen as places of cultural insularity. Nowadays, many old and new Chinatowns are considered significant centers of commercialism and tourism. Some of them also serve, to varying degrees, as centers of multiculturalism.
Many Chinatowns are focused on commercial tourism, whereas others are actual living and working communities; some are a synthesis of both. Chinatowns also range from rundown ghettos to modern sites of recent development. In some, recent investments have revitalized run-down and blighted areas and turned them into centers of economic and social activity. In certain cases, this has led to gentrification and a reduction in the specifically Chinese character of the neighborhoods.
Some Chinatowns have a long history, such as the Chinatown in Nagasaki, Japan, or Yaowarat Road in Bangkok, both of which were founded by Chinese traders more than 200 years ago. Honolulu's Chinatown is the first Chinatown to be established outside Asia. Chinatown, San Francisco is the largest Chinatown to be established in the United States. Other cities in North America where Chinatowns were established in the mid-nineteenth century include almost every major settlement along the West Coast from San Diego to Victoria, BC and Vancouver, BC. By the second half of the nineteenth century, bustling Chinatowns were also established in New York City, Boston, Chicago, and Detroit. The discovery of gold in Australia caused the establishment of relatively small Chinatowns in cities there, and similar migrations of Chinese resulted in tiny settlements termed "Chinatowns" being established in New Zealand and even South Africa. European Chinatowns, such as those in Germany, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom, are for the most part smaller and more recent than North American Chinatowns. Other Chinatowns are newer, such as in Chinatown, Las Vegas in 1995, Dubai, and Santo Domingo and have received official recognition.
Chinatown, MelbourneIn the past, Chinatown has also been used to refer to the Chinese sections of non-Chinese-administered cities within Greater China. For example, the walled city of Shanghai was referred to as a "Chinatown" because it was surrounded by foreign concessions administered by European powers.