Great Ways to Experience Chinese Culture in San Francisco

(Image Credit: toa55 / 123RF Stock Photo)

Outside of Asia, San Francisco has the largest authentic Chinatown in the United States. Thousands of people who want to experience genuine Chinese culture without leaving the country flock to San Francisco’s Chinatown every year. Some may even have found that they have Chinese heritage through research on sites like Geneology Bank, and wish to come and connect with the culture for what may be the first time ever. It can be overwhelming for them once they arrive because they need to narrow down the list of specific things to see. Below are six recommendations from previous visitors to Chinatown as well as the locals:

Chinese New Year: Celebrating the Chinese New Year is perhaps the most authentic cultural experience that people can have outside of visiting the country itself. It has already passed for 2018, but the dates of the next two celebrations are February 5, 2019 and January 25, 2020. Chinatown visitors should line up early to see the floats, lion dancers, fireworks, and crowning of the new Miss China for the next year.

Golden Gate Cookie Factory: A staple on Ross Street since 1962, workers at the Golden Gate Cookie Factory create more than 20,000 fortune cookies by hand every day. Anyone who has ever wondered how they accomplish this is in luck. The factory offers public tours of every stage of the cookie-making process. Visitors can even sample fresh, hot fortune cookies at the end of their tour.

Chinese Culture Center: This 20,000 square foot building is home to changing exhibits of both contemporary and cultural art as well as live performances of Chinese opera and art, floral designs, paintings, Chinese language classes, craft fairs, and much more. It also contains a bookstore, an auditorium with 350 seats, a youth genealogy research project, and several additional opportunities for locals and visitors to conduct a more in-depth study of Chinese culture.

Tin How Temple: The history of this temple dates to 1852 when a group called the Cantonese Clan Association discovered it. The name Tin How means Empress of Heaven, a title belonging to the Chinese God Mazu. Immigrants prayed to Mazu during their journeys by sea and felt that she protected them from danger. People may visit Tin How Temple at 125 Waverly Place in Chinatown. The Buddhist temple is four stories and offers a place to pray, burn incense, and participate in fortune telling.

Ming Lee Trading, Inc: This old-time grocery store and candy emporium, located at 759 Jackson Street, carries a large inventory of foods and snacks authentic to China. Some of them include salted and dried fruits, noodles, spices, and green tea chocolate bars.

Kung Fu Tea Ceremony: No truly authentic Chinese meal is complete without hot tea. Z & Y Restaurant, located at 655 Jackson Street in San Francisco, puts on a Gong Fu Cha (Kung Fu) tea ceremony that demonstrates a ritualized process for diners. Most Gong Fu masters live in China and very few travel outside the country, making this live performance a rare treat. The master performing the ceremony uses a long pot to pour steaming hot water into cups. He often holds rigid poses while performing this task from a distance.

Chinatown is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for many travelers. These are just a handful of items to add to the must-see list.

North America, Traveling