Thursday, February 25, 2010

Asian in America

Some of you may know that I am half-Chinese.  Since my mother is Chinese and my father had a bit of a Marco Polo complex, my mother's cultural experience had a great deal of influence on my growing up life. Until I left home to go to college, I drank oo-long tea every night with dinner.  (Might explain why I'm shorter than my milk drinking brothers and sisters!)  And we were a little famous wherever we lived for our chow mein and crispy fried wonton and gau-gee. When I was in college I loved buying cheongsams in thrift stores and wearing them to parties with chopsticks in my hair and in the winter I would wear my grandmother's black brocade jacket with camel wool lining over my jeans.

We had the bright colored tins at home for tea and black beans and almond cookies and the chinese silk lanterns in lacquered frames and whenever we went on vacation there would always be a stop at the chinese restaurants painted in celadon greens and bright reds for dim sum or steamed pike or crab with black bean sauce.  And every year, li si (good luck money) in bright red paper packets.

The exuberant colors are very much a part of my personal esthetic as is the slight nostalgic quality of Chinese brush paintings, poetry and sculpture.  Chinese artists seems to love to savor the moment and having passed that moment in contemplation, always seem a bit befuddled and sorrowful when they awake from their reverie and realize that the moment is gone!

Anyway, nice to find bits of Asia yet in my immediate surroundings.  This is also apparently part of my ongoing campaign to demonstrate that Los Angeles has more going for it than glitz and plastic surgery!

I find L.A.'s chinatown delightful.  In principle, it's sunnier than most Chinatowns you will visit in America.  Though I've only gone on cool greyish days, sadly.

It is not as lively as it once was, somewhat because of the diaspora of 

Chinese who have colonized the areas east of L.A. from Pasadena through Monterey Park and beyond to the San Gabriel valley.

Now art galleries have moved in, attracted perhaps by the blend of Disney and Duquette.  And lower rents of course.

Here's a link to Amanda's wonderful blog, Welcome Home, A Guide to Modern Living and a gorgeous loft right here also featured in the World Of Interiors and UK Elle Decor.  The homeowner used the colors you see outside to ornament the inside of her home.

A fascinating discovery, also in L.A. Chinatown is this stone shop.

I would LOVE to take one of these home with me but so scared they would sink right 

through my floorboards, they are so heavy.   A possibility for my garden, though I'd be sad not to be able to look at them all day and night.

This little guy might just be my favorite.  And the guy below just the tail part of a larger dragon dancer sculpture.  Love his face!  How he cool-ly confronts and appraises you.  So serene.

Aren't these beautiful?  So beautifully proportioned and so strongly, if economically, executed.  This is something the Chinese do excellently well.  (Yes!  They are shipped from China!)  There ARE also western-style choices which I'm less enthused about.  A little tacky baroque, shall we say.  I hope to visit their warehouse in El Monte next week.  I'll keep you posted!

Finally a moment for exquisite contemplation, these monuments can be found at the famous 

Hollywood Forever Cemetery, now known for it's Halloween Festivities as well as being the resting place of many old school Hollywood deities, DeeDee Ramone and Larry Tate from Bewitched!

These are quite authentic Thai burial monuments, dedicated to real people.

L.A. has a huge Thai Town located in what is roughly East Hollywood.  Just below the Hollywood sign.  With many 

tasty Thai restaurants.  I can vouch for Jitlada on Sunset which is famous for it's wide range of very authentic dishes. Try the mussels!


  1. Wonderful photos, as always. :-) Just wanted you to know that I honored your work on my blog this morning. :-) I love your stuff so much!

  2. Wow what a fantastic feature! You really have shown a side of Los Angeles so many of us would never know about. It's so lovely to see LA Chinatown again. You have captured it beautifully. xxx

  3. Thanks to both for coming by!

    R.T. thanks so much for your shoutout - I hope you've seen the little note I left on your site. I will probably wait a little while to pass that one on, but thank you so much! You have such a wonderful connection yourself between your heart and your subject, and such strong pics, I really do appreciate your judgement. And your enthusiasm for life.

    Amanda, you'll have to find an excuse to come here again and rediscover some of these things for yourself!


  4. These are beautiful photo's. My daughter loves visiting China Town here in Boston and shopping in the local markets. When we lived in San Francisco we loved having Dim Sum there, I miss it!


  5. Thanks Jamilyn! It's true that we Chinese find it hard not to head straight to Chinatown to eat as soon as we arrive somewhere. Have to say San Francisco is still my favorite for Chinese food. They cook like my mom!

    Glad you enjoy it as well. One of life's simple pleasures!

  6. almond cookies, yumyum!
    thanks for this fantastic insight

  7. Have been very busy and missed visiting you Mlle Paradis!

    Love the intro to this post... you drinking oolong tea and therefor not growing a tall as siblings! One of my fantasies for years was to come to the home of a Chinese family and share at the table. To learn so much more of the customs and culture whilst enjoying the banquet which even humble food seems to suggest the way it is laid out and shared!

    Despite the fact I am interested in many many cuisines and cultures I had a penchant for knowing more about the Chinese culture - a deep longing!

    Thanks for the stories and the tour...have a great weekend!
    S x

  8. Being from LA I really appreciate this post. Thanks

  9. Bracing myself for Hawaii an thinking of you.

  10. Sophie - nice to see you! Glad you liked this. I wish I could tell you that in our family we had some elaborate rituals around eating. It may be that on special occasions some special effort is made to offer the guest of honor the tastiest morsels at the end of your chopsticks. OK well, I have one Auntie married to a posh Northerner who will do that. Otherwise, it's every man for himself! The fastest chopsticks wins!

    Kat and Corine - Mi casa es su casa!

  11. What a great post. These photographs are excellent.