Chinese Historical Society of America 965 Clay St./Stockton St., (415) 391-1188. Tu-F 12-5, Sat 11-4. Free. Well worth the two-block, uphill walk from Grant Avenue, and probably often overlooked because of it, this small museum is located inside a landmark YWCA building designed by architect Julia Morgan. It concentrates on exhibits related to Chinese culture.
My favorite exhibit is the Frank Wong dioramas. Wong grew up in Chinatown and enjoys recreating scenes from the past in miniature. His little portals to the past depict his grandmother’s kitchen, an herb shop, a laundry, a shoeshine stand (it still exists on the corner of Sacramento Street and Grant Avenue), and a cramped SRO (single-room-occupancy) hotel room. With great attention to detail, he made tiny wrapped packages for the laundry shop and tiny chopsticks for the kitchen table.
More exhibits worth a look include a display of colorful fine Chinese clothing and hair ornaments
and the new “Underground Chinatown,” which is set up in a room below ground a la an opium den and takes a look at racial myths and stereotypes.
And let’s not forget the “Forgotten Art of Lion Dance Puzzles.” I especially liked the centipede puzzle but have no idea how to solve it.
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images ©2015 Carole Terwilliger Meyers