Wednesday, June 24, 2015

San Francisco: Chinese Historical Society of America


Chinese Historical Society of America  965 Clay St./Stockton St., Chinatown, (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. 
exterior of Chinese Historical Society of America museum in a Julia Morgan building in Chinatown San Francisco

exterior of Chinese Historical Society of America museum in a Julia Morgan building in Chinatown San Francisco

interior courtyard of Chinese Historical Society of America museum in a Julia Morgan building in Chinatown San Francisco

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.  
miniature kitchen at Chinese Historical Society of America museum in a Julia Morgan building in Chinatown San Francisco

miniature kitchen at Chinese Historical Society of America museum in a Julia Morgan building in Chinatown San Francisco

miniature shoeshine stand at Chinese Historical Society of America museum in a Julia Morgan building in Chinatown San Francisco

miniature SRO room at Chinese Historical Society of America museum in a Julia Morgan building in Chinatown San Francisco

More exhibits worth a look include a display of colorful fine Chinese clothing and hair ornaments 
elaborate hair ornaments at Chinese Historical Society of America museum in a Julia Morgan building in Chinatown San Francisco

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.  
dragon leads to Underground Chinatown exhibit at Chinese Historical Society of America museum in a Julia Morgan building in Chinatown San Francisco

opium exhibit in Underground Chinatown exhibit at Chinese Historical Society of America museum in a Julia Morgan building in Chinatown San Francisco

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. 
centipede puzzle at Chinese Historical Society of America museum in a Julia Morgan building in Chinatown San Francisco

More Chinatown. 

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images ©2015 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

11 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. You'll love it. It is a nice bonus that it is free.

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  2. Wow! I love getting tips like this Carole, so many things that you could potentially miss on our travels unless someone points them out. I am keeping this one for future reference - who'd have thought there would be a museum in a Y?

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  3. I will try this again as my first comment seems to have been eaten by the blogosphere: great post and I will be visiting this place the next time I am there - had no idea it existed!

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  4. Oh, I love those dioramas! Wow! I would love to visit Underground Chinatown, too.

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  5. What a nice way to learn about a people and culture. Especially love the miniatures! They must be a favorite for kids of all ages!

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  6. I love museums like the Chinese Historical Society of America and the glimpses they give you into the past as well as a foreign culture. I can see why you are so taken with Frank Wong's dioramas - so amazingly detailed and exquisite!

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  7. The Frank Wong dioramas have such amazing detail! It's great to discover places like this Chinese History Society Museum.

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  8. So much more to see in Chinatown than the last time I was there.

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  9. Wow, what a fun museum! The Chinese Historical Society museum is a must-do next time for me next time around in San Francisco. Loved the dioramas!

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  10. Great for anyone wanting to learn more about the Chinese in San Francisco. I love the miniatures!

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