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Thread: 2021 Year of the Ox

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    2021 Year of the Ox

    CNY is FEB 12, 2021

    China has lychee-flavoured Oreos for CNY
    Not cookie cutter.

    Lean Jinghui | January 12, 2021, 01:53 PM



    Oreos has produced a lot of different flavours over the years.

    In China, some of these very unique flavours have included Wasabi, Green Tea Cake, and Blueberry Ice Cream.

    The lychee-flavoured Oreos are the latest cookie craze to hit China's convenience stores. According to social media, the Oreos are only available between November 2020 and April 2021.

    Each box comes with 8 small packets, in different designs to celebrate the Lunar New Year.
    There's even one with a cow imprint as 2021 is the year of the ox.


    Image via 9gag
    According to Sina, the Oreos are definitely sweet, because "life is as sweet as honey".

    Currently, the lychee-rose oreos can be bought via Ebay at US$22.99 per box, or via T-mall/Taobao.

    Top image via 9gag

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    2020 Year-of-the-Rat
    2021 Year of the Ox
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    Here we go...

    Lunar New Year Stamp Called Out for Being ‘Culturally Inappropriate’
    Carl Samson
    Tue, January 12, 2021, 9:05 AM
    A new stamp from the U.S. Postal Service featuring the Year of the Ox has come under fire for being "culturally inappropriate." The stamp, the second in the agency's Lunar New Year series, is scheduled for release in Chicago on Feb. 2. [caption id="attachment_10084143" align="aligncenter" width="800"] Image via U.S. Postal Service[/caption] Featuring an ox mask, the stamp was designed by art director Antonio Alcalá, with original art from artist Camille Chew. "Calling to mind the elaborately decorated masks used in the dragon or lion dances often performed during Lunar New Year parades, these three-dimensional masks are a contemporary take on the long tradition of paper-cut folk art crafts created during this auspicious time of year," USPS said in a press release last month. Weeks ahead of the stamp's release, critics are pointing out multiple reasons why it's "culturally inappropriate." "What is this!? Insult to the Chinese zodiac's Ox and the line across 'forever' suggests... Wrong on many levels," wrote Twitter user Karlin Chan, who calls himself an independent "community advocate/activist."



    According to the postal service, the word “forever” is crossed out in the online image to prevent counterfeiting, CBS reported. Chan's comments eventually reached Facebook. User Peter Zhao questioned why the stamp was designed by a Hispanic artist and why it was predominantly blue, when celebratory colors are supposedly red and gold. "Luis Fitch and Antonio Alcalá also designed the 2020 Rat stamps. I understand the indigenous people in America went by the lunar calendar. But why ask Hispanic artists create a stamp for lunar New Year celebration mainly observed in Asia? Why wouldn’t USPS employ an Asian artist? Why blue, when the celebratory colors are red and gold? Good point you raised Karlin Chan," Zhao wrote. [caption id="attachment_10084138" align="aligncenter" width="800"] The Year of the Ox stamp is one of three Asian American-inspired stamps coming this year. Images via U.S. Postal Service[/caption] Alcalá and Chew responded to Zhao's calls for an explanation, according to AsAm News. "Thank you for your comments. You raised some good points. I worked with the illustrators, consultants and the USPS on each issuance. I will be sure to ask about this with future stamps in this series. And thanks again for your insights," Alcalá reportedly said. Chew, on the other hand, said: "Thank you for your insights. Red and Gold are part of the color palette of the series as a whole, though aren’t as prominently featured in this design. I’ll be keeping your comments in mind moving forward." Two other Asian American-inspired stamps -- Japanese American veterans and Chinese American physicist Chien-Shiung Wu -- are coming this year. Feature Images via U.S. Postal Service (left) and Karlin Chan (right)

    U.S. Postal Service
    Remember, the Rat rode in on the Ox...
    Gene Ching
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    Shot on iPhone 12 Pro Max I Chinese New Year – Nian

    Gene Ching
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    Shaolin 'Master' coming to iQIYI

    For the record, I think 少林寺之得宝传奇 translates into Shaolinsi zhi de bao quan qi - Shaolin Temple gain treasure summon occult. Maybe someone with better Mandarin skills can correct me.

    iQIYI's Ultimate Online Cinema Section to Premiere "Shaolin Master" Through PVOD Mode, on First Day of Chinese New Year
    NEWS PROVIDED BY iQIYI
    Feb 03, 2021, 05:26 ET

    BEIJING, Feb. 3, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- iQIYI Inc. (NASDAQ: IQ) ("iQIYI" or the "Company"), an innovative market-leading online entertainment service in China, recently announced that action film Shaolin Master, will premiere on its Ultimate Online Cinema section through the Company's premium video-on-demand (PVOD) mode on February 12, the first day of the Chinese New Year holiday.

    iQIYI’s Ultimate Online Cinema Section to Premiere “Shaolin Master” Through PVOD Mode, on First Day of Chinese New Year
    iQIYI's Ultimate Online Cinema section streams high-quality films via PVOD mode, allowing users to view latest releases online at a moderate price. A dozen films launched on the section last year have attracted a growing legion of avid supporters.

    "We hope that Shaolin Master can win favor with our audience as previous PVOD titles have. Going forward, iQIYI's Ultimate Online Cinema section will continue streaming a slate of high-quality films, providing premium new offerings for our subscribers. At the same time, we also hope that the PVOD mode will achieve sustainable development, as we work with platforms and creators to build a healthy online film ecosystem where filmmakers can identify their clients, guarantee their incomes, and seize exciting new opportunities," said Song Jia, Vice President of iQIYI and General Manager of iQIYI Film Business Center.


    Shaolin Master - the only action film scheduled to premiere online during the Spring Festival film season

    With the 2021 Spring Festival film season around the corner, seven films have announced their release in theatres on the first day of the holiday. Shaolin Master is the first and only action film scheduled to premiere online for the first day of the holiday.

    In the Stanley Tong-directed film, Wang Baoqiang plays the role of Ximen Debao, an inn-keeper with no ambition. The film tells the story of how Ximen Debao who was framed for crimes, being trained with an eminent monk to prove his innocence. In recent years, Wang has successfully portrayed a number of impressive comic roles in a series of well-received and lucrative blockbusters such as Lost in Thailand and Detective Chinatown. In this new film, Wang has cast off his stereotypical image of "comic actor" and transformed into an orthodox warrior monk of the Shaolin Master.

    PVOD mode, a new favored option for filmmakers and studios

    In 2020, the PVOD mode became a new avenue for film distribution worldwide as movie theaters were closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. In the Chinese market, iQIYI launched the action comedy film Enter the Fat Dragon last February via PVOD, allowing its subscribers to enjoy a new theatrical film at an affordable price in the comfort of their own homes. In doing so, iQIYI took the lead among Chinese video streaming platforms in exploring the PVOD mode.

    In the past year, more than 10 films have been released on the iQIYI platform through the PVOD mode, including Spring Tide, Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains, Knockout, and Double World. The online distribution of high-quality theatrical films has quickly covered a wide range of genres. Based on the runaway success of the mode, the Company launched its Ultimate Online Cinema section in July 2020 to promote a systematic PVOD-based cooperation with filmmakers.

    Currently, not only have the films on iQIYI's Ultimate Online Cinema received revenue directly from subscribers, but they have also achieved widespread acclaim from the industry. Spring Tide was nominated for Best Feature Film and Best Director at the 33rd Golden Rooster Awards. Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains was selected as one of the top ten films of 2020 by the Cahiers du Cinéma, a famous French film magazine.

    During the 2021 Spring Festival season, iQIYI, together with several other video streaming platforms will release Shaolin Master through the PVOD mode. Through these initiatives, iQIYI is working with a growing number of filmmakers and platforms to create good content, accelerating the development of Direct-to-Consumer in the film industry and building a broader distribution model for filmmakers.
    Funny that the image echoes the old Jet Li original film.

    threads
    Shao Lin Si (少林寺之得宝传奇)
    Year-of-the-Ox
    Gene Ching
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    2021

    What will this year bring? READ 2021 The Year of the Metal Ox by Wilson Sun (with Gigi Oh and Gene Ching)



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    Saving Chinatowns

    Lunar New Year celebrations this year aim to help struggling Chinatowns
    In New York City, grassroots groups are using the holiday to support businesses that lost 50 percent to 70 percent of revenue since the pandemic began.

    Finnie Fung, the owner of Green Fish Seafood Market in Oakland, Calif., is featured in the recipe zine "Have You Eaten Yet?"Good Good Eatz
    Feb. 5, 2021, 9:37 AM PST
    By Victoria Namkung

    Lunar New Year celebrations usually mean colorful lion dance parades, thumping drumbeats, popping firecrackers and massive feasts with family and friends. While the holiday will certainly look different in the Covid-19 era, wishes for health, wealth and good fortune are louder than ever in America's struggling Chinatowns.

    The Year of the Ox begins Feb. 12, and organizations, grassroots groups and volunteers throughout the country are using the Lunar New Year to raise money for Chinatown businesses hit especially hard since the onset of the pandemic. Creative initiatives and virtual events are using art, storytelling, culture and community to highlight the people behind the businesses that make Chinatowns beloved places for countless Asian Americans.

    New York City's Welcome to Chinatown, founded by friends and Manhattan Chinatown residents Victoria Lee and Jennifer Tam, partnered with the Abrons Arts Center and Wing on Wo's W.O.W. Project to commemorate Lunar New Year with "From Chinatown, With Love," a photo calendar shot by Mischelle Moy, featuring products from 18 Manhattan Chinatown businesses, such as Lucky King Bakery and Bangkok Center Grocery.

    "We want people to see the Chinatown we see as locals," Tam said. "Chinatown is so much more than a place for tourism or gathering."


    IMAGE: The calendar 'From Chinatown, With Love'
    The calendar "From Chinatown, With Love" features photos of 18 Manhattan Chinatown businesses.Mischelle Moy
    The classic Chinese-style calendar, which will be given to customers who spend $20 at participating businesses, is accompanied by a neighborhood Lunar New Year gift guide filled with local insider tips.

    Tam said her nonprofit has raised more than $650,000 for Manhattan's Chinatown since it was founded 10 months ago.

    Welcome to Chinatown is also selling a Lunar New Year Collection of merchandise benefiting six Manhattan Chinatown businesses and a nonprofit.

    It's estimated that businesses in the area have lost 50 percent to 70 percent of their revenue since the pandemic — and the subsequent xenophobia — began in January 2020.

    Alice Liu is a second-generation proprietor of Grand Tea & Imports, which got a grant from Welcome to Chinatown's Longevity Fund in September.

    "It was really exciting and offered a lot of hope, because being a Chinatown small business, we've been closed out of a lot of mainstream funding," said Liu, whose family business is featured in the calendar and the merchandise collection. "Having [a relief program] made for us, by us and administered in a way that small businesses in Chinatown are used to creates a lot more trust."

    Another New York-based group, Send Chinatown Love, has created an illustrated map of Asian American-owned restaurants and gift shops for its Lunar New Year Crawl through Chinatowns in Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn.

    Other organizations have also taken design-forward approaches to supporting local businesses.

    Save Our Chinatowns and Good Good Eatz teamed up to produce "Have You Eaten Yet?" a recipe zine and red envelope bundle to benefit Yuen Hop Noodle Co., Cam Anh Deli and Green Fish Seafood Market in Chinatown in Oakland, California.


    IMAGE: 'Have You Eaten Yet?'
    "Have You Eaten Yet?" — a recipe zine created by Save Our Chinatowns and Good Good Eatz — benefits businesses in Oakland's Chinatown.Courtesy of Save Our Chinatowns
    Daphne Wu of Oakland, a Save Our Chinatowns volunteer who conceptualized, wrote and edited the zine, said, "A recipe zine is a way to inspire folks to go out and support these businesses and also get to know the owners a bit more personally and intimately."

    The printed copies sold out within two hours of the zine's launch Jan. 25, but digital copies are available with an online donation.

    Wu said people feel deep connections to Oakland Chinatown because "there are so few places in the world where us third-culture kids can feel at home and a sense of belonging."

    But even with the support of grassroots initiatives like Save Our Chinatowns, which raised $40,000 last year, Chinatowns in San Francisco and Oakland must fight to stay open because of Covid-19-related closings and racially motivated fears.

    Business owners like Anh Nguyen of Cam Anh Deli, who arrived in Oakland in the early 1990s as a refugee from Vietnam, are dedicated to moving forward.

    "A lot of people stepped up — it's just incredible," said Nguyen, who contributed a recipe for lemongrass tofu to the zine, which was illustrated by six artists, including Save Our Chinatowns founder Jocelyn Tsaih. "I want to tell people Chinatown is a safe place to be and we will go on and continue to serve the neighborhood and community as long as we can."

    Traditional fundraising events are also underway for Lunar New Year.

    The 43rd-anniversary L.A. Chinatown Firecracker 5/10K, Kiddie Run, Bike Ride & Paw'er Dog Walk on Feb. 27 is being held virtually this year, giving participants the flexibility to complete their events at the time and date of their choosing.

    It is one of the largest and longest-running Lunar New Year charity runs in the nation, and 100 percent of net proceeds are reinvested locally.

    Similarly, the Boston Chinatown Neighborhood Center is holding a free Lunar New Year Virtual 5K/1 Mile Run/Walk, "We Love Boston Chinatown," Feb. 12-15.

    The organization encourages entrants to run or walk in Chinatown and patronize its spots in the process. Prizes will include gift certificates from Boston Chinatown restaurants to encourage spending in the community.

    Social service agencies are also using digital spaces to encourage donations — and visits — to Chinatown.

    The Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation, or PCDC, plans a virtual Chinese New Year celebration Feb. 26 to benefit programs for Chinatown.

    PCDC's Ai Love Chinatown campaign, which was launched in August to support small businesses affected by Covid-19, has produced a video series that spotlights Asian American-owned businesses.

    "We wanted to bring that personality to people's attention to show there's real people standing behind these businesses, and they're hurting, but they're still taking the time to take care of their customers and workers," PCDC Project Manager Lamei Zhang said.

    Tam of Welcome to Chinatown said the immense nostalgia and love people have for the historic neighborhood is why people are eager to volunteer and donate money to help.

    "We always say we hope when we have kids of our own, that they get to know the Chinatown that we grew up experiencing," Tam said. "People can't fathom the idea of Chinatown disappearing."
    I went through SF Chinatown early in the pandemic last year, before the lockdowns, and I've never seen it so barren...like a ghost town.

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    The Shaolin Temple: Legend of Debao

    The Shaolin Temple: Legend of Debao is a much better translation of Shao Lin Si (少林寺之得宝传奇). Changing the title of this thread now.
    China’s streaming giants unite for online Chinese New Year movie season
    By Global Times
    Published: Feb 07, 2021 06:23 PM


    The launch ceremony for the online Chinese New Year movie season Photo: Courtesy of the China Film Association

    China's three streaming giants, iQIYI, Tencent Video and Youku, are working together to introduce nearly 20 movies to their platforms for the upcoming Spring Festival. The season was kicked off by representatives from the three at a ceremony on Friday.

    Online releases have been an important part of the world's largest film market since the COVID-19 outbreak in early 2020. The upcoming Spring Festival online releases include not only new films like The Shaolin Temple: Legend of Debao and Dreams of Getting Rich, but also recent popular movies such as The Rescue and Shock Wave 2.

    Aimed at fully meeting the entertainment needs of millions of Chinese families who are choosing to stay put during the festival instead of traveling amid the epidemic, the move has been encouraged by China's regulator authority the National Radio and Television Administration. Li Zhongzhi, deputy director-general of the department in charge of online video and audio programs, told media that the "online release season marks an important milestone in China's online movie development," going on to note that he hopes the three platforms can "work together to contribute content for the holiday."

    "The upcoming season will be an unforgettable one as it marks the first time that cinema and online releases, studios and streaming platforms have united for an online release Spring Festival season," said Yang Xianghua, vice president of iQIYI.
    threads
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    Year-of-the-Ox
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    NEW 2021 Year of the Ox T-shirts & Hoodies!

    Gene Ching
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    Well, this is on point

    Not sure if we covered this here before. I can't remember and the terms are too general to search out.

    WLF to Create China's "Kung Fu Spring Festival Gala”, the Most "Hardcore" Chinese Power Blooms in Macau

    WLF to create China's "Kung Fu Spring Festival Gala", the most "hardcore" Chinese power blooms in Macau (Photo: Business Wire)

    February 11, 2021 03:44 AM Eastern Standard Time
    MACAU, China--(BUSINESS WIRE)--In China, in addition to the annual CCTV Chinese New Year Gala on New Year's Eve, there is another Chinese New Year "gala" that is highly anticipated and paid attention to, and that is the "Kung Fu Spring Festival Gala" as it is called by the majority of boxing fans. The "Martial Arts Global Kung Fu Festival", which was launched in 2012-2013 season, is now in its ninth year, with more than 180 well-known fighter fighters from 32 countries and regions. More than 180 celebrities from 32 countries and regions have shown their skills in the ring.

    “Top of Hengqin - Martial Arts Style 2021 Global Kung Fu Gala”

    Tweet this
    On January 23, 2021, the 9th "Kung Fu Spring Festival Gala" - "Top of Hengqin - Martial Arts Style 2021 Global Kung Fu Gala" ended at the Studio City of Macau. On February 13 (the second day of the Lunar New Year), it will be broadcast on Henan TV. At this special time, the success of the "Global Kung Fu Festival" not only highlights China's strength and sense of responsibility in the fight against COVID-19, but also boosts the global determination and confidence in the fight against COVID-19 with the tenacious and bloodthirsty spirit of the contestants.

    This event is the first match of the five-year strategic cooperation between Henan TV Wulinfeng and the Greater Bay Area Martial Arts Cultural Association to land in Macau. "Chinese Captain" Fu Gaofeng, "Demon Blade" Wei Rui, "Little Tiger" Tie Yinghua, "Divine Condor" Jia Aoqi, "Majestic Warrior" Zhang Kaiyin, "Dafei" Wang Pengfei ... Each of the 22 Chinese fighters in the 14 tournaments carried their own aura and were clad in honor, and the high level of their performance was the most luxurious Chinese stand-up lineup of the century.

    In the future, "Wulinfeng" will take stand-up fighting as its core, form a combat matrix with MMA event "Wulin Cage Match" and youth combat event "Wulin New Generation", and steadily promote international martial arts cultural exchange and cooperation, making "Wulinfeng" the most hardcore Chinese power in the international combat world

    Contacts
    Henan TV
    Mark Du
    86-13503710060
    https://www.hntv.tv/
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    Xin Nian Kuai Le!

    HAPPY LUNAR NEW YEAR! READ Chinese New Year 2021: Year of the Iron Ox by Gene Ching



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    2021 Spring Festival Gala: Wushu – A revered part of Chinese culture

    Gene Ching
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    Last stand...

    THE LAST STAND OF S.F. CHINATOWN'S STORIED BANQUET HALLS
    These restaurants have been Chinatown’s heart and soul. What happens to S.F. if they disappear?
    By Melissa Hung | Feb. 14, 2021 | San Francisco Chronicle


    ON A SATURDAY AFTERNOON in late December, Bill Lee walks through his empty restaurant in Chinatown. Though the tables are draped with white tablecloths, the dining room functions more as a storage space. Wedged between tables are stacks of red-cushioned dining chairs. Signage, featuring large photos of the restaurant’s dishes, leans against a wall. A lone bottle of hand sanitizer sits on a dining table. A year ago, the scene looked very different — the chatter of locals and tourists filled the room as they feasted on Cantonese and Chinese American dishes.

    Opened in 1920 at 631 Grant Ave., Far East Cafe is one of San Francisco Chinatown’s oldest restaurants. Much of its decor remains unchanged from its early days: oil paintings depicting historical scenes from Guangdong (where many early Chinese immigrants hailed from), large hanging lanterns from the province, and a set of dark wood-paneled private booths behind red curtains. Buttons for summoning wait staff remain on the walls, though the bell system no longer works.

    Far East Cafe is also one of Chinatown’s last remaining large-scale banquet halls, serving as a gathering space for the neighborhood’s many family associations and civic organizations. The dwindling number of Chinatown banquet halls worries community leaders, who fear their loss could devastate the culture and traditions of a community already threatened by gentrification. Ten years ago, there were five: Empress of China, Far East Cafe, Four Seas, Gold Mountain, and New Asia Restaurant. Now, only Far East and New Asia remain.

    Lee, 77, who took over Far East in 1999 and added the second floor for banquets, is only the third owner — along with nine other shareholders — in its history. Over the years, thousands of banquets have taken place there. Lee had planned to throw his own event: a 100th anniversary celebration of the restaurant in the fall of 2020. But that was before the COVID-19 pandemic and the shutdowns that began in March. Now, instead, sitting in the dim dining room, he contemplates shutting down Far East for good.

    “I tell you, I love this restaurant. I have never spent so much time in one place,” Lee says. “I spent 20 years for this restaurant.”


    Far East Cafe owner Bill Lee sits at the bar while his daughter Kathy Lee, the restaurant’s manager, makes him a drink. Far East Cafe is one of the few remaining banquet halls in S.F.’s Chinatown, but Lee is unsure how long he can keep it running. | Jessica Christian / The Chronicle
    While the entire restaurant industry is struggling for survival, the pandemic has hit especially hard in Chinatown, which saw business drop months before shelter-in-place began. Lee is down to four employees from the 50 or so full- and part-time staff he once employed. He has tried to make a go at outdoor dining. Volunteers had been putting finishing touches on a new parklet structure, painted red and trimmed in yellow to match the restaurant. But then the city halted outdoor dining on Dec. 6 in the midst of a coronavirus surge. Lee felt defeated. He didn’t want to close, but he was operating at a deep loss, even after he and his daughter Kathy Lee, the manager, stopped taking their salaries.

    Two weeks later, on Dec. 22, news broke that Far East would close permanently on Dec. 31. The next day Supervisor Aaron Peskin, who represents Chinatown, held a press conference in front of the restaurant, telling Lee that help was on the way. The week before, nine community organizations had written to Mayor London Breed, warning that the situation in Chinatown was dire and asking the city to provide millions in financial aid, as it had done for the Latino community. Peskin and Supervisor Sandra Lee Fewer introduced legislation proposing $1.9 million in relief for Chinatown restaurants. Peskin urged Lee to hang on. Lee shrugged his shoulders and seemed to laugh, perhaps wearily, from behind his face mask.

    But the speed of government bureaucracy is too slow for Lee. Nearly a month passed before the Board of Supervisors approved the legislation on Jan. 19, another month where he owed tens of thousands more dollars in rent, utilities and more. The city funds will help Chinatown restaurants, including Lee’s Far East, survive for a few months. But then what? Will enough people be vaccinated by then that COVID-19 infections slow sufficiently for businesses to reopen? Or will the situation worsen again?

    And there is a larger question: If the banquet halls go, what will become of Chinatown?
    continued next post
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    continued from previous post


    Clockwise from top left: Gogo Wu and Lillian Lin at the Chinese Real Estate Association of America Chinese New Year and Installation Banquet held at New Asia restaurant on February 21, 2020; Kuo Wah restaurant in San Francisco’s Chinatown in an undated photo; a Lunar New Year banquet held by the Chinatown Community Development Center (CCDC) that was attended by, from far right, future Vice President Kamala Harris, the Rev. Norman Fong of the CCDC, Jane Kim, David Chiu, Phil Ting, the late Jeff Adachi, the late Mayor Ed Lee, the late Rose Pak and CCDC founder Gordon Chin; an image from an old postcard showing the interior of the Empress of China, a banquet hall in San Francisco’s Chinatown. | Photos By Frank Jang And Chinatown Community Development Center
    HUNDREDS OF BANQUETS take place in San Francisco Chinatown every year — family association gatherings, weddings, red egg and ginger parties, political fundraisers and galas for nonprofits. More modest events might book a smaller banquet hall like Imperial Palace. But the big ones can fill up all 680 seats at Far East Cafe or the 1,000 at New Asia. (Back in the day, some banquets were so large that they filled multiple locations.) A Chinatown banquet, much like Chinatown itself, is a crowded affair, with guests seated snugly at 10-tops as waiters in white shirts and vests deploy platters upon platters across the dining room. The dishes are abundant; there is always food left over.

    The first quarter of the year is an especially busy time because of Chinese New Year, which typically occurs in late January or early February. Because there aren’t enough bookings available close to the holiday to accommodate everyone, New Year banquets can stretch into April and May. Reservations need to be made a year in advance, sometimes two.

    A Chinatown banquet is not just a party with a parade of family-style dishes. For a community that has endured segregation, racist immigration exclusion that kept families apart and threats of displacement, banquets are loud, bountiful, collective affirmations of community resilience.

    “This is a community that traditionally has been very close, very networked, and very organized in certain senses and I think that that connection has been one of the critical elements of why this community has been a successful immigrant gateway for so long,” says Malcolm Yeung, executive director of the Chinatown Community Development Center, one of the organizations that penned the letter to the city asking for help.

    Forced to fend for itself, Chinatown long ago established an ecosystem of mutual aid through its family and district associations and its social service and advocacy organizations — a network that still exists today. New immigrants know they can come to Chinatown for resources and opportunities. “All of that is based on the connection and cultural fabric that we’ve been able to weave in this community,” Yeung said. And community banquets are the primary mechanism for celebrating and maintaining those connections, he says.

    And while food is always important — each dish in a banquet is imbued with meaning — it’s not about the meal, but the whole experience of Chinatown. About being reminded, even if on a subconscious level, that this is where the community began.

    Chinatown banquets also showcase political empowerment. Laurene Wu McClain, 77, an attorney who grew up in Chinatown, attended banquets in the 1950s and ’60s with her father, the head of their family association and a co-founder of San Francisco’s Chinese Historical Society. She remembers fondly the sound of hundreds of people cracking open watermelon seeds with their teeth at the start of banquets, and the bottles of Belfast Sparkling Cider on every table.

    She also remembers how, against the backdrop of the Cold War, when relations between the U.S. and a newly communist China were antagonistic, the community courted politicians and government officials. Though most Chinese Americans were anti-communist, they feared they’d be viewed as the enemy and incarcerated, as Japanese Americans had been during World War II. They made outreach efforts to the wider American society through events like the Chinese New Year Parade and banquets.

    “Sometimes it was the first time anyone would have seen the Caucasian mayor of San Francisco or seen in person one of the members of the Board of Supervisors,” she says of guests at banquets. “That was part of the assimilation process, that, yes, we are our own ethnic group, but we do belong here. We belong here and we invite you to join us in our celebrations.”

    Today, many working-class families who started out in Chinatown have advanced to the middle class and live in the avenues or suburbs of the East Bay and Peninsula where there are newer, more spacious Chinese restaurants and 99 Ranch Markets with well-stocked aisles and hot deli counters. There’s less reason to come to Chinatown and hassle with parking just to buy groceries and a roast duck. Younger generations often prefer getting married in Napa rather than throwing a traditional Chinese wedding banquet.

    Yet banquets remain critical to the culture and plexus of Chinatown, connecting community members to the power brokers of the city — and to each other.

    “Chinatown is the social-political capital of the Chinese community,” says David Ho, 43, a political consultant. “People don’t go book tables in Cupertino and expect 1,000 Chinese to show up. That’s just not going to happen. First, they don’t have the facilities for it. Second, only Chinatown can get that kind of audience and attention from politicians.”

    Ho would know. As a Chinatown activist and a political consultant, he has thrown his share of banquets over the years.

    “It’s really about community coming together. It’s about seeing old friends and new friends, and a tie to where we came from, to the immigrant legacy,” says Mabel Teng, a community advocate and former San Francisco supervisor. “Some of us crossed the ocean five decades ago, but some crossed the Pacific five years ago, and we are a community of intergenerational legacy, and also intergenerational leadership.”

    After the pandemic ended banquets at the New Asia restaurant in S.F.’s Chinatown, its owner converted it into a neighborhood grocery store. | Jessica Christian / The Chronicle
    NEW ASIA RESTAURANT, established in 1987 at 772 Pacific Ave., is a newcomer compared to Far East Cafe, and looks it with its high ceiling, shiny gold pillars and multicolor strip lights. A pushcart-style dim sum parlor by day, it is Chinatown’s largest banquet hall. When banquets began being canceled over coronavirus concerns in January 2020, Hon So, the owner since 2000, grew so anxious he couldn’t sleep.

    So, 61, canceled any supply orders he could and stored what had already arrived in freezers. It would just be for a few months, he thought. In July, though, he had to throw it all out, trashing cases of shrimp, beef, chicken, an estimated $100,000 worth of food. Insurance would not cover the loss.

    “When I was throwing things out, I was thinking, what will I do in the immediate future? What do I do with a big place like this?” So says in Cantonese. “You have no income, but you still have your bills. The income is not just for me, but for my family, my workers. What can I do to yield income for everyone?”

    He thought about how in this new reality of the pandemic, people were lining up to buy groceries and cook at home.

    Over two weeks in July, with the help of friends, he cleared tables to make way for shelving and freezers. The next month, New Asia reopened as a grocery store, which allowed So to retain 10 to 15 jobs, a fraction of the 40- to 50-member staff he had before. New Asia’s proximity to Stockton Street, where many neighborhood markets are located, helped bring in foot traffic.

    On a recent Saturday, shoppers browsed the selection of produce, snacks and frozen foods. On the stage, two steps up from the dance floor, packages of toilet paper and rice noodles were stacked on repurposed dining tables. The character for double happiness, a symbol of marriage, was on the wall above them.

    “This is the only market with crystal lights,” So said wryly, referring to New Asia’s chandeliers.
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    Then: On Feb. 20, 2020, before S.F. announced shelter-in-place, New Asia restaurant in S.F.’s Chinatown was the scene of a typical busy banquet, in this case for the Coalition of Asian American Government Employees (CAAGE). The pandemic put an end to such gatherings. | Frank Jang

    Now: Shoppers browse the aisles inside the New Asia restaurant. in S.F.’s Chinatown neighborhood. As banquets were canceled at the start of the pandemic, New Asia’s owner converted the grand restaurant into a neighborhood grocery store. | Jessica Christian / The Chronicle
    Even if his market brings in enough to survive the pandemic, New Asia will be displaced for several years. In 2017, after much advocacy by the late Chinatown activist Rose Pak, the city bought the property to develop it into affordable housing. The plan is for the restaurant to return to the ground floor of a new building, but construction will take at least three years, and the process has barely begun. Proposals from developers were due to the city last month.

    Still, New Asia is the rare Chinatown banquet hall granted a possibility of return. Down the street, Meriwa is now medical offices. In 2016, Mister Jiu’s replaced Four Seas, a popular venue since the 1960s. A year later the food emporium China Live, which contains two restaurants (one with a $185 tasting menu), retail and a bar, opened in what was once Gold Mountain. Empress by Boon was slated to open in 2020 in the iconic Empress of China space, but the pandemic has put a pause on that.

    While these new upscale restaurants with Michelin stars and modern takes on Chinese cuisines add a culinary sheen to the neighborhood, they attract a different clientele: a monied crowd from outside who Uber in, eat and leave. They are out of range for residents and for community groups used to paying $40 to $80 a head for an eight-course banquet.

    To be sure, Chinatown has long courted visitors. In a segregated San Francisco, attracting visitors to the neighborhood was key for economic survival and tourism remains important. But a healthy Chinatown maintains a balance between businesses for visitors and its immigrant residents.

    “There’s room for Mister Jiu’s and China Live,” says Vincent Pan, 48, the co-executive director of Chinese for Affirmative Action. I know Pan well. We have collaborated on several projects, including on some work for his organization. “We support having a mix of high-end and hole-in-the wall mom-and-pops,” Pan says. “But the real risk is you lose this one piece and it’s hard to bring it back.”


    When the civil rights nonprofit learned that the Empress of China was closing in 2014, it hosted one last banquet that December just for the sake of it. It was one of the last, if not the very last, banquets at the Empress, says Pan.

    “We know from other North American Chinatowns, whether it’s Philadelphia or Manhattan, that there’s always a risk of being subsumed by the neighboring financial districts,” Pan says. “And one of the key anti-displacement strategies that has been effective is to have the Chinatowns serve as cultural anchors that bring in a diverse mix of economic support. Banquets are a flagship of that.”

    Banquet halls have played a core role in the Chinatown economy, from providing new immigrants with starter jobs to sourcing from local vendors. Far East Cafe partners with Charity Cultural Services Center to train and employ restaurant workers. Banquets summon the diaspora, whose members tend to make the most of their stop in Chinatown by doing some shopping.

    That’s why Chinatown leaders want to preserve the landmark Empress of China building for community access. When John Yee, a real estate investor, bought the six-story building in 2017, he alarmed many with his initial plans for tech offices. Though Yee grew up in Chinatown, he angered many in the community in 1999 when he tried to evict a building full of low-income tenants. Malcolm Yeung filed an appeal with the San Francisco Planning Department in an attempt to pressure Yee into discussions over the Empress. Yeung would like to see affordable community banquets return to the space, but Yee says the banquet prices Yeung wants are not feasible.

    On Jan. 27, Yeung’s appeal was denied in a 3-2 vote, resulting in another banquet hall lost to the community.

    The upstairs banquet hall of Far East Cafe in S.F.’s Chinatown is shuttered. Far East Cafe, which opened in 1920, is one of the few banquet halls remaining in Chinatown. | Jessica Christian / The Chronicle
    THE YEAR OF THE OX IS UPON US. Another Lunar New Year in a pandemic, another season of no banquets. Organizations like Chinese for Affirmative Action have held their annual galas on Zoom instead, delivering catered meals to re-create the experience of eating together. Without its usual gatherings, Chinatown has been eerily quiet for the past year. Even with sections of Grant Avenue closed to traffic on the weekends to encourage shopping, the streets are mostly empty, a whisper of the usual hustle.

    The question on the minds of many in Chinatown is what will be left when the pandemic finally ends and people come out of isolation clamoring to socialize?

    After Chinatown leaders asked the mayor for $11.5 million in financial aid, they met with city officials about reviving the Chinatown Community Development Center’s Feed + Fuel program in partnership with SF New Deal. The program, which ran in spring 2020, paid 34 Chinatown restaurants to cook meals for the neighborhood’s most vulnerable residents living in public housing and single-room occupancy hotels. These SRO residents share communal kitchens and bathrooms, which makes social distancing impossible.

    The center hopes that the $1.9 million relief ordinance, plus $500,000 from the Human Services Agency and $100,000 of the center’s own funds can eventually help 70 restaurants over an eight-week period. If the nonprofit can raise an additional $1 million from individuals and foundations, it will extend the program to 15 weeks.

    “People don’t go book tables in Cupertino and expect 1,000 Chinese to show up. That’s just not going to happen. First, they don’t have the facilities for it. Second, only Chinatown can get that kind of audience and attention from politicians.”
    DAVID HO, 43, A POLITICAL CONSULTANT

    Feed + Fuel 2.0 launched Jan. 18 with 10 restaurants. Far East Cafe, which participated in the first iteration, joined the new program on Jan. 25, cooking 300 meals a week for $3,000. Far East also participates in similar programs, but the money it receives from these programs doesn’t cover costs — not even close. Lee says he needs to bring in $4,000 a day to keep a restaurant as large as his afloat. One reason he’s been able to last this long is because of an understanding landlord, the Ying On Benevolent Association, of which he is a member.

    The family associations that own buildings in Chinatown are not interested in selling them, says Doug Mei, 40, a paramedic firefighter who grew up in a Chinatown SRO and who now works in the neighborhood fire station.

    “The reason why they keep them is so they can continue to take care of the new immigrants that come here and continue to carry on the legacy of all those who worked so hard to build this community for us,” he says.

    The city’s help is too little, too late, and Asian Americans have been forgotten, he says, a sentiment that many in Chinatown share. Where are the loan programs for Asian-owned small businesses, like those the city established for other minority communities, he asks. “We take so much pride as a city in how diverse we are. But we need to take action to preserve that diversity. It’s important that we protect every community and we give every community fair resources all around,” Mei says.

    Leaders worry about the elders who rely on dim sum parlors and banquets to stay active with friends. They worry that these restaurants will fade away like the neighborhood’s once-vibrant theaters.

    “There’s got to be some adverse impact on the psychology and well-being of the community,” says David Ho, the political consultant.
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    Far East Cafe owner Bill Lee poses for a portrait in the main dining room of Far East Cafe. “I tell you, I love this restaurant. I have never spent so much time in one place,” he said. | Jessica Christian / The Chronicle
    ON THE LAST SATURDAY IN JANUARY, after a week of stormy rains, the sun came out, bringing with it more foot traffic in Chinatown. Outdoor dining reopened and waitstaff wove through pedestrians on narrow sidewalks to take orders. Outside Far East Cafe, Mei and another volunteer worked on the restaurant’s parklet, cutting wood with a circular saw. Lee and his daughter Kathy, who is the restaurant’s manager, carted produce through the dining room into the kitchen.

    During a late lunch break, Lee recounted how Far East Cafe has given many new immigrants who didn’t know English their first jobs in the U.S. Back in 1967, he was that new immigrant. Closing the restaurant would hurt those who arrive in the future, but he wasn’t sure how long he could stay open. What was the point of working just to keep losing money?

    “It’s very difficult,” Lee said in a mix of Cantonese and English. “We really don’t want to close, but a fact is a fact. We don’t have money.”

    Melissa Hung is a Bay Area writer from Texas with ties to San Francisco Chinatown. Email: culture@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @melissahungtx

    This story was translated into Chinese for The Chronicle by Joyce Chen.
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