Art, Culture, and Belonging in Chinatown

Updated: 4 days ago



In 2019, Chinese Culture Center in collaboration with the Chinatown Art & Culture Coalition invited bi-coastal artist Christine Wong Yap to explore belonging and resiliency in Chinatown. Since COVID-19, the project has transformed to respond to the unexpected surge of hate, decline in tourism, and other stigmatization towards the Chinatown community beginning earlier this year in January.

Through facilitating story-collection, community participation and online programs, Wong Yap encourages the public to reflect on what makes Chinatown special. With few opportunities to tell the community’s stories, this project work illuminates Chinatown’s impact as a “home” and a site for belonging for many一reaching far beyond its 3-by-8  block perimeter and across generations. 


Ways to experience the the project in-person & online:

  • 41 Ross - "Alive & Present: Cultural Belonging in S.F. Chinatown and Manilatown" Storefront installation, self guided tour, and comic book

  • 735 Clay St - "Hopes for Chinatown" Public Art in Collaboration w/ 100 Days Action

  • CCC Design Store - "Alive & Present" Comic Book

  • CCC Instagram - "Art, Culture & Belonging" Instagram Activities


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Alive & Present: Cultural Belonging in S.F. Chinatown and Manilatown

by Christine Wong Yap & 20 Contributors

Launched October 13th, 2020  On View 24/7 at 41 Ross and Available at CCC Design Store


"Alive & Present" is an outdoor installation, English/Chinese comic book, and a self-guided "Walking Tour of Belonging. 


From late-2019 to mid-2020, the public was invited to share their story of art, culture, and belonging in San Francisco Chinatown, the collected memories and reflections from the "Story of Belonging" survey are source materials informing the 56-page comic, featuring real contributors’ perspectives on belonging and includes: 

- 3 illustrated maps of 26 places of belonging

- 5 personal histories: remembrances of special bonds with grandparents,

family vacations, and memories of Manilatown and the I-Hotel

- 4 spotlights on places of belonging: Portsmouth Square, Stockton Street, a

boba café, and a youth empowerment program

- 6 popular art and culture activities such as Lunar New Year, walking,

listening, and—of course—eating!

Every now and then, we’ll drop off a limited number of comic books and maps at 41 Ross, free to take. The comic is also available here if you would like to support and purchase a copy.


Image caption: Christine Wong Yap and contributors, Alive & Present: Cultural Belonging in S.F. Chinatown and Manilatown, 2020


Hopes for Chinatown (2020) Public Art

as a part of the Art for Essential Workers initiative

Location: 735 Clay St

Launched in May 2020, Currently On View


In June 2020, Christine was invited by “100 Days of Action”, a collective of artists and activists, to submit to the “Art for Essential Workers” initiative to install printed artworks to be displayed in Chinatown storefronts at no cost to the businesses.


Wong Yap found this project was a good opportunity to thread together with “Art, Culture and Belonging.” One of the questions she asked in the "Story of Belonging" survey was what people’s hopes and dreams for Chinatown were. Wong Yap found a selection of answers that are optimistic and addressed discrimination which she used in a design with the quotes hand-lettered both in English and Chinese. Check out "Add Oil, Chinatown!" Artist Talk on Public Art & Neighborhood Recovery to learn more about this work!


100 Days Action is is a Bay Area artist collective that produces creative resistance projects to build community at the intersection of art, activism, and social engagement.

“Stories of Belonging” Instagram takeover


Launched April 2020

Currently Available on CCC Instagram




“I wanted to do something to support the community as shelter in place took hold. It’s become more urgent for the project to provide counter-narratives to xenophobic hate, to encourage the public to patronize small businesses in Chinatown, and to give participants opportunities to connect with and celebrate meaningful aspects of their identities and personal histories. Social distancing, isolation, and othering actually underscores my role as an artist: to offer space for participants to connect (even if virtually, or by memory or imagination right now) with the people, places, and cultural assets that help them feel a sense of belonging in SF Chinatown.” -- Christine Wong Yap

Spotlights for specially-created interactive bilingual activities from “Stories of Belonging” Instagram takeover



For the Bingo activity, participants engaged in a SF Chinatown Bingo online format that posed the question as to how the community physically engages in SF Chinatown. Responses being from special locations, events, or stores, that connect others to Chinatown. Those that participated were able to relate back to their time spent in SF Chinatown. This connected the audience virtually to each other through the significant relationship that we have with belonging to a particular location.

Through the What Do You Think about Art, Culture and Belonging in SF Chinatown online activity, the question posed asked how art, culture and belonging are embedded in individuals' personal recollection of SF Chinatown. This activity created space for people to ask themselves how SF Chinatown has personally impacted them and why it is important, leading to an array of responses of personal belonging and connection within SF Chinatown.

The Memento Photo challenged the audience to reflect back on their own personal memory of their family and culture through their own individual choosing of a special object. The audience was able to relate an object that played a significant role in their own understanding of how their own family/culture has shaped their life. Through finding a memento, individuals were able to access a connection with themselves and others through a virtual experience. The sharing and documenting of a part of an individual's family and culture became a symbol for reflecting on how the physicality of an object can have a large impact on a person's identity.

To learn more about the project:

please visit Christine Wong Yap's website.


Media Coverage:

媒體報道:


48 Hills World Journal Bloomberg Sing Tao Daily National Geographic

"Art, Culture & Belonging in S.F. Chinatown" is Supported by:






Additional Support from: Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Grants for the Arts

San Francisco Arts Commission, Wells Fargo Foundation, Fleishhacker Foundation, California Humanities and the National Endowment for the Humanities CARES Relief, Phyllis C. Wattis Foundation, San Francisco Arts & Artists Relief Fund, Zellerbach Family Foundation, CCC Contemporaries

750 Kearny St, 3rd Fl / San Francisco, CA 94108

© 2020 by Chinese Culture Center of San Francisco.

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