Liverpool’s Chinatown Still Has Life
Liverpool’s Chinatown might be thought of to some as a bit of a dead end. Don’t believe it. There is movement afoot to breathe new life into it and you can part of that. It’s been almost twenty years since the famous arch was built, welcoming everyone to Chinatown. While there is less foot traffic in the area there are still plenty of reasons to visit. The history, alone, is captured in the buildings and shops and those who work in them. It was in the late 1850’s that many Chinese immigrants first arrived in Liverpool. Most were employed as seamen for the Blue Funnel Shipping Line. The shipping company built boarding houses for the workers on shore leave. Some Chinese sailors decided to settle in the area and set up shops, cafes, and boarding houses to cater to the needs of the sailors. Bombing during World War II destroyed much of Chinatown and it relocated further inland to the area it’s in now.
The Chinese Ceremonial Archway erected in 2000 and is, in itself, worth the trip to Chinatown to see it. It was imported, piece by piece from Shanghai and reconstructed by craftsmen from China. It stands 15m high, the largest in Europe. According to Feng Shui experts, it was to protect Chinatown from evil, and bring good luck and fortune to the area. It saw shops open and close, depending on the financial climate at the time. As businesses outside of Chinatown flourished from catering to the ‘new’ generation, older businesses in Chinatown felt the effects. There is still a lot of hope for a regeneration of Liverpool’s Chinatown to regain strength and importance among the Chinese community as well as the born and bred Scousers.
Nick Liu moved to Liverpool from Hong Kong in 1973 and has seen the evolution of Chinatown at every stage. He says the downfall of Liverpool’s Chinatown is, in part, due to the large growth of Manchester’s Chinatown. He adds that he’s “still proud and still here fighting for Chinatown”. Nick’s nephew, Kin Lui, has opened a restaurant and his family represents the changing face of Chinatown. He feels that behind the huge arch is a stagnant Chinatown that needs to be more trendy. He says that: “There’s still potential for it to be the place where you go first and start your evening because there’s still a lot of talented chefs around.” He, and many others, have high hopes for their Chinatown.
While it may not have kept pace with the ever-evolving food and drink scene, there’s hope yet. Visiting Chinatown you can visit the specialty shops, take tai chi lessons, and so much more. The Chinese school is still going strong, offering Cantonese and Mandarin to those who want to either maintain their parent’s language or simply learn a new language. The arch is definitely worth the visit but once you pass through that arch, you can see why it’s so vital to keep Chinatown alive and thriving.