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In this special edition of Globe Trekker, we delve into the multiculturalism of Chinatowns around the globe. From Hong Kong to Peru, every major city in the world has one – Justine Shapiro in Chinatown, San FranciscoChinatowns chart the history of this vast migratory community spreading their culturefood and heritage across the world.

Around 34 million Chinese live overseas – travellers Lavinia TanMegan McCormick and Justine Shapiro travel to Penang, Singapore, Lima, San Francisco, New York City, London and Hong Kong to explore the magic and mystery of Chinatowns around the world.

Penang has one of the largest Chinatowns in the world, and one of the oldest, with the first Chinese settling in the 1400s. Here Lavinia Tan discovers exquisite Chinese and Malay cuisine, visits a clan house and the homes of Chinese descendants on clan jetties in the fishing port. She also gets to experience the spectacle of the Hungry Ghost Festival.

In Singapore, Lavinia also learns about the Briton who transformed Singapore into a trading centre: Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles. She also gets shown around an original shophouse where migrant workers had to live in incredibly cramped conditions.

Megan McCormick explores Chinatown, New YorkNext we follow the trail of the “coolie workers”. The coolies were Chinese labourers forced onto ships bound for cities across the world experiencing a lack of workers after the abolition of slavery. We then head down to Chinatown in Lima, Peru where Chinese and Latin American cultures have truly become one.

Following the Gold Rush of the 1940s, and escaping the famine and political situation in their home country, Chinese people travelled across the world to settle in San Francisco, where many worked on the transcontinental railway. Justine Shapiro visits the small town of Locke, on the banks of the Californian River Delta, which is the only town in the entire USA built and solely inhabited by the Chinese. Back in the city, Justine is given a tour of Chinatown and visits a fortune cookie factory where she discovers the true origin of the Chinese fortune cookieis in fact San Francisco!

To escape racism in the east, many Chinese settlers headed along to New York City, and created the biggest Chinatown in the western world. Megan McCormick visits the Museum of the Chinese in the Americas, samples the culinary treats of the area and meets Chinese veterans of World War II who fought alongside the U.S. against Japan, a factor which helped the Chinese migrant community gain respect and acceptance in the USA.

Lavinia Tan in Hong KongNext, Lavinia Tan visits Hong Kong’s Soho district where she meets stars of the city’s thriving film industry and a native Chinese businessman returning to his homeland after many years of living in Canada.

Lavinia continues her journey to London, England where she discovers a melting pot of cultures. Here the Chinese opened businesses in the sleazy Soho area just after the Second World War when rents were cheap and returning servicemen were eager to find the more exotic foods they’d sampled whilst fighting abroad.

Chinatowns are an amazing testament to the courage and resilience of the Chinese – these pockets of China around the world bear witness to both the strength and of their culture and the sheer determination of their communities.

Places Mentioned - China, England, Malaysia, Peru, Singapore, USA

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