Saturday, June 18, 2011

Museum of Chinese in America: Centre St & Howard St

The Museum of Chinese in America does a great job of telling the stories of Chinese immigrants and their descendants.  They tell of the anti-Chinese/racist propaganda (see right), Chinese American soldiers not getting equal opportunities after the war (that would be WWII during which many enlisted to support the fight against Japanese aggression, simultaneously aiding their ancestral home), and the stereotypes developing into the "model minority"--the same characteristics (hard working, uncomplaining, and smart) that for decades had made them a threat to local labor and justified immigration restrictions.

Many of the displays are interactive and include audio and film.  They have a recreation of an herbalist shop (see left) with an accompanying audio recording that tells of Chinese American tradespeople who as entrepreneurs were able to overcome prejudices and uplift themselves and their communities.  There are also many plaques describing the many achievements of Chinese Americans like Vera Wang (fashion designer), Gary Locke (former Governor of Washington state and current Secretary of Commerce), Elaine Chao (Secretary of Labor under George W. Bush), Jerry Yang (co-founder of Yahoo!), Michelle Kwan (the most winning American female ice skater) and Maya Lin (artist and designer of the MOCA and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.  Really, after the majority had come over to this country with little but their wits and muscle and started at the lowest rung of the society ladder, it is amazing that in just a few generations such incredible success was achieved.

Finally, currently there is an exhibition room of antique, classic games, some of which are over 1,000 years old!  What do the Chinese have to do with games?  Well, I was surprised to find out that they are the creators of puzzle pots, tangrams (see right), Qing dynasty puzzle rings and bracelets, sliding block puzzles, burr puzzles, and ingenious linked ring puzzles (see below right). 

If you have a free hour just north of Canal Street, this small museum can provide a great hour of exploration and understanding.  Plus every Thursday admission is free!  If you happen to go on a weekday, you may also face groups of students so if you want to avoid such crowds, I would suggest going right when the museum opens or on a weekend.  Check out their website at MOCA for details of hours and current exhibits.

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