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Title: Chinese Identity in and Beyond Chinatown: Traditional Chinese Architecture, Auspicious Symbols, and Feng Shui
Authors: Lee, Sandy
Advisors: Boyer, M. Christine
Department: Architecture School
Class Year: 2022
Abstract: Since the first wave of Chinese immigrants in 1849, they have been ascribed different identities such as the yellow peril. Negative stereotypes fueled the anti-Chinese sentiments in the United States and caused the Chinese population to self-segregate in areas that are now known as Chinatowns. Chinatowns were labeled as dirty and dangerous by the American government. The American government continued to neglect Chinatowns until they saw an opportunity to profit from them. After an earthquake hit San Francisco’s Chinatown in 1906, a new identity was ascribed to the Chinese population and Chinatowns. The Chinese merchant elites worked with White architects to erase the old and villainized Chinatowns. The Chinese merchant elites self-orientalized themselves to cater to tourists. They took on an exotic identity and expressed it through exoticized Chinese architecture. This architecture style referenced traditional Chinese architecture motifs like pagoda roofs, bright colors, lattice designs, and paifang. They used these motifs without regard to their traditional usage, rather they only used these motifs to create an exotic image for Chinatown. Other Chinatowns like the ones in Los Angeles and New York City tried to implement the self-orientalism method upon seeing San Francisco’s Chinatown redevelopment. In contrast to this exoticized Chinese architecture, smaller storefronts in New York City’s Chinatown and satellite Chinatowns express their Chinese identity through auspicious symbols and feng shui. These expressions of identity focus on expressing and preserving Chinese heritage; they can be seen in interior design elements like colors, art, decorations, and spatial organization. Exoticized Chinese architecture motifs, on one hand, express Chinese identity by replicating the visual components of traditional Chinese architecture; auspicious symbols and feng shui, on the other hand, express Chinese identity by bringing auspiciousness and connecting to traditions.
Type of Material: Princeton University Senior Theses
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Architecture School, 1968-2022

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