Introducing Graphic Artist Jean Young’s Powerful New Visuals on the History of LA’s Chinatown

The original Los Angeles Chinatown, now known as “Old Chinatown,” developed in the 1860s.

Digital illustration of a man in gray uniform standing in from an ornamental Chinese gate with red columns, tile roof, and Chinese characters.
Illustration by Jean Young
Text: When the COVID-19 virus swept the United States in early 2020, so did a surge of anti-Asian hate. Reports declaring Wuhan, China the epicenter of the pandemic brought many to scapegoat Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders for the spread of the viru
Illustrated comic page. Top panel: Two featureless, shadowy figures yelling and pointing at a masked Asian woman who has an apprehensive look on her face. Text: Anti-Asian hate is not a new phenomenon.
Text: By the 1870s, many Chinese laborers lived in rooming houses and older adobes in Old Chinatown, alongside saloons, gambling joints, and houses of ill-repute frequented by the larger population.
Illustrated comic page. Text: Extreme anti-Chinese attitudes and the rising political power of the labor movement, which scapegoated Chinese workers who were often forced to take less money for the same work, culminated in the Chinese Exclusion Act.
Text: Chinese American community members led by Chinatown native Peter SooHoo negotiated with the railroad agencies to acquire a site for a new Chinatown. New Chinatown was completed in 1938 and continues to stand.
Illustrated comic panel. Peter SooHoo, wearing a uniform, stands in front of Los Angeles’ Chinatowns’ West Gate, a historical-looking Chinese gateway structure.
During the 1960s, the Civil Rights Movement brought together underrepresented communities, including Chinese Americans, to fight for civil rights and social equality.
Illustrated comic page. Top left panel: a group of women of color, protesting with fists up. The woman in front holds a sign reading, Minorities Unite!
ext: Monterey Park was advertised overseas as the “Chinese Beverly Hills” due to good schools, a good housing market, and close proximity to Los Angeles’s Chinatown.
Illustrated comic page. Top panel: A view of a street in New Chinatown. There are colorful shops on both sides and potted plants in front of the shops. Red lanterns are hung from building to building.
Text: The new businesses that attracted Chinatown visitors reflected the cultural tourism reminiscent of New Chinatown’s origins, but have replaced the full-service grocery stores and community spaces that older Chinatown residents relied on.
Illustrated comic page. Top panel: One of Dynasty Center’s entrances, with a staircase leading upwardand open shops displaying clothes and other goods on the bottom level. Trees planted on the sidewalks.
Text: Although development plans for Dynasty Center remain unclear, community members fear business owners could lose leases, be faced with higher rents, or the building could be demolished and the site developed into new buildings and office spaces.
Illustrated comic page. Top panel: storefront view of a plant shop. Shopkeeper Elton is wearing a white shirt and green apron, holding a potted plant. He stands in front of three shelves of houseplants. In the background, a sign reads Rainbow Gifts.
Illustrated comic page. Three panels on top and three  on the bottom, each illustrating steps to pot a plant with roots. In the center, Elton repots a plant.
Text: Yet Chinatown’s residents are willing to fight. To combat ongoing gentrification, Chinatown Community for Equitable Development, an all-volunteer, multiethnic, intergenerational organization, fights for tenant rights and against unfair evictions.
Illustrated comic page. A group of people protesting. Above, five people hold a single sign that reads, Chinatown is not for sale. Below, three masked women, two sitting and one standing with a microphone in hand.
Illustrated comic page. Top panel: portrait of Charlotte Nguyễn with long, black hair and sleeveless black button-up shirt, holding plant cuttings in a glass.

Jean Young is a Los Angeles-based illustrator and former intern at the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage. They currently work at the Chinese American Museum in Los Angeles.


Defend Dynasty Center, LA Chinatown’s Last Community Shopping Mall!, petition

De Ocampo, Andres. “Dynasty Center facing possible redevelopment, evictions,” Los Angeles Downtown News, December 28, 2021.

Li, Wei. “Building Ethnoburbia,” Journal of Asian American Studies, February 1999.

Lin, Jan. “Los Angeles Chinatown: Tourism, Gentrification, and the Rise of an Ethnic Growth Machine,” Amerasia Journal, Vol. 34, No. 3, 2008.