Origins: The Birth and Rise of Chinese American Communities in Los Angeles
Origins: The Birth and Rise of Chinese American Communities in Los Angeles, a permanent, cutting edge exhibition celebrating the growth and development of Chinese American enclaves from Downtown Los Angeles to the San Gabriel Valley.
This exhibit narrates Chinese immigration to the United States with an emphasis on community settlement in Los Angeles. The display is outlined into four distinct time periods. Each period is defined by an important immigration law and event, accompanied by a brief description and a short personal story about a local Chinese American and their experiences in that particular historical period.
This exhibition is a recreation of an actual store that was housed in the Garnier Building in the 1890’s. The Sun Wing Wo store opened in 1891 and remained in this building until 1948. The store was a multi-purpose space that showed how self-sufficient the Chinese were and had to be due to racism and discrimination, while also being responsive to the needs of their community. Even though the store predominantly served the Chinese, there were European, Japanese, and Mexican Americans who also came to purchase Chinese merchandise.
On one side of the gallery, people can find merchandise sold at the general store such as food, clothing, furniture, firecrackers, and dishes; they can also find western products that were popular at the time such as cigars and perfumed soaps. The store also provided banking, postal, and letter writing services for the community.
On the other side of the gallery, the Museum recreated the herb shop where Chinese could practice their traditional form of healthcare - Chinese Medicine. There were acupuncture services and prescriptions of herbal remedies provided.
Meet Albert Lew
Engage in a lively chat with Albert Lew as he relives his childhood days in the original Sun Wing Wo Store. Experience what it was like inside the hustle and bustle of this vital community center as seen through the eyes of a then thirteen-year old Albert, who worked in the store upon his arrival to the United States in 1937.
Born in Los Angeles, California, Albert Lew moved to China with his parents at the age of five during the Great Depression. In 1937, Albert Lew was thirteen years old when he came back to the United States to earn money to support his mother and younger siblings in China. Upon his arrival, Albert worked in the Sun Wing Wo general store and herb shop, located in Chinatown, and owned and operated by his uncles and cousin. After working at the store for six months, his older sister and her husband arranged for Albert to join them in San Francisco. Albert eventually served in the U.S. Navy and worked for the Department of Water and Power. He has since retired in Los Angeles with his wife and two children.
Scheduled appearances: The SECOND WEDNESDAY of every month.