Chinatown is a small historic neighborhood east of downtown Washington DC. It is known for its annual Chinese New Year Parade which features the traditional Chinese Dragon Dance, Kung Fu demonstrations, and live music. Chinatown is also home to Chinese and Asian restaurants, most of which are owned by Chinese American families.
When you arrive to Chinatown, the first thing that you will notice is the Friendship Arch, a traditional Chinese gate at the intersection of H and 7th Streets. Designed by local architect Alfed H. Liu in 1986, the Friendship Arch celebrates the friendship between the cities of Washington DC and Beijing. At night, the lights and scene have transformed the neighborhood into a mini Times Square. Smaller than New York’s Chinatown, DC’s version is easily walked in 10 minutes.
The boundaries of Chinatown are Eastside to 5th Street, Southside to G Street, Westside to 8th Street and Northside to Massachusetts Avenue NW. Chinatown overlaps other neighborhoods, including Mount Vernon Triangle and Penn Quarter. Each person’s image map of where one ends and the other begins differs, yet all are part of Downtown Washington DC.
In the past, Chinatown was a thriving business community and family-oriented neighborhood. According to the DC Comprehensive Plan in 1984, Chinatown was defined as 9 blocks, but now it is just a few. The neighborhood used to stretch all the way to the Convention Center from 4th to 9th Streets and from F Street to Massachusetts Avenue. Over the years, Chinatown became smaller and smaller. Although it may be hard to find remnants of old Chinatown amidst the new developments, there are community groups in the area that are working hard to preserve its character, culture and traditions.