The largest Chinatown in the United States can be found in Seattle, Washington, and was actually discovered by accident — by a couple from Taiwan who moved to Seattle and wanted to visit their family. They found that Seattle’s Chinatown was considerably larger than the one in San Francisco, and decided to stay in the city that now boasts the largest Chinese American community outside of Asia.
Chinatown is now home to over one million residents. Its historical landmark buildings, such as the Golden Pagoda, are preserved as they were originally intended. The city’s Chinatown has been described as “the third major ethnic community of color in the United States, after Brooklyn and the West Los Angeles-Santa Monica area.”
Chinatown’s ethnic composition reflects that of Seattle, Washington as a whole:
Chinatown was a place of ethnic diversity, with Chinese, Filipino and Japanese enclaves in addition to the Chinese. This was mostly an ethnic melting pot of the American West. The Chinese comprised about 60 percent of the population at the turn of the century, a small portion of which can be identified by name.
There are a number of historical events in Seattle that are also linked to the early history of Chinatown. These include the Great Seattle Fire of 1851, the building of the Occidental and Oriental railroads in the 1850s, and the establishment of the Pioneer Square district in the late 19th century. During this era, a significant number of Chinese immigrants made the trek to the Pacific Northwest to work in the lumber and salmon fisheries in places like Tacoma and Bellingham, Washington.
Chinatown in the present day is a center for entertainment and culture and offers many restaurants, bars, and entertainment venues. It also serves as a cultural center for Chinese Americans from around the United States. For example, the annual Chinese New Year Parade features floats, music, and cultural activities. It attracts hundreds of thousands of people each year.
Seattle is considered to be one of the top cities for Chinese Americans in the United States. This is largely due to the history of the West Coast as a place of opportunity for new immigrants. The early Chinese American experience in Seattle was somewhat different from in other parts of the country. Many Chinese Americans immigrated there from China in the late 19th century. They often stayed together with fellow Chinese, forming a new Seattle Chinese population that would maintain its distinctive character over time.