Historical Sites

    Confucius Memorial

Confucius Memorial sits in front of Confucius Plaza, a federally-subsidized cooperative housing project in Chinatown. The Confucius Memorial gives honor to probably the most revered philosopher in Chinese history, Confucius (551-479 B.C.). Inscribed at the base of this massive statue is a translated passage from one of Confucius’s teachings: “The Chapter of Great Harmony (Ta Tung),” this excerpt does well to remind the curious passerby of one of the central themes in Confucius's teachings: harmony and peace in the world.

Base of the memorial reads: “When the Great Principle prevails the world is a common-wealth in which rulers are selected according to their wisdom and ability. Mutual confidence is promoted and good neighborliness cultivated. Hence men do not regard as parents only their parents nor do they treat as children only their children. Provision is secured for the aged till death, employment for the able bodied and the means of growing up for the young. Helpless widows and widowers orphans and the lonely as well as the sick and the disabled are well cared for. Men have their respective occupations and women their homes. They do not like to see wealth lying idle, yet they do not keep it for their own gratification. They despise indolence, yet they do not use their energies for their own benefit. In this way selfish schemings are repressed, and robbers, thieves and other lawless men no longer exist, and there is no need for people to shut their outer doors. This is the Great Harmony (Ta Tung).


     Statue of Commissioner Lin

Adjacent to the Confucius Memorial, and at the heart of Chatham Square is the Statue of Commissioner Lin. Lin Ze Xu (1785-1850) is a highly admired figure in Chinese history. He was applauded for his work during the Opium Wars. Inscribed at the base of this statue are the words: “Pioneer in the War Against Drugs.” The direction that this statue is facing is also significant as Commissioner Lin, originally from the Fujian Province, guards over the new Fuzhounese territory of Chinatown: East Broadway. 

    Kimlau Memorial Arch

Directly next to the Statue of Commissioner Lin, is a memorial arch erected in 1962 and dedicated to all the Chinese-Americans that served in the U.S. military and lost their lives in World War Two. The heading of the arch reads: In memory of the Americans of Chinese ancestry who lost their lives in defense of freedom and democracy." The architect for this monument is Poy G. Lee. The arch is named after 2nd Lt. Benjamin Ralph Kimlau, who was a Chinese American bomber pilot who died during his service. 

Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association (CCBA)

(Created with flickr slideshow.)
Located at 62-64 Mott Street, the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association (CCBA) has provided services for the Chinese community for more than 125 years. Originally founded in 1883, CCBA has long played a “quasi-government” role in Chinatown. The President of CCBA has always been referred to as the unofficial “Mayor of Chinatown.” Today, CCBA continues to provide many services to the residents of Chinatown. According to the organization, its roles include "serving as a bridge between Chinese and non-Chinese groups, promoting Chinese-American interests, engaging in charitable activities, providing citizenship applications and voter registration services." CCBA is also the home to The New York Chinese School, and it also houses the services of Baruch VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance). 


The Heart of Old Chinatown

Today, Chinatown has spread across Canal Street into the old Little Italy section, as well as east into the Lower East Side. To catch a glimpse of Chinatown history, wander the triangle of streets that comprised Chinatown in the late 19th and early 20th centuries: Pell, Mott, and Doyers Streets. In this small area, you will find the family associations, trade groups, and same origin organizations that managed Chinatown life for much of the 20th century. The flags each group flies will tell you which organizations claim loyalty to the Republic of China (which ruled mainland China from 1927 until 1949 before fleeing to Taiwan) and which ones align themselves with the People's Republic of China. You will also find one of the oldest churches in Manhattan (the Church of the Transfiguration, dating to the early 19th century), the oldest Buddhist temple on the East Coast, and the oldest townhouse in the city.


Pell Street in the early 20th century. Photo courtesy of the New York Public Library