Experience Chinese culture, cuisine, and more in Chicago

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Chinese immigrants first began settling in Chicago in the late 1800s. Since then, the city’s Chinese population has put down deep roots in Chinatown, transforming the neighborhood into a close-knit community where residents and visitors can immerse themselves in Chinese culture and history.

But the influence of the city’s Chinese residents has spread far beyond Chinatown. Today, you can find homages to Chinese culture in almost every corner of Chicago, from restaurants to art museums to cultural events.

Start your exploration with this guide to Chinese culture in Chicago curated by Sharyne Moy Tu, a lifelong Chicago resident and former Executive Director of the Chicago Chinatown Chamber of Commerce.

Explore Chinatown

Chinatown ©Adam Alexander Photography

Chicago’s historic Chinatown has called Wentworth Avenue home for over 100 years. During that time, the neighborhood has grown to include a wealth of authentic restaurants, unique shops, celebrated cultural institutions, striking public art, traditional architecture, and more.

“Chinatown has continued to embrace its cultural heritage since it was established in 1912 at its current location,” says Sharyne. “Community groups work hard to maintain the culture for current and future generations by hosting activities and events. This draws visitors from the city and beyond to attend and participate.” 

Stroll through Ping Tom Memorial Park

Ping Tom Park Chicago, photo by Alejandro Reyes

Located along the riverfront in Chinatown, Ping Tom Memorial Park is a former train yard that’s been transformed into a public green space with stunning city views. Along with ample amenities like kayak rentals and a swimming pool, the park is home to a pagoda-style pavilion and Chinese landscape design elements to honor the neighborhood’s heritage. 

Dine at restaurants serving Chinese cuisine

Friends eat outside at Ming Hin in Chicago's Chinatown
Chinatown; photo by Adam Alexander

Chicago is home to a wealth of options when it comes to Chinese cuisine, from traditional regional dishes to modern fusion styles. Check out just a few of Sharyne’s favorite spots to eat in Chinatown and beyond:

Explore the Chinese American Museum of Chicago

The Chinese American Museum of Chicago hosts exhibits that examine and promote the culture and history of Chinese Americans in Chicago, the Midwest, and beyond. Their permanent exhibition Great Wall to Great Lakes explores Chinese immigration to the Midwest through first-hand stories. They also host events like community workshops, screenings, and talks.

Walk through Asia on Argyle

Asia on Argyle; photo by Adam Alexader

In the Uptown neighborhood, Argyle Street has evolved into a colorful cultural corridor representing a true melting pot of cultures. Known as “Asia on Argyle,” the area is home to a wealth of local restaurants and businesses run by immigrants and first-generation Americans. This includes many dining options serving Chinese cuisine, including two family-owned spots: Furama (specializing in Cantonese and Mandarin culinary traditions) and Sun Wah (a top destination for Hong Kong-style barbecue).

Check out the Chinese Fine Arts Society

The Chinese Fine Arts Society is dedicated to enhancing appreciation of Chinese culture in Chicago through music, dance, and visual arts. They host a variety of events designed to encourage cultural exchange and promote the pursuit of excellence in Chinese arts. Mark your calendar for signature happenings like the annual Music Festival in Honor of Confucius, where young musicians present various forms of Chinese music.

Celebrate Chinese New Year

There are a variety of events dedicated to Chinese culture throughout the year in Chicago, and one of the biggest is Chinese New Year. A signature aspect of the celebration is the Chinese New Year Parade that runs through the heart of Chinatown with traditional lion dances, performers, community groups, and more. You can also attend dinner and dumpling-making classes, cultural performances, and special shopping events throughout the city.

Attend Chinese cultural events and celebrations

Celebrate Chinese culture all year long with these unique events spotlighting film, cuisine, local businesses, and more. 

  • Chicago Dragon Boat Race for Literacy: This summertime competition is a day of outdoor family fun for a good cause.
  • Chinatown Summer Fair: Kick off summer with captivating performances, kung fu demonstrations, cuisine from Chinatown’s restaurants, kids activities, and more.
  • Asian Pop-Up Cinema: This ongoing film festival endeavors to increase appreciation for Asian cultures through film.
  • Dim Sum & Then Sum 5k/10k: This annual race, hosted by Chinese Mutual Aid Association, kicks off with a traditional Chinese lion dance.
  • Mid-Autumn Moon Festival: Come see the streets of Chinatown adorned with lanterns and enjoy traditional treats like moon cakes and chrysanthemum wine.
  • Asian American Showcase: This film festival at the Gene Siskel is a showcase of Asian American talent in cinema.

Sharyne Moy Tu

About Sharyne Moy Tu

Sharyne Moy Tu is a lifelong resident of Chicago. She and her family lived and worked in a laundry in the Auburn-Gresham neighborhood on the south side, and later moved to Chinatown. After graduating from the University of Illinois Chicago, Sharyne set off on a career path which encompassed over forty years in management in the corporate, retail credit, banking, non-profit, event planning, association and tourism industries. She has been an active volunteer for many years including the roles of protocol volunteer with the Chicago 2016 Olympic Bid, character balloon handler during the Thanksgiving Day Parades, section lead at Chicago Loop Alliance’s Sundays on State events, Choose Chicago Greeter and Ambassador, and volunteer at the James Beard Foundation Awards. Sharyne is also a photographer and has shown her work in various locations in addition to two solo exhibitions She is currently a concierge at the Chicago Visitor Information Center located at Macy’s on State Street.

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