There is a residential building. We can only see windows and fire escapes from the street, but those doors seem never to have been opened, and those windows never closed— even in a rainy day. Through the windows, we can see a variety of objects hanging or laying there: an empty soy sauce bottle, a cookie box wrapped with a red plastic bag, an old refrigerator, pale blue underpants and a clean white sheet hanging on a red string. These objects that are consistently there make this building lifeless.
Perhaps it is not just this residential building, but the entire Chinatown that never opens or closes.
San Francisco’s Chinatown, as a bridge between eastern and western culture, is not an unfamiliar place to Chinese or American nationals. It was once the only way that most Americans got in touch with Chinese culture, and was also the American dream to many immigrants from China.
However, nowadays local westerners consider Chinatown as a neighborhood filled with chaos: with restaurants that violate a litany of fire and health codes, and open markets that are full of crowds and crazy people. It is a tourists trap located between Union Square and Fisherman’s Wharf, and there is no culture in a tourist place. People come and go, no one really stays in this area, and so there is no culture.
I had stubbornly believed that San Franciscans are saying this because they are outsiders that have never really tried to understand the culture of Chinatown. As a Chinese national, I was trying to start this Chinatown project with an "insider" perspective… until I realized that the country that I had been born and raised in is totally different from this place.
China is rapidly developing. Modernization and urbanization never stops. Chinese students and immigrants coming to the US are no longer staying trapped in the Chinatown, but are getting to know the other parts of San Francisco, the real America. However, time seems frozen in Chinatown. Everything stays the same as decades ago. Chinatown exists in a separate space, and the rules of time out there work different than the neighboring area. Those immigrants, who have been living here since the time paused, maintaining the streets and the lifestyle, become the culture of Chinatown. They are the outsiders of the modern world.