The first authentic Imperial Chinese arch to be built in Europe stands proudly overlooking Faulkner Street. The paifang is painted red and gold, boasting ornate dragons and phoenixes and symbols of luck and prosperity. At first glance, you may assume it had been there for hundreds of years when, actually, it was erected in 1987! Manchester’s Chinatown is probably younger than you think.
While the first Chinese settlers arrived in the city in the early 20th century, they generally came alone and were involved in the laundry trade. The first Chinese restaurant to open was Ping Hong, in 1948, just before a wave of new settlers from China would arrive in the 1950s. Before World War 2, the Chinese population of Manchester only stood at around 2,000. After the war, Britain passed the British Nationality Act 1948 and many Chinese residents took advantage of the easier access into the country and came to settle, kick-starting the Chinese community.
The first flurry of activity was in the early 1960s, with several Oriental restaurants opening up. But, for reasons we don’t know, most of them closed their doors before the decade was over. Chinatown as a separate quarter of Manchester’s city centre has its roots in the 1970s. It was during this period we saw the birth of some of Manchester’s most legendary Chinese restaurants, such as Charlie Chan’s, the Woo Sang and the Little Yang Sing.
With the growth of the Chinese community came more businesses to provide services for the residents of the area. From Chinese legal advice to traditional medicine shops, Chinatown in Manchester quickly became the Chinese village for the entire North of England.
Fast forward to today – Chinatown is now one of the most colourful areas of the city and serves as a fantastic example of how modern Manchester has become one of the most culturally rich cities in the UK.
Take the Chinese New Year celebrations for example, where thousands of spectators and performers come together to take part in a monumental party featuring the largest dancing dragon in Europe! The celebrations have now been extended to span a full week – a display of confidence and a sign that Manchester’s Chinatown district intends to grow and grow.