Face Value: A portrait of Chicago's Chinatown

Armour Square's Chinatown wasn't the first Chinese settlement in Chicago. At the turn of the 20th century, earlier settlers lived downtown on Clark between Van Buren and Harrison. Then, due to high rent, crime, and discrimination, much of the Chinese population retreated from the Loop. The majority of Chinese Chicagoans followed one of two rival groups: the Hip Sing Association, which resettled north in Argyle Park, and the On Leong Association, which resettled south in Armour Square. The latter resulted in the building of a new headquarters on Wentworth and Cermak. Attached to the headquarters were 30 apartments and 15 shops that catered to the Chinese community. Now, 104 years later, Armour Square and its surrounding area boasts the densest Chinese population in the midwest. That number continues to grow, while other Chinatowns across the U.S. are shrinking due to gentrification. Affordable housing and a growing list of amenities has a large part to do with Armour Square's success. “Face Value” is a dynamic on going portrait of everyday life created in Chicago’s Chinatown.

Taken in 2017, a crowd watches the Chinese New Years Day Parade along Wentworth Avenue.  
Taken in 2016, a dragon dance performers practicing their routine before the Chinese New Years Day Parade. 
Taken in 2017, After the Chinee New Years Parade, a dragon lion dance troupe visits different businesses for a symbolic production where the lion eats a head of lettuce and a red envelope, scattering the lettuce to symbolize a fresh start and to garner prosperity. 
Taken in 2015, Two restaurant workers eat lunch, watching the Chinese New Years Day Parade on Wentworth Avenue in "Old Chinatown". 
Left: Taken in 2017, Yin Kean dressed a Chinese Empress at the Chinese American Museum of Chicago. Right: Taken in 2016, a lion dancer looks out from under his ornamental headpiece.
Taken in 2016, a man leads a dragon lion dance troupe to various businesses throughout Chinatown Square.
On Friday mornings, free Chinese newspapers are distributed throughout Chinatown and are the main sources for local, national, and international news. Taken in 2014, two seniors sitting in Chinatown Square, reading the newspaper.
Taken in 2015, silhouettes of teenagers looking at different Chinese zodiac sculptures in Chicago's Chinatown Square, one of the major social hubs for the Chinese community and greater Chicago. 
Left: Taken in 2016, the demolition of buildings on Cermak and Wentworth Avenue to begin phase one of a redevelopment plan making the intersection safer and aesthetically fit. Right: Taken in 2016, two senior aged men on Wentworth Avenue in "Old Chinatown". 
Chicago's Chinatown has several colorful murals located throughout the neighborhood. Taken in 2014, a mural celebrating diversity, designed and produced by Haines Elementary School students in 2002. 
Created in 1993, Chinatown Square is an outdoor mall that serves as commercial and social hub for the community. Taken in 2013, young people gathered outside a restaurant in Chinatown Square. 
Taken in 2015, two women looking through racks of clothes at the Summer Chinatown Fair.
Taken in 2014, a shopkeeper in Chinatown Square stretching in the open plaza.
Left: Sun Yat Sen Park was created to compensate as green space in 1977, after the city of Chicago decided to build Stevenson highway through Armour Square. Taken in 2015, groups of men socializing and playing Chinese chess in Sun Yat Sen Park. Right: Taken in 2014, two women holding hands while strolling through Chinatown Square. 
Taken in 2014, a reflection cast on the window of a banquet style restaurant in Chinatown Square.  
Left: Taken in 2016, a home garden beside an apartment unit. Right: Taken in 2016, an apartment unit located on 23rd Place. 
Bicycles are a common option of transportation for many Chinese seniors in the Chinese community. Taken in 2014, a woman biking next to the site of the future Chinatown Library.
Left: Taken in 2014, shadow formations in Chinatown Square. Right: Taken in 2016, a home gardener harvesting long beans from their backyard. 
People are legally permitted to fish out of the Chicago river, but city agencies advise not to eat the fish because of toxins and bacteria. Taken in 2016 in Ping Tom Park, a man casts his rod while fishing from the south branch of the Chicago River. 
Left: Qigong is said to strengthen weak muscles and improve balance on even surfaces. Taken in 2015, a senior aged woman practicing Qigong beside Ping Tom Park's pagoda styled pavilion. Right: Taken in 2015, a man walking through a residential area with a bundle of dried bamboo taken from Ping Tom Park. 
Due to culture and language barriers, it's very common for Chinese adults to maintain relationships exclusively with only other Chinese. Taken in 2014, two kitchen workers on break having a conversation outside a restaurant .
Left: Taken in 2013, a shopkeeper organizing inventory in a novelty store. Right: Over 33 % of the population in Armour Square are over 55, compared to the national average of 20%. Taken in 2015, light falls spills onto the back of a senior aged man in "Old Chinatown".
Taken in 2015, a senior crossing Wentworth Avenue beside a vacant building slated to get torn down.
Left: Taken in 2015, sun light spills through the trees and on to the outside wall of Tai Wah Company grocery store.Right: Taken in 2016, soy sauce buckets are used to line a residential walkway filled with plants. 
Taken in 2016, a makeshift garden erected next to an apartment building in Chicago's Chinatown.
Taken in 2016, a Chinese restaurant worker on his cell phone, while taking a break. 
Taken in 2016, a senior aged woman biking on Princeton Avenue. 
Left: Taken in 2016, a compact disc is hung in a home garden to reflect the sun and scare away small animals. Right: 2016, a gardener uses the glare of compacts discs to scare away pests in their home garden. 
Taken in 2013, four seniors walking through Chinatown Square. 
Back to Top