In the first year following the memorable opening, the Hong buildings on Gin Ling Way would be completed. So would the famed landmark East Gate or Broadway Gate, also constructed by Y.C. Hong. The Seven Star Sacred Caverns and wishing pool would also be completed by artist Prof. Liu Hong Kay. The Caverns are an artistic rendering of an actual scenic spot in Guangdong province, China. A willow tree would be planted at the pool by Paramount’s Anna May Wong.
The East Gate is else know as the Gate of Maternal Virtues, erected by Hong in honor of his mother. The four character poem states, “The spirit of (Mother) Meng and (Mother) Ow.” These women were exemplary mothers in the history and culture of China, and so appropriately were revered by their offspring, as each Chinese child should revere and respect his mother. The first lighting ceremony of the East Gate took place on the first anniversary of New Chinatown. This historic event reprised years later in 1985, when the East Gate was ceremoniously refit following a major rehabilitation and beautification effort by the Chinatown Project of the Community Redevelopment Agency.
Events which received public notice included the celebration of the Chinese New Year around January 26, 1939, and the colorful first anniversary celebration in June, chaired by Peter SooHoo and Y.C. Hong. The celebration began with a press reception at the Forbidden Palace and ran for a week. Featured was the Mei Wah Girls Drill Team led by drum majorette Barbara Jean Wong. There were fireworks, street dancing, and booths.
By the second anniversary the mall was averaging 20,000 visitors a week, so said Walter Yip, now president of the association. The anniversary celebration nowfeatured a lantern parade on the New Chinatown street, the highlights of which were the Mei Wah girls and a ceremonial dragon. Speeches were held and the Jinnistan Grotto (Chinese) band appeared at the East Gate stage.
In early 1941, the five tier pagoda of today’s Hop Louie-Jade Pagoda (Golden Pagoda) was constructed. This perhaps was the last major landmark to be erected characterizing today’s New Chinatown Central Plaza. The rapid success of New Chinatown led to the development plans for a West Chinatown across Hill Street, and so the Chinese Development Company was formed. This new effort would lay dormant until after World War II. The shadow of war in the Pacific and the Asian mainland led to a major community festival in early August, the Moon Festival. The proceeds of event were to be used for war relief in China, which was hard pressed by the Japanese invader. For the first time, the three existing Chinatowns in Los Angeles were in close cooperation: Old Chinatown, China City, and New Chinatown. For three days major parades on the thoroughfares of Los Angeles connected all three Chinatowns. Movie stars were seen everywhere. Entertainment and fundraising booths were set up in all three areas.
As the community entered the days of World War II, when new, more serious priorities would arise, Herbert Lapham could summarize the entire effort by the following remark which remains true nearly fifty years later:
“It is quite a thing, this new Los Angeles Chinatown. It is a credit to the enterprise, the courage, and the pioneering spirit of these hard working people.” (Lapham, 1941).
(Authors are indebted to Peter SooHoo, Jr. and George W. Tom and to E. Bingham, “Saga of the Los Angeles Chinese.”)