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CHINATOWN in the Time of the TONG WARS

Kick off your Labor Day weekend in Chinatown!

One hundred years ago to the non-Asian New Yorker, Chinatown seemed a mysterious place that they didn't dare visit alone, but instead required guides brave enough to take them into a set of streets they imagined filled with opium dens and fantan parlors--guides that were called lobbygows.

Come with us now on a lobbygow journey where we'll separate fact from fiction in the years before and immediately after the infamous Chinese Exclusion Act and its impact on New York's Chinese population, but especially as we travel back to the year 1909, as we recall the sensational Chinatown Trunk Murder, the tragic concubine Bow Kum, the nefarious Mock Duck, and the time when Chinese slew Chinese in these very streets during the greatest of the Tong Wars just a century ago.

*Please note: This tour is about Chinatown from the 1850s through the early 20th century, not present-day Chinatown. Think of it as similar to a Little Italy Mafia tour*

Where to meet: On the island called Kimlau Memorial Square of Chatham Square, which is across the street from Citibank located at 2 Mott Street. There is a statue of an old-time Chinese official there. This is the busy traffic circle where Mott, Bowery, Worth, and East Broadway all come together. Take the 4,5 train to "Brooklyn Bridge", or the R to "City Hall" and walk down to Chinatown, or buses like the M9, 15, and 20 that go to Chatham Square, which is very close by, too.

When to meet: 10:45pm for an 11am start. I will be holding a sign that says "Chinatown Tong Wars".

Fee: $15 cash, exact change appreciated!

The tour will be approximately 2/2.5 hours long. While Friendly Native tours walk rain or shine 99.9% of the time, on rare occasions they will be postponed in cases of what can be deemed dangerous weather, and an email sent out to that effect to all who have registered for the event. Check the weather reports on the day of the tour; if there is a chance of rain, please bring your own umbrella! I re-injured my leg on the last rainy tour having to share my umbrella with someone else, so unfortunately I can't take a chance on that again.

The nearest restrooms to this location are right inside "Hamptons Market Place", though you probably have to buy something, like a bottle of water. Otherwise, there's a McDonald's further up the block on Bowery. Please be sure to "take care of things" before the start of the tour!

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  • Michelle

    We had a great time with much learning and laughter as Linda brought us back to Chinatown at the turn of the century. Linda is fantastic at making the stories of the folks who inhabited these former NYC neighborhoods come alive. It was a great way to spend the morning, and Chinatown will forever feel more alive to me after Linda's illumination.

    September 6, 2012

  • Bill

    Very well researched, fun, and entertaining.

    September 4, 2012

  • Barbara

    I enjoyed this very informative and fun tour. As a native New Yorker I learned new and interesting facts about the history of Chinatown!

    September 4, 2012

  • Carlotta

    Fantastic Meetup! Linda is an awesome guide! She did a ton of research and I learned more about the fascinating history of Chinatown in two hours than I thought possible!

    September 4, 2012

  • A former member
    A former member

    The Time of the Tong Wars tour was a great tour. I learned a lot about old Chinatown, some of the major characters and events of that time and even got an eye raising dose of NYC's historical treatment of the Chinese.

    September 4, 2012

  • Linda

    Lovely weather for us as we explored the dangerous times of long-ago Chinatown, with almost all of the buildings in question still very much in evidence. Nice to see Michelle, Barbara, Bill, and GA again, and to meet Amy, Astrid, Gilia, Carlotta, and Darcy for the first time. Quite a few of us went out to a tasty restaurant suggested by Amy, where we got to know each other more. A really wonderful time!

    September 2, 2012

  • Donna T.

    Hi Linda... I left my house at 10- got off the train at Canal St and went the wrong way on West Broadway. Totally lost...And after all that walking ended up at Washington Square- ye4s really. I have absolutely no inner radar once I get out of the numbered Streets and the avenues I know. I should have given myself 2 hours instead of 45 minutes... I am going to go with you the next time though. I know you wowed them.

    September 1, 2012

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