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Ringing in a New Era in Old Chinatown

A replica of a 2,100- year-old bell gets a place of prominence as part of the area's revitalization efforts.

August 13, 2003|Joy L. Woodson | Times Staff Writer

As part of an effort to revitalize Chinatown, a replica of a 2,100-year-old Chinese bell was dedicated Tuesday at the entrance to the Metro Gold Line's Chinatown station.

The Yong Bell replica, weighing 1,500 pounds, has been on display in the lobby of the Cathay Bank's Chinatown branch since 2001, when it was sent to Los Angeles as a friendship gift from sister city Guangzhou.

"I think the bell is a symbol of peace," said Councilman Tom LaBonge, "which is very important for all of us to share."

Construction workers in China unearthed the original Yong Bell in 1983 when they stumbled upon the tomb of King Zhao Mei and his 15 servants, said Jeffrey Cheung, president of the Los Angeles-Guangzhou Sister City Assn.

Cheung said he hoped the Yong Bell replica would draw tourists to the area.

"I think there will be interest in it," he said. "Many [Angelenos] are curious about the history of China and the culture of China."

The recent opening of the Gold Line and the dedication of the bell are part of an effort to renew the area, where restaurants and art galleries also recently have opened, said George Yu, executive director of the Los Angeles Chinatown Business Council. Until now, he said, "Chinatown was thought to be just a very sleepy place that only the locals would visit."

Future plans for the area include a housing complex with 200 or more units and a 250-plus-space parking structure, both at College Street and Broadway.

Councilman Ed Reyes said he hopes that an urban-village feeling will begin to take shape in Chinatown in the next two or three years.

"We need to remind each other of how rich we are to be so diverse," Reyes said. "People don't have a clue as to what is really here."

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