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A DAY IN

90012

The Yin-Yang of Chinatown

February 25, 2007|Jessica Gelt

In 1870, Chinatown was a block-long portion of a raucous part of downtown L.A. known as Calle de Los Negros. Many inhabitants were laundrymen, gardeners, road builders and ranch hands. On Oct. 24, 1871, a Caucasian mob shocked the nation when it massacred nearly two dozen Chinese. But Chinatown survived, and thrived. By 1910, the population exceeded 3,000; the neighborhood had an opera house, three temples and a newspaper. Plans for Union Station, which would displace many Chinese, forced residents to look for a new home. In 1938, they dedicated Central Plaza on North Broadway; its colorful lanterns, grand gates and shops made it a hit. Today it's one of the most revered tourist spots in L.A.

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ONE THING TO DO

Lions, Lanterns, Art, Oh My!

On March 3 from noon to 7 p.m., the Chinese American Museum will host Lantern Festival 2007 to coincide with its exhibit called "Celebrate! Chinese Holidays Through the Eyes of Children." At the free family-centric event, L.A.-based artists will teach visitors how to make traditional Chinese arts and crafts. There will also be live entertainment, including martial arts and lion dancers. Festivities culminate after dark, when participants and their handmade lanterns follow dancers and musicians in a spirited parade. 425 N. Los Angeles St., El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument, www.camla.org.

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23: Approximate number of art galleries

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EAT, DRINK

This Shrimp Will Slip By

Locals' devotion to the divine and glistening slippery shrimp at Yang Chow borders on fanaticism. "Ninety-nine out of 100 people who walk in will order it," says store manager Philip Lee, who explains that the owner's dad invented the sweet-sour-garlicky-spicy dish more than 20 years ago. "I think he played around with the shrimp and that's what came out." 819 N. Broadway, (213) 625-0811 . . . Foo Chow intrigues passersby with a sign painted on its exterior wall: "Jackie Chan's Bestseller Movie 'Rush Hour' was filmed here." Inside are pictures of beaming staff members with Chan and inexpensive, delicious menu items. The hot-n-sour soup is to die for. 949 N. Hill St., (213) 485-1294.

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SHOP, DROP

La-La's Land in L.A. Land

Munky King puts Toys R Us to shame with limited-edition creations, many conjured up by local artists. Manager John Fukuda says that the La-La's, "little pink, black and white blob-looking things" whose eyes turn on and off, are a popular new item. 441 Gin Ling Way, (213) 620-8787 . . . The Phoenix Bakery, which opened in 1938, is famous for its strawberry whipped cream cake. Many a darling picture has been taken in front of its mural of a shy, tubby boy hiding a colorfully wrapped gift box behind his back. The appropriately saccharine caption is "Sweets for the Sweet." 969 N. Broadway, (213) 628-4642.

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Art and Architecture: New, decorative banners went up on lampposts earlier this month announcing this year's Chinese zodiac sign: the Pig. Created by French artist Pascaline Doucin-Dahlke, they define the boundaries of Chinatown and depict the area's street and nightlife as well as landmark buildings. Doucin-Dahlke says they "convey the message that Chinatown is a creative and exotic place where East meets West."

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