Photos: China City, Recreating a Small Chinese Village

Masterminded by Los Angeles' socialite and civic leader Christine Sterling, China City was the Chinese equivalent to Olvera Street, the other ethnically focused tourist spot in Los Angeles which Sterling also created. China City was built using the sets from the 1937 film The Good Earth to recreate the feel of a small Chinese village in downtown L.A. Even though it traded in obvious racial stereotypes, China City became an alternative destination in New Chinatown for the businesses of Old Chinatown that had been dislocated during the construction of Union Station. Two major fires put an end to this enterprise, and all attention turned to the development of Chinatown Plaza, as we know it today.


China City, a tourist destination created by Los Angeles socialite Christine Sterling in June 1938.  Similar to her Mexican-themed Olvera Street, Sterling created China City with the manufactured feel of a small Chinese Village to attract sightseers.   
Actors perform a Chinese play, "Mu Lan," in China City on January 24, 1941.
Magician Chan Loo (Frank Chan), pulls a rabbit out of a box during his performance. 
Arla Laemmie dancing alone at a Chinese New Year celebration on Feburary 15, 1942.
Members of a Chinese band perform in China City.  Left to right: "Peanuts," Paul Fung, Mr. Tsin Nam Ling, Victor Wong, Wong Loy (with sword), and Ruby Ling, watching.
Actors backstage, preparing for a Chinese play, "Mu Lan," January 24, 1941.
David Chow performs a Chinese dance in China City.
Two girls hold parasols as they sit in rickshas in the main courtyard in China City.  Rickshas proved a major attraction amongst the tourist contingency. 
Panoramic view of China City, showing the north gate on Ord street. 
A merchant sits smoking a pipe.  
Firecrackers explode at the first anniversary of China City, on June 11, 1939.
Bird's-eye view of a fire-destroyed China City on Feburary 20, 1939.  Most of China City was destroyed, and businesses had to relocate to New Chinatown.
In the midst of the rubble, the Sitting Buddha contemplates after fire destroyed all of China City in 1939.