Dragons Visit the Neighbors – San Francisco Chinatown



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San Francisco Chinatown is the largest Chinatown outside of Asia as well as the oldest Chinatown in North America. Celebration in honor of the Lunar New Year has been going on for over a week.  As the San Franciscans go about their business, there are intermittent firecracker pops in the air. We are surprised by a dragon dancing on a corner somewhere in the city. After the Climate Change Rally last Sunday my friend and I walked home winding our way through Chinatown. Hearing music we ducked into an alley. A  group had gathered around two small dragons. There were two dancers in each costume. We watched as the leader knocked on each door. The occupant would open the door and give the  leader a small red envelope which contained crisp new dollar bills. The lions danced, the cymbals clanged. It’s loud. It’s chaotic. It’s scary. It’s fun.  Firecrackers are thrown. One hit my leg as the dancing dragons moved on to the next neighboring door.

The first photograph in the above series was taken through a storefront window where the main dragon is on display until Saturday, the day of the Chinese New Year Parade. The Golden Dragon is over 201 feet long and is always featured at the end of the parade as the grand finale and will be accompanied by over 600,000 firecrackers! The Golden Dragon was made in Foshan, a small town in China. The Foshan dragonmasters formerly made all the costumes for the Cantonese opera, and the Golden Dragon bears many operatic touches, such as the rainbow colored pompoms on its 6 foot-long head. It is festooned from nose to tail with colored lights, decorated with silver rivets on both scaly sides and trimmed in white rabbit fur. The dragon, made on a skeleton of bamboo and rattan, is in 29 segments. It takes a team of 100 men and women to carry the Golden Dragon. This is also considered an honor to be chosen for the grand finale.

Click on images to see detail. See the red wax in the guy’s ear? The guy has drums and cymbals on a cart with wheels.

14 thoughts on “Dragons Visit the Neighbors – San Francisco Chinatown

  1. First riveted by the photos ACTION RED and GREEN! Then we read the terrific write up at breakfast before I forwarded it on to others. Now we’re talking about going to the parade.


    • LOL Glad it came across like that. It’s interesting to me to hear how readers interpret my posts. Yes and this was a tiny it seemed very private parade just with a little neighborhood in Chinatown. The big one is tomorrow night.


  2. I miss going to Chinese New Year…we used to go all the time in Hawaii when I was little and a few times in Los Angeles, when our family moved to CA. It’s been a long time…I liked the smell of the firecrackers and the excitement of it all, especially the dragon dance!! Thanks for sharing your beautiful pics!!


    • This was not tourist San Francisco. This was a little alley, traditional San Francisco.It was one of those wonderful surprises you encounter on the street as you know so well.Thanks for commenting Richard. Carla


    • I think it is interesting that you and I chose another way to portray an image through movement on the same day – you with snow in Canada and me with dragons in California. The title Animate bar(k)odes: the data of the landscape.is quite clever. Carla


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