The Mid-Autumn Festival in Philadelphia’s Chinatown

Saturday was the Mid-Autmn Festival in Philadelphia’s Chinatown. The event included singing, dancing, and a parade of lion and dragon dancers. It was a really fun experience, and I think part of what made it work was the design of the Chinatown neighborhood.

First of all, the main part of Chinatown does not have any major streets going through it, which allowed them to essentially shut down the entire neighborhood to cars. This allowed them to set up a stage at the intersection of Arch and 10th and seats set up in front of it further north on 10th. The parade, which started literally right on front of our building (pictured above), made a sort of figure 8, going up 11th, across Race to 9th, up to Winter, back to 10th, and down to 10th and Cherry. It was interesting to walk through these streets with no cars but plenty of people. It was amazing how, when the streets were full of people, it still seemed fairly full and busy:but felt very different when they were mostly empty:I felt like it really hits home how much of our streets are devoted to cars. When you’re just walking on the sidewalk, you feel like streets are very narrow, but when you stand in the middle of them with no cars, even the narrow ones in Chinatown feel very large.The parade finished with a dance number at the intersection of 10th and Arch. Although this is a very central location to the Chinatown neighborhood, I wonder what it would be like if Chinatown actually had a public plaza or park, which it lacks entirely. These sort of public spaces are important for a neighborhood, especially with these sort of public festivals. In a neighborhood like Chinatown, with a very active market stall culture, this space might function as a sort of farmer’s market the rest of the year, and be cleared for special events. These sort of spaces are important for a neighborhood, and can help festivals like the Mid-Autumn Festival in their effort to pass culture and history on to the next generation.


About Dave Munson
This blog is about architecture, cities, and myself.

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