Amhoff, Tilo; Loo, Yat-Ming: “Limehouse ‘Chinatown’ Walk. 5 Walks in Limehouse / London”, in: London Metropolitan Archives, Chinese National Healthy Living Centre: Footprints of the Dragon. London Chinese Archives Project, (London, Spring/Summer 2008).
The collaboration with Yat-Ming Loo arose from a long friendship, from being tour guides to each other in our countries, and from elaborate debates on questions of history, identity, and cultural differences.
From this particular experience sprung the idea of the guided walk as a form of mediating a cultural and architectural history in urban space. It was informed by discussion in our reading group of that time.
For the London Chinese Archives Project we could test the idea of a walk relating local and global history, actual sites and architectural evidence, and the past and present Chinese communities in East London.
The ‘Limehouse’ Chinatown walk was part of the Footprints of the Dragon Project, a cooperation of the London Metropolitan Archive and the Chinese National Healthy Living Centre. The project aimed to create an archive of the Chinese community in London.
The walk was specifically designed to disseminate the history of the Chinese community to a wider public. Five different groups, two from the London Chinese community, two from the local community, and one from the academic community were taken on a tour to the area of London’s first and no longer existing ‘Chinatown’ in Limehouse.
It was an attempt to reconstruct and describe the history of the Chinese community in London and their first community building at the original site near the former West India Docks, in the actual urban space, even though almost no traces of it survived till today.
During the walk the groups visited the actual sites, did listen to stories of these places, and were shown historic images of its former occupation. At Tower Hamlets Chinese Association the group members had the chance to look at some of the collected items from the London Chinese Archive Project. A tour of memorials, gravestones, and wildlife at Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park concluded the walk.
It was designed in close collaboration with project manager Yat-Ming Loo and with the help of Cemetery Park Liaison Officer Kenneth Greenway. The members of staff at Tower Hamlets Local History Library provided invaluable information and granted access to rare original material.