Chinese Flower Shop, San Francisco, 1904
The titles of several of Situ’s San Francisco Chinatown paintings include the dates 1904, 1905 and 1906. The early 20th century was a pivotal time for this community.
Chinatown was a vibrant commercial center where goods and services between the two cultures were exchanged and the success of the Chinese drew some negative attention as well. Anti-Chinese immigration laws had been passed and renewed and in 1904, a publicly traded company was incorporated with the goal of acquiring most of the land in Chinatown and dislocating the residents to an outlying area. This goal seemed easily achievable after the earthquake and fire of 1906. Chinatown was one of the worst hit areas and the Chinese-American businessmen and landlords organized to rebuild quickly. That effort, combined with the recognition of the economic value of Chinatown and international pressure, served to ensure that San Francisco’s Chinese community would stay in the neighborhood they had started back in the Gold Rush days of the mid-19th century.
“In this painting I focused on the two Chinese children’s expressions as they encountered an American girl” said the artist. “In my Chinatown scenes, I always try to incorporate an element of cultural crossroads.”