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greeceAthens Chinatown

grIn the 1990s, Chinese entrepreneurs began establishing businesses in Greece. Many of these overseas Chinese in Greece settled in Athens, the Greek capital.

It hosts the largest number of Chinese with most of the businesses located in the Gazi, Keramikos, Metaxourgio and Psiri areas. Not surprisingly, Athens Chinatown emerged in this area.

The Athens Chinatown is a loose collection of streets with strong Chinese presence. It is a very young Chinatown and still evolving as reflected by the nature of its Chinese organisations.

Red Lanterns of Athens Chinatown

The Chinese migrants have organised organisations such as the Athens Chinatown and the Overseas Chinese Chamber of Commerce but typical features of Chinatowns such as archways, temples, monasteries, clan associations or schools have yet to evolve.

The most visible clue of Chinese businesses and Chinese presence are the red lanterns hung outside their shops, usually a pair but sometimes an entire row stretching across the shop front.

Of course, the Chinese characters and even images of Forbidden City or Temple of Heaven on the shop signage are another indicator but collectively, the red lanterns remain the most visible and collective symbol of Chinese presence in Athens.

Chinese New Year in Athens Chinatown

In 2010, the Chinese community hosted the first public Chinese New Year celebration. With lion dances and performances, the event at central Kotzia square attracted the Chinese community and Greeks to welcome the New Year.

The event was attended by the Chinese Ambassador to Greece, HE  Luo Linquan, and Mayor of the City of Athens Nikitas Kaklamanis.

The Mayor in his address talked about the China-Greek friendship as well as China and Greece being two cradles of civilisations in the east and west.

Tensions in Athens Chinatown

The Chinese presence has resulted in some tension so perhaps public events such as the Chinese New Year celebration can create a bridge for people from two of the oldest civilisations to interact and to develop mutually beneficial relationships.

Maybe someday, we can see an archway to Athens Chinatown designed by Greek and Chinese cultural experts integrating both Chinese and Hellenistic features.

 

 

 

 

 

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