Yangon Chinatown or Tayote Tan as the Burmese called it, is in downtown Yangon, located west of the Sule Pagoda and was created when the British expanded the city in the 1850s. It lies between Shwe Daung Dan Street on the west and Shwe Dagon Pagoda Road on the east. The northern and southern borders are the Maha Bandoola Road and the Strand Road.
Within and around this area, the Chinese community built their residences, clan associations, 会馆, temples, offices, and shops. The location of these institutions reflected the historical spatial distribution of the Chinese in Yangon Chinatown. The Hokkien lived along Strand Road while the Cantonese congregate along Maha Bandoola Road.
However, there are exceptions to this rule. For example, the Hokkien community built their clan temple, Long Shan Tan, 龙山堂, on the Anawratha Road amongst the Cantonese community.
There are no friendship arches in Yangon Chinatown unlike many other Chinatowns. However, the usual clues of “Chinatowness” are everywhere such as the Chinese characters on signboards of Chinese businesses. These businesses include gold shops, restaurants, and shops offering CDs and DVDs of Chinese movies and Chinese pop music.
The major temples in Yangon Chinatown are the Cantonese Guan Yin Temple, 观音古庙, (Guan Yin Gu Miao) and the Hokkien Keng Hock Keong, 庆福宫, (Qing Fu Gong). Major Chinese festivals and religious celebrations are held in the two temples while clan associations organize programs and celebrations for their members.
Chinatown is not the official name of the area or of any of the roads but the concept of Chinatown has been in active use. There are businesses and property development projects that incorporated the term “Chinatown”.
Although the temples and clan associations in Yangon Chinatown are not often mentioned in tour guides, a visit to Yangon Chinatown especially during festive seasons shows how the overseas Chinese in Yangon continue to maintain and to transmit their cultural identity.