On January 25, the Chinese celebrate their New Year. According to the Chinese calendar, this day heralds the year of the metal rat.
It is not only celebrated in China, but also in many other East Asian countries like Korea, Vietnam and Taiwan – and of course everywhere where many people of Asian origin live. This is also the case in Paris, which has a large Asian minority and several so-called Chinatowns. The largest is located in the 13th arrondissement. Thousands of Chinese live here, mainly from French Polynesia and French Guiana, but there are also many Vietnamese, Indonesians and Sino-Indonesians from New Caledonia residents in addition.
The celebrations for this year's Chinese New Year in Paris extend over several days and include a varied program of concerts, exhibitions, conferences, markets and balls – a celebration for the whole family. Among the highlights are the pompous New Year parades with dragons and Bengal fire: the parade of the 13th district will take place on Sunday, February 2, in the Chinese Quarter, followed by the famous “Défilé du Nouvel An Chinois du Marais”, which starts next Sunday, January 26, at 2pm at the Place de la République. This year's program can be found here.
In any case, it is already certain that the Chinese community will once again outdo itself in celebrating a colourful and spectacular festival with which it will transport its European fellow citizens into another world.
The history of the Chinese in Paris
The first Chinese immigrants settled in the Parisian quarter Arts-et-Métiers around 1900 and began to manufacture leather goods there. After World War I, Chinese soldiers who had fought on the side of the Allies during the war settled in the 3rd arrondissement and around the Gare de Lyon station. In the 1920s, Chinese students founded the French arm of the Chinese Communist Party in the 13th district of Paris. But the first real wave of immigration from Asia began in the mid-1970s due to the unstable political situation in Southeast Asia (Vietnam and Laos wars, civil war in Cambodia). Especially the Chinese minority of these countries, who were massively persecuted during this period, fled by the thousands and founded the first Chinatown in the 13th arrondissement, which at that time had a large number of empty apartments in the recently completed high-rise buildings. In the following years, this district developed into the centre of the Asian community, in which more and more Laotians, Thais and Cambodians settled alongside Chinese. In total, around 35,000 people of Asian origin live in the district today.
Even if the Asian immigrants initially had to struggle with mistrust and prejudice in some cases, they were generally accepted quickly. They opened up shops, saved the housing project in Choisy-Ivry from failure by settling in the new construction towers scorned by the Parisians, and filled the previously grey and run-down neighbourhood with life.
Asia in Paris
The many Asian immigrants in Paris are of course not only noticeable on the Chinese New Year. With their shops, restaurants, museums and exhibitions they have a decisive influence on life in the city. Here are two tips where you can experience the flair and culture of Asia up close in the capital.
Musée Guimet – the wisdom of Asia in Paris
4 floors of museum dedicated to the Asian peoples of the modern age, starting with Southeast Asia and India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nepal and Tibet, to Korea, Japan and China. The museum contains the largest collection of Asian artworks in Europe. On a free audio-guided tour, you can admire, among other things, countless Buddha and Shiva statues and valuable Chinese vases. The museum also offers various temporary exhibitions, a cafeteria and a museum shop.
6 place Iéna
Metro stop: Iéna (Line 9)
Galérie Hoa Mai – Vietnam in Paris
The only Parisian museum dedicated exclusively to Vietnam was opened in October 2003. The gallery shows masterful works of contemporary art. It is also the venue of conferences related to Vietnam
25 rue Guénégaud
Metro stop: Saint Michel (Line 4)