The Chinese community in Liverpool dates back to 1866 when The Blue Funnel Line started a fast steamship service direct to China. The Holt Shipping Line which owned Blue Funnel acquired premises for their Chinese workers to use as boarding houses in and around Cleveland Square. In time Chinese businesses were started to serve the growing community. Originally closer to the docks Chinatown moved inland as new tenement blocks in Kent, White & Nelson Streets were built to replace court housing. By the nineteen seventies a cluster of Chinese businesses had become established in Nelson Street. The immense imperial arch is the largest in Europe and was completed in September 2000 marking the twinning of Liverpool with Shanghai. It had been many years in the making, the product of extended co-operation between the Liverpool Chinatown Business Association, Liverpool City Council and Liverpool Chamber of Commerce. It was designed by Mr. Zhang of The South Linyi Building Company of Shanghai. Made in sections in China, it was assembled by eight Shanghai craftsmen who spent 18 weeks in Liverpool completing the project. It has five rooves and over 200 dragons, twelve of the dragons are pregnant, a sign of particular good fortune. It is placed in accordance with the principles of feng-shui to afford optimum good will and protection to Chinatown. The arch is protected by three pairs of temple lions or fu-dogs, which stand in Nelson Street, Berry Street & Great George Street and must be placed according to the correct principles of feng-shui. The legend portrayed in the three panels below the highest roof 'Zhong Guo Cheng' translates simply as 'Chinatown' according to the official Liverpool tourist web site. However Ken Pye states that the panels translate as 'Middle Kingdom', the ancient name for China.
Alan Maycock © 2008
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