Explore Chinese and Chinese American art, history and culture.

 The San Diego Chinese Historical Society and Museum is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to collect, preserve and share Chinese and Chinese American art, culture and history in order to educate the diverse community. For over twelve years, the museum has pursued this mission by presenting new exhibits, hosting lectures and Chinese holiday celebrations and presenting educational programs onsite and in schools. It has outgrown its original building, welcomed over 800 current members and become a landmark in the downtown community.

 In order to present a complete historical and cultural picture, the museum’s permanent collection includes artifacts from both sides of the Pacific. Extensive research produced models of old Chinatown, a Chinese fishing village, and several old Chinatown businesses. A marvelous bridal carriage from Yuncheng, Shanxi Province sits just inside the mission building’s front door and a magnificent alcove bed came to the museum all the way from Sichuan Province.

 The permanent collection is housed in a mission building designed in 1927 by the nephew of famed architect, Irving Gill, as a church for Chinese immigrants. The Chinese Historical Society was instrumental in saving this historic building where immigrants also learned English and slept in dormitories. It sits in the heart of the Asian Pacific Historic District where Chinese immigrants first settled in the late 1800s. Home to the Stingaree red light district at the time, this area is now the sight of thriving urban renewal, situated between the Convention Center and the Gaslamp Quarter restaurant district. The museum’s Asian Garden forms a tranquil oasis behind the mission building, and across the street, the museum’s new Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Extension hosts regularly rotating exhibits, lectures and a library of books in English and Chinese.

 The mission building quickly filled up with too many generous donations to possibly display, so the board of directors purchased additional display space in 2004. The museum fashioned the Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Extension (so named because of a generous donation by his descendants) into a modern gallery and lecture hall to house rotating exhibits such as the museum’s cloisonné and jade collections, works by masters of Chinese painting and other displays of rare artifacts on loan to the museum.

Yet, the museum founders were not satisfied with just compiling exhibits for people to come and see.  Since 1998, education and outreach programs have focused on bringing history to the people. In addition to inviting student and community groups into the museum for tours, museum staff members take Classroom Exhibit Presentations into local schools to teach about the Qin Dynasty, Chinese calligraphy, Chinese paper cutting or other cultural and historical topics. 

Annual Chinese holiday celebrations, new exhibit openings, lectures, and collaborative events all help draw new visitors into the museum.  Besides cosponsoring an annual Chinese New Year Festival, the museum works with the San Diego Chinese Art Society to present the annual San Diego International Music and Art Festival. The museum also compiled a registry of local Chinese Americans who served in the armed forces and invites them to an honorary luncheon in the idyllic garden every Veterans Day. The museum has also loaned exhibits to various local institutions including the Museum of Man, MiraCosta College and San Diego International Airport.