The Chinatown in Lower Manhattan is the largest of nine Chinatowns in New York City. To many people, it is simply known as THE New York Chinatown. By most measures, this is the largest and oldest Chinatown in the Western Hemisphere (a distinction that San Francisco's Chinatown also claims). The population of the entire neighborhood is estimated at around 100,000. Like many Chinatowns, Manhattan’s began when Cantonese immigrants moved to the area to set up businesses. The district grew throughout the later half of the 19th century, with more and more immigrants drawn to the area because they faced discrimination and had difficulty finding work elsewhere in the city.
This Chinatown has a classic streetscape, with neon and layers of signage covering the narrow roadways. The demographics and culture have changed drastically. After the 1970s, non-Cantonese dialect groups started immigrating to New York. Though Cantonese can still be heard, Mandarin, the official language of the People's Republic of China and Taiwan, is now, more or less, the lingua franca in this Chinatown.