San Diego Chinese Historical Museum

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404 Third Ave., San Diego, CA 92101
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Open:
10:30 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. (Wednesday - Sunday)
Make time to explore San Diego Chinese Historical Museum during your visit to the Gaslamp Quarter and learn about the origins and heritage of this community.
San Diego Chinese Historical Museum
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Explore the San Diego Chinese Historical Museum

The San Diego Chinese Historical Museum offers a rare perspective into one of the city’s communities that encourages visitors to witness its evolution from the early days of Chinese immigration to the present-day celebration of its culture and contributions. Located in the heart of downtown San Diego within the Gaslamp Quarter, this museum boasts an extensive collection of treasured objects, photographs, and documents that highlight the Chinese American experience in the city.

Prepare to be wowed when you visit this museum, which encompasses three buildings as well as a Chinese-styled garden. The main mission-style building was once used as a Chinese community church and center for language classes to help recent immigrants. After the building was restored and relocated to its present location not far from the Embarcadero, the museum opened its doors in 1996 and continues to educate and entertain thousands of visitors each year.

The museum frequently changes its displays and exhibits, making it an attraction worth more than one visit. It also remains steadfast in its mission to promote the art, history, culture, and gifts of the Chinese Americans that made and continue to make San Diego their home.

What makes this museum a must-see destination? The curated collection and display design tell a story of what life was like in the old country, coming to the US, the challenges of immigration and integration, and the honor and success of Chinese Americans who have participated in the American Dream. It is an inspiring journey, best told through the accounts and artifacts of the people who lived it.

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Hilton San Diego Bayfront
$206
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The Westin San Diego Gaslamp Quarter
$143
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Hilton San Diego Gaslamp Quarter
$176
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Horton Grand Hotel
$143
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What You Can Expect at SDCHM

Unlike other museums with professional administration to curate and display their collections, the San Diego Chinese Historical Museum’s array of relics and heirlooms were donated almost entirely from the local Chinese community.

Together, they weave a tapestry of stories of the past that combine with ongoing programming to make this museum as much a community center as it is a tribute to the history of Chinese Americans in San Diego.

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Exhibits and Extras

While SDCHM has a vast assortment of items in its archives, it does not rest on permanent displays alone. Instead, the exhibits showcase experiences or elements of Chinese American life in a more fluid way. Look for these vignettes during your visit:

Calligraphy and Painting

The ancient art of Chinese character writing and painting is explored through examples of this medium. Look at the scrolls to see how styles have changed while the materials stay the same.

Local Tips
Walking Virtual Tour
The SDCHM hosts regular walking tours of the Asian Pacific Historic District. You may access a virtual walking tour.

Scale Models

Marvel at the dioramas of a Chinese fishing village, old homes, and businesses based in San Diego’s Chinatown. These detailed scale models are fascinating, intricate, and accurate in their interpretations.

Exploring the Diaspora

Documents and photographs tell the story of Chinese Americans who assimilated into their communities yet retained their culture and customs. Some of these examples include the acceptance of Chinese restaurants and laundry services as industries where immigrants thrived.

Treasured Objects

The assortment of artifacts, heirlooms, and objects of historical significance that have been donated to the museum are rotated frequently. Some are from the old country, such as figurines and vases, bound-feet slippers, jade, cloisonne, and a fully restored rickshaw, to items from life in San Diego’s Chinatown, including laundry tools, opium pipes, and busts of honored community members.

Photos of Old San Diego

This display brings together photographs of Chinese immigrant contributions to the growth and development of the city. These images highlight everyday life in Chinatown, immigrants working on the Pacific Railroad, and old fishing junks in the harbor.

True Colors: Student Art Showcase

This exhibit allows students of traditional Chinese art forms to display their work. Some of art may be the result of lectures and programs offered by the San Diego Chinese Historical Museum.

Chinese Garden

Venture outside to the traditional garden to walk among the sculptures, observe the monument to the Chinese fishermen of La Playa, and enjoy the koi pond and waterfalls.

Expanding Your Understanding

Where this museum shines is through its educational programs, which are at the heart of its mission. Some of their community activities include weekly tai chi classes, a lecture series, live music performances, art classes, and even a meetup group where people can practice their Mandarin language skills.

The museum is also happy to arrange field trips and private group tours for a more informative experience.

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Horton Grand Hotel
Exterior view at night, Horton Grand Hotel
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For a one-of-a-kind hotel stay in historic Gaslamp Quarter, book a room at Horton Grand Hotel. This boutique hotel features comfortable rooms and amenities galore.
Prices Starting at $143
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Tips for a Successful Visit

  • Be sure to stop at one of the two museum stores for mementos to take home or give as gifts.
  • Remember that the entire collection is spread among three buildings which are a short walking distance apart from each other.
  • The museum hosts a monthly walking tour of the Asian Pacific historical district that covers old Chinatown as well as Japanese and Filipino neighborhoods.
  • Check the schedule of events to see upcoming special programming as well as Chinese holiday celebrations throughout the calendar year.

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Stay Nearby

Hilton San Diego Bayfront
Family Friendly
4 Star Rating4 Star Rating4 Star Rating4 Star Rating
Hilton San Diego Bayfront
from $206 / night
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The Westin San Diego Gaslamp Quarter
Family Friendly
4 Star Rating4 Star Rating4 Star Rating4 Star Rating
The Westin San Diego Gaslamp Quarter
from $143 / night
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Hilton San Diego Gaslamp Quarter
Family Friendly
4 Star Rating4 Star Rating4 Star Rating4 Star Rating
Hilton San Diego Gaslamp Quarter
from $176 / night
View Hotel
Horton Grand Hotel
Boutique Hotel
3 Star Rating3 Star Rating3 Star Rating
Horton Grand Hotel
from $143 / night
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