New York’s rapidly growing Chinese community – over 400,000 according to the 2000 US Census – is comprised of many distinct cultural groups. The oldest and largest group consists of Cantonese speakers who emigrated mainly from southern China. However, more recently, many northern Mandarin-speaking Chinese and Fujian speakers from the southeastern coast have immigrated to the city, as well as ethnic Chinese immigrants from Vietnam, Thailand and the Philippines.
Among these newer immigrants are a large number of highly trained dancers, musicians and opera actors who are not able to find work in the arts. At the same time, there is a large and growing population of second-generation youth in the community who are quickly being assimilated into mainstream American culture and have little direct exposure to Chinese traditional performing arts. Over half of the local Chinese population is concentrated in lower Manhattan’s Chinatown. Large satellite communities are also found in Sunset Park (Brooklyn), in neighborhoods throughout the borough of Queens, and in northern New Jersey.
CTMD launched the Chinese Sustaining Cultural Initiative in 2006 with the primary goal of empowering Chinese youth and the artistic community with projects that raise the community’s cultural identity through the documentation, presentation and teaching of traditional performing arts. Additionally, the initiative seeks to broaden the general public’s appreciation of Chinese music and dance traditions.