World / Reporter's Journal

Chinese tourists bullish on part of New York where it all started

By William Hennelly (China Daily USA) Updated: 2016-05-26 04:51

A recent trip to Lower Manhattan for a dentist's appointment reminded me of the ubiquitous Chinese presence in the city.

Chinese tourists bullish on part of New York where it all startedAs I was walked down Broadway after getting out of the subway, I saw a China Daily USA vending box outside Trinity Church. Heading south toward the famous "Charging Bull", which symbolizes New York's standing as a financial capital, I witnessed scores of Chinese tourists, mostly middle age or older, streaming to the bronze structure.

Some also lined up to take photos nearby with a gracious New York City police officer.

Arturo Di Modica of Italy spent $360,000 to build the 7,100-pound (3,200-kilogram) bull sculpture that stands 11 feet (3.4 m) tall and measures 16 feet (4.9 m) long. It's the type of landmark that passers-by probably assume dates back at least to the 1929 stock market crash. It doesn't.

Di Modica created the bull after the 1987 stock market crash as a symbol of the "strength and power of the American people".

On Dec 15, 1989, in an act of "guerrilla art", Di Modica and helpers placed it beneath a 60-foot Christmas tree on Broad Street in front of the New York Stock Exchange as a Christmas gift to the city.

The police promptly impounded the popular metal bull. A public outcry followed, which led the city Parks Department to install it two blocks south in the plaza at Bowling Green on Dec 21, 1989. (Bowling Green, created in 1733, is New York City's oldest park and still has its original fence from that century.)

According to NYC & Co, the city's travel organization, New York had a record 58.3 million visitors in 2015. Of the city's four largest international markets — the UK, Canada, Brazil and China — China, which sent 852,000 visitors to the city in 2015, had the largest rate of growth (14 percent).

Chinese tourists regularly flock to the downtown area to visit the various landmarks, such as the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, but I wonder how many of them are aware of the area's ancient American history.

That part of New York is where the city started as the Dutch settlement of Nieuw Amsterdam; it was renamed New York after the English took it by force in 1664. They occupied the city until the late 1770s, when the Declaration of Independence and the Revolutionary War followed.

A short walk east from the bull is Fraunces Tavern, a Colonial-era inn still open today and where General George Washington bade farewell to his troops on Dec 4, 1783.

"With a heart full of love and gratitude, I now take leave of you," Washington told his Continental Army officers. "I most devoutly wish that your latter days may be as prosperous and happy as your former ones have been glorious and honorable."

And on Wall Street, a couple of hundred feet from where the bull was first placed, sits Federal Hall, where Washington took the oath of office as the first US president and which served as the first US capitol building.

As I entered the lobby on Broadway for my appointment, sitting on the reception desk of the building was that day's edition of China Daily.

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