“Chinatown is dead. It is dead forever”
These were the words The San Jose Daily Herald declared the day after arson fire annihilated the city’s Market Street Chinatown on May 4, 1887. Other newspapers elaborated on the Daily Herald’s headline, describing the fire as “a blessing” and reporting “general rejoicing” among some of San Jose’s non-Chinese residents. What remained in the ashes – shards of pottery, fragmented glass, discarded shoes – were mostly thrown in community trash pits, slowly inhumed by layers of dirt and time. One hundred and twenty five years later, a mere ten minutes away from where the legacy of a Chinese community was once lost, City Beneath the City at the San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) presents salvaged artifacts from the Market Street Chinatown as a subtle epitaph to the past.