San Francisco: Chinaman's Chance

To sightseers tramping its cluttered avenues, San Francisco's Chinatown has always displayed a pungent blend of yang and yin. Those intertwined opposites—good and evil, sweet and sour, light and dark—describe not only Chinese philosophy but also the inner contradictions of a district whose neon signs and tourist bustle mask a swarming, sweatshop world of long hours, low pay, hard work and fear. For all its outward ambiance, the largest Chinese enclave outside Asia is one of America's most wretched slums.

Over forty thousand Chinese are jammed into the 42 blocks of Chinatown proper between Bush Street and Broadway, Kearny and...

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