31 July 2018 by Roy Preece
Right here in Liverpool’s Chinatown the Chinese Ceremonial Arch is 15 metres high and is believed to be the largest one outside of China.
Photograph by John Allan
The Liverpool Ceremonial Arch was actually made in China, a gift from Shanghai which is Liverpool’s twin city, and shipped over in pieces. The arch is made of wood and marble, and painted in gold, red, green and yellow which traditionally was the colour reserved for kings and emperors. It displays 200 specially carved dragons and is guarded by two bronze lions.
Memorial Arches or Paifang have been built for over 2000 years in China to commemorate the great achievements or importance of a family's ancestors, often placed in front of a tomb, temple, or ancestral hall, or along a road. They are traditionally decorated with carvings of lucky animals or birds such as phoenixes from Chinese legends, and with wise sayings of scholars.
Today in the west these arches are used to mark the entrances to Chinese communities in big cities. Liverpool’s Chinatown is the largest and oldest in Europe, dating back to 1834 when private sea-faring trade with China expanded. By the1930s 200,000 Chinese lived there. Chinese made good sailors and were often used on British ships, in peace and in war. Chinatowns grew up in big ports to provide communities for these sailors when on leave and have gradually become part of the wider community.
Today the many restaurants and shops in Liverpool’s Chinatown are enjoyed by all races, especially at festivals such as Chinese New Year. Strong commercial links have developed between Chinese and British companies there.
Amongst the many dragons, letters on the Ceremonial Arch state: ZHONG GUO CHENG （中國城）which simply means CHINATOWN!’