[Narrator 1:] What the explorers found was a very strange underground labyrinth of many rooms of various sizes connected by narrow passagways.
[Haunting music plays]
[Narrator 1:] Some of the brick walls had Chinese writing on them and newspaper editorial cartoons about China were displayed in what appeared to have been a living area. Other walls bore tabulations in Chinese and some even had coat hooks and in the corner of a large L-shaped room were a sink and an old stove, apparently used in connection with a laundry. Could this possibly be the mysterious hidden Chinese city that the people of Oklahoma had been searching for but could never find for over forty years?
[Narrator 2:]They came to Oklahoma from many nations. Newcomers to a new land, looking for better opportunities, a chance to begin again and what remains is their heritage. A rich heritage, that has become the Oklahoma image.
[Chinese music plays]
[Narrator 1:] In 1969, George Shirk, historian and past mayor of Oklahoma City, led an unusual expedition in search of a long hidden Chinese city beneath downtown Oklahoma City. For years, stories and rumors persisted about an entire city of Chinese people living underground with their own government, their own businesses and their own code of conduct. Many groups had searched and failed and it wasn't until Shirk's expedition opened a scarred white door in a downtown alley and descended the flight of steps leading to the underground city that there was any definite proof of its existance.
[Narrator 1:] Along with all the writing on the walls, there was a sign which translated "Come gamble". It did indeed look as if there were windows for taking bets and double locks on the doors. The explorers then discovered a second outside entrance and guessed that rooms similiar to the ones previously found existed under the remainder of the block but no access to them could be found.
[Sounds of a busy newspaper office]
[Narrator 1:] Once this information hit the newspapers, phone calls began pouring in from people who remembered the Chinese city. If their recollections are correct, this underground city extended for approximately 23 city blocks, an incredible distance for digging tunnels. If all the rumors were true there were so many tunnel entrances to this underground city that it was nearly impossible to walk a downtown sidewalk without falling into one. Some believe there were 50-60 Chinese living down there with their own ceremonial and burial areas the third level down.
[Narrator 1:] One woman remembered living in the downtown area as a child and knew that there were Chinese people in the basement apartments next to her. The only individual who was remembered by many was the leader of the Chinese city, Willy Huang. It was said that he would come to the aid of any of his people when they needed him. He made a living raising bean sprouts and mushrooms to sell to the different restaurants in Oklahoma City and operated a Chinese library at the same time.
[Narrator 1:] According to Oklahoma directories, several of the businesses over the hidden city were operated by the Chinese from 1910-1928 though directories after 1929 record no Chinese as living or operating businesses in the area. Some people recall that Chinese were there as late as the 1940s. Although Oklahoma City's new convention center now stands on the site where they once lived, the mystery of the Orient is not easily forgotten.
[Narrator 2:] This program was produced by the Oklahoma Image Project, funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities and brought to you as a public service by this station. Oklahoma Image is sponsored by the Oklahoma Department of Libraries and the Oklahoma Library Association.
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Part of the Oklahoma Image Statewide Humanities Project, Promoting Newcomers to a New Land book series.
Copyright of this digital resource, Oklahoma Department of Libraries, 2009. For further information regarding use please consult the Rights and Permissions page, http://www.crossroads.odl.state.ok.us/shell/rights.php or contact the holding institution of the digital resource.
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