Lanterns to celebrate the Chinese New Year 2023 rue Volta 3rd (l.), facade of the Mao Dumpling bar restaurant (r.)

Long withdrawn into itself, the Chinese community of Marais – established in the Arts-et-Métiers district since 1900 – is changing. Little by little, entrepreneurs in their thirties succeed their parents and we are witnessing a spectacular generational and cultural change.

While previous generations were focused on the professions of leather goods, restaurants and traditional caterers, the rising generation is opening restaurants in keeping with the times: Horiz (rue au Maire), Mao dumpling bar (rue Saintonge) and Sweetea's (rue de Gravilliers).

And while their parents expressed little, their children, who grew up in the increasingly “trendy” Marais, no longer hesitate to make their voices heard.

Mao Dumpling bar

The change is profound. “Our parents never took vacations and they were shocked when I told them that I was taking four days off, just two months after launching my restaurant,” says Alexandre Lin, who took over the business from his parents, changed the decor and transformed the menu to make Horiz a trendy address that is always full.

“The older generations spent their lives working. They passed on to us a taste for effort but that does not prevent us from wanting to enjoy life,” adds the young restaurateur who belongs to a daring generation: “When I announced to my parents that I wanted, with my brother Olivier, transforming the family restaurant, “dusting it off” to do something more current, my parents were worried, they were afraid that I would fail. »

Alexandre and Olivier from Horiz, © Vincent Tchou

Another newly installed restaurateur agrees: “Our parents were very discreet and a little isolated but our generation is different. We are aware that the Marais has been profoundly transformed and we want to participate in this change, while preserving the Chinese identity of the three historic streets of the first Parisian “Chinatown”. We want to make Chinatown more attractive for everyone. »

The progress made can also be measured by the testimony of this sixty-year-old from Marais, a notable member of the Chinese community who – discretion required – wishes to remain anonymous: “I remember that thirty years ago, the elected officials of the neighborhood alerted the Chinese traders because the Primary school teachers had noticed that their children were coming to class tired. The reason ? Most children in the community worked in family businesses. »

Thirty years later, it is clear that these children, supported by their parents, their families in the broad sense (cousins, uncles and aunts) and the entire community, are doing quite well.

Text: Katia Barillot

31.01.23

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