Discover AAPI Culture in Los Angeles

Museums, landmarks, and monuments

Thien Hau Temple in Chinatown
Thien Hau Temple | Photo: Chris Valle Photography, Discover Los Angeles Flickr Pool

Los Angeles is home to some of the largest Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) enclaves outside of their native countries. Generations of AAPI immigrants and Asian Americans have helped make LA one of the most diverse cities in the country. From cultural institutions to landmark buildings, World War II monuments and more, explore the rich cultures and vital histories of the AAPI community in Los Angeles.

NOTE: Hours and opening dates change frequently. Check individual websites for updated information.

Bruce Lee statue in Chinatown's Central Plaza
Bruce Lee statue in Chinatown's Central Plaza | Photo: @yagoddamnright, Instagram

Chinatown Central Plaza



Chinatown's bustling Central Plaza is home to must-see AAPI monuments like the 7-foot statue of Bruce Lee. The legendary martial arts star owned a studio a short walk from the statue, at 628 W. College St. A plaque commemorates Peter SooHoo Sr, the co-founder of Chinatown and the first Chinese American employee of the Department of Water and Power. (Peter's grandson is Jon SooHoo, the Dodgers' official photographer.) Nearby is the Chinese Celestial Dragon mural painted in 1941 by Tyrus Wong, who is renowned as the lead artist on Walt Disney's Bambi and for his work on numerous classic films.

Chinese American Museum

The Chinese American Museum



Located near Chinatown at El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument, the Chinese American Museum (CAM) is the first museum in Southern California that's dedicated to the Chinese American experience and history in this region. Spanning more than 150 years of history, the museum's permanent exhibitions include Origins: The Birth and Rise of Chinese American Communities in Los Angeles; Journeys, and the Sun Wing Wo General Store and Herb Shop installation. CAM is housed in the Garnier Building, the last surviving structure of LA’s original Chinatown.

Statue of Duke Kahanamoku at Duke's Malibu
Statue of Duke Kahanamoku | Photo: Duke's Malibu

Duke's Malibu



The legendary "Father of Surfing," Duke Kahanamoku was a five-time Olympic medalist in swimming. He was also an alternate on the U.S. water polo team at the 1932 Summer Olympics in LA. Thanks to his striking good looks, Duke appeared in numerous films as a character actor, which helped him popularize surfing in SoCal. Duke was a member of the Los Angeles Athletic Club in Downtown LA, where he was a lifeguard and competed on the swimming and water polo teams.

In the late 1920s, Duke frequently surfed at Malibu Point, now known as Surfrider Beach. Located off Pacific Coast Highway, Surfrider Beach was dedicated as the first World Surfing Reserve in October 2010. A short drive from Surfrider Beach, Duke's Malibu features a statue of Duke Kahanamoku that was unveiled for the restaurant's 20th anniversary in August 2016.

EAST WEST PLAYERS

East West Players



East West Players (EWP) was founded in 1965 by nine Asian American artists who wanted roles beyond the stereotypical parts they were offered in mainstream Hollywood. Since then, EWP has become the nation’s longest-running professional theater of color and the largest professional producer of AAPI theatrical work. EWP’s main stage is the David Henry Hwang Theatre, housed in the historic Union Center for the Arts on Judge John Aiso Street.

Eddie Van Halen mural at Guitar Center Hollywood
Eddie Van Halen mural by Robert Vargas | Photo: Guitar Center

Eddie Van Halen Mural



After Eddie Van Halen died in October 2020, many were surprised to learn that the legendary guitarist was of Asian descent. Eddie and his older brother Alex were born in Amsterdam to Dutch musician Jan Van Halen and Indonesian-born Eugenia Van Beers. In 1962, the Van Halen family relocated to the U.S. and settled in Pasadena. Eddie and Alex went on to found Van Halen, and tens of millions of albums later, the rest is rock 'n roll history.

On what would have been Eddie's 66th birthday, Guitar Center Hollywood unveiled a massive tribute mural by Robert Vargas. Titled "Long Live the King," the 17' x 105' mural depicts Eddie playing his iconic "Frankenstrat" guitar. Eddie's handprints are part of Guitar Center's RockWalk, and several of his instruments are on display inside the store.

Evergreen Memorial Park & Crematory

Evergreen Memorial Park & Crematory



Visitors can trace LA's history throughout Evergreen Memorial Park & Crematory, which was established in 1877 and is the city's oldest cemetery. Located in Boyle Heights, the 67-acre park is the final resting place for prominent Angelenos like Biddy Mason, John Strother Griffin (founder of East LA), Isaac Newton Van Nuys, and several former mayors. A non-denominational cemetery, Evergreen never banned African Americans from being buried there.

A 9-acre parcel known as Potter's Field was devoted to Chinese Americans and dates to the Gold Rush. In 1888, the Chinese community erected a large shrine that includes two 12-foot burners, an altar, and memorial stone. In the center of the park, a monument honors the Japanese Americans of the 442nd Infantry Regimental Combat Team who fought in World War II - the unit was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor by President Obama in 2010.

Filipino American WWII Veterans Memorial at Lake Street Park
Filipino American WWII Veterans Memorial | Photo: @richardskaterock, Instagram

Filipino American WWII Veterans Memorial



Located at Lake Street Park, the Filipino American World War II Veterans Memorial is the first monument dedicated to the 250,000 Filipino and 7,000 Filipino American soldiers who fought for the U.S. in WWII. Unveiled in November 2006, the monument features five slabs of polished black granite and commemorates the history of the Filipino veterans, from WWII to immigration to their subsequent fight for equality. Inscribed in the front of the memorial is a quote by Faustino “Peping” Baclig: “Bataan was not our last battlefield. We are still fighting for equity.” In October 2017, Filipino veterans of WWII were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, the nation's highest civilian honor.

Asian American timeline in the Yee Mee Loo bar at the Formosa Cafe
Asian American timeline in the Yee Mee Loo bar | Photo: Formosa Cafe

Formosa Café



Best known for its appearance in LA Confidential, the landmark Formosa Cafe reopened in June 2019 after a two-year, $2.4 million restoration. The revamp included a newly-built back room called Yee Mee Loo, named for a historic bar in Chinatown. Like the Formosa's main bar, there are black and white celebrity headshots in Yee Mee Loo - but there's a notable difference. Beginning with Marion Wong, who directed the earliest feature film by an Asian American in 1917, the 60 photos displayed on a beam trace a timeline of pioneering Asian American film, TV, stage and radio performers. The timeline was curated by filmmaker and historian Arthur Dong. The back room also features Hollywood Chinese at the Formosa, an exhibit of photos and lobby cards from Dong's collection of movie memorabilia centered on the depiction of Chinese in American feature films.

18th century oil lamp from India at the Fowler Museum at UCLA
18th century oil lamp from India | Photo: Fowler Museum at UCLA

Fowler Museum at UCLA



The Fowler Museum at UCLA explores global arts and cultures with an emphasis on works from Asia, the Pacific, Africa, and the Indigenous Americas—past and present. The Fowler's collections from Insular Southeast Asia, including Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, and aboriginal Taiwan, are considered among the strongest in the United States. The collections from mainland Asia are smaller but expanding, including textiles from Bhutan, Pakistan, India and Japan; baskets and decorative arts from Japan; puppetry from China, Thailand, India, and Turkey; and art and artifacts from Nepal. View hundreds of objects from Asia and the Pacific at the Fowler's digital collection.

Giant Robot “Big Boss” Robot Figures
Giant Robot “Big Boss” Robot Figures | Photo: @also_apple, Instagram

Giant Robot



Eric Nakamura opened his Giant Robot store on Sawtelle Boulevard in 2001, and helped jumpstart the renaissance of shops and restaurants in West LA's Sawtelle Japantown. Widely known as a mecca for Asian pop culture, Giant Robot continues to be a popular destination for Asian housewares, gifts, stationery, t-shirts, comics, plush and toy figures.

Two years after opening Giant Robot, Nakamura opened GR2 Gallery down the street. GR2 exhibits AAPI artists like Katsuya Terada, Luke Chueh, David Choe, Mari Inukai, Deth P Sun, Rob Sato, Ako Castuera, Sean Chao, Yoskay Yamamoto, Uglydoll, and many more.

Unidad Park - Gintong Kasaysayan Gintong Pamana mural

"Gintong Kasaysayan, Gintong Pamana"



Overlooking Unidad Park on Beverly Boulevard, Gintong Kasaysayan, Gintong Pamana ("Filipino Americans: A Glorious History, A Golden Legacy") is the largest Filipino American mural in the country. The 150'x30' mural was painted by artist Eliseo Art Silva when he was 22 years old and a junior at Otis College of Art and Design. According to the artist, the mural encapsulates 5,000 years of Filipino and Filipino American history. The design is divided into two parts - the first is historical (represented by the outline of a fish at sea), "leading up to the awakening of Filipino national and political consciousness." The second part is dominated by a huge bird with "significant Filipino Americans on its wings, the farm workers on the bottom left, and the youth and community on the right."

Go for Broke Monument in Little Tokyo
Go for Broke Monument in Little Tokyo | Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Go For Broke Monument



Located near the Geffen Contemporary in Little Tokyo, the Go For Broke Monument is the first memorial of its kind on the U.S. mainland. The 40-foot black granite circle is engraved with the names of more than 16,000 Japanese American soldiers and officers who served overseas during World War II. "Go for Broke" was the motto of the all-Nisei 442nd Regimental Combat Team, the most decorated unit in the history of American warfare. Members of the 442nd received over 18,000 awards in less than two years, including 21 Medals of Honor.

Hollywood Walk of Fame

Hollywood Walk of Fame



The world-famous Hollywood Walk of Fame features more than 2,600 terrazzo and brass stars embedded in the sidewalk along Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street. The five-pointed stars honor actors, musicians, directors, producers and others in the entertainment industry.

At a joint ceremony in February 1960, Anna May Wong and Sessue Hayakawa became the first Asian Americans to receive stars on the Walk of Fame. An LA native, Wong is renowned as the first Chinese American Hollywood movie star. Other Walk of Fame stars include the first Korean American honoree, Philip Ahn (posthumous, 1984); Bruce Lee (posthumous, 1993), and the second AAPI actress, Lucy Liu (2019). Liu's star is located next to Wong's at the corner of Hollywood and Vine.

Hsi Lai 1

Hsi Lai Temple



One of the largest Buddhist temples in the Western Hemisphere, Hsi Lai Temple is a mountain monastery located on a 15-acre site in Hacienda Heights. Spanning more than 102,000 square feet, the temple's architecture, gardens and statuary are modeled after ancient Chinese monasteries from the Ming and Ching dynasties. Meaning "coming to the West," Hsi Lai is affiliated with Fo Guang Shan, a Buddhist organization from Taiwan. The temple serves as a spiritual and cultural center for those interested in learning more about Buddhism and Chinese culture.

Huntington Library Chinese Garden Pavilion Bridge
Pavilion of the Three Friends and the Jade Ribbon Bridge at Garden of Flowing Fragrance | Photo: The Huntington Library

The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens



Founded in 1919, The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens is world-renowned as a cultural, research and educational center. The Botanical Gardens at The Huntington feature more than a dozen specialized gardens spanning 130 acres.

Perhaps The Huntington's most popular spot, the beloved Japanese Garden features a moon bridge, koi ponds, the historic Japanese House, and ceremonial teahouse. The garden also includes a bonsai collection and Zen Court.

Liu Fang Yuan ("Garden of Flowing Fragrance") is one of the largest classical-style Chinese gardens in the world. Designed to promote the rich traditions of Chinese culture, the 15-acre garden is filled with Chinese plants, pavilions, and references to literature and art.

James Irvine Japanese Garden
James Irvine Japanese Garden | Photo: JACCC, Facebook

Japanese American Cultural & Community Center



Since opening its doors in 1980, the Japanese American Cultural & Community Center (JACCC) has become one of the largest cultural art and community centers in the U.S. Its campus includes the Center Building, Aratani Theatre, JACCC Plaza (designed by Isamu Noguchi), and the award-winning James Irvine Japanese Garden. Known formally as Seiryu-en ("Garden of the Clear Stream"), this hidden green space was designed in the Zen tradition of the famous gardens of Kyoto, Japan.

CR-Watanabe-Oshogatsu-2015-DSC

Japanese American National Museum



Located in Little Tokyo, the Japanese American National Museum (JANM) is dedicated to telling the story of Americans of Japanese ancestry through historical and art exhibitions. Common Ground: The Heart of Community is a permanent exhibit that spans 130 years of Japanese American history, from the early days of the Issei (first generation) pioneers in the 1800s, through the World War II incarceration in internment camps, to the present. One of the artifacts on display is a Heart Mountain barracks, an original structure that's been saved and preserved from the WWII camp in Wyoming.

In 2005, JANM established the National Center for the Preservation of Democracy (NCPD). The project added 9,800 square feet to the existing 23,800 square-foot space in the renovated Buddhist temple building. The major addition was the creation of the 200-seat Tateuchi Democracy Forum theatre.

Lake view at SuihoEn (“Garden of Water and Fragrance”) in Van Nuys
SuihoEn (“Garden of Water and Fragrance”)  |  Photo: Yuri Hasegawa

Japanese Garden



Using reclaimed water from the Donald C. Tillman Water Reclamation Plant, Dr. Koichi Kawana created Suiho En (“Garden of Water and Fragrance”) to provide beauty, relaxation, inspiration and a better understanding of Japanese culture. Dr. Kawana designed over a dozen major Japanese gardens in the United States, including the botanical gardens at LACMA. Spanning 6.5 acres, Suiho En is fashioned after “stroll gardens” constructed during the 18th and 19th centuries for Japanese Feudal lords.

Sanrio Store at Japanese Village Plaza in Little Tokyo
Sanrio Store at Japanese Village Plaza in Little Tokyo | Photo: Sanrio

Japanese Village Plaza



The first Korean American architect, David Hyun studied architecture at USC and designed Little Tokyo's Japanese Village Plaza - including the famous Yagura Fire Tower - as well as several Modernist residences across LA. The historic shopping center is home to retail stores Sanrio, Japangeles, and Popkiller; and dining spots like Hama Sushi, Oomasa, and Ramen Maruya.

Rendering of the Korean American National Museum
Rendering: Korean American National Museum

Korean American National Museum



Located in the heart of Koreatown at the intersection of 6th Street and Vermont Avenue, the Korean American National Museum is a two-story, 30,000 square-foot space that's scheduled to open in 2022. Designed by LA-based Morphosis Architects and led by a team of predominantly Korean and Korean American architects and designers, the building is inspired by "a lifted, displaced landscape - a piece of Korea grafted onto Los Angeles." The museum follows the courtyard plan of a traditional Korean Hanok - the central open space is encircled by a flowing, interconnected ring of galleries. The rooftop garden features plants that are important to Korean culture, including maple, pine, and bamboo.

Korean Bell of Friendship in San Pedro
Korean Bell of Friendship  |  Photo: Yuri Hasegawa

Korean Bell Of Friendship



The Korean Bell of Friendship is a massive bronze bell housed in a stone pavilion located at Angel’s Gate Park in San Pedro. The 17-ton bell was presented by South Korea to the people of Los Angeles in 1976 to celebrate the U.S. Bicentennial and to symbolize friendship between the two nations. Four pairs of figures - a “Goddess of Liberty” and a Korean spirit - are engraved in relief on the bell. The bell is housed in a stone pavilion with 12 columns, each one representing an animal of the Korean zodiac. Formally known as the “Belfry of Friendship,” the pavilion is featured in The Usual Suspects (1995).

Koreatown Pavilion Garden

Koreatown Pavilion Garden



The 5,000 square-foot Koreatown Pavilion Garden is a traditional Korean gazebo with a small garden. Formally known as Da Wool Jung ("harmonious gathering place"), the Pavilion was built by South Korean craftsmen in January 2006. Although Korean immigrants started arriving in LA a century ago, it wasn’t until the 1960s that modern Koreatown began to take shape, when a grocery store opened across from the Pavilion's location on the northeast corner of Olympic and Irolo.

"The Fabric of Community" exhibition at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County
"The Fabric of Community" exhibition | Photo: NHM

Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County



The largest natural and historical museum in the Western U.S., the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County (NHM) has amassed a world-class collection of more than 35 million objects, some as old as 4.5 billion years. Highlights include Becoming Los Angeles, Age of Mammals, Dinosaur Hall, the Gem and Mineral Hall, the outdoor Nature Gardens, and NHM's famed dioramas.

The Fabric of Community is NHM's online exhibition of more than 450 tapa and woven mats from the Pacific Islands. Tapa were originally used for everything from clothing to ceremonial gifts. The tradition of tapa remains strong in Tonga, Samoa, and Fiji, and is experiencing a resurgence in Hawaii. The fabrics are often gifted at weddings, funerals, and other important life events.

NORMS La Cienega at night
NORMS La Cienega | Photo: NORMS Restaurants, Facebook

NORMS



Born in Old Chinatown, Helen Liu Fong was a pioneer of Googie architecture and designed the landmark NORMS on La Cienega and Pann's Restaurant in Westchester. Inspired by car culture, jets, the Space Age, and the Atomic Age, Googie architecture was a natural fit to develop and flourish in Los Angeles.

Norton Simon

Norton Simon Museum



The Norton Simon Museum houses a world-renowned collection of art from South and Southeast Asia that includes examples of the rich sculptural and painting traditions that developed in that region for more than 2,000 years. Named for the billionaire industrialist and philanthropist, the Norton Simon houses a collection of 12,000 objects that includes the only painting by Raphael on the West Coast, three portraits by Rembrandt, six paintings by Van Gogh, and over one hundred works by Degas.

Pacific Islander Festival at Aquarium of the Pacific
Pacific Islander Festival | Photo: Aquarium of the Pacific

Pacific Islander Festival (June 5, 2021)



Now in its 18th year, the Pacific Islander Festival will feature traditional music and dance, cultural displays, and craft demonstrations. Hosted by the Aquarium of the Pacific, the festival will livestream on Saturday, June 5 from 10am to 3:30pm. In previous years, the festival took place over two days and featured various cultures, including Hawaiian, Tahitian, Samoan, Fijian, Tongan, Chamoru, Marshallese, Kiribati, and Maori.

Space Shuttle Challenger Monument with Astronaut Ellison S. Onizuka plaque
Space Shuttle Challenger Monument | Photo: Rafu Shimpo

Space Shuttle Challenger Monument



Installed at Weller Court in Little Tokyo, the Space Shuttle Challenger Monument features a 1/10th scale model of the Challenger that stands 27 feet high and is mounted on a pedestal with a 7-foot base. Each side of the base consists of black granite with a bronze commemorative plaque. The front plaque is dedicated to Astronaut Ellison S. Onizuka, the first Asian American to reach space. The side plaques are dedicated to the Challenger crew and the U.S. Space Program, respectively.

Teahouse at the Storrier Stearns Japanese Garden in Pasadena
Photo: Storrier Stearns Japanese Garden, Facebook

Storrier Stearns Japanese Garden



Considered a masterwork, the Storrier Stearns Japanese Garden was designed in 1935 by Kinzuchi Fujii for Charles and Ellamae Storrier Stearns. Fujii dedicated seven years to create the garden, which he designed in the chisen kaiyu shiki ("strolling pond") style. The garden's current owners, Jim and Connie Haddad, worked closely with Dr. Takeo Uesugi to faithfully restore the garden. Dr. Uesugi's acclaimed projects include the James Irvine Japanese Garden at JACCC and the redesign of the Japanese Garden at The Huntington Library. Highlights of the restored garden include the 12-tatami mat teahouse, four original bridges, a traditional cedar log waiting house, two large connected ponds, and a 25-foot hill with cascading waterfall. The Storrier Stearns Japanese Garden was added to the National Register of Historic Places in February 2005.

Kinnari lamppost in Thai Town
Kinnari lamppost in Thai Town | Photo: @ejzhu, Instagram

Thai Town



Designated by the Los Angeles City Council on Oct. 27, 1999, Thai Town is a six-block area flanking Hollywood Boulevard between Normandie Avenue and Western Avenue. The East Hollywood neighborhood is the only officially designated Thai Town in the U.S.

The entrances to Thai Town are marked by statues of apsonsi (half-woman, half-lion angels in Thai folklore). Two kinnari lampposts - a gift from the Thai government to the City of Los Angeles - are located at Hollywood and Hobart. In Buddhist mythology, kinnaris are half-woman, half-swan creatures known for their dance, song, and poetry. The lampposts are installed at New Hollywood Plaza, which is home to the popular restaurants Pa Ord and Ruen Pair.

Thien Hau Temple in Chinatown
Thien Hau Temple | Photo: Chris Valle Photography, Discover Los Angeles Flickr Pool

Thien Hau Temple



Thien Hau Temple is a Taoist temple in Chinatown that's dedicated to Mazu, the goddess of the sea and the patron saint of sailors, fishermen, and those whose cultures are associated with the ocean. Shrines at the temple venerate Mazu, Guan Yu (god of war) and Fu De (god of the earth). On Lunar New Year’s Eve, crowds gather at the temple to receive blessings, burn incense, and worship the deities. Lion dancers perform and firecrackers are popped to scare away evil spirits. Blessings are given at the temple during the first few weeks of the new year.

Grace Nicholson Building at the USC Pacific Asia Museum in Pasadena
Grace Nicholson Building | Photo: USC Pacific Asia Museum

USC Pacific Asia Museum



One of the few U.S. institutions dedicated to the arts and culture of Asia and the Pacific Islands, the USC Pacific Asia Museum has a collection of more than 15,000 objects, spanning more than 4,000 years of the region from Persia to the Pacific Islands. The museum exhibits classic and contemporary art in the Grace Nicholson building, a registered California State Historic Landmark. Inspired by the classic gardens of China, the museum’s courtyard was designed by Gilbert Leong, the first Chinese American to graduate from USC with a degree in architecture.