The winning design for a memorial to the victims of the Chinese Massacre of 1871 in Los Angeles has been unveiled.
Artist Sze Tsung Nicolás Leong and writer Judy Chui-Hua Chung, both L.A. locals, were selected to design the memorial following a competition that attracted almost 170 entries from around the world. The pair spent several months researching the locations across downtown L.A. where the massacre took place.
Leong, who is of Toisanese, Cantonese and Hokkein ancestry, and Chung, a Taiwanese American, expressed their appreciation for being selected as designers for the memorial.
We are humbled by the historic significance of this memorial and honored that our proposal was chosen from a group of such talented finalists. While we are memorializing a massacre that reveals the long history of anti-Asian violence, we are also acknowledging that Asian Americans have been deeply rooted here since the beginnings of this city, state, and country. We are committed to commemorating the tragedy by honoring the victims and the diversity of this city they helped grow.
The massacre, which occurred on Oct. 24, 1871, was a violent attack on Chinese immigrants by a mob of about 500 white and Latino men in the area.
Chinese residents were subjected to lynchings that resulted in the deaths of at least 18 people, which was approximately 10% of the city’s Chinese population.
While the incident was marked as the deadliest racial violence in the city at the time, it remains unknown to many, even among Angelenos. The only marker currently acknowledging the event is a sidewalk plaque. According to Felicia Filer of the city’s Department of Cultural Affairs, the new memorial’s design aims to educate the public in a way that is both moving and beautiful.
The idea for the memorial was proposed in 2021, right after then-Mayor Eric Garcetti marked the 150th anniversary of the massacre by apologizing for atrocities committed against L.A.’s Chinese residents.
The memorial, which will be situated primarily on Los Angeles Street, will feature a grove of tree sculptures that take inspiration from banyan trees that protected villages in a southeast region of China, where many of the victims originated.
The victims will be represented by 18 tree sculptures made of a stone-like material that will be placed along the sidewalk. A fallen branch will also be placed to represent the dead who were never identified. A sculpture of a full tree made of a silvery, metal-like material will also be constructed as part of the design.
The designers plan to incorporate several design elements throughout downtown, such as small sculptures on Broadway & 7th, where a judge named William H. Gray hid several men and women in the cellar of his vineyard.
A corner of Grand Park will have two sculptural benches to mark the old city jail where 20 survivors fled after being chased by the violent mob. It was the same jail where the bodies of 17 men had been lined up in two rows outside after the massacre. They will also place a pair of benches in Chinatown to connect the memorial site to a neighborhood that was displaced due to gentrification and rising rents.
The memorial, which is set to be in place by the summer of 2026, has a proposed budget of $3.6 million.
The city plans to finance the project via contributions from foundations and a fundraising campaign launched during the design selection. Mayor Karen Bass has proposed that the city contribute $250,000 to the project.
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