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Postcards from Travel Near and Far by Jia-Rui

90012, Chinatown


Chinese nine-man volleyball tournament

Chinese nine-man volleyball tournament

Dear ——-,

This weekend, hundreds of guys scrambled across the sizzling blacktop playing the distinctive nine-man style of volleyball traditionally popular in Chinatowns across the country. The court is wider, the net is lower and players can pretty much do anything to get the ball to the other side. When I took a break playing in the traditional six-woman games in the North American Chinese Invitational Volleyball Tournament to watch the men, I thought the matches were unpredictable and exciting. I love that the game traces its American roots to Chinese laundry workers in the 1930s and that one of its purposes now is to bring young suburban Chinese Americans into the heart of Chinatown. (It worked on me!) While I had a great time playing in the tournament, I did feel a little weird about the rules that two-thirds of the players on the court must be of “100% Chinese” descent and the other players must be Asian. Can they make rules like that?


Author: postmarkhere

I'm a journalist based in Los Angeles who has always said that writing postcards for a living would be a dream job. The posts -- short enough to fit on an actual postcard -- chronicle recent travels near and far. I could blab on about being inspired by epistolary novels, the short poems of Emily Dickinson, and the New Yorker's "Talk of the Town" pieces, but I'll just say that I'm aiming to give you a sense of flavor of a place without boring you to death. Wish you were here!

2 thoughts on “90012, Chinatown

  1. That rule does seem really rough – as a Eurasian person, it’s hard not to feel targeted as “less authentic.” It would be interesting to hear if they had a history of being swamped by whitey, or if this was pre-emptive.

  2. I don’t know what was driving the rules, besides some larger goal of encouraging Chinese people to socialize with each other. It made me kind of sad to think that if my hypothetical kids wanted to play in this tournament, then they wouldn’t be allowed to qualify under the “100% Chinese” rule. There is some weird rule that grandfathers in other Asian people that played in the tournament before 1991. Those people get to be considered “Chinese.” So maybe the rules have gotten more strict rather than less as the country has gotten more diverse?

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