Article titled “A Little Bit of China in Chapel Hill” by Chuck Burns. Daily Tar Heel published February 9, 1979.

This article from the Daily Tar Heel in 1979 gives an overview of Chinese cuisine for unfamiliar readers, and describes the Chinese restaurants accessible to students and residents of Chapel Hill. It provides a one-sentence summary of the five schools of Chinese cuisine and later, which schools are served at each of the Chinese restaurants in the community. Burns also includes an interview with Clark Xung, the owner of Peking Garden, one of the oldest and most popular Chinese restaurants in Chapel Hill [1]. In total, there are five restaurants mentioned in Burn’s article, but The Lotus Kitchen was another Chinese restaurant in Chapel Hill at that time that was not mentioned, making a total of at least six Chinese restaurants in Chapel Hill by the end of the 1970s [2]. This is a major evolution for Chapel Hill being there was only one Chinese restaurant in 1972 [3]. Furthermore, when looking at the demographics, one year later in 1980—which we can logically assume is similar to statistics in 1979—Chapel Hill composed of only 531 Asians (not specifically Chinese), or 1.6% of the Chapel Hill population [4]. This shows that an increase in the acceptance of Chinese food and culture—not an increase in the population of Chinese—led to larger numbers of Chinese restaurants.

This source is significant to Chapel Hill during this specific time period because it provides a nuanced, yet important commentary to the Civil Rights Movement in the American South. The prevalence of Chinese food in Chapel Hill shows an acceptance of the Chinese population and culture into the fabric of the “American identity.” This phenomenon is due to Chinese becoming the “model minority” in the 1960s [5]. American politicians intentionally promoted Chinese under this new image for two reasons. First was to use American-Chinese as anti-Communist propaganda in the height of the Cold War to show the world that the Chinese flourish in capitalist America. Second was to divert blame for African-American’s lack of success in America and actually place the blame back on African-Americans [6]. By saying Asian-Americans can better themselves in the United States as a minority, politicians suggested that African-Americans should have been able to as well. Therefore, this source is important to the story of Chapel Hill in the 1970s by explaining how the acceptance of food mirrors the acceptance of a culture, as well as showing how the acceptance of the Chinese minority was critical, and even harmful, to the civil rights movement of African-Americans in the 1960s and 1970s.


This is a newspaper page from the Daily Tar Heel on February 9, 1979, written by Chuck Burns. The article is titled “A Little Bit of China in Chapel Hill” in a section titled “An Ancient Taste Whose Time is Now.” Accessed from the North Carolina Digital Heritage Center’s “North Carolina Newspapers” collection. Page 8.


[1] Burns, Chuck. “A Little Bit of China in Chapel Hill.” Daily Tar Heel, February 9, 1979.

[2] “The Lotus Kitchen.” Daily Tar Heel, July 14, 1977.

[3] Gardner, Russel. “Peking Garden: A Question of Aesthetics and Culture.” Daily Tar Heel, February 8, 1977.

[4] United States. US Census Bureau. Chapel Hill Data Book. 2010.

[5] [6] Guo, Jeff. “The Real Reasons the U.S. Became Less Racist Toward Asian Americans.” The Washington Post. November 29, 2016. Accessed November 08, 2018.


Page by Andrew Rento