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Boston’s Chinatown is poised on a precipice

As downtown Boston has experienced a residential boom, Chinatown is beginning to be hollowed out from within, one family at a time.

On her 57th birthday, Cui Li Chen sat on her bed waiting for her husband to come home. The couple share a cramped three-bedroom walkup sublet in Chinatown with five other people.
On her 57th birthday, Cui Li Chen sat on her bed waiting for her husband to come home. The couple share a cramped three-bedroom walkup sublet in Chinatown with five other people. –Lane Turner/Globe Staff

Every morning, Gaoxin Wu descends the stairs from his third-floor apartment for his daily walk through Chinatown, and each door on his way down to Beach Street has a fading red-and-gold Chinese prayer poster on it.

They are, for him, reminders not of tradition, but of change — and loss.

Not that long ago, every apartment in the building was occupied by immigrants from China. But after the rent went up recently, there are now foreign exchange students and a young white couple in the small building.

Gaoxin Wu enjoyed his lunch of noodle soup in the kitchen of his Beach Street apartment. —LANE TURNER/GLOBE STAFF
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