South Bay artists hope to honor Chinese immigrant history in potential new mural

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- Artists Bertrand "Patron" Paule and Gege Xu are on a mission to memorialize the five long-gone Chinatowns of San Jose.

Paule has spent the last six months working on elements he hopes to incorporate in a mural to honor Chinese immigrant history in San Jose.

An arson fire in 1887 destroyed the city's first Chinatown, which at the time was the largest community of its kind in the U.S., outside San Francisco.

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"It was a massacre, that's the saddest part," Paule told ABC7 News. "We want to do it justice. We want to make a mural with a lot of depth and a lot of thought to it."

Every detail sketched by Paule is being documented by Xu inside Local Color in San Jose.

Paule is a visual artist, and Xu works as a photographer, videographer and painter. Culturally, Xu is Chinese and Paule is Filipino.

Among the many sketches shown to ABC7 News, Paule pointed to a decorated dragon and legendary Monkey King.

The dragon symbolizes power, strength and good luck in the Chinese culture. The Monkey King is considered to be the most enduring figure in Chinese literature and folklore.

"The Monkey King is my all-time favorite, superhero type of icon," Xu explained.

Plans for the potential mural are still in the early stages. Besides sketching and documenting the current process, much more needs to be done to turn this vision into reality.

Both artists want to involve the community in the conversation and creation.

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Eventually, Paule and Xu hope the elaborate piece will get the green light to go up along South 2nd and East San Fernando Streets in Downtown San Jose.

Paule told ABC7 News, "The true test of the culture is surviving, and that's what we want to represent."

Xu will create a behind the scenes documentary showing the process from start to finish.

"I want to record all the behind the scenes footage," Xu said. "What does it take? What are the obstacles? What are the hardships?"

There is no timeline set for the potential mural.
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