‘The Blue Lotus’ Opium Den

Stockton Street, Chinatown, San Francisco. 1878.

Gambling, prostitution, slavery, opium… Chinatown was a colourful place back in the 1870s. With 15,000 immigrants crammed into just 20 city blocks, this hellish pocket of the Pacific Coast - home to the army of ‘coolies’ working on the Transcontinental Railroad - was a law unto itself.

Leisure time was scarce but punctuating the poverty, the crime and the widespread violence there did exist one popular past time that united San Franciscans of all backgrounds: yāpiàn (opium).

Opium dens were a dime a dozen but the most notorious of them all was ‘The Blue Lotus’ at the back of a Chinese Laundry on an alleyway just behind Stockton Street. Liquor, dames, cards, dope… whatever you were looking for, you’d find it here. Around the clock, Chinese and Americans alike would gather in their hundreds to smoke their troubles away - as they used to say, ‘the dope don’t discriminate’. Even the cops were in on the act.

From the 30th September to the 3rd October 2015, Shuttlecock Inc recreated The Blue Lotus in all its insalubrious majesty downstairs at Carousel, Blandford Street, complete with dim sum, cocktails, live music and immersive entertainment.