The Past Supporting the Future

The Past Supporting the Future © 2022 City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program / Chenlin Cai, Eurhi Jones, Yvonne Lung, The Crane Building, 1001 Vine Street. Photo by Steve Weinik.

Crane Building mural in-process, Septeber 16, 2022. Photo by Steve Weinik.

What is your story of migration? What makes Chinatown special? What is your vision for the future? These questions were posed by Mural Arts Philadelphia artists Eurhi Jones, Chenlin Cai, and Yvonne Lung to the Chinatown and AAPI communities in the Philadelphia region.

The answers inspired 承前啓後 – The Past Supporting the Future, a mural that covers the upper half of the west wall of the 21-story Crane Community Center. The towering work – by Asian artists Eurhi Jones, Chenlin Cai, and Yvonne Lung – is hard to miss, clearly visible to those passing on I-676.

PCDC Board member Margaret Chin says the mural is “an icon that speaks of our past, our present, and our future.”


It’s a tremendous piece. I think it will become iconic. This was a true community effort.

- Lindsey Rosenberg, Mural Arts Philadelphia Project Manager

Crane Building mural in-process, October 14, 2022. Photo by Steve Weinik.

The mural for the Crane building is commissioned by Crane Chinatown as part of the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority’s Percent for Art Program, in partnership with Mural Arts Philadelphia and the Philadelphia Housing Development Corporation (PHDC), and has been three years in the making.

Soon after the artists were chosen, COVID-19 hit. During the height of the pandemic, when many Chinatown businesses were closed because of the economic slump and the prevailing anti-Asian sentiment, it was especially important for the artist team to reach out to the community and ask them to tell their stories of migration, adaptation, and hope for their future. Pandemic restrictions meant in-person outreach was not an option, and the artists had to be creative with inventing virtual workshops to reach various communities. Inter-generational oral history workshops were held virtually to gather stories of migration. Later, the artists also held a mix of virtual and in-person art workshops, all of which helped inspire the final design.

The mural artists were partly inspired by the history of the Crane building. Completed in 2019, the building is located north of the Vine Street Expressway, the construction of which divided Chinatown into north and south sections. Spearheaded by PCDC, the Crane building took eight years to complete, symbolizing the community’s attempt to reclaim their land and reunite their neighborhood.

The new mural features small paper cranes flying upwards, transforming into a large living crane poised to take flight. That represents the neighborhood’s growth and its bright future.

Other images include traditional lanterns, which bring luck and protection; someone preparing for the Chinese Lion Dance, an indicator of good fortune; and a pipa, a stringed instrument that originated in China and has been in use for almost 2,000 years. The pipa is also popular in other East and Southeast Asian countries and is an example of one of the many cultural bonds between these nations.

Painting for the mural began in the summer of 2022 with the help of over 100 volunteers of all ages from the Chinatown community, other AAPI organizations, and a team of Mural Arts Interns.

Chinatown, Center City’s only remaining neighborhood of color, is 152 years old. Community members have been fighting off outside encroachments for almost half of that time. While protesters couldn’t stop the construction of the Vine Street Expressway or the Pennsylvania Convention Center, they convinced developers to preserve a historic church and secure replacement housing in one case. Over the years, the community has successfully fought attempts to shackle the neighborhood with a prison, a baseball arena, and a casino. The latest threat is a proposed basketball stadium for the 76ers.

The 54-foot tall Crane is the dominant image of the mural, a symbol of longevity looking into the future of Chinatown and the AAPI community. It rises on a pathway of paper cranes that emanate from a history scroll showing important events in Chinatown’s past; the original protest against the highway that galvanized the community, the creation of the Friendship Gate, and the completion of the Crane Community Center.

Surrounding the giant crane are images of contemporary Chinatown, a dragon boat team, a young girl preparing for the Chinese Lion Dance, a traditional Pipa, a Chinese stringed instrument popular in other East and Southeast Asian countries and is an example of one of the many cultural bonds between these nations, the Monkey King, a popular figure from Chinese opera, a swallow, representing migration, and some of the delicacies that make the area a dining destination. Other images include traditional lanterns, which bring luck and protection.

The background is composed of peony petals embossed with textile patterns reflecting some of the many AAPI cultures of Philadelphia: Japan, India, Korea, China, Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand, Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia, Tibet, Bhutan, and the Philippines.


Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation (PCDC)c
Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority


Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation (PCDC)c