HAVANA, Nov. 8 (Xinhua) -- Renovation work on Havana's historic Chinatown has reached fever pitch as workers ready the neighborhood's iconic landmarks in time for celebrations marking the city's 500th anniversary in mid-November.
The first phase of the renovation work was completed a few weeks ago, leading to the reopening of restaurants, as well as the inauguration of a new tea house and a bonsai garden.
The second phase, funded by a 2.5-million-U.S.-dollar investment by the local government, focuses on a plaza envisioned to be the cultural heart of the district.
Chinatown's cultural plaza will feature a restaurant, a cafeteria, public toilets and a ceramic triptych depicting age-old inventions China gave the world.
A hexagram of the Chinese philosophical masterpiece, I Ching, also known as Classic of Changes, will be placed in the center of the plaza, inviting passersby to toss a wooden coin to discover their fortune.
"This is going to be a beautiful place," Teresa Li, head of the House of Chinese Arts and Traditions and granddaughter of Chinese immigrants, told Xinhua.
The district's renovation "will not only generate more jobs in the area, but also improve the quality of life of the residents, who will live in a more pleasant environment," Li added.
Today, the area is home to some 13,000 people, most of whom are descendants of the Chinese immigrants who came to Cuba 170 years ago.
Li said she hopes Chinatown's "facelift" will draw more tourists to the neighborhood, especially Chinese travelers.
The project has been designed to offer a circuit which takes visitors to all the highlights in the area, with the route dubbed "The Walk of the Dragon."
Along the route, kiosks will sell Chinese handicrafts and souvenirs, including paper cuttings, calligraphy, origami (paper-folding) and paper mache figures, textiles, ceramics and items made of stone, wood and metal.
Others will offer seasonings, flowers, medicinal plants, soaps, natural essences and Chinese food.
"All this also contributes to reviving commerce, which was one of the most important traditions in Havana's Chinatown," said Rayko Vera, curator of the House of Chinese Arts and Traditions.
"Chinese influence on Cubans has always been an enriching element of our culture and, of course, that has been taken into account when renovating these spaces," Vera added.
Chinatown's revamp is part of a larger 15-million-dollar renovation scheme to restore the neighborhood to its former glory in the lead up to this year's 500th anniversary of the founding of Havana on Nov. 16, 1519.