After two years in limbo, including a graveyard for dead signs, the rejuvenated Hung Far Low sign was unwrapped last night in a televised party, and a piece of Chinatown's bawdy past found itself celebrated by the well-fed, booze-rouged faces of its future.

  • Denis C. Theriault
  • Wrapped
  • Denis C. Theriault
  • Unwrapped

Except for a brief interruption that began in 2008 when the crumbling sign was unceremoniously taken down, the marquee has loomed over 4th and Couch for more than 80 years. It even outstayed its namesake restaurant, which moved out to 82nd Avenue a few years ago—stepping away from a Chinatown that increasingly was one in name and decor only. (And even in Hung Far Low's later years, it was a place more for drinking than eating.)

The sign was saved when the Portland Development Commission stepped in with $45,000 in grant money, more than half of the $77,000 it cost to rebuild, repaint and reattach the rusting sign. Owners of the restaurant that inherited Hung Far Low's space, Ping (in the same family as Southeast's Pok Pok), also kicked in and went to the community for help.

And while it's true, the sign is known as much for snickers as sentiment, that wasn't the case for one group that showed up last night. Bruce Wong said his grandfather put that sign up—outside a restaurant that his father later came to run. The Wong family, along with friends, arrived en masse to watch a piece of their personal history restored to splendor.

Back then, the neighborhood didn't have its arches or its swank ultra-lounges, and it was on the way to becoming Skid Row. But it did have Chinese schools and markets, and kids playing softball in the park blocks.

The family hadn't talked to Ping's partners before this week, they said. But they want to tap their friends and associates' generosity to help with the next phase of the sign's restoration: Bringing back neon lights. That could cost as much as $20,000 more.

"It brings back memories," Wong said after the sign was unwrapped. "You get a little watery-eyed, but you can't help it. I'm human."

To see more photos of last night's festivities—OF, LIKE, DRAGONS LIONS!—keep on reading on.

Bruce Wong, with his grandfather's sign.
  • Denis C. Theriault
  • Bruce Wong, with his grandfather's sign.
Lettuce is for luck.
  • Denis C. Theriault
  • Lettuce is for luck.

The Wong family.
  • The Wong family.

  • Re-erect!

  • Ripping.

Lions and the TV.
  • Lions and the TV.