Semiotics Of Graumans Chinese Theater Cultural Studies Essay

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The Grauman's Chinese theater was built for 18 months and opened in May 18th 1927. It serves as one of the Hollywood's exceptional landmarks. It was founded by Sid Grauman alongside his partners. The theater has authentic Chinese embellishments, and is outrageously impressive. The original Chinese doves top the façade and the theatre columns in the front are propped up to form a Ming dynasty temple.

The forecourt has foot prints and hand prints for famous movie stars and the founders. This tradition was set by Norma Talmadge who accidentally stepped in the wet cement during the opening. The forecourt has also hoof prints of Gene Autry's horse, the champion; Bob Hope's and Jimmy Durante's trademark nosed; George Burn's cigar; Whoopi Goldberg's dreadlocks and R2D2's wheels (Poole, p.169).

It is reported as the temple of the cinema. The Grauman's Chinese theater, ironically, premiered the first film by Cecil B. DeMille's film King of Kings. This movie is about the classic Christ's story, and was specially shown at night (Forsher, p.62).

Grauman had the hobby of collecting classic Chinese art. This inspired him in the design of the theater since he blended the neoclassical art and the Mandarian architecture. He brought authentic artwork from china (Forsher, p.63).

The entrance to the theater was placed 150 feet beck from Hollywood Boulevard to provide enough space for crowds. The theater has coral piers, 90-foot high green jade pagoda roof, stone dragons, ornate obelisks, bronze gargoyles and jewel lamps. This makes sit luxuriously decadent (Roberts and Olson, p.92).

There are many Asian tourists who visit the Grauman's Chinese theater. The ethnography of tourism of Los Angeles by the Asians reveals that there are vital sites and monuments that attract them; one such site is the Grauman's Chinese theater. The tourist guide texts also show that there is preference of tourists to go to the theater. The ecumenical tourism of Los Angeles is a reflection of the mythology of the movies. The Chinese and similarly the Japanese tourists visit sites drawn from their mythology, and this reflects their preferences. The culture of the Grauman's theater attracts the tourists and annual celebration of the walk of fame is a major tourist attraction.

The theater resembles the Mecca for the movie lovers. It is an undisputed shrine in Hollywood. Every Tinseltown pilgrim pays homage to it. The tourists graze down the imprints oat the forecourt. The cement is itself legendary. Since then, over 200 celebrities have left their imprints in the forecourt. The pagodas, stone heaven dogs and the temple bells were imported from china after permission was granted by the government.

The interior of the theater resembles giant Chinese pagoda. The architectural design features a huge dragon snaking its way across the front. There are two stone lion dogs at the entrance. The lobby has elaborate wall murals that are oriental, bold gold and red columns plus a Chinese chandelier. The theater was declared as historic land mark in 1968 (Wu, p.84).

The tradition of making imprints was set by Sid Grauman who accidentally stepped into the sidewalks of wet cement. This made him film the stars Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford and Norma Tallmadge who left their footprints during its opening.

Semiotics of the theater

Semiotics generally refers to the study of signs. Semiotics may be broadly be used to cover language signs as well as objects and features which include paintings, sculpture, and cultural aspects of culture. Ethnographic studies of Grauman's Chinese theater, like any social research study, follows procedures and outlined steps which involve community and selection of informants with the knowledge of the selected community.

Research Methodology

Setting up study objectives

The study objectives in this analytical study would be: to undertake an ethnographic an ethnographic study of Grauman's Chinese theater, with emphasis of the semiotic aspects. This forms the chief reason for carrying out the research.

Hypothesis setting

There are expectations that are associated with research work. The response and results in the research work can be either positive or negatively obtained subject to our predetermined assumptions and the literature review on the work done by scholars previously, mostly on the same topic under study. As such, a hypothesis is drawn against the analysis. In this case, it can be hypothesized that the Grauman's Chinese theater, design and the cultural aspects have a relational dimension to the signs and the language and the rituals practiced by the people.

Conducting sampling

The ethnographic study would involve sampling those who frequent the Grauman's Chinese theater, or the stars themselves, to get accurate information about the semiotics of the theater. As such, tourists who have the knowledge about the meaning of the signs and the Chinese art would be sampled, to give an account of the various aspects and the meaning of various signs used in the design, construction and the general architecture of the Grauman's Chinese theater. The participants own observation can be used as a means of obtaining data. Data gathering can also include informal conversations made by the researcher especially when he is one of the participants at the Grauman's Chinese theater, maybe at the time for movies or annual celebrations. The field work takes a long time and the ethnographer might take a longer time trying to collect data. In this case, it may take a considerably longer period tryng to obtain data from tourist especially from china who have the knowledge of the Chinese culture to be able to analyze them afterward. It may also prove difficult to aces the management and the celebrities who have participated in the walk of fame. In collecting data from the movie lovers who come to watch the premiere, getting their attention may be tasking. These are avoided by carefully designing fieldwork and data gathering procedure with adequate time for efficient and effective data collection and analysis.

Data collection in this case is achieved through gathering of information obtained from the informants. The data also found in archival sources tracing the social and cultural facts of the Chinese including their art and religion. The data collection takes unstructured format. There are no detailed research design specifics, but the data are analyzed and the data is generated. The study can also involve using questionnaires that help in assisting in discovery of beliefs, and perceptions.

In the semiotic study, it is arguable that there exist structures in the Grauman's Chinese theater that are oriental in origin. This shows that there exists a cultural relation between these structures and the Chinese belief in terms of the meaning of these structures. The structures have some meaning in the Asian culture. This requires the syntactic study of the relationship. The study would involve getting to know what the structures imported from china when constructing the Grauman's Chinese theater mean in the Chinese culture. This is syntactics.

The footprints and the annual walk of fame have a meaning to the movie stars and the people of United States. It is a remarkable event that most tourists and movie lovers try to have a chance to see. The signing of the wet cement is cultural and has the sign meaning to it. It is traditional set to mark the imprint made accidentally by Sid in 1927.

The Chinese architectural design was adopted in developing Grauman's Chinese theater. As such, it becomes useful to undertake the semiotic study of the Grauman's Chinese theater architecture. This will help us in getting the meaning of objects used in the building. The ecological semiotics that deals with the study of designed artifacts will help in relating humans and their built environments, and as such, get to know the meaning of the objects.

Chinese culture as the basis of the design

The Chinese culture in terms of design and architecture was used in the theater. Culture, whether materialist or ideational, is the basis of ethnography. In this respect, the Chinese culture would help to explain the ethnography of the Grauman's Chinese theater. Since ethnography is a systematic process, the data need to be systematically collected. Contextual data collected through trained ethnographer are then taken fro analysis.

The ethnography of the Grauman's Chinese theater enables us to reveal astounding insights into which the people make sense out of their lives through rituals and observing some pattern or procedure laid down by the past, as part of the tradition or culture.

The walk of fame was coined out of the accidental footprint during the opening of the theater. This became part of the ritual which is performed annually, and is still practiced today. These annual events have grown to be public and have attracted attention and curiosity of tourists and any movie lover.

The artifacts used in the theater are examined through careful ethnographic study. It is found out that these artifacts reflect people's lives. The Chinese architecture is part of their culture, and they value and hold it dear, despite the changing tides in architectural designs and modernity. The cultural norms of the Chinese as applied in the theater have changed the perceptions of the people since it emphasizes on the shape and interior decoration of the building. This ethnographic study relies on the fact that the Chinese style and ornamentation is different from the American type, and the theater stand out as a unique monument.

The contextual analysis

Ethnographic studies are qualitative studies. It involves interpretative and qualitative techniques which refer to contextual elements under observation. The structure of the theater that was adopted from the Chinese design holds deep meaning both to Chinese and to the passionate Sid Grauman.

The decorations in the Chinese culture are a basic skill for survival. The designs, colorations, art and the furnishings help the Chinese to define their territory, as such, the objects and colors had deeper meanings and signs resembling in-depth cultural ideologies. The decorations and furnishings, according to the Chinese culture, refer to the relaxed mood, or simply invigorating atmosphere. This is the sign that perhaps Sid had in mind while designing the theater, since the place will be reserve for the relaxed minds. The Chinese design is meant, culturally, to isolate people and increase their communication. This is actually the motive behind the theaters outlook since movie lovers were intended to come away from the noise of their homes.

The geographical orientation of the theater ensures warmth. These are properly designed and were to signify emotional and psychological enhancement. The movie lovers therefore felt satisfied and environment welcoming. The red colors used in the décor signified fire, one of the five elements in the Chinese culture. This means passion, and that you attract others through warmth. The summer disposition in you popularizes you in the crowd. The snake like roof was a resemblance of the water element. It signifies the resourcefulness of a person, independent-minded and dependable.


The Grauman's Chinese theater was structurally built with deep meanings attached to it. Every part of the imported Chinese artifacts had deeply embedded meanings and signified different aspects of Chinese culture. In this respect, the Chinese and many tourists visit the theater to see this monument. It forms the "Mecca" in Hollywood.