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Saturday, March 31, 2012


I never get tired of browsing around Vancouver's Chinatown. There's always something new to discover and places to explore.  Just a simple walk down Pender Street can be a wondrous, entertaining  experience.

Back in the days of the Gold Rush of 1858 some of the first Chinese came to Canada. Later more arrived as labourers for the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) Some of them settled in Victoria, BC but after the completion of the railway many were not able to return to China so the settled in Vancouver.

Old building, Shanghai Alley

Magnolias, Shanghai Alley

Chinatown began in Shanghai Alley in the late 1880's. The population consisted mainly of male labourers, employed in various occupations such as mill workers, loggers, farmers, peddlers, grocers, laundrymen and restaurant workers. Because they were not allowed to send for wives and families back home in China, this was mainly a male-populated area.

During WWII many young Chinese-Canadians volunteered for the war effort but it wasn't until 1947 that the Chinese residents were allowed to vote and the Chinese Immigration Act was repealed.

Memorial to Chinese Railway workers and WWII veterans

Chinatown is one of the city's important historical areas. Although many of the Chinese families have moved from the area and many settled in Richmond, it's still a vibrant community, popular with locals as well as tourists. There's good restaurants, interesting shops selling trinkets, antiques, food, herbs and traditional medicines.  The Chinese Cultural Centre provides a venue for art, music and other events. The building has exhibition rooms, an auditorium and is a place where Chinese heritage is preserved with classes in language training, painting, cooking, arts and crafts.

Walk through the inner courtyard and you'll see the entrance to the beautiful dR. Sun Yat Sen park and gardens, an authentic replica of a classical garden modeled after the private gardens of the Ming Dynasty, Suzhou China. This project took six years of planning, with construction started in '9184 and finished in 1986.

The natural artistic landscape of the garden creates an oasis of tranquility.  I love to go and sit in the park just to meditate, or take a quiet walk around the ponds and secluded trails through the bamboo 'forest'. The park area is free but to see the traditional garden and scholars house you pay a small admission price which includes a guided tour.

During the months of May 18 - September 9, on Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings there's a Chinatown Night Market with food, merchandise, live music and dance performances.  But any time of year it's fun to wander along Pender or Keefer Streets or  browse through the shops with all their sometimes weird but always colourful merchandise.

 Dried Sea foods

Colourful merchandise: herbs etc


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