Total Pageviews

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war effort but it wasn't until 1947 that the Chinese residents were allowed to vote and the Chinese Immigration Act was repealed.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


Tuesday, March 20, 2012


For Persians, the first day of Spring, March 21, is the celebration of No-rooz  (Nowruz) "A New Day".  This day is the Equinox when the sun is observed directly over the equator and sunlight is divided evenly between the north and south hemispheres. This is the first day of the year in the Iranian calendar. It began as a Zoroastrian holiday and has significance for modern Iranians, but it's also celebrated in parts of South Asia as well. No-rooz is believed to have been started by Zoroaster himself, although there is no date of origin.
Symbol of Zoroaster

It is also a holy day for Sufis, Ishmalis and adherents of the Baha'i faith. The Jewish feast of Purim is probably adopted from the Persian New Year. It was celebrated as far back as the Achaemednids dynasty (598-330 BC) when Kings from different nations came to bring gifts to the King of Kings (Shahanshah) of Persia. Following the Iranian Revolution, the Islamic regime of Iran tried to suppress No-rooz. The Ayatollahs considered it to be a pagan holiday. During the reign of the Taliban it was also banned in Afghanistan.

No-rooz starts with the cleansing of houses and purchase of new clothes, but the major part of the rituals are setting up the "haft Seen" with seven specific items starting with "S". These are Seeb (apple) Sabze (green grass) Serke ( vinegar) or instead Somagh, an Iranian spice, Samanoo (a meal of wheat) Senjed ( a special berry) Sekke (coin) and Seer (garlic). These all have symbolic meanings.

At the No-rooz celebration I attended on Sunday, there were many tables set up with  traditional foods and items. The school gym where it was held was crowded with people greeting each other with hugs and kisses, everyone in a happy New Years spirit.

A calligraphy artist was writing people's names in Parsi so I asked if he could write mine too.

"Ruth" (read from the right)

In the auditorium we were entertained with singers, spoken word (all in Parsi) stories and poetry and folk dancers.

And belly dancers!

When I was asked by friends why there were belly dancers when in Iran women must were burqas, the reason is that before the Ayatollahs regime, Iranian women had freedoms similar to ours.  When I watched these beautiful women dance I couldn't help but remember how during Alexander the Great's time, the Soghdian princess, Roxana, had danced for him.  It's easy to see how he was so captivated that he married her!

The celebration of No-rooz is often centered on fire and part of the rituals of No-rooz is to leap over a bonfire. This is still practiced as part of the No-rooz festivities. This is a purification rite. People young and old leap over fires with songs of merriment. Translated,the traditional greeting they chant is "I will give you my yellow color (sign of sickness) and you give me your fiery red color (sign of healthiness).

Saturday, March 17, 2012


This weekend my friend invited me to an art exhibit at a new spacious gallery, The Equinox Project Space  This outstanding visual arts gallery is the former Finning Tractor machine shop located at the Great Northern Way Campus.

The gallery exhibit is an impressive show of photographs by Fred Herzog, well known for his candid shots of Vancouver from the 1950's on. Herzog, who was born in Stuttgart, Germany, immigrated to Canada in 1952 and moved to Vancouver in 1953.  He had taken photos nearly all his life but after moving to Canada he began a collection of memorable work which focuses primarily on ordinary people and their connect with the city around them.  He worked with slide film, mostly Kodachrome, which was limiting as far as his ability to exhibit because at that time his work was mostly in black and white.  However over the years his work has been increasingly recognized, especially in recent decades, appearing in books, and galleries, including the Vancouver Art Gallery.

What I loved about this exhibit was it brought me back to my youth, during the 1950's when I haunted many of the downtown areas he filmed.  How exciting to see all the old neon signs (some of them I recently saw on display at the Vancouver Museum) and to catch a glimpse of the back lanes and waterfront of my city as it was before all the new development took over. 

This new exhibit gallery was a perfect place for Herzog's vast collection of photos.  We spent a long time browsing, reminiscing over the various scenes (as were many of the other people visiting that day!).  One woman said "I've made it a point this year to revisit the city of my birth."  What a great way to do it!

The exhibit has been extended until the end of the month so be sure and take time to visit.  You can purchase some of Herzog's books at the gallery too.  A wonderful idea for a gift or memento to keep.

Equinox Project Space: 525 Great Northern Way Campus.  Free parking directly in front.

Friday, March 09, 2012

AN ART DECO FASHIONS EXHIBIT: Extravagent Glamour Between the Wars

This week my friend and I attended the opening of an outstanding exhibit of fashion at the Museum of Vancouver.  ART DECO CHIC: Extravagant Glamour Between the Wars is a display of sixty items of the Art Deco fashion of the 20's and 30's, curated by fashion historians Ivan  Sayers and Claus Jahnke.
The exquisite fashions bear labels of such famous fashion houses as Chanel, Lanvin, Vionnet, Patou and Schiaparelli.

We were invited to dress in the fashion ourselves and a great many of the guests did come attired in lavish outfits which made the reception preceding the exhibit opening so much fun!

Here's Jeni in her stylish outfit.

And me in mine.

The term 'Art Deco' dates back to an exhibition in Paris in 1925 that showed avant-garde creations of architects and designers. The design of the fashions marked the era and developed from the end of World War One characterized by a classic streamlined, geometric and symmetric look.

During this time in Canada women got their right to vote and chose to dress in a way that didn't objectify the female body such as the prewar styles of corsets and skirts. The new fashions showed they were politically and physically liberated. 

One of our favorite dressed on display was designed in honour of the opening of King Tut's tomb in 1922. The dress is a sandy greenish colour embroidered with Egyptian images.

By the 1930's the styles changed. The hemlines dropped and waistlines returned. By the end of the '30's skirts were full again.

1930's evening wear

It was hard to choose which were our favorites.  There were three we decided we liked best, but there are so many gorgeous gowns in the exhibit it was a difficult choice.  We both agreed that the fashions then were so becoming and feminine.  But I notice in this week's newspaper fashion edition that the style seems to be making a comeback. 

I loved this red embroidered evening dress.
Hat styles of the period.

1930's day wear

When I was a child, I always loved the fox and mink stoles women wore.

Accessories.  The Volkswagen Beetle was a purse. 

Gloves, shoes and accessories.

I remember when my very stylish Mom used to dress like this!

This was another one of our favorites -- a dusky mauve crepe with a dropped hemline. Very stylish!

Another favorite! 

More Accessories.

The exhibit is open until September 23 at the Museum of Vancouver, 1100 Chestnut Street.
For information on opening times and admissions: