CHINATOWN, VANCOUVER, BC
Chinatown is located at 578 Carrall Street, Vancouver. Chinatown in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, is Canada’s largest Chinatown Centred on Pender Street, it is surrounded by Gastown and the Downtown Financial and Central Business Districts to the west, the Downtown Eastside to the north, the remnant of old Japantown to the northeast, and the residential neighborhood of Strathcona to the east. The approximate street borders of Chinatown’s official area as designated by the City of Vancouver are the alley between Pender Street and Hastings, Georgia, Gore, and Taylor Streets, although its unofficial boundaries extend well into the rest of the Downtown Eastside. Main, Pender, and Keefer Streets are the principal areas of commercial activity.
Chinatown remains a popular tourist attraction, and is one of the largest historic Chinatowns in North America. However, it went into decline as newer members of Vancouver’s Cantonese Chinese community dispersed to other areas of the metropolis. It has been more recently overshadowed by the newer Chinese immigrant business district along No. 3 Road in the Vancouver suburb of Richmond, which had been an Anglo-Saxon bastion until the 1980s. Many affluent Hong Kong and Taiwanese immigrants have moved there since the late 1980s, coinciding with the increase of Chinese-ethnic retail and restaurants in that area. This new area is designated the “Golden Village” by the City of Richmond, which met resistance to the proposed renaming of the area to “Chinatown” both from merchants in Vancouver’s Chinatown and also from non-Chinese residents and merchants in Richmond itself.
Chinatown was once known for its neon signs but like the rest of the city lost many of the spectacular signs to changing times and a new sign bylaw passed in 1974. The last of these was the Ho Ho sign (which showed a rice bowl and chop sticks) which was removed in 1997. Ongoing efforts at revitalization include efforts by the business community to improve safety by hiring private security; looking at new marketing promotions and introducing residential units into the neighborhood by restoring and renovating some of the heritage buildings. Current focus is on the restoration and adaptive reuse of the distinctive Association buildings.
Due to the large ethnic Chinese presence in Vancouver—especially represented by multi-generation Chinese Canadians and first-generation immigrants from Hong Kong—the city has been referred to as “Hongcouver” (a term considered derogatory by some Chinese).
- Century’s Winds of Change Mural – This mural records the historical time of Chinese in Canada crossing the span of over 100 years, from 1858 to present.
- China Gate – China Gate was part of the China Pavilion at Expo 86 in Vancouver. It was donated to the City of Vancouver after the end of the exhibition. Today it is the gate to Chinese Cultural Centre of Greater Vancouver.
- Chinatown Abacus – A large abacus artwork with stylized beads of British Columbia jade sits here on the edge of Chinatown.
- Chinatown Plaza Neon Sign – A 45-foot neon sign installed on the exterior of Chinatown Plaza. The bilingual sign (“Chinatown Plaza” in English and “Chinatown welcomes you” in Chinese) incorporates traditional and contemporary design elements and ideas from the community.
- Chinese Cultural Centre Museum and Archives – The Museum is dedicated to preserving and promoting the history of Chinese Canadians and fostering an appreciation of traditional and contemporary Chinese arts.
- Chinese Zodiac Mosaic – The 12 animals that compose of the Chinese Zodiac are represented in embedded mosaics in the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Park Courtyard.
- Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden – As the first Ming Dynasty Scholars Garden built outside of China, this earthly paradise interesting perspectives on culture, architecture and horticulture in the Ming Dynasty.
- Historical Alley – Between 1890-1920, early Chinese immigrants settled in Shanghai Alley and Canton Alley in Vancouver Chinatown.
- Jimi Hendrix Shrine – The restaurant on this site used to belong to Nora Rose Moore Hendrix, who was Jimi Hendrix’s grandmother. Jimi lived by here while he was in primary school. This is now the site of a shrine dedicated to Jimi Hendrix.
- The Monument of Canadian Chinese – Corner of Keefer & Columbia Streets – The monument is shaped in the Chinese character “zhong”, symbolizing Chinese, moderation and harmony. The two bronze statues next to the character are a railroad worker and a Canadian Chinese WWII soldier.
- Sam Kee –The world’s narrowest building – only 6 feet wide, this phenomenal structure has been recognized by Ripley’s Believe It or Not.
- Vancouver Chinatown Millennium Gate – A physical structure that is symbolic of both past and future to commemorate this “Journey In Time”.
- West Han Dynasty Bell – The bell was a gift from the City of Guangzhou to the City of Vancouver in honour of the 15th anniversary of the twinning of the two cities.
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