The Chinatown tour I experienced helped me better understand the history of Vancouver and how this city came to be like today. I learned about multiculturalism, and the conditions the people, particularly the Chinese, lived through. Through the tour, I visited many new areas of Vancouver I have never touched upon. It intrigued me to witness how economy and people’s lives were back then, in comparison to today. Many aspects are still the same, but some have obviously changed. Chinatown has preserved various pieces of artefacts to reflect upon the history through which Vancouver became like today.
Chinatown is a multicultural area where not only the Chinese were located, but also other nationalities. Benny’s Market is an Italian market, located at the edge of Chinatown, that sells various products. Another similar Italian foods store is located in Chinatown, where the business is passed on from generation to generation. The current owner has owned the store for about 45 years and has attended Britannia Secondary school. Not only Italians, but there are various locations in which African-Canadians congregated to produce music. With Italians stores and African music, this displays the variety of cultures present during the immigration period.
While touring through Chinatown, I came about buildings that contained hidden floors. These floors were used by those with little wealth. Not only that, there were communal baths where many bathed together. These aspects demonstrate the conditions and the unhygienic environment they experienced. Opium was smoked at basements of many apartments, giving the stereotype that Chinese people all smoke opium. Some of these conditions and descriptions were found in the book Disappearing Moon Café.
Through this tour I was able to learn about the daily lives of early immigrants. Most lived in poorly conditioned apartments, where there were no windows and were very cramped together in small apartments, with very little hygiene. However, the Chinese community was self-sustaining, in that people shopped locally. For example, everyone went to Ming Soo’s hardware store to purchase materials.
Personally, I do not visit Chinatown very often or have much knowledge of it. Going to and from work is the only time I encounter Chinatown. However, I do notice that during Chinese New Year, the whole area is decorated extravagantly, and there is a joyous atmosphere amongst the people there. This displays adherence to the Chinese culture and how they have managed to continue this tradition from the early immigration period.
Chinatown contains various pieces of artefacts that preserve the Chinese flavour. For example, the busiest street in Chinatown, E Pender Street, contains multiple stores and businesses that have the Chinese flavour to them. For instance, the Jack Chow insurance building had opium dens underneath it, which preserved the customs and recreational activities performed back then. The Chinese Cultural Centre is a building where various workshops, activities, and events are taken place. For example, Chinese school is taken place there, where children have the ability to learn how to read, write, and speak Chinese. This shows the adherence the Chinese people have to their culture and language. Next to the Chinese Cultural Centre, there is a beautiful garden named Dr. Sun Yat-sen Garden. This garden displays the Chinese culture in various ways. For example, the bridges used in the park are in a zig-zag pattern, because the Chinese people believe straight bridges bring bad spirits with them. Everything in the park, from the bridges to the plants, resembled that of Chinese culture.
In essence, through this tour, I have enhanced my knowledge of Vancouver and Chinatown. Coming to realize how immigration to Canada occurred, I have learned exactly where the different types of immigrants settled. Preserving of old culture and history is a key aspect found in Chinatown. Through this preservation of old Chinese flavour, we are able to learn about a world that many not know of.