Chinatown, Vancouver

Chinatown, Vancouver
Chinatown, Vancouver
Chinatown Vancouver.JPG
Millennium Gate on Pender Street in Chinatown
Traditional Chinese 温哥華唐人街
Simplified Chinese 溫哥华唐人街
Alternative Chinese name
Traditional Chinese 温哥華華埠
Simplified Chinese 溫哥华华埠

Chinatown in Vancouver, British Columbia 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 neighbourhood 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,[1] 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 neighbourhood 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).[2]



Chinatown is becoming more prosperous as new investment and old traditional businesses flourish. Today the neighbourhood is complete with many traditional restaurants, banks, open markets and clinics, tea shops, clothing and other shops catering to the local community and tourists alike. The Vancouver office of Sing Tao Daily, one of the city's four Chinese dailies, remains in Chinatown. OMNI British Columbia (formerly Channel M) had its television studio in Chinatown from 2003 to 2010.

Facts and figures

  • The 'China Gate' on Pender Street was donated to the City of Vancouver by the Government of the People's Republic of China following the Expo 86 world's fair, where it was on display. After being displayed for almost 20 years at its current location, the Gate was re-built and received a major renovated facade employing stone and steel. Funding for this renovation came through some government and private support; the renovated gate had its unveiling during the October 2005 visit of Guangdong governor Huang Huahua.
  • The Sam Kee Building - The Sam Kee Company, run by Chang Toy one of the wealthier merchants in turn-of-the-last-century Chinatown, bought this land as a standard-sized lot in 1903. However, in 1912 the City widened Pender Street, expropriating all but 6 feet off the Pender Street side of the lot. In 1913 the architects Brown and Gillam designed this narrow, steel-framed free-standing building on the left-over 6 feet. The basement, extending under the sidewalk and much wider than the rest of the building, housed public baths; with shops on the ground floor and offices above (such basements in Vancouver were once common and zoned as "areaways"). The 1980s rehabilitation of the building for Jack Chow was designed by Soren Rasmussen Architect and completed in 1986. The building is considered the narrowest commercial building in the world according to the Guinness Book of Records.
  • Lord Strathcona Elementary School, the oldest public school in Greater Vancouver, is the only public school serving Vancouver's Chinatown.
  • Wing Sang Building is one of the oldest buildings in Chinatown. Built in 1889 by Thomas Ennor Julian, the six story home was home to Yip Sang's Wing Sang Company (Wing Sang Limited) from 1889 to 1955.

List of historic buildings in Chinatown

Name Location Builder/Designer Year Built by/for Photo
Sam Kee Building 8 West Pender Street Brown and Gillam 1913 Sam Kee Company (三記號) [1]
Wing Sang Building 51 East Pender Street Thomas Ennor Julian 1889–1901 Wing Sang Company (永生號)
Chinese Freemasons (中國洪門民治黨) Building 1 West Pender Street 1901 [2]
Chinese Benevolent Association (中華會館) of Vancouver 104–108 E Pender Street 1901–1910 Chinese Benevolent Association [3]
Lim Sai Hor Association (林西河堂) Building 525–531 Carrall Street 1903 Chinese Empire Reform Association (保救大清光緒皇帝會) [4]
Mah Society (馬氏宗親會) of Canada 137–139 E Pender Street 1913 [5]
Shon Yee Benevolent Association (崇義會) 258 E Pender Street 1914
Yue Shan Society (禺山公所) 33–47 E Pender St. W.H. Chow 1898, 1920 [6]
Chinese Times (大漢公報) Building 1 East Pender Street William Tuff Whiteway 1902 Wing Sang Company [7]
Mon Keang School (文疆學校) 123 East Pender Street J.A. Radford and G.L. Southall 1921 Mon Keang School [8]
Lee Building 129–131 East Pender Street Henriquez and Todd 1907 Lee's Association (李氏公所) [9]
Carnegie Community Centre 401 Main Street G.W. Grant 1902–1903 Vancouver Public Library; later as Vancouver Museum and City Archives
Commercial Buildings 237–257 East Hastings Street 1901–1913
Hotel East (東方酒店) 445 Gore Street S.B. Birds 1912
Kuomintang (中國國民黨) Building 296 East Pender Street W.E. Sproat 1920 The Kuomintang (KMT, or Chinese Nationalist League) [10]
Chin Wing Chun Society (陳潁川堂) 160 East Pender Street R.A. McKenzie 1925 [11]
Ho Ho Restaurant (陶陶酒家) and Sun Ah Hotel (新亞旅館) 102 East Pender Street R.T. Perry and White and Cockrill 1911

International Village

In recent years Chinatown has seen growth in new construction as a downtown building boom continued into the Expo Lands, which adjoin Chinatown. New high-rise towers are being constructed around the old Expo 86 site including International Village, which was built twelve years after Expo (1998) and is located next to Stadium–Chinatown SkyTrain station. A shopping mall with a variety of Asian oriented shops, restaurants, and a movie theatre complex, Cinemark Tinseltown. (The name of the theatres has led to the popular but incorrect assumption that the name of the mall itself is "Tinseltown"[3]). International Village mall was also designed to be downtown's answer to the Asian malls found in the Golden Village, though it is not as racially exclusive and includes businesses and residents who are non-Chinese.

Besides the shopping mall, International Village also refers to the name given to the area by the mall's developer (a subsidiary of Henderson Land Development).


Further reading

  • Anderson, Kay. Vancouver's Chinatown: Racial Discourse in Canada, 1875-1980 (Montreal and Buffalo: McGill-Queen's University Press, 1991).
  • Anderson, Kay. Cultural Hegemony and the Race Definition Process in Vancouver's Chinatown: 1880-1980 in Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 1988. Reprinted in 1996, Social Geography: A Reader, ed. Hamnett C., (Arnold, London)
  • Anderson, Kay. The idea of Chinatown: the Power of Place and Institutional Practice in the Making of a Racial Category in Annals Association of American Geographers (1987 - vol. 77, no. 4). Reprinted in 1992, A Daunting Modernity: A Reader in Post-Confederation Canada ed. McKay, I (McGraw-Hill Ryerson, Ontario).

External links

Coordinates: 49°16′48″N 123°5′58″W / 49.28°N 123.09944°W / 49.28; -123.09944

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