What are your memories of Vancouver’s Chinatown?
Some local residents can recall family trips to grocery stores for Chinese ingredients and food items, while others have fond recollections of banquet-style dinners and other sumptuous meals in the area’s restaurants. Still others attended martial arts or Chinese language classes. And others simply lived there.
“If you walk along the alleyways of Chinatown, you can see the tiny apartments that many people lived in when there was no other welcome space outside of Chinatown,” Chinese Restaurant Awards judging chair Lee Man says in a statement. “I remember all the older Chinese men who were cut off from their families because of the Exclusion Act—always ready with a little bit of candy and friendly pat on the head for a little kid like me.”
However, there are many who don’t have any memories of Chinatown.
Some people have never set foot in the area while others are growing up without any connection to the locale.
However, Chinatowns across North America are struggling to survive as new generations and immigrants establish themselves elsewhere outside of these historic spaces.
“Chinatown is part of the rhythm of my life in Vancouver and I love that it reflects so much of my family's personal history,” Man says. “But it's also the future, a place full of stories waiting to be lived and told.”
Many efforts are underway to attract people to Vancouver’s Chinatown and one of the latest campaigns is from the Chinese Restaurant Awards.
The organization has launched the #MyChinatown campaign as well as a guide to some of the neighbourhood’s favourite food and cultural destinations.
This guide can help to introduce some local businesses to people who aren’t familiar with the area, or can help to shed light on places many people have walked by but didn’t know much about.
Among the eateries highlighted in the Eat and Dine section are Maxim’s Bakery and Restaurant, which offers Hong Kong–style meals); Dollar Meat Store, for Cantonese barbecue meats including duck, pork, and soy chicken; and Kent’s Kitchen, for comfort food.
Meanwhile, stores like China Housewares Discount Centre, Ai and Om, and plant shop Bamboo Village are listed in the Arts and Style section.
There's also the current exhibition A Seat at the Table—Chinese Immigration and British Columbia, which chronicles the history of Chinese food and culture in B.C.
Unfortunately, several places in Chinatown has been targeted by anti-Asian vandalism during the COVID-19 pandemic, including the Chinese Cultural Centre and the lion statues at Chinatown’s Millennium Gate.
Accordingly, it’s a good time to support Chinatown businesses, organizations, and people who aren’t just facing financial challenges but also discrimination.