Murals Commemorating 125 Years of Vancouver Chinese-Canadian History

2001 Gold Mountain mosaic. Corner of Columbia and Pender St.  Vancouver BC. Photo by J. Chong

2001 Gold Mountain mosaic. Corner of Columbia and Pender St. Vancouver BC. Photo by J. Chong

Sometimes it’s just easier to get around on bike or walk to look around in various  Vancouver neighbourhoods.  Like most locals, I go to Vancouver’s Chinatown to shop or eat.  Not to see outdoor art.

But there is a plethora of outdoor art with Chinese-Canadian history and cultural themes in the old  Chinatown district.

Here is a handful of  newly produced outdoor art, worth seeing now  –while still in pristine condition:   four  murals  just completed this September.  Three of them are by Vancouver artist, Arthur Cheng along Columbia St. near East Pender St.  It has been said, that some of the paintings are similar to some

 

Mural depicting Wah Chong family outside their laundry business in Vancouver. By Arthur Cheng 2010. 1885 date

Mural depicting Wah Chong family outside their laundry business in Vancouver. By Arthur Cheng (2010). Columbia and Pender St., Vancouver BC. 1884 year signifies their business ownership before the 1885 Chinese Immigration Act imposed the Chinese head tax.

photographs in Paul Yee’s book on Vancouver Chinese-Canadian history, “Saltwater City”.  Right at that same street corner, is  a 2001 mosaic “Gold Mountain”, one of four Chinatown-themed mosaics in the district.   Gold Mountain was the nickname used by the Chinese for Canada and U.S., with reference to the gold rush in from the mid 1800’s to early 1900’s  when Chinese men came to work in the mines, on the national railroad, in restaurants and laundries.

The fourth just-completed 2010 mural, is at Gore and East Pender Streets. (Some Internet sources have the wrong address.)  This mural was a partnership between the Lee Benevolent Association and City of Vancouver.

There is a wealth of more outdoor art and architecture when walking or cycling around. The history of Chinese-Canadian history in Vancouver has been well documented by scholars, historians and writers.  City Archives of Vancouver, Vancouver Public Library and the University of British Columbia Library (Chung collection) have deep resources for more detailed  research, as well as general information at each of their web sites.

Check out this booklet which summarizes some history along with some photos of historic landmarks and artwork that you can still see today. It does outline the national significance of Vancouver’s downtown Chinatown within Canadian history.

But now since the population of Chinese-Canadians has grown and dispersed all across Metro Vancouver, you will find an infusion of some Asian themes in outdoor art in other neighbourhoods. Vancouver truly is a Pacific Rim city which includes descendants from most Asian countries, many now second, third and fourth generation Canadians.  This permanent artwork  illustrates  just a tiny, but important fragment of that Vancouver history.

 

2008 mural back of Britannia Community Centre.

Asian motifs in art work in neighbourhood elsewhere, a few kms. away from Chinatown close to the Adanac bike route. 2008 mural back of Britannia Community Centre. Photo by J. Chong. Bottom lettering mentions effort mounted by local communities and Chinatown for preventing construction of a freeway through the area.

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