Vancouver Chinatown: Red Lanterns, Colourful Food Markets And A Chinese Sausage Roll

After almost two weeks of glorious sunshine in Vancouver came three gloomy days of rain. So in an effort to brighten up the day, I decided to make a visit to the perfect location: Chinatown.

Vancouver Chinatown is a maze of streets to the east of the city centre that is definitely an unmissable attraction.

Although I wanted to leave one of the star features in this area, the Dr Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden, for a sunny day, I found that there was plenty to see just meandering my way between the roads, which were decorated with numerous characteristic red lanterns.

Luring smells radiated from the many food markets – each one filled with a variety of colourful ingredients.

Today, Vancouver Chinatown is a vibrant and thriving community – an integral and celebrated part of the city.

But earlier that week, on a walk along the waterfront, I had read about the disgusting mistreatment of the early Chinese settlers.

Some came with the wave of immigrants that descended on British Columbia following the discovery of gold in the Fraser River in 1858, but most arrived to help with the building of the Canadian Pacific Railway between 1881 and 1885.

Around 600 died during the construction and the Chinese workers only received half the wage of their white counterparts.

History can be heartbreaking…

As if this was not bad enough, they were all laid off after completion and found themselves segregated from society and treated like second-class citizens.

They were not allowed to vote and were forbidden to train for jobs such as doctors or lawyers.

Chinese immigrants were heavily taxed and were prevented from entering Canada at all from 1923.

A racist organisation called the Asiatic Exclusion League was set up in 1907 and tried to destroy Chinatown.

Chinese people were restricted from owning their own land and efforts were even made to prevent Chinese students from attending schools.

It was not until after the Second World War that Chinese people began to get the respect that they deserved – following the bravery of Canadian Chinese soldiers.

In 1949, they were finally allowed to vote ending a period of humiliating history that has become known as the ‘long disgrace’.

Fantastic street art can be found in Chinatown as well. I stumbled across some wall murals by an artist called Arthur Cheng.

Here they are…

Along with the food markets, there are a lot of Chinese bakeries. I decided to try something and went with a Chinese sausage roll.

This is what it looked like…

This was completely different to the sausage rolls I have tried in England.

Inside the soft, doughy exterior was a dried, smoked pork sausage – like these that were being sold in one of the shops…

It was quite tasty and interesting to try, but, in all honesty, I am not sure I liked it enough to try again.

I will be back in Vancouver a couple of times in the weeks ahead and will be returning to catch the parts that I missed and to hopefully see the Chinatown on a sunny day.

But, it still looked great in the rain and worked a treat at brightening up a dull weather day.

Do you like the look of Vancouver’s Chinatown? Have you ever visited?




  1. May 27, 2012 / 23:48

    Fantatsic photos of Chjinatown, a must see when visiting our city. Thanks for including some history of the Chinese immigrants as well. I love this part of town and have not spent enough time exploring it. Next tiem try the lemon or custard tarts at a Chinese bakery. They are too die for!

  2. May 28, 2012 / 07:18

    I’m just over from Darlene’s blog and have to tell you I’ve fallen in love with your blog already! Great photos and lots of interesting posts, I will be back!
    Barbara recently posted..Alice in Wonderland tea partyMy Profile

  3. June 1, 2012 / 18:06

    It is so unsettling that the Chinese were being treated this way just 100 years ago. Great photographs, especially of the murals.
    Suzy recently posted..My Travel Valedictory AddressMy Profile

    • June 1, 2012 / 19:45

      Hey Suzy, I know it’s horrible to learn how people were treated so badly. The murals were great to stumble across – I think they’ve only been there a few years now.