Book Now

Opinion: ‘This used to be Chinatown …’

by HENRY YU, May 12, 2016

I travel to cities around the world that have Chinatowns — San Francisco, Honolulu, Brisbane, Yokohama, even Amsterdam. I visit because of my research as a historian, but I also have a personal interest. When I was small, my grandfather used to walk me to Chinatown from our house near Commercial Drive. My four-year old legs would get tired and so he would always carry me the last few blocks. I loved the way the elderly men and women in the cafés would greet us, giving me candy and teasing my grandfather about how lucky he was to have a grandchild. We called them the “lo wah kiu” — the old-timers. My grandfather was one of them. He came to Vancouver as a teen in 1923, just before Chinese were excluded by Canada. He paid the Head Tax and spent his life working in B.C., retiring as a cook on an Alaskan cruise ship. Many of these elders, after long years of toil, gathered in Chinatown to eat and talk and joke with each other as they lived out their days. Read more …

Participants in the Chinese New Year Parade through Chinatown in Vancouver. NICK PROCAYLO / PNG
[ + ]