Victoria is home to the oldest Chinatown in Canada. And down the narrowest street in the nation, Fan Tan Alley is where Chinese pioneers once gathered.
“Fan tan alley has a storied history, it was the centre of social life,” said Grace Wong, with the Chinese Canadian Museum.
As of Feb. 18, a temporary exhibition space will be open to the public, put together by the newly announced Chinese Canadian Museum and the province.
The historical exhibit looks to honour the lived experience, contributions and stories of Victoria’s Chinese community.
“The first doctors, the first nurses, the struggles, the invitation to come here and to think you were welcome. And the government policies to keep us out,” said Melanie Mark, Minister of Tourism.
Many Chinese migrants landed on British Columbia’s shores in Victoria during the 1850s, lured by the gold rush.
The exhibit shows what it was like to arrive in Victoria and the subsequent struggles. In the 1880s the Canadian federal government cracked down on Chinese immigration, first by controlling the immigration of people of Chinese descent initially through onerous taxes, then by outright banning them in 1923.
The exhibition though is just a snapshot of the stories.
“We are hoping this exhibit will encourage visitors to visitors to explore outside these four walls of the exhibit and into our Chinatown,” said Alan Lowe, chairman of the Victoria Chinatown Museum Society.
Lowe says Victoria’s Chinatown is the living, breathing legacy of Victoria’s Chinese community.
Something the city’s mayor is also celebrating.
“This is a very proud moment for victoria,” said Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps. “Victoria is home to a creative, thoughtful, entrepreneurial, and really amazing Chinese community.”
The temporary exhibit will run until the end of September.