‘Highlight of spring’: Victoria’s Awakening Chinatown event to showcase Asian communities, local talent

'Highlight of spring': Victoria's Awakening Chinatown event to showcase Asian communities, local talent
Photo: Michelle Proctor
Alex Chen is pictured

Chinese Canadian culture and community floods into Victoria’s Chinatown this weekend, as an annual event returns with free performances and activities.

The 3rd annual Awakening Chinatown event is something “the whole family can enjoy” this Sunday, May 26, from noon to 5:30 p.m., according to organizers.

They say festival-goers in and around Fisgard Street will also be able to experience calligraphy demonstrations, Chinese fortune telling, arts and crafts, and games, all the while celebrating the 22nd anniversary of Asian Heritage Month.

Local talent will also be showcased.

“It’s been a highlight of spring the last few years…” says classical singer Alex Chen, who’s thrilled to be back for another year to perform Chinese opera.

“The event brings such a vibrant energy to the oldest Chinatown in Canada and showcases many facets of the Asian communities that are in and around Victoria,” said Chen. “As a classical singer, it’s been a tremendous outlet for me to share special Chinese songs that are part of my process of connecting with Chinese culture as a second-generation Canadian.”

Chen with Pacific Opera Victoria will perform at 4:45 p.m., and the full event schedule can be found below. More music, as well as dance and drag performances, is also on tap.

Rich in history

The Victoria Chinatown Museum Society (VCMS) is putting on the event, which it says aims to celebrate the stories of local Chinese Canadian pioneers. The area, the oldest remaining Chinatown in North America, is a designated National Historic Site.

It’s “a richly textured reminder of the early years of Chinese settlement in Canada,” reads a post on Parks Canada’s website that dives further into the history.  

“As the major immigrant port of entry on the West Coast before World War I, Victoria boasted the largest concentration of Chinese Canadians in the country. They established a self-contained and identifiable neighbourhood which offered a complete range of commercial, residential and social amenities.”

The museum notes that Victoria’s Chinatown, which envelops three blocks of the city’s downtown, has since become “a hub for learning, tourism, and celebration.”

VCMS is “dedicated to educating and fostering learning about the Chinese community, its living history and evolving culture through the creation of a museum in (Fan Tan Alley), and through engaging with the broader community.”

This Sunday, they’re expecting a big turnout, and all are invited to attend.

“Following last year’s overwhelming response, we anticipate an even greater gathering for this year’s festivities,” added Grace Wong Sneddon, chair of VCMS. “We invite everyone to experience the vibrancy and unity of our community as we celebrate the wonderful tapestry that is Chinatown.”

Here’s the event schedule:

  • 12 p.m. – Opening Ceremonies
  • 1 p.m. – Victoria Chinese Opera Club
  • 1:15 p.m. – Sunshine Fitness Club Chinese Cultural Dance
  • 1:40 p.m. – Victoria Happy Drum Group
  • 2 p.m. – Chinese Dance Victoria
  • 2:15 p.m. – John Wong, Erhu soloist
  • 2:30 p.m. – Wong Sheung Kung Fu Club Lion Performance & Kung Fu Demonstration
  • 3 p.m. – House of Rice Drag Performance
  • 3:30 p.m. – Sam Low, Chinese DJ Remix
  • 4:30 p.m. – Wong Sheung Kung Fu Club Lion Performance
  • 4:45 p.m. – Chinese Art Song, featuring Alex Chen, Irina Kim

Ethan MorneauEthan Morneau

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