Walking Tour of Chinatown Calgary

By Ron Lee

Standing on the crest of the hill of Rotary Park looking south one surveys the Calgary downtown core. In the foreground is the Centre Street Lion’s Bridge that crosses the Bow River and at the base of the bridge the two blocks on the East side and the one block on the West side constitute Calgary’s Chinatown that lies between Riverfront avenue and fourth avenue south , and between 1st street South East and 2nd Street South West.  Along centre street is where the four quadrants North, South, East and West Calgary intersect within a three block radius known as Calgary’s Chinatown.

A walking tour of Calgary’s downtown Chinatown can be completed within...


Sien Lok Park

"Those who came before planted the trees, so that future generations can enjoy the shade"

Words from the "Wall of Names" monument.

Sien Lok Park's monument, called "Wall of Names" was unveiled on October 2001.

Gold Mountain
The Chinese first landed on Canada’s West coast in 1788, as carpenters and craftsmen of a trading vessel.  It was not until 1858 that thousands of Chinese immigrants came to Canada with hopes and dreams of a better life.  They joined the gold rush in Barkerville, British Columbia, which was the new “Gum San” or “Gold Mountain”.  By 1863, some 4,000 Chinese were mining the gold fields, or were working as farmers or labours.  Chinese crews constructed the Cariboo Wagon Road, strange telephone wire through the new settlement, and dominated the canning industry.

The Canadian Legacy
The next group of Chinese immigrants arrived from 1881 to 1885.  The Canadian Pacific Railway recruited 17,000 Chinese labours from the U.S. and China.  They toiled for $1.00 a day – half the wages of white people/workers – and under extremely dangerous conditions, laying over 600 km. of track from Eagle Pass to Port Moody.  Some 1,500 workers were killed, two men for every kilometer of the railroad, in landslides and dynamite blasts.  Others died from poor food and harsh living conditions.  When the “Last Spike” was struck, the Chinese workers suddenly found themselves out of work.  Many headed to the Prairies and East Canada.

Central monument located in the Sien Lok Park is called "In search of Gold Mountain" was unveiled on November 1999.

From 1885 (after the C.P.R. was completed) to 1903, the government passed three harsh Immigration Acts to stop Chinese Immigration.  The Acts imposed a “Head Tax” that rose from $50 to $100, then finally $500.  Over $23 million was collected.  The ultimate humiliation came on “Dominion Day” July 1, 1923.  For the next twenty-four years, the Chinese Immigration Act 1923, or “Exclusion Act” barred Chinese from even entering Canada, thus separating wives and families.  Instead of fading, the community grew stronger.  During World War II, the Chinese were not welcomed as Canadian soldiers, but over 500 men and women volunteered for service.  The community raised $10 million selling victory bonds.  The “Exclusion Act” was rescinded in 1947, but not until 1967 did Chinese receive “Equal Rights”.

Passing the Torch
Through generations, Chinese have been attracted to Canada. Today, the Chinese come from mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan as well as many other places, including Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, South Africa, India, Peru, Mauritus and the Caribbean. Deeply Committed to the development of their "chosen land", the Chinese, both men and women, have met the many historical challenges and truned diversity into enrichment for themselves and Canada.

Calgary Chinese Cultural Centre

Chinese Cultural Centre located on 1st Street and 2nd Aveune SW.

The Calgary Chinese Cultural Centre construction begin in May 1991. Many supporters includes the all levels of government, as well as many generous donors, and volunteers contributed to the building of the centre.

On September 27, 1992, the Grand Opening marked the beginning of new era in promoting Chinese culture.

Today, the Cultural Centre remains a focal point for community activities and a venue for cultural activities.

There are many cultural programs ranging from learning culture, language, sports and many more programs available. The facility also has a museum of Chinese artifacts and exhibition of the development of the Chinese community in Calgary.

One of the key features of the Cultural Centre is the Dr. Henry Fok Cultural Hall, when entering the centre, you immediately see the 70ft high ceiling, modeled after the Temple of Heaven.