I’ve always lived around the Chinatown neighbourhood, but I have never really questioned the history of Chinatown. Chinatown to me was just a normal place where I would sometimes go with my family or to help my grandma with the groceries. My father had worked in Chinatown as a butcher and I would sometimes visit him.
After this tour of Chinatown and reading the novel Disappearing Moon Cafe, I have learned more about my own culture and have sparked my interest in learning about Chinese history. The Chinese in Canada had to face discrimination and racism everyday. They even had to build a gate in order to protect themselves from the Europeans and were not allowed to go outside when it was dark. Though as a community the Chinese were able to create their own associations to aid their fellow men. Some of these headquarters still reside on Pender Street.
The living conditions for the Chinese men were very poor and over crowded. In Disappearing Moon Café, the old Chinese bachelors lived in half floors so that it would look like one floor instead of one and a half floors in order to pay less tax. There are still these apartments in Chinatown, but very few. There were also no bathrooms in the houses and they had to go the nearest bath house to do their business.
I had known that the Chinatown we see today was not the original Chinatown, but I did not know that there were other ethnic groups living in that area, like the Italians and Africans. We visited an Italian pasta store run for generations in Chinatown which I would always past by, thinking it was only a showcase for pasta.
During the tour we came across Kee’s Laundry which was mentioned in the novel and is now turned into a gallery. We also came across the old Maclean Park which was the place Morgan and Suzanne would hand out in the novel. Then we saw the place where Gwei Chang and the others discussed about the Janet Smith murder.
There are many historical sites like Dr. Sun Yat-Sen garden in Chinatown. I remember going there as a kid not knowing that is was made in memorization for Dr. Sun Yat-Sen who led the 1911 revolution in China. I learned that it was an exact replica of a garden in China and that the reason why the bridges are zig zagged is because spirits can only walk in a straight line. Learning little facts like these make me feel like I am getting closer to my culture. Another historical place was Shanghai alley. I never knew that such place existed and I will probably visit there more often because I was able to learn many new facts like about the very first Chinese person born in Canada. There are so many places in Chinatown that I don’t know about and it feels like I don’t know my own heritage at all, but it makes me want to know about my own heritage even more. I am very glad that Chinatown and other historical places still stand today and are preserved well.