Next to San Francisco, Vancouver boasts the second largest Chinatown in North America. Its citizens jealously guard their ancient traditions, bringing the culture of Far East to Vancouver.
Chinese population of Vancouver dates largely from the construction of Canadian Pacific Railway. During 1881-1884, 15000 Chinese were imported as a labor force and these numbers settled mainly in Vancouver and Victoria. The large numbers and the diligence of Chinese, as well as other factors combined to create an atmosphere of prejudice, which strengthen Chinese community. This community located near Gastown, which was then commercial center of Vancouver. Chinese Benevolent Association, established around the turn of the century, offered aid, both financial and legal, to members of Chinese community.
Newspapers were established. Many of the structures now seen in Chinatown were built. These buildings often had a commercial space on the first floor and meeting halls and hostel accommodations on the second. Later, community has taken pride in refurbishing the area, capitalizing on the unique architectural design of many of its buildings, which date back to the beginning of 20th century.
The area consists of many restaurants and retail stores together with banks and other business
institutions, which service the local community and visitor alike. Shops of Chinatown are filled with an exotic array of goods, with variety enough to temp all shoppers. Here one can buy an inexpensive but unusual bauble or an antique Chinese vase. While shopping, munch on an almond cake or stop into one of the many restaurants, which cater to both Western and Oriental tastes.
Every year, community celebrates Chinese New Year with a parade. Participants include many local residents in traditional dress and mandatory firecrackers and dragons. For Chinese community, festivals last from 3 days up to a week. During this time, many offices and businesses remain closed.
At night, the area comes to life and no matter what time of year, there is always something to do and people on the streets. Visitors may browse in many stores or eat at a first class restaurant with its own cabaret.