Did you know May is Asian Heritage Month? This year marks its 20th anniversary and provides a great opportunity to learn more about the contributions, culture, and history of Asian communities to Canadian society. The theme of Asian Heritage Month this year is “Continuing a legacy of greatness”, highlighting the rich and diverse aspects of Asian heritage and the commitment to fight against anti-Asian racism.
As a person belonging to the Asian community and currently living in Victoria, I am pleased to have the chance to reflect on my identity and understand the resilient history of Asian-Canadians this month. Downtown Victoria has great resources, spots, and events that can lead me, as well as you, to walk into the vibrant communities of Canadian society.
Now, are you ready to celebrate and dive into the Asian-Canadian culture with me?
Event & Exhibition
The Salient Group – Asian Heritage Month: Chinatown Celebration
Sunday, May 29 | 1 – 4:30 p.m. | Victoria’s Chinatown | Website
The Victoria Chinatown Museum Society (VCMS) and Pacific Opera Victoria (POV) are collaborating on a special event in Victoria’s Chinatown to mark the 20th anniversary of Asian Heritage Month in Canada. In recognition of this year’s theme of “Continuing a Legacy of Greatness” and contributions that Chinese Canadians have and continue to make to the rich cultural tapestry of this country.
Many free performances and activities will be showcased to engage participants of all ages, including:
– A new exhibit of the Quon Family contributions to Victoria society displayed in the temporary CCM site located in Fan Tan Alley
– The professional achievements of two Chinese Canadian POV artists, John Chen and Michael Fan
– The beauty and grace of traditional martial arts and lion dancing as demonstrated by the Wong Sheung Kung Fu Club
– The timeless grace of traditional Chinese dance as performed by the Victoria Chinese Culture Club Dancers, directed by Dr. Hua Lin
– The cultural richness of Victoria’s Chinatown, the oldest of its kind in Canada
Isshoni: Henry Shimizu’s Paintings of New Denver Internment
Until Saturday, June 18 | 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. | Legacy Art Gallery | Website
Isshoni: Henry Shimizu’s Paintings of New Denver Internment is an exploration of Japanese Canadian identity, community, and family. Centering the voices of three generations, issei, nisei, and sansei (first, second, and third-generation), this exhibition provides insight into the intergenerational impacts of the forced uprooting and internment of Japanese Canadians during WWII.
First Steps: Chinese Canadian Journeys in Victoria + Gold Mountain Dream!
Friday to Sunday | 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. | 10 – 14 Fan Tan Alley | Website
Welcome to “First Steps: Chinese Canadian Journeys in Victoria”, a new temporary exhibition that highlights important starting points for Chinese Canadians in Victoria. Examples of intergenerational resilience and agency are shared through stories of community support, entrepreneurship, and personal accomplishment. “First Steps: Chinese Canadian Journeys in Victoria” is produced by Chinese Canadian Museum, in cooperation with Victoria Chinatown Museum Society.
Continue your visit with “Gold Mountain Dream!”, an exhibition which examines the personal stories and sacrifices of early Chinese migrant workers who came to British Columbia in search for prosperity during the Fraser Valley Gold Rush in the 1850s. The fascinating tales of early Chinese migrants during the Gold Rush detailed through photographs shed light on the adventure, heartbreak, and social upheaval which would impact the development of British Columbia and China. This exhibition is produced by Royal BC Museum in collaboration with the Canadian Museum of History.
Explore by Eating
Have a taste of Asian culture in downtown Victoria!
Little Yunnan Restaurant
546 Fisgard St | Website
The Little Yunnan Restaurant is famous for its “Crossing the Bridge Rice Noodle” which originated from a moving love story dated 500 years ago. The cuisine is served reconstructed with a huge hot bowl of broth, and you have to dump all the ingredients into this bowl immediately on your own as a way of “crossing the bridge”. It’s absolutely a neat and fresh dietary experience if you have not visited and created your own noodle soup before!
1609 Store Street | Website
Call out all ramen lovers! Ghost Ramen offers high-quality ramen with handmade noodles and crafted Tokyo-style soup, which can bring you back to the place from time to time. Bring friends and families together, try out their popular OG Miso bowls, and leave feeling deliciously full!
Indian Aroma Restaurant
612 Fisgard St | Website
An authentic Indian restaurant that can “WOW” you when you visit. Indian Aroma Restaurant prepares delicious dishes with by producing original Indian flavour and the feeling as if you were dining in India. This new Indian restaurant is truly to die for!
Sookjai Thai Restaurant
893 Fort St | Website
Looking for some Thai cuisine ideas? Check out the family-run Sookjai Thai Restaurant! Their flavourful selections like Panang Gai (coconut milk in a Thai red curry sauce with chicken) and Tom Yum Noodle (prawns and veggies in the hot and sour soup) are popular dishes. The heavenly desserts made by Mama and a cocktail created by the daughter are perfect choices to top off your meals. It is worth a visit and you can find something to love at this Thai restaurant!
History through Business
Dating from 1858, Victoria’s Chinatown is the oldest in Canada. The newly opened Chinese Canadian Museum in Fan Tan Ally allows you to discover the deep history of Chinatown and the experience of Chinese Canadians from a historical perspective. The current exhibit highlights the history of many businesses around downtown. Below are some examples of businesses from the exhibition, but I strongly urge you to visit the museum to discover so many more!
Loy Sing Co
554 Fisgard St | 1889 – Present
This butcher shop has been open for over 130 years (since 1889) and is the oldest continuously operating Chinese business in North America. Loy Sing Co is the place to go for BBQ pork and budget-friendly meals. The incredible legacy stands on selling fresh whole roast pig daily and the knowledge about the specific foods and styles of preparation that are important for Chinese culture.
538 Fisgard St | 1940 – Present
Today Don Mee is the longest standing Chinese restaurant in Victoria and remains a popular place to enjoy dim sum and other traditional Chinese dishes. Throwback to the history, Lee Gan opened a feed store with the same name “Don Mee” on Government Street in 1922 and branched out with a street-level butcher store at 538 Fisgard Street in 1924. In 1940 he expanded the business by creating an upstairs dining room, which later became Lee’s only operation in the 1960s as he consolidated operations in the restaurant only and closed the feed store, butcher shop and other businesses.
The Panama Cafe
1407 Government St. | 1917 – 1967
The Panama Cafe was operated by the Chen family for over three generations from 1917 to 1967. Before closing permanently, they moved from Johnson Street to Government Street. The cafe catered mainly to non-Chinese customers. Every day it prepared a new menu, whose selection appealed to the restaurant’s clientele which included white businessmen and shipyard workers who were in Victoria for wartime work. A special characteristic of this 50-year old cafe was that it is one of the few places where the name of the restaurant appeared in Chinese characters (巴拿瑪), using the Chinese name for the country Panama.
564 Fisgard St. | Early 1950s – 2009
Foo Hong, a classic chop suey restaurant, closed in 2009. They once served a limited menu featuring westernized Cantonese dishes. From 1972 to 1975, it gained notoriety as one of Premier Dave Barrett’s favourite places to eat and hold meetings. The location is now taken by I Kyu Noodles, a newer place for authentic Chinese meals.