It’s time to rediscover Vancouver’s Chinatown

August 5, 2015

By Chuck Chiang, Vancouver Sun |

TD Vancouver Chinatown Festival

Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 8 and 9 | Keefer and Columbia streets


Justin Kuan and Devon Wang know firsthand the image of Chinatown among many of their classmates — even among young Chinese-Canadians.

“Most of the kids growing up in Metro Vancouver, especially those of us from the west side, have this misconception of Chinatown: that it’s old and a little run down,” said Kuan, 15, a Grade 10 student from Prince of Wales Secondary. “But if you are here, you know it’s different than that description. Sure, it has the traditional shops, restaurants and bakeries, but there are also modern aspects. In a way, it’s new and happening.”

Kuan and Wang will be among the more than 200 volunteers who will put on what is historically one of B.C.’s largest cultural festivals, in an annual event that is intended to draw more mainstream awareness and understanding for the Chinatown neighbourhood.

The TD Vancouver Chinatown Festival will take place in the 100 block of Keefer Street and the 500 block of Columbia Street in the historic neighbourhood, featuring not only traditional Chinese arts and crafts, but also fusion cuisine, modern fashion, a watermelon-eating contest and live music and dance performances.

The event, hosted by the Vancouver Chinatown Business Improvement Area Society, drew 57,000 people last year.

The theme this year is Flair of Fashion, which highlights the mix of fashion and lifestyle trends through a number of exhibits and displays. But beyond the themed demonstrations, there will also be a main stage for lion dances and kung fu performances, as well as two talent show finals for some of the city’s top young singers and performers.

Wang, the mainstage coordinator at this year’s festival, said there will also be a focus on children-friendly activities to encourage the entire family to take part, as well as walking tours of Chinatown that will allow festival attendees to get a better understanding of the neighbourhood and the evolving local community.

“We want people to feel free to walk around Chinatown and not just stay within the festival area,” said Wang, 17, who added organizers change the slate of performances and exhibits every year to reflect the changing nature of the neighbourhood.

“Every festival we’ve held has had something unique. This year, for example, we are doing the watermelon-eating contest for the first time. We’ll have a French food truck for the first time. We’ll have a live band. So it’s not the same things over and over.”

The main portions of the festival will run from noon to 6 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday, and the StreetFest — which includes an Anime Fashion Showdown in association with local enthusiast group Anime Revolution — will run Saturday from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Read more