After 11 years of bringing you local reporting, the team behind the Vancouver Observer has moved on to Canada's National Observer. You can follow Vancouver culture reporting over there from now on. Thank you for all your support over the years!

New Site Promotes Chinese-Canadian Heritage

Photo of Chinese Men and Women. Courtesy of the UBC Library Rare Books and Special Collections.

The Chinese Experience in British Columbia.  Thanks to UBC Library and the City of Vancouver Archives, a new website offers users a fascinating look at a century of local Chinese-Canadian heritage – and students and teachers an array of learning opportunities.The site, entitled The Chinese Experience in British Columbia, is found at It features digitized holdings from two sources: the Wallace B. Chung and Madeline H. Chung Collection at UBC, and the Yip family and Yip Sang Company collection at the City of Vancouver Archives. (Digitization refers to the conversion of analogue objects – such as books, journals, audio and video recordings – into digital formats that can be accessed by anyone with a computer and an Internet connection.) Quotes from renowned Canadian author Wayson Choy also appear on the site alongside various images. 

More than 2,300 items from the exceptional Chung Collection – a designated national treasure worth more than $5 million – have been digitized for the site. This process is ongoing, with more items being added regularly. The collection, which focuses on the Asian experience in Canada, West Coast history and the Canadian Pacific Railway, features more than 25,000 items, and the goal is to eventually have most of these digitized and available on the website. 

More than 600 letters from the Yip family and Yip Sang Company – a prominent family and business from Vancouver’s Chinatown – are featured on the site. Most of these letters involved Chinese-Canadian immigrants, their families in China, requests for financial assistance, etc. They came to the Wing Sang building in Chinatown because Yip Sang acted as an unofficial postmaster for Vancouver’s Chinese community (the building was also home to Yip Sang’s business); letters addressed in Chinese characters weren’t able to pass through the Canadian postage system. 

Yip Sang also was the Chinese passenger agent for the CPR, meaning that any Chinese residents from Vancouver wanting to sail to China would have proceeded through him. Included on the website is the entire run of 899 ticket stub books from the Chung Collection. Names of passengers are indexed, which enables users to search for ancestors. The site also enables users to share information and stories, such as providing names of unidentified people in photos or translations of Chinese passengers or characters. 

Meanwhile, schools, teachers and students are allowed to reproduce, share electronically, exhibit, crop, translate, archive and use any content on the site and the associated digital collections for non-commercial purposes. Teachers can also use, modify, reproduce and distribute website text for non-commercial purposes without having to request additional permission. 

The Chinese Experience in British Columbia was made possible in part through the Canadian Culture Online Program from the Department of Canadian Heritage, Library and Archives Canada and the Canadian Council of Archives. 

For more information, please contact:
Glenn Drexhage
Communications Officer, UBC Library
E-mail: [email protected]

Remember federal election day [political advertisement]. Photo courtesy of UBC Library Rare Books and Special Collections.

Envelope, Chen Dian Quan to father, Chen Da Chun, 1904. Photo courtesy of the City of Vancouver Archives.

More in City

Living in an apartment with kids? Share your experiences

The City is seeking input from apartment-dwelling families with children to help plan for spaces that better meet their needs. As part of an update to the High-Density Housing for Families and...

Your water wise summer starts early this year

Today City Council approved a new Drinking Water Conservation By-Law to align with the Metro Vancouver Drinking Water Conservation Plan. Under the new by-law, watering restrictions will start on...

Temporary modular housing approved for Kaslo Street

The Director of Planning for the City of Vancouver, Gil Kelley, announced today the approval of a development permit to build 52 new temporary modular housing units at 4480 (formerly 4410) Kaslo...
Speak up about this article on Facebook or Twitter. Do this by liking Vancouver Observer on Facebook or following us @Vanobserver on Twitter. We'd love to hear from you.