Magazine article Sunset

Victoria's Chinatown

Magazine article Sunset

Victoria's Chinatown

Article excerpt

In the late 1850s, Canada's first Chinatown was established in Victoria, British Columbia. As its population grew, Chinatown evolved into a maze of interconnecting alleyways and inner courtyards, and earned a reputation as a forbidden city because of its gambling houses and opium dens. Today this small area - a few blocks north of Victoria's Inner Harbour - is still an intriguing maze, but it's not at all forbidding and is well worth exploring, either on your own or with Les Chan, who leads tours for groups of 10 or more.

On the tour, Chan points out unusual recessed balconies and explains why rooftops slope upward at the corners. And while you're inside the Tam Kung temple - where gold and scarlet tapestries surround an altar filled with offerings of fruit and flowers, and joss sticks scent the air with incense - Chan reveals why eight tiny cups of tea are always kept filled on one of the altars.

Although few Chinese people now live in the area, many shops are still owned and operated by members of the Asian community. …

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