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New National Museum Features Chinese Canadian Experiences And History

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Canada’s first and only Chinese Canadian Museum shares the history and stories of Chinese Canadians and their experience in Canada.

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step,” says an old Chinese proverb. That single step taken by the Chinese Canadians who started arriving on Vancouver Island in 1788 eventually led to a vital and integral part of Canada’s cultural history.

The Chinese Canadian Museum — which opened to the public on July 1st of last year — aims to honour and preserve this history. The museum is the first and only Chinese Canadian museum in all of Canada and tells the stories, histories and contributions of Chinese Canadians. Housed in the oldest brick building in Vancouver’s Chinatown, the museum is dedicated to sharing some of the lesser-known stories of early Chinese communities in Canada, sometimes referred to as their “hidden history.”

Honouring Chinese Canadians’ history, contributions, and heritage

The museum is housed in the historic Wing Sang Building at 51 East Pender Street, built in 1889 by Chinese merchant Yip Sang for his business, the Wing Sang Company. Wing Sang means “Everlasting” in Chinese and expresses an aspirational hope and testament to Yip Sang’s legacy, which included a successful business and a family of three wives and 23 children.

As the museum approaches its one-year anniversary this summer, visitors can view these three special exhibitions in Vancouver.

The Paper Trail to the 1923 Chinese Exclusion Act (until late 2024) commemorates 100 years since the passing of the Chinese Exclusion Act, which stopped Chinese immigration (until it was repealed in 1947) and required all Chinese Canadians to carry certificates of identification (C.I. certificates) The exhibition traces these hundreds of C.I. certificates – the most ever publicly displayed. This community-sourced exhibition with a national focus, probes the nature of paperwork and documentation over this time period.

Odysseys and Migration recounts some of the unique journeys that are in Chinese Canadian history from the 18th century to the present day, highlighting Chinese-Indigenous relations, the multiple migration waves between Hong Kong and Vancouver, and more recent (20th to 21st century) migrations from countries across the world, such as South Africa, Thailand, and Singapore.

The Period Rooms: Historic School Room and Living Room exhibition allows visitors to discover how Yip Sang’s family lived and created a community within a community. Explore one of the oldest, most historic school rooms in Vancouver and a recreated 1930s living room where one can sit, play music on the phonograph, or pick up a rotary dial phone to hear memories of life in days gone by.

In addition to the main exhibitions, the museum hosts programming and events throughout the year, and features a temporary exhibition in Victoria’s Fan Tan Alley.

A unique and immersive learning experience

Visiting the Chinese Canadian Museum isn’t a conventional museum experience with static displays and minimal participation. It is immersive and interactive, and designed to provide an invigorating and transformative experience so that visitors feel a deeper connection to the history of Chinese culture and Chinese Canadians. As they explore the various exhibitions, visitors are also encouraged to reflect on how they connect to people and places of their own past.

If you live in British Columbia or plan to visit the province this summer, put the Chinese Canadian Museum on your itinerary and discover some of Canada’s hidden history.

To learn more or to plan your visit, visit

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