Spring arrives in Vancouver’s Chinatown

I have been spending a lot of time on the computer lately, preparing for the launch of my new book (more info in a future post). But I was lured away by the spring sunshine Friday afternoon and decided to visit Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Garden in Vancouver’s Chinatown.

As I neared Chinatown (walking from Stadium Skytrain station) I was met by these two Canada Geese who also seemed out for a spring walk (it’s the time of year when paired geese and their nests turn up in some strange locations around town).

Vancouver’s Chinatown is the second largest in North America (after San Francisco’s). It’s been in existence since the late 1800s, surging in growth after the Canadian railroad was completed in 1885 and many out-of-work Chinese railway workers found employment in Vancouver.

I love the colors and historic buildings in this part of the city and couldn’t resist posting some photos.


(Gate to Chinatown, looking east on Pender St. near Carrall St.)


(Shops along Pender St. –near entrance to Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Garden)


(Tiny pink building is “Kitty’s Beauty Studio”)


(I’m not sure what purpose the niches in this old brick wall served originally, but they seem to have no current one other than to act as cozy pigoen perches)


(Like the two geese, and perhaps the pigeon pair, these crows seem to be a couple with nesting on their mind)


(Chinatown banners)

Ooops, I hadn’t mean to post so many photos of Chinatown, but actually meant to focus on Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Garden. So, if you’re still with me, garden photos are next.

The Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Chinese Garden is modeled after private classical gardens of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). It is the first full-scale classical Chinese garden constructed outside of China, and was built through the cooperation of Canada, China, and the Chinese and non-Chinese communities in Vancouver. It is named in memory of Dr. Sun Yat-Sen, the “Father” of modern China, who played a role in leading the overthrow of the Qing Dynasty in 1911 and was the first president of the Republic of China.

(You can glimpse the moon-shaped gate to the public park section of the garden beyond the stone lion)

When I stepped into the garden, I left behind the hussle and bustle of the surrounding city (and the shouts from a nearby soccer game), and entered a tranquil oasis.

The design and materials of the garden reflect the Daoist philosophy of yin and yang. Light is balanced by dark, rugged and hard are balanced by soft and flowing, small is blanced by large. It also has the four main elements of a classical Chinese garden: buildings, rocks, plants, water.


Even the pebbled courtyard ground has symbolism. The stones are rough to balance the smooth of the water, and the pattern of one section represents “masculine,” while the pattern of the opposite section represents “feminine.”


Bamboo represents quiet resilience, bending but never breaking.


Turtles symbolize long-life, while the koi fish represent strength and perseverance (due to their ability to swim a long way against the current).


The drip tiles at the edge of the roof represent bats, which are symbols of good luck (the Chinese word for “bat”, bianfu, sounds like the Chinese word for “Good luck”). Bat images can be found throughout the garden.


The water is intentionally cloudy to intensify the reflections (Magnolia tree reflected in above photo).


The garden is open all year, with something different to see with each season. There is a fee to enter the inner courtyard and associated buildings, but the public park section (seen in the above photo) is free. More info is available on the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Garden website.

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8 Responses to “Spring arrives in Vancouver’s Chinatown”

  1. Jean-Pierre Antonio Says:

    A-h-h-h-h-h-h… The perfect way to start a day. The garden images are so beautiful and calming. Thanks for posting them. Next time I’m in Vancouver I will be sure to visit Chinatown and the gardens again. It is definitely one of Vancouver’s greatest treasures.

    Jean-Pierre

  2. Jean-Pierre Antonio Says:

    ps. I forgot to add in my previous post that I think the colourful carp (koi) represent strength and perseverance. At least they do in Japan and the legend behind the koi came from China so maybe it has the same meaning in China. In the legend the koi swims up a river and even up a waterfall (that takes strength) and transforms into a dragon.

    Jean-Pierre

    • Jacqueline Pearce Says:

      Thanks, Jean-Pierre! Yes, I now remember the garden tour guide saying the koi were symbols of strength and perseverance (kind of the equivalent of salmon in Canada, I guess). I’ll revise the post to include this.

  3. Heather Says:

    Can you believe I have never been there? I had no idea it was so beautiful! I’ll definitely have to visit next time I am in Vancouver.

    • Jacqueline Pearce Says:

      I hadn’t visited before either (despite years of living in Vancouver), but now that I’ve been (and discovered how easy it is to get to from the Skytrain), I think it will become a regular stopping spot (especially the park section).

  4. Rochelle Pearce Says:

    Jacquie your pictures are marvelous, the colours, nature, contrast and designs.
    You have an artist’s eye.

  5. Yousei Hime Says:

    I love, I love, I love the garden. I wish there was something like that near me. I’m on a mission. I did discover recently that there is a Japanese tea house and garden in a city north of me. The perform/serve? a Japanese tea ceremony once a month from April to October. I am going to try and get there at least once this year. Can’t wait to see the gardens and tea house.

  6. Mystery of the Missing Luck | Shiteki Na Usagi Says:

    […] also has some wonderful photos of Vancouver’s Chinatown at her […]

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