Shanghai Alley, Chinatown

Where Shanghai and Canton Alleys intersect are a variety of information boards lauding the history of Vancouver and the former residents of the original Chinatown region of Shanghai and Canton Alleys, a historically significant site. CREDIT: Venture Vancouver, SOURCE:

A signboard commemorating Vancouver's Chinatown's oldest district, the Shanghai and Canton Alleys.





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Easy to miss, its hard to believe these streets were once the most important hubs of activity and cultural importance in all of Vancouver. In a strange new place, Chinese immigrants were able to find a community in this new foreboding city which judged new citizens harshly. Long gone are the days when the Sing Kew Theatre entertained the masses and the streets were alive with the market - all which have expanded out of this small cramped area. This cobblestone roadway now leads to a quiet, contemplative place paying tribute to those who made a difference in their community and honouring the hundred first residents of Chinatown on the massive West Han Dynasty Bell which sits in the middle of this ghostly alley.

One of the oldest streets in the Chinatown district, Shanghai and Canton alleys were the premier location for new Asian immigrants arriving in Vancouver as it housed many of the shops and Asian inspired cultural and political activities important to settlers immigrating into the region.

Most of the colonization in these alleys occurred between 1890 and 1920, where the residents built a Chinese style courtyard which was a hub for many new residents. Eventually, more than 1,000 residents called this area home, breathing life into the area by constructing the Sing Kew Theatre to keep their traditions strong.

The alley also houses a gift from Chinatown's sister city, Guangzhou, Guangdong Province, China; a replica of the West Han Dynasty Bell.

Interest in the area has been revived and recent improvements to these alleys have included information panels about some of the most influential Chinese-Canadians to settle in the area such as Yip Sang, Won Cum Yow, and Dr. Sun Yat-Sen, namesake of the garden nearby.

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Shanghai and Canton Alleys were the basis for the beginning of the current Chinatown. New immigrants would flow into the area, be set up with accommodations and familiar language and foods, a necessity for many. The Alley is now a shrine to those who lived within the area who made it a better place for all Chinese-Canadians.

Location of Shanghai Alley

Use the interactive map below to locate and explore the areas around Shanghai Alley

Near the Sam Kee Building, look for the sign post for Shanghai Alley,
Shanghai/Canton Alleys

Map of Chinatown, Downtown Vancouver

Click the brown GEMS on the map to navigate to the other activities within this region

Things to do in Chinatown Vancouver

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Millennium Gate
Century's Winds of Change Mural, China Town
Shanghai Alley
West Han Dynasty Bell
Sam Kee Building
China Gate
Chinese Zodiac Mosaic
Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden
Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Park
Chinese Cultural Centre Museum, Archives and Military Museum
Canadian Chinese Monument, China Town, Vancouver
Chinatown Market