Behind the Edwardian Classical and Renaissance building facades are private interiors and secret passageways, concealed residents, remnants of opium factories, gambling dens, brothels.
The original structures house restaurants and stores connected by a labyrinth of alleys still unseen by outsiders. This "east meets west" portal helped establish and develop Canada. Founded during the Manchu or Qing (ch-ing) dynasty, Old Chinatown retains many gracious traditions and customs. Chinese festivals and celebrations along with the arts and recreation continue as they have for many generations. A century old Chinese School (est. 1909) runs full time and an ancient temple, herbal medicine shops, vegetable markets, music clubs and acupuncture clinics are among the services in this community.
Over the years Old Chinatown reflected the varying amounts of opportunities in this area. Early Chinese pioneers had to overcome great physical and social obstacles to establish today's prosperous and diverse society. The community has withstood extreme degrees of upheaval and injustice that helps define its unique character.
Post WW2 Chinese Canadians were granted equal rights and full Canadian citizenship. Old Chinatown became less populated as accommodations in other areas were sought. The preservation of Old Chinatown in the 80's attracted artists and musicians who increased the occupancy rate and helped revive a previously declining Oldchinatown.
Rejuvenation efforts are continually made to restore and preserve Old Chinatown's unique character and history. Although seemingly small; Old Chinatown once stretched over six square city blocks where thousands lived and worked in the largest Chinatown north of San Francisco. Urban renewal was and continues to be the main reason unique Old Chinatown buildings disappear.
Currently Old Chinatown remains a sanctuary that offers respite from the urban status quo. Much wisdom and many holistic health benefits are continually derived from Old Chinatown's customs, philosophy, medicine, gourmet cuisine and many cultures. It is a colourful mixed community that endears and prospers while achieving in 2008, 150 years of harmonious living. A cultural gem hidden in echoes of time and the heart of Victoria at Fisgard and Government Street on Vancouver Island.