A Living Tradition: A Cultural Journey Through Vancouver's Chinatown (55+)

Vancouver’s Chinatown was recognized as a National Historic Site of Canada in 2011. Its distinctive architectural features, streetscape, garden spaces and connection to the history of Chinese immigrants make the neighbourhood one of Canada’s most significant urban heritage sites.

In our journey—both literal and figurative—through Chinatown, we will explore the culture and growth of the Chinese community in Vancouver. We’ll look at current social and urban issues like gentrification, transportation, zoning and the ongoing efforts to revitalize Chinatown. We’ll experience some of the community’s living traditions, learn some Cantonese phrases and walk through the neighbourhood to deepen our understanding of the cultural uniqueness of Chinatown.

Note: Back by popular demand, from fall 2019. This course includes classes at SFU’s Vancouver campus (Harbour Centre) and Chinatown House (188 East Pender Street), as well as three walking tours of Chinatown.

Please note that enrollment in this course is reserved for adults 55+.

This course is available at the following time(s) and location(s):

Campus Session(s) Instructor(s) Cost Seats available  
Vancouver, Chinatown House 6 Christine Wong $120.00 20 -

Learning outcomes

By the end of the course, you should be able to:

  • Outline the historical development of Vancouver Chinatown from 1850 to present
  • Give examples of traditional activities in Chinatown, from first-hand experience
  • Describe the historical sites of Chinatown, from first-hand experience
  • Identify the architectural and cultural features of Vancouver Chinatown
  • Discuss how to promote a living tradition and cultural diversity in modern life  

Learning methods

You will learn through lecture, in-class discussion and walking tours of Chinatown. For Liberal Arts Certificate for 55+students: you will write a reflective essay.


Week 1: A historical exploration

Let’s take a step back in time! We will explore the growth and evolution of Chinese communities in Vancouver, as well as the stories of Chinese immigrants.
Class location: Harbour Centre

Week 2: A glimpse of key places

We will meet at Chinatown House and draft a map of “must-see” spots in Vancouver’s Chinatown. We will visit iconic structures such as the Millennium Gate, the Monument to Canadian-Chinese veterans, the Sam Kee Building and various benevolent associations.
Class location: Chinatown House, walking tour of Vancouver’s Chinatown

Week 3: An overview of today’s Chinatown

We will recap the week 2 walking tour and we’ll learn what events take place in the vibrant and unique Chinatown.
Class location: Harbour Centre

Week 4: A Cantonese experience

Cantonese is the main language spoken in the district, so we’ll spend some time learning some survival Cantonese phrases. We’ll discover real-life stories of Chinatown in a fun way, and also explore Chinese tea, dim sum, BBQ stores, grocery shops and some traditional Chinese businesses.
Class location: Chinatown House, walking tour of Vancouver’s Chinatown

Week 5: A cultural reflection

We’ll visit Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Park and we will endeavor to unfold the philosophic and artistic traditions of Chinese culture.
Class location: Chinatown House, walking tour of Vancouver’s Chinatown

Week 6: A living tradition

Tradition is not just found in the past, it is living. We will explore traditions and rethink how they make sense to us.
Class location: Harbour Centre

Books, materials and resources

Reading material (if applicable) will be available in class. Some course materials may be available online.

Academic integrity and student conduct

You are expected to comply with the Simon Fraser University’s Academic Integrity and Student Conduct Policies. Please click here for more details. Simon Fraser University is committed to creating a scholarly community characterized by honesty, civility, diversity, free inquiry, mutual respect, individual safety, and freedom from harassment and discrimination.

If you're 55+, you may take this course as part of

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