The Chinatown in Montreal, Canada, isn’t one of the largest outside of China by any means but it still has a rich history and some uniqueness to it even if it has been declining over the decades for a number of reasons.
Whenever I visit a major city, particularly in the western world, I like to visit areas unique to different cultural groups. And one such area is the Chinatown.
Chinatowns are unique and have a charm of their own with the vibrant colors.
In many countries, particularly in North America, Chinatowns began taking shape in the 19th century when hundreds of Chinese immigrants came to work. They faced terrible hardship, racism and discrimination.
The discrimination, including that came in the form of various laws, brought them together into tightly knit communities as a means of support. Eventually, these Chinatowns also became communities to preserve their history and culture.
The Grand Entrance of a Chinatown
One of the unique features of many Chinatowns is the archway at the doorstep of a Chinatown. From San Francisco to Vancouver in British Columbia in Canada to Montreal, also in Canada, the entrance gates are unique.
And once inside the Chinatown, the visitor is entertained by stores and stores, selling items from China and other Asian countries and, of course, restaurants specializing in anything from congee and noodles to dim sum and Peking ducks.
The Chinatown in Montreal
In 2011, ten years ago, I was in Montreal for a few days.
And during that trip, I took a mini trip to the city’s Chinatown or, as in French, Quartier Chinois.
Montreal’s Chinatown took shape during the last few decades of the 19th century as the Chinese immigrants who came to Canada to build the national railway line and work in the mines in the west started moving eastwards.
They were from British Columbia but also from southern China and spoke a sister dialect of Cantonese. As in many other Chinatowns, the immigrants soon started operating their business, as a way not only to cater to their community but also to avoid the discrimination in the mainstream societies.
The initial businesses were laundromats and also eateries.
In 1902, the area officially became a Chinatown.
But over the past few decades, the Chinatown has seen a decline, as younger people move out and various property development projects take over land.
But still, the Chinatown in Montreal has its charm and places to see, including a park, and enjoy fantastic food.
And this Chinatown in Montreal has four paifang – The Chinese architectural style gates or gateways – which is the highest number for any Chinatown in Canada.