Dragon mosaic to be unveiled at Chinese cemetery.

The mosaic, a joint project of Rotary and the Lions, honours the early Chinese pioneers of Ashcroft.

Andrea Walker

The Ashcroft-Cache Creek Rotary Club and the Ashcroft and District Lions Clubs have partnered over the past several years on a project to clean and restore the historic Ashcroft Chinese cemetery. The cemetery, located on Canadian Pacific Railway property, lies in a patch of land between the CP tracks and Highway 97C. Those who travel up the highway toward the mesa will have noticed that the cemetery has recently been totally cleaned and the grave sites are now more noticeable. Many people have commented that they didn’t realize the cemetery was as large as it is, nor that there were so many grave sites.

A very exciting project has been unfolding over the past few months, and its completion will add a whole new dimension to the cemetery. Local artist Marina Papais, together  with assistance from a couple of community helpers, has created a beautiful glass mosaic of a Chinese dragon. The mosaic will be housed in a country temple-style frame, designed by Daniel Collett, and will be installed at the Chinese cemetery location.

The project began with the creation of the dragon mosaic, but quickly morphed into an exciting walk into a piece of our history. Many of the headstones in the cemetery have weathered and fallen into disrepair over the years, but there are still a few that are readable. The inscriptions are all in Chinese, and there was nobody in Ashcroft who could decipher them.

The Kamloops Chinese Cultural Association was contacted, and they graciously offered to transcribe the inscriptions on the headstones. We now have anglicized names for these men, and our museum curator, Kathy Paulos, is excited to be able to search their histories further. The majority of the men who are interred in the cemetery are those who travelled all the way from China to Canada to work on the Canadian Pacific Railway. They were instrumental in the completion of the railway between 1881 and 1884, but were never honoured as they should have been.

This is the latest phase of an ongoing project that the Rotary and Lions Clubs have undertaken in the cemetery, and will honour not only those who are buried there, but also the Chinese culture, which played an important role in the history of Ashcroft.

A celebration and unveiling ceremony will be held at the historic Ashcroft Chinese cemetery on Sunday, June 5 at 2:00 p.m. The Rotary and Lions Clubs are inviting all local residents to the ceremony, which will include numerous dignitaries who will bring greetings to honour and remember these men.