Taking pride in Chinese history

A writer commends the Lions and Rotarians for cleaning and maintaining the Ashcroft Chinese cemetery.

Dear Editor,

It was so good to read about the on-going restoration of the Chinese cemetery in Ashcroft (“Rotary and Lions team up to clean Chinese Cemetery”, March 31). It was a project dear to the heart of the late Ken Kidder of Ashcroft. I recall his concern about its neglect years ago; he would have been so pleased to see it in its present condition.

I discovered the cemetery in a visit to Ashcroft in 1970. Evidence of the site near the CPR rail track was then a few tombstones, almost covered over with weeds. It was a startling discovery at the time. I was new to the area, and had no knowledge of the contribution made by the Chinese in Ashcroft. When I moved to Ashcroft in 1973, I researched the rich heritage left by the Chinese community in Ashcroft, and have since written about it for The Pioneer and The Journal.

In 1981, Alfred Chow of Ashcroft brought to my newspaper office a history of his family and the family’s general store, Wing Chong Tai, which he had written. It was a very fine piece of writing, and The Pioneer was privileged to print it. The article remains in the “morgue” of The Pioneer in the Ashcroft Museum.

Dr. Sun Yet Sun visited Ashcroft in 1910, I believe, and I was told he raised $100,000 to help overthrow the corrupt Manchu dynasty. Can you imagine this distinguished visitor arriving in dusty old Ashcroft, and the pride of the Chinese community. It must have been something!

There is so much rich history here. When the Chow’s general store closed in 1981, it was a historic event. The whole of Chinatown was put to the torch, destroyed forever. Only a few years later did people realize what they had lost. Described by a Heritage Trust Canada official as “The finest streetscape in Western Canada”, little did most of us realize that the avenue of false front shops, sheds, and gardens was a priceless heritage.

Like Barkerville, the restoration of old Chinatown here could have created a flourishing tourist industry. Hindsight, as they say, is 20-20 vision.

Esther Darlington




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