Sunday, June 14, 2009

Chinese Cemetery

This is one of my most favourite places; it's quiet, it's a cemetery and the view is pretty nice. A wonderful place to simply chill out.

The history of Chinese immigration to Canada, well the west coast of Canada, is pretty much as long as the history of European immigration to this area (actually probably much, much longer according to how one looks at history and categories but that's another story). This is a brief snippet about the Chinese Cemetery at Harling Point.

It's said that a traditional Chinese belief is that the soul of a person who dies in a foreign land wanders aimlessly until their bones are returned to their homeland. The early Chinese pioneers who came to work and live in Victoria and on the mainland, came mainly for the gold rush and to supply labour for the western portion of the Canadian Pacific Railway. The remains of those who died locally and elsewhere in Canada were buried in Victoria until their bones could be exhumed and sent back to China.

In 1903, the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association, bought land to create a cemetery, for previously, Chinese people had been buried in a section of Ross Bay Cemetery (just down the road) that was prone to washouts by ocean waves. Victoria's Chinese Cemetery at Harling Point became the temporary resting place, until 1933 when the practice of sending bones back to China ended.

People are no longer buried here and it is now a National Historic Site of Canada but people still come to the site to worship their ancestors and/or pay their respects, cultural background depending and all that.

The graves are very modest and some have been given a lick of paint.

This is the ceremonial altar, used for burning incense and leaving offerings.

Here, someone has left a martial arts suit of some kind and a basket of spirit money and oranges.

The cemetery overlooks the straight and the Olympic Mountains (there aren't usually that many boats; a race was going on) and it's not too shabby a place to spend an hour or two or a day or for all of eternity for that matter! ;-)

See more Scenic Sundays here.


  1. Funny to see all those houses nearby and no trees. Here semeterys has lots of old giants all around and no houses except those directly related to funerals. I think that it was nice custom to send remins back to their native. Don't know why but it feels comforting.

    On the another note; I'm seeing lots of shapes you're so found of.. ;)

  2. lol, I can't win, they're everywhere!

    Apparently the openness of this site, was part of the appeal; good feng shui. Plus it's ferociously windy in the winter on that point, most trees wouldn't stand a chance.

    The other cemeteries in town have a lot of big trees, bushes, etc... but still have houses beside them.

  3. That's quite an interesting post. The photos are really great!

  4. That was really interesting to read.
    How cool.

    Chinese history is totally fascinating.

    Great pics.

  5. Cracking post. I saw a documentary recently which included a bit about the horrendous treatment and conditions that the Chinese workers endured during the building of the railroad. Shameful.
    Nice to see they looked after their own.

  6. Thanks y'all.

    (I normally don't say y'all but overheard someone with one of those southern American drawls this morning and I can't quit a talkin' like dat, yeehaaaaw!)

    Yeah, Neil... the Chinese immigrants way back when had it rough for a long while. Many things in Canada's history are very disturbing. Many Canadians are disturbing.

  7. Have you read "All That Matters" by Wayson Choy? Thats about Chinese immigrants living in BC. It's an excellent book.

  8. I love walking thru Cemetary's. Makes me happy that I am only walking thru them and not lying under them. I love the history of this post.

    And by the way, I resemble one of those disturbing Canadians....I'm a Liberal!

  9. I haven't read that Mog. (just googled it) It sounds like it would be an interesting read, thanks!

    Yeah Bogey, there is definitely that 'hey I'm still above ground' thing going on!

  10. Thnanks for the story about the Chinese cemetery. I'll have to drive down the island and have a visit, looks interesting.