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For 50 years, starting in 1973, the Chinese Cultural Centre of Greater Vancouver has supported Chinese culture and heritage.
Located in the Chinatown neighborhood of Vancouver, the Chinese Cultural Centre of Greater Vancouver has been telling the story of a community dedicated to cherishing its cultural roots and fostering togetherness. We are honored to sit down with Mr. Fred Kwok to delve into the cultural center’s history and evolution.
At 73 years old, Kwok continues to serve as the vice chairman. Having arrived in Canada from Hong Kong in 1973, he has an enduring connection of 50 years with Vancouver. Beyond his engagement with the center, he previously held the position of President at Mainly Awning and Signs Co. and was honored with the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2012.
A Journey Through Time
The Chinese Cultural Centre’s odyssey commenced in 1972. The initiative was born from a Wong’s Benevolent Association banquet. Later, in 1973, it was founded with backing from the government, 53 community organizations, and many passionate individuals.
About 80% of the Chinese community at that time participated in the center’s activities. It’s incredible how the community’s unity and sticking to Chinese customs mattered. That same strong reason still brings Chinese communities together today.
In 1986, during the Vancouver World Exposition, the cultural center organized the first International Dragon Boat Festival. It also hosted numerous cultural and medical lectures. In the 1980s, many people from Hong Kong moved to Vancouver, and most Chinese people there spoke Cantonese. This made Cantonese the primary language at the cultural center.
In the 1990s, Chinese Canadians began to spread out more. The decade witnessed the expansion of the Chinese culture beyond Chinatown’s borders, with a branch office opened in Richmond.
“We reached more people and went beyond just Chinatown.”
Challenges Faced, Resilience Showcased
The 21st century brought both growth and challenges.
The center introduced new branches and programs to meet diverse interests, such as language courses and cultural summer camps. Yet after 2010, competition from commercial language schools arose.
(Photo credit: @Karen_Fry/Twitter)
“In many ways, challenges are inherent to any journey,” said Kwok.
In recent years, fresh challenges have arisen, including vandalism, fires, and defacement. 2023 alone witnessed two intentional fires at the cultural center. Despite governmental support, the persistence of this challenge unveils the intricate battle against discrimination.
A Volunteer-Led Endeavor: A Labour of Love
A standout feature is the center’s all-volunteer board. In a profit-driven world, the board members epitomize selflessness. They view this commitment as an honor and duty as Chinese Canadians, inspiring the next generation to uphold their cultural heritage.
“We preserve heritage. Our role isn’t just an obligation; it’s a privilege. Together, we plant the seeds for a thriving legacy.”
A Hopeful Future: Building Bridges Across Generations
Facing modern challenges, Kwok sees a future where cultural heritage shines stronger.
He looks forward to passing on the legacy to enthusiastic young generations who deeply value the culture, thereby contributing to the center’s growth.
“Our center connects past and future, carrying culture’s heart. Our community will thrive; this culture will last.”
Written by Yuqi Feng
Edited by Charlie Smith
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