Giant Chop Suey Bowl
Vancouver’s Chinese community had its beginnings in the 19th century labour camps, building roads, railways and moiling in the mines of Gum San (Gold Mountain, land of riches Canada). Despite racial attacks against them, the Chinese Exclusion Act (a.k.a. The “43 Harsh Regulations”) and denial of the right to vote until 1947, they built a strong, prosperous community centered around Vancouver’s Chinatown. It was here that Sun Yat-sen plotted the Chinese Revolution while living in exile and met the famous Canadian bodyguard Two-Gun Cohen.
Gung Hay Fat Choy! is one of the few Chinese phrases that non-Chinese Vancouverites are familiar with – the greeting Happy New Year! Vancouver’s Chinese New Year celebrations are the biggest in Canada because of the city’s huge Chinese community and balmy February climate.
Around the time of Mao Tse-tung’s Cultural Revolution in 1967, Chinese immigrants began coming from Hong Kong as well as Manila, Singapore, Johannesburg and Lima. A sharp contrast to earlier generations who had come to Gum San from the poorest rural districts, these “New Chinese” were cosmopolitan, well educated, multilingual and urban. They shifted the population base away from Chinatown out to the more affluent Vancouver neighbourhoods and suburban Richmond. Although some of its landmarks, like the Giant Chop Suey Bowl, have recently been lost, Chinatown is still the historic heart of a community, part of what makes Vancouver a great city and the place to be on Chinese New Year!
The Giant Chop Suey Bowl and Cloud of Ho Ho Steam neon sign on Pender and Columbia Streets. During the 1950s Vancouver was known for its neon signs and some of the best were in Chinatown, notably the Bamboo Terrace and the Ho Ho Restaurant. In the decades that followed, neon went out of style, due in large part to the Vancouver Planning Department which deemed neon tacky and encouraged back-lit Plexiglas signage. The Giant Chop Suey Bowl lasted until 1995 when it was removed because of extensive rust and deterioration.
Selenium toned gelatin silver fiber base black and white photographs on Ilford Multigrade paper dry mount collaged onto 40w x 30h inch rag board. Black ink holographic text. 1996
Exhibited April 2015, Eraser Street show, grunt Gallery, Vancouver Canada
©2019 Henri Robideau