Tradition in FelicitiesWhat can you learn about Canada’s oldest Chinese community from the Royal BC Museum collections?

To celebrate the origin of Chinese Canadian history, the Royal BC Museum presented the exhibition Tradition in Felicities: Celebrating 155 Years of Victoria’s Chinatown (February 7 – November 11, 2013), in partnership with Victoria’s Chinatown community. It showcased the history and heritage of Victoria’s Chinatown as a gateway between Asia and North America. In the early 1900s Victoria was an important site for Chinese Canadian community development.

The exhibition also highlighted the rare craftsmanship of the oldest-known Chinese Freemason’s lantern from the 1930s and the work by Royal BC Museum conservator, Lisa Bengston. Although it was impossible to restore the lantern to its original working condition, a high-quality digital animation was created to show the lantern in its original full glory.

The work of the exhibition also included interviewing people who grew up in Victoria’s Chinatown. These recorded interviews are presented here in a series of videos, along with photographs from the BC Archives that were used in the exhibition.

Historical photographs and video interviews with Dr David Chuenyan Lai (Canada’s Mr Chinatown) and four families who were the last generation to grow up in Chinatown from diverse backgrounds, help us understand how people lived and celebrated traditional new year in the 1930s through the 1950s. Felicities, the joy and celebration of traditional holidays, have united and strengthened the community here.

By exploring these videos and images, what can you learn about how people celebrated the new year in Victoria’s Chinatown? How does your family celebrate a new year?

This resource was developed in part with funds from:

The W. Garfield Weston Foundation


Watch videos from the Royal BC Museum exhibition Tradition in Felicities: Celebrating 155 Years of Victoria’s Chinatown.



View images of early life in British Columbia for Chinese Canadians.



Meet Dr. Tzu-I Chung, Curator, History.