Benevolent Societies and Family Associations are an integral part of Chinese-Canadian history. The establishment of Societies in the early 1900s, the services they provided, and the functions they served tell the history of the Chinese immigrant experience in Canada.

In the 1800s, more than 15,000 Chinese came to British Columbia to work on the Canadian Pacific Railroad and in the gold mines. With the completion of the transnational railroad in the late 1880s, many stayed and found work in laundry, canning, farming, and selling produce. Chinatown was established around this time as the Chinese were prevented from settling elsewhere in the city. The Societies were founded shortly after, at the turn of the century, and have since been an integral part of Chinatown.

The overseas Chinese Societies have centuries-old antecedents in China where sojourning merchants established them in major cities to protect economic interests and to perform charitable and social function for fellow clansmen away from home. Today there are over 40 Societies in Chinatown and the adjacent Strathcona neighbourhood. The majority of them are formed based on surnames and hometowns.

Within the Chinatown Historic District, there are 12 Society Buildings on the heritage inventory. All of the building date back to the early 1900s; three of the oldest were built in 1901. Given the conditions of the buildings and their historic and social significance, these buildings have been identified as being the immediate priority for rehabilitation.

Societies with Hertiage Buildings

The intention behind giving guidelines on the number of typefaces we use is a good-hearted attempt at saving designers from trying to force visual interest and excitement through variety, and encouraging them to look more carefully at the typefaces they use and strive to use well-made, hearty faces that can be repurposed for all the needs at hand.

12 Buildings With Heritage Status

Lim Sai Hor Kow Mock


Brief History The significance of the Lim Sai Hor Kow Mock Benevolent Association Building lies in its ownership history and architecture. It was built in 1903 and originally housed the Chinese Empire Reform Association, founded by the famous Chinese scholar and statesman Kang Youwei. The…

Mah Society of Canada


The Mah Society was informally established in Vancouver in 1919 and purchased its building two years after. Constructed in 1913, the building was designed by Henry Barton Watson. Watson’s design was of particular note for being the earliest identified example of the use of Chinese architectural…

Yue Shan Society


Brief History Yue Shan Society occupies a complex formed by three buildings and a courtyard. This was a common urban form in early 20th century Chinatown. The Yue Shan Society complex is the only remaining residential courtyard in Chinatown today. Yue Shan refers to the…

Chinese Benevolent Association


Brief History The Chinese Benevolent Association (CBA) of Vancouver was informally established in 1889 and formally registered with the British Columbia government in 1906. In 1909, organized by Chinatown’s leading businessmen, the Association purchased its own building at 108 East Pender. Wang Yu Shan sold the…

Chin Wing Chun Tong


Brief History The Chin Wing Chun Society Building has value for being representative of buildings erected and occupied by major Tongs during a period of rapid growth in Chinatown, and for being an excellent example of the Chinatown style of architecture. The Chin Wing Chun…

Wong Benevolent Association Headquarter


Brief History The building was originally built in 1910 with a first, mezzanine, and upper floors. Wong Benevolent Association demolished the upper floor of the original building and added two new floors for a school and an association assembly hall. The renovations, some of which…

Cheng Wing Yeong Tong


Brief History The lower two storeys were built in 1911 with Italianate-style brick building. The architects of record are Campbell and Dawson; the drawings, dated 1915, are signed by W.H. Chow, Vancouver’s first Chinese-Canadian architect, whose work is prolific in Chinatown. The third storey, added…

Lung Kong Kung Shaw


Brief History According to legend, this association can trace its history to the beginning of an unstable period in Chinese history, during the Han Dynasty, four men with the four different surnames volunteered to join the imperial army and decided to make a pledge to…

May Wah Hotel


Brief History The May Wah Hotel is of value as an enduring work of Vancouver architect William Frederick Gardiner, as an example of a Vancouver hotel designed after the introduction of the City’s 1910 Lodging House By-Law, for the way its subsequent use typifies Vancouver’s…

Chinese Nationalist League


Brief History The heritage value of the Nationalist League Building is derived from its longstanding association with the Chinese Nationalist League and, through this, its association with an important aspect of life in most overseas Chinese communities in the twentieth century, namely intense involvement by…

Yee Fung Toy Society


Brief History The building was constructed at the height of Vancouver’s pre-World War I building boom by  one of Vancouver’s better-known architects, Edward Evans Blackmore. It is typical of its time as a small commercial/residential block.  Blackmore was employed by George King, after whom the…

Wong’s Benevolent Association Atheletics


Constructed in 1910, the Hon Hsing Building is an early example of a distinct Chinatown architectural style: vertical proportions; four storeys high (some have only three), with one or more of the upper floors featuring recessed balconies and building-wide glazing facing the street. The Hong…