Yip Sang

Yip Sang was among the leading Chinese merchants who developed the Canton Alley complex in 1904. The complex included stores, restaurants, and a seven-storey apartment building. In 1906 the stores included tailors, grocers, barbers, and shoe repairers. Yip Sang owned many of these and also the seven-storey apartment building. In it lived many Chinese working men who could not afford to send to China for their families. Living conditions were very crowded. Sometimes workers even shared beds, as they might take different shifts at work. When they were away in the Interior on seasonal jobs, their beds would be rented to someone else. The apartment building did not have bathrooms, so workers had to pay to use the bathroom underneath the nearby Sam Kee Building.

Yip Sang was born to a poor family in China. He emigrated at age nineteen, settling in Vancouver in the early 1880s. He eventually became Chinese superintendent and labour contractor for the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR), for whom he recruited thousands of Chinese labourers in Guangdong.

Yip Sang and male children
Yip Sang and female children
Yip Sang and family . . . Chang Toy. . . .

In 1888, he established the Wing Sang Company whose building, erected one year later, still stands at 51 East Pender Street. As a general import-export company, Wing Sang imported Asian products through business agents in Hong Kong and exported salted salmon to China. In 1903, Yip Sang introduced salted herring to China. Before long he had established his own processing plants in Nanaimo, Nanoose Bay and the Gulf Islands. Wing Sang Company’s other businesses included selling CPR railroad and steamship tickets to Canadian and Asian destinations and remitting money to China for Chinese clients. Through its business network in Hong Kong and China, the Company also collected letters from families in China for Chinese workers in Vancouver. The worker’s family in Guangdong would bring letters to Wing Sang’s agents which would be shipped to Vancouver accompanying the goods Wing Sang had ordered. Addressees retrieved their letters at the Wing Sang store. Very often the family in China was writing to remind their loved ones in Vancouver to send money home.

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Boat
Chinese labourers
Chinese disembarking
Head Tax certificate
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Yip Sang had four wives and twenty-three children, nineteen of them sons. The family now has over 600 descendants and many are professionals living all over Canada and other parts of the world.
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1885
Completion of Canadian Pacific Railway
Canadian government levies a head tax of $50 on Chinese immigrants.

1886
A small Chinese district is developing at the south end of Carrall Street along Dupont Street (named Pender after 1904) on the shores of False Creek.
The City of Vancouver is incorporated.

1887
A mob storms Chinese land-clearers' work camp in Vancouver's West End and burns their belongings. The Chinese are expelled from the city, but soon return.
Completion of Canadian Pacific Railway in Gastown.

1888
Chinese Methodist Mission is established under Reverend Chan Sing-Kai [Chen Shengkai]. In 1891, he becomes the first Chinese ordained by the Methodist Church in Canada. The Presbyterian Mission also works actively with the Chinese, offering English and Bible classes to new immigrants.

1889
Chinese Benevolent Association in Vancouver is established to unify the community, settle internal disputes, help the sick and poor, and defend the community against external threats.
Among the 29 Chinese businesses in Vancouver, 25 are located at the intersection of Carrall and Dupont. They include ten merchandise and grocery stores, seven laundries, two opium importers (legal until 1908), two labour contractors, two tailors, one butcher, and one boot and shoemaker.

1890s
According to the 1891 CENSUS, the Chinese population of Canada is 8,910. They are distributed in the centres of population along the line of the CPR. Vancouver is home to more than 1,000 Chinese residents.
Sixteen Chinese laundries are operating in Vancouver. The earliest one, Wah Chong Laundry, established 1884 between Abbott & Carrall, is Vancouver's first laundry.

1894-95

Sino Japanese War ends in shocking defeat for China. Reform leaders such as Kang Youwei [Hong Yao Wai] and Liang Qichao [Leung Kai Chiu] appeal to overseas Chinese for help to modernize and strength China.
Chinese Board of Trade is formed to promote trade and to protect local Chinese.
Envelope
Letter
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