This Western Han Dynasty bell is the centre of Shanghai Alley - Allan Yap Circle. The bell, a gift to the citizens of Vancouver from our sister city of Guangzhou, is a replica of one unearthed in 1983 during the excavation for a major hotel in central Guangzhou. The original bell, which dates back over two millennia is greatly symbolic of the history of settlement in both cities. For Guangzhou, the bell confirms the age of urban settlement in the Pearl River delta. For Vancouver the bell marks the location of the first Chinese settlement in the lower mainland of British Columbia.

Records show that in 214 BC, Qinshihuang, the first emperor of the Qin dynasty, dispatched 500,000 soldiers to unify Lingnan, an area we now call the Pearl River delta. After the downfall of Qin, his general, Zhao Tuo, took advantage of the chaos caused by the war and occupied Lingnan and established the Nanyue Kingdom with its capital at what is now called Guangzhou. The reign of the Nanyue Kingdom lasted five generations.

The tomb of the second-generation king Zhao Mei from which the bell came, was buried 20 meters below the modern city streets. The evacuated tomb which yielded jade and gold also yielding a set of musical bells. The anniversary bell is a replica of one of these.

The tomb of Zhao Mei is now protected by the City of Guangzhou and has been incorporated into a new museum that is an important destination for all visitors to the city.

The bell from Guangzhou has been incorporated into the reconstruction of "Chinatown Heritage Alley - Allan Yap Circle" and now is an important destination for those interested in the history of Vancouver.


For many years people in the community were concerned that with the passage of time, the memories and stories that created Vancouver's Chinatown were fading. In 1998 the senior's housing project and the office facility were completed by the Chinese Benevolent Association of Vancouver (CBA) and United Chinese Community Enrichment Services Society (S.U.C.C.E.S.S.) respectively on Block 17, the site of the original Chinatown. With this completion and at the urging of community minded people, the two societies formed a committee to look at ways to commemorate Vancouver's original Chinatown.

The committee known as the Block 17 Commemoration Committee gained momentum when the City of Guangzhou decided to give Vancouver a replica of the Han Dynasty (200 BC) bell to honour the 15th anniversary of the twinning of the two cities. The Committee was enlarged to include representation from the City of Vancouver, Vancouver Guangzhou Friendship Society, B. C. Guangdong Business Council, Chinese Canadian Military Museum Society and the Silk Road Task Force. The Committee was responsible for the creation of the Chinatown Heritage Alley - Allan Yap Circle (CHA-AYC).

Seed money and grants were obtained from all three levels of government and community groups. Fund raising began in earnest in the fall of 2000 and was completed in January 2002.

The bell was installed as the centrepiece of the CHA-AYC with the ribbon cut on June 26, 2001. It signifies the origins of the early resident of the original Chinatown. The eight descriptive panels surrounding the bell reflect the history and activities of the early residents. The text for the panels was prepared by a team of expert historians and researchers who volunteered their time to gather the information through interviews, family records, old newspapers, magazines and historical documents.

With the dedication and hard work of many volunteers, financial support from all three levels of government and the generosity of many donors the project was finally completed and the panels unveiled on February 17, 2002.

In the winter of 2009, the Wong family of Vancouver included this project onto their website, www.generAsian.ca to share and to maintain this knowledge for all to enjoy.

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