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I remember my surprise when I first visited Chinatown in Tokyo. It was clean and modern; even avant-guardist. Typically in North America, including Montreal, the early Chinese immigrants went into a poor, virtually abandoned part of town and created a destination; one which was rustic, but appealing. These quartiers were founded largely by uneducated Cantonese peasants who arrived in North America as labourers. They created a ficticious `Chinese` cuisine which appealed to those who wanted a cheap and filling meal. In Montreal, theses early arrivals did live around today`s Chinatown and, to some extent still do, particularly since the Chinese hospital is in the area.

 

In Montreal, a second wave of ethnic Chinese were the Chinese-Vietnamese boat-people. Most of them fled Vietnam for their lives and although they were natural entrepreneurs, they arrived here with nothing. They have had a big influence in our Chinatown and became leaders in the Montreal Chinese community. In general, neither of these first two groups spoke Mandarin, but the Vietnamese certainly introduced a new Vietnamese -influenced cuisine. The first group became assimilated into the anglophone community. Thanks to Bill 101, as well as the French colonial heritage of Vietnam, the second wave have now largely integrated into the Francophone community, and we have seen some recent examples of how they are now even influencing Quebecois literature.

 

The third wave, which flooded Toronto and Vancouver, but much less so Montreal, were those who got out of Hong Kong before its accession by China. This was a very affluent population, also Cantonese speaking, well educated and of a professional bent. Many of them have settled in Brossard.

 

Then there were the post Tienamin students, a wave which, in a way, continues to today. These are the crème de la crème; highly educated and very tech-savvy. They are creating the buzz along St Catherine Ouest and we are now seeing a new type of village; modern, with a much wider brand of cuisine and thronging with young well educated mainland Chinese.

 

Many of this group feel no affinity to Chinatown and often view it with some embarrassment. It is seen as run-down and dated, with no cultural connection to the modern China. Even their Chinese signage is so passé that young mainland Chinese cannot understand it. Chinatown can be used by them as a market for Chinese food and goods, but it is quite peripheral to their other cultural needs.

 

So, in my view, Chinatown can stay as a folkloric symbol of a part of Montreal`s history, and if properly designed, can continue to be a destination, including for out-of-town tourists. But I am doubtful that it will ever attract the young, educated and hip Chinese who live here.

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I remember my surprise when I first visited Chinatown in Tokyo. It was clean and modern; even avant-guardist. Typically in North America, including Montreal, the early Chinese immigrants went into a poor, virtually abandoned part of town and created a destination; one which was rustic, but appealing. These quartiers were founded largely by uneducated Cantonese peasants who arrived in North America as labourers. They created a ficticious `Chinese` cuisine which appealed to those who wanted a cheap and filling meal. In Montreal, theses early arrivals did live around today`s Chinatown and, to some extent still do, particularly since the Chinese hospital is in the area.

 

In Montreal, a second wave of ethnic Chinese were the Chinese-Vietnamese boat-people. Most of them fled Vietnam for their lives and although they were natural entrepreneurs, they arrived here with nothing. They have had a big influence in our Chinatown and became leaders in the Montreal Chinese community. In general, neither of these first two groups spoke Mandarin, but the Vietnamese certainly introduced a new Vietnamese -influenced cuisine. The first group became assimilated into the anglophone community. Thanks to Bill 101, as well as the French colonial heritage of Vietnam, the second wave have now largely integrated into the Francophone community, and we have seen some recent examples of how they are now even influencing Quebecois literature.

 

The third wave, which flooded Toronto and Vancouver, but much less so Montreal, were those who got out of Hong Kong before its accession by China. This was a very affluent population, also Cantonese speaking, well educated and of a professional bent. Many of them have settled in Brossard.

 

Then there were the post Tienamin students, a wave which, in a way, continues to today. These are the crème de la crème; highly educated and very tech-savvy. They are creating the buzz along St Catherine Ouest and we are now seeing a new type of village; modern, with a much wider brand of cuisine and thronging with young well educated mainland Chinese.

 

Many of this group feel no affinity to Chinatown and often view it with some embarrassment. It is seen as run-down and dated, with no cultural connection to the modern China. Even their Chinese signage is so passé that young mainland Chinese cannot understand it. Chinatown can be used by them as a market for Chinese food and goods, but it is quite peripheral to their other cultural needs.

 

So, in my view, Chinatown can stay as a folkloric symbol of a part of Montreal`s history, and if properly designed, can continue to be a destination, including for out-of-town tourists. But I am doubtful that it will ever attract the young, educated and hip Chinese who live here.

 

Très intéressant ! May I ask how you know so much about Montréal's chinese community ?

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I did a research paper on it a few years ago and interviewed several leaders in the community. Perhaps the most delightful moment was when after speaking mostly with English speakers, I was introduced to a wonderful woman who spoke no English, but excellent French. I was curious about her background and asked her where she was from originally. She quickly said that she was from the mainland , then added; `Je suis Chinoise; pure soie`.

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I did a research paper on it a few years ago and interviewed several leaders in the community. Perhaps the most delightful moment was when after speaking mostly with English speakers, I was introduced to a wonderful woman who spoke no English, but excellent French. I was curious about her background and asked her where she was from originally. She quickly said that she was from the mainland , then added; `Je suis Chinoise; pure soie`.

 

Thanks

 

Chinoise pure soie

 

That made me smile :)

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Super résumé cher Mont royal. Tu as raison. Le Quartier est devenu un peu folklorique. Mais un peu de ménage ne fera tout de même pas de tort. Et en effet, le nouveau quartier chinois, bien que diffus et moins "ostentatoire" que celui que l'on connaît, est dans l'ouest du cv. C'est là-bas que vous pourrez manger une véritable salade de méduse et autres délicatesses un peu intimidantes (jamais trouvé de pénis de chien, cela dit. Anyway, I'm not interested;)).

 

Merci encore.

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Super résumé cher Mont royal. Tu as raison. Le Quartier est devenu un peu folklorique. Mais un peu de ménage ne fera tout de même pas de tort. Et en effet, le nouveau quartier chinois, bien que diffus et moins "ostentatoire" que celui que l'on connaît, est dans l'ouest du cv. C'est là-bas que vous pourrez manger une véritable salade de méduse et autres délicatesses un peu intimidantes (jamais trouvé de pénis de chien, cela dit. Anyway, I'm not interested;)).

 

Merci encore.

 

Peut-être du boudin d'ours et des cous de girafes farcis ... Non. Ça c'était plutôt les romains! :D

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