Revival of Chinese Culture in the 1980s

Street Address: 230 MacDonnell Street
Period: After 1950

During the 1980s there was a revival of Chinese culture that occurred across Canada. This revival saw the creation of new community organizations for Kingston’s Chinese. One of which was the Chinese Alliance Church, founded during this revival period. This is an entirely Chinese-run institution, catering to Kingston’s Chinese community. The church is currently served by senior pastor, Pastor Lao (Kong Lo).

This revival of Chinese culture came in the wake of the federal policy of promoting “multiculturalism”. The Canadian government introduced this policy in 1971 and it was meant to promote cultural difference. This had implications across the country for many different ethnic groups, including the Chinese.

At this time, there was a move for Chinese-Canadians to reclaim their Chinese heritage. As we have seen previously, there was a push for integration by both Chinese immigrants and the Canadian host society during the decades before World War II. Now that integration of the Chinese community had taken place there was a movement to embrace their cultural heritage because of fears that this was becoming lost amongst the new generations. This was also affected by another wave of immigrants who came to Canada during the Great Proletariat Cultural Revolution in China during 1967. At this time, Chinese immigrants were coming to Canada from urban centers such as Hong Kong, Manila, Singapore, Johannesburg, and Lima. These immigrants differed from earlier generations because of their urban background and the fact that they were well educated. Many spoke English, unlike the earlier generation of rural-born labourers who made up the rest of Kingston’s Chinese community. There were further language divisions between these two groups of Chinese immigrants, as the first group to come to Kingston was descendent from rural-Cantonese speaking Chinese, while the second group of immigrants descended from urban-Mandarin speaking Chinese.

The presence of these two groups in Kingston was mirrored across Canada and led to the creation of a unifying organization in 1978. Chinese-Canadians created “Asianadian culture”, which was dedicated to uniting Chinese communities and bringing “Asians with 19th century roots in Canada and recent immigrants” together. Asianadian culture played out differently in different cities across Canada. In Toronto, there was Asianadian, a journal promoting Asian-Canadian culture. Kingston, as a smaller city, focused on uniting the two disparate groups of immigrants and participating jointly in municipal activities to raise the profile of the Chinese community and their culture.

By examining Kingston’s restaurants this transformation can be seen. In the past, ethnic businesses like Chinese restaurants chose to hide their heritage and emphasize their links to Canada. Now, emphasis is placed on their Chinese heritage, which is strongly valued. This change began in the 1970s and 1980s. In the Kingston City Directory for 1980, every Chinese owned restaurant was listed with a distinctly Chinese name (exempting two chain restaurants). Today in Kingston there are over twenty Chinese restaurants listed. In the 1980s many of the names of these restaurants reflected their Chinese origins, such as House of Peking, Lotus, and Pagoda. This remains true today with restaurants carrying names such as Lychee Garden, Saigon Delights, and Jade Garden. This is a clear indication of the change in perception regarding race and ethnicity that occurred in the later half of the 20th century.

Chinese-Canadian Association of Kingston & District

Founded on October 30, 1977, the Chinese-Canadian Association of Kingston & District was established for Kingston’s Chinese community at a time of increased awareness of multiculturalism. The purpose of the Association is to function within the community to bring together the different generations of immigrants. As well, the Association acts as a mediator for the community and the greater municipality, strengthening their relationship.

The goal of the Association is stated as “to assist the Chinese-Canadian community to develop within the Canadian context and to participate fully in the modern Canadian society”. As such, the Association encouraged Kingston’s Chinese-Canadian community to become actively involved in local culture. They also advocated for increased cultural exchange between Chinese-Canadians and the greater municipality. As an inclusive organization, the Association holds its meetings in both Mandarin and English. The Chinese-Canadian Association has had a large impact on the community in Kingston. They are involved in a large range of charitable work, both within the Chinese community and the greater municipality.

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