Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden is a registered museum and one of Vancouver’s top tourist attractions. It is a unique venue for cultural programming and events, including guided tours, concerts, festivals, exhibitions, receptions, and educational programs. Over the years, the garden has received several honours and designations: it is one of Vancouver Heritage Foundation’s “Places That Matter”; was named World’s Top City Garden by National Geographic in 2011; and voted Canadian Garden of the Year by the Canadian Garden Tourism Council in 2012.
Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden is located at the heart of Vancouver’s historic Chinatown neighbourhood. It shares a city block with the Chinese Cultural Centre, a number of independent shops, and a public park and courtyard.
Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Park
Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Park is the Garden’s next-door neighbour and a public park managed by the City of Vancouver Park Board. Though the park is separate from the Garden, it serves as both extension and complement to the Garden’s design and atmosphere. The two portions were in fact designed as one: with the park containing mostly plant material; and the Garden serving as the architectural heart of the scholar’s home, where visitors can explore and appreciate the details of classical Chinese garden design and lifestyle through guided tours and educational programming. There is no rivalry here, with the two sides engaged only in “borrowing views” from each other.
As a free alternative to the Garden, the park is open for everyone to enjoy. Should members of the public come across any issues during their visit to the park or in the adjacent courtyard, they are encouraged to notify the Park Board directly through their website or by dialing 3-1-1.
Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Courtyard
Both the Garden and the park, as well as the Chinese Cultural Centre, open up into Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Courtyard. The courtyard’s open layout and central location make it a key public space in the Chinatown neighbourhood, though years of neglect and general disuse have led to its becoming a popular site for vandalism and loitering. Plans to reshape and revitalize the courtyard are underway, through consultation between the Chinatown community and the Park Board, and a slew of community-led place-making events that are helping to reactivate this space and put it back on the map.
Designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 2010, Vancouver’s Chinatown is a living historic neighbourhood that has seen many changes since its establishment in the 19th century. Today, the streets of Chinatown are filled with a cross-cultural blend of architectural styles, all variety of languages and dialects, and delicious smells from a multicultural array of cafes and restaurants. Situated between the Granville/Robson entertainment and shopping districts and the Downtown East Side, Chinatown is simultaneously a tourist attraction and a historically marginalized neighbourhood. As such, issues of gentrification, homelessness, and erasure remain prevalent, with Chinatown fighting to retain its character and community without staying locked in the past. In an effort to give greater recognition to the ongoing cultural and historical value of the neighbourhood, the community and the City of Vancouver have begun the application process to designate Chinatown a UNESCO World Heritage Site.