Victoria, BC – Follow the lanterns into Tradition in Felicities: Celebrating 155 Years of Victoria’s Chinatown, a display on Canada’s oldest Chinatown, featuring a unique artifact, images and stories from the collection of the Royal BC Museum, from Feb. 7 to Sept. 29, 2013. This display reveals a close-knit community of families developing new identities as Chinese Canadians and the felicities – the joyful celebrations of traditional Chinese holidays – that united and strengthened them since their first arrivals in the mid-1800s.
Four families from different walks of life recall, in video interviews, the period from 1930 to 1970 and their annual celebrations of the Chinese New Year. These are the personal views of this last generation to grow up in Victoria’s Chinatown, including the Low family. Kai Ho Low was one of the donors listed on the Chinese Freemason’s lantern, a unique item, part of a growing collection representing BC’s diverse communities at the Royal BC Museum.
‘This display is the result of an important partnership with the Victoria Chinese community,” said Professor Jack Lohman, Chief Executive Officer of the Royal BC Museum. “Generating a variety of cultural perspectives, then pairing those with the rich collections from the museum and archives, help us tell BC's diverse stories."
The centrepiece is one of a kind – the oldest-known Chinese Freemason’s lantern from Victoria’s Chinatown – and was likely on display for the Lantern Festival in the 1930s. Hand-made from paper over a bamboo frame, this large traditional ‘running-horse’ style of lantern used the heat from lights or candles to power an intricate system of wheels and long black hairs used like puppet strings. These moved parts of the lantern to animate scenes from nature set among stencil-like decorations, freemason’s symbols, hand-lettered poems and the names of the lantern’s original community sponsors.
The lantern is too fragile to operate as it once did. It arrived at the museum in poor condition with many parts broken or missing. The museum’s object conservator will be a live exhibit – a rare opportunity to see expert staff at work – using science-based treatments to stabilize and preserve the lantern while visitors look on, Tuesday through Saturday from 11 am to 4 pm until Sept. 29th.
For more information about the Royal BC Museum, visit www.royalbcmuseum.bc.ca or call 1-888-447-7977.