Sien Lok History

Established in 1968, the Sien Lok Society of Calgary was first founded to preserve Calgary’s Chinatown from demolition and/or relocation. The name “Sien Lok” was taken from the proverb “wai sien gee look” (to be charitable gives one of the greatest happiness). It was chosen to proudly display the core values of the Society’s members and served as a focus for a Society that embarked on an historic event for all Chinatown’s everywhere.

Under the guise of urban renewal, the City of Calgary originally intended on the construction of a roadway called the “East-West Penetrator” that would have guaranteed the elimination of the existing Chinatown. Sien Lok worked unceasingly to forge virtually all the family associations and political groups in Chinatown into one voice to save their way of life. However, Sien Lok quickly realized that the situation facing Calgary’s Chinese community was not unique as all over Canada, in cities like Vancouver, Toronto, and Montreal, Chinatown’s were being eliminated by the relentless forces of urban development.

Sien Lok took the initiative to invite Chinese Communities, Urban Experts and Representatives of every level of government to convene in Calgary in an attempt to unite Canada’s Chinese citizens, for the first time in history, in a concentrated examination of the urban crisis threatening the existence of Chinatowns everywhere.

During April 6-9, 1969, Sien Lok hosted the National Conference of Urban Renewal as it affects Chinatown. The delegates, representing over 100,000 Chinese Canadians from all parts of the country, joined with experts in every affected field to probe the history and structure of Chinatowns, and to discuss the psychological, sociological and economic factors that govern the degree of Chinese integration and participation in the dominant Caucasian culture. The end results of the groundbreaking conference went far beyond the scope of the original conference objective. Indeed, it has guaranteed that Chinese communities and the Chinese culture would always be a part of the fabric of Canadian life.

Sien Lok succeeded dramatically in its original goal to preserve Calgary’s Chinatown and as a result, Calgary is the only city in Canada with a Chinatown identified in its bylaws. In living up to the legacy of our Chinese forefathers who pioneered Canada, Sien Lok continues to blaze a trail in its endeavours to work within the Calgary community to promote, preserve and honour this rich legacy of sacrifice, hard work, and determination in Chinese Canadian Heritage.

1968

(1968) The Chinese Community’s Float entry

This was the first Calgary Stampede Parade Float entry by the Sien Lok Society of Calgary representing the Calgary Chinese community in 1968.

Photo Credit:  Joanne Woo

1969

(1969) Delegates from the Sien Lok Conference on Urban Renewal and Redevelopment as it Affects Chinatown in take a tour of Calgary’s Chinatown, 1969.

L-R:  C.H. Poon, Ray Lee, Jack Leslie on step of C.H. Poon’s residence just North of Linda Mae’s Coffee Shop on Centre Street S.  

Centre, facing camera:  Luey DoFoo

Front right: Hornby Jear 

Photo Credit:  Nancy Jear

(1969) This is list of Sien Lok members in 1969, as listed in the Sien Lok Conference on Urban Renewal and Redevelopment as it Affects Chinatown booklet.

Photo Credit:  Kim Fung

1970

(1970) Resume for members of City Council of the Sien Lok’s negotiations over the past 18 months regarding Calgary Chinatown.

Read more…

1973

(1973) Miss Sien Lok Queen and Contestants.

On February 20, 1973 the Sien Lok Society’s 5th Annual Chinese New Year Fundraising Banquet included the Miss Sien Lok Beauty Pageant as part of the Program. The event took place at the Southern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium.  May Kwan was crowned Miss Sien Lok Queen, while Faye Liu was Miss Sien Lok Princess, and Donna Mah was Miss Congeniality.

Left to Right: Annie Yee, Donna Mah (Miss Congeniality), Patricia Chiu, May Kwan (Miss Sien Lok Queen), Patti Leong, Faye Liu (Miss Sien Lok Princess), Gordon Leong of Sien Lok.

Photo Credit:  May Leong

1998

(1998) Sien Lok Park Sod Turning Event, October 9, 1998

Front L-R:  Anthony Ma, Edmond Lee, Kit Chan, Stephen Chu, Theresa Woo-Paw, Sandy Kwong, Nina, Francis Chiu, Stephiane Ho-Lam and Peter Fung

Back L-R :  Al Durr, Ken Lee, Alan Chan, unknown, Vincent Liu

Photo Credit:  Sing Tao Newspapers

1999

(1999) Chinese Lion installation at Sien Lok Park September 15, 1999.

Photo Credit:  Sing Tao Newspapers

2005

(2005) Builders and Patriots:  A Portrait of Chinese Canadians Photo Exhibit, 2005.

In 2005, The Sien Lok Society of Calgary commemorated Alberta’s Centennial by presenting the “Builder’s and Patriots:  Portrait’s of Chinese Canadians” photo exhibit.   The exhibit comprised of two parts – the first entitled “Reflections:  Images of Chinese Women in Canada”, curated by the Multicultural History Society of Ontario, and “The Southern Alberta Chinese Photo Exhibit”, curated by Sien Lok.  Both of these exhibits documented and celebrated the history of Canada’s early Chinese community.

Photo Credit:  The Sien Lok Society of Calgary

2006

(2006) In Search of Gold Mountain Sculpture

The Sien Lok Society of Calgary embarked on the long term project of preserving Chinatown’s only green space as Sien Lok Park in 1982.

Phase one was commemorated by the completion of the monument “In Search or Gold Mountain” by sculptor Chu Honsan in 1991.  It is a symbolic representation of the proud history of Chinese settlement in Canada.

Photo Credit:  The Sien Lok Society of Calgary

2010

(2010) Builders Patriots 2 – A History of Calgary’s Chinatown Photo Exhibit

To commemorate the Centennial of Calgary’s Chinatown in 2010, The Sien Lok Society of Calgary created a major photo exhibit, entitled Builders and Patriots 2:  A History of Calgary’s Chinatown Photo Exhibit, also known as BP2.  It was a collaborative project between Sien Lok and members of the Calgary Community at large, who contributed images and recollections about Chinatown’s history.  The volunteers on the BP2 Exhibition Committee worked tirelessly for almost 2 years to create an exhibit that comprised of 40 panels which displayed over 190 images.  It was first unveiled at the Jameson Place Winter Garden on May 6, 2010, and then installed again at the Calgary Chinese Cultural Centre in June of 2010, where it remained for the next 4 months.  In May of 2011, BP2 was also installed at Alberta Legislature Building in Edmonton for Asian Heritage Month.

2019 is The Sien Lok Society of Calgary’s 50th Anniversary.  To celebrate and commemorate this milestone, the Society is now embarking on an exciting new endeavor, called the Canadian Chinese On-Line History Project, where some of the volunteers from the BP2Exhibition Committee are working to put the contents from BP2, as well as “The Southern Alberta Chinese Photo Exhibit” portion of the Builders and Patriots: Portraits of Chinese Canadians Photo Exhibit (unveiled in 2005) in a web-page format on line. 

Photo Credit:  The Sien Lok Society of Calgary

2011

(2011)  Translation of the news article about the Sien Lok Park Redevelopment on the Sing Tao newspaper is as follows;

The Redevelopment of Sien Lok Park is seeking public opinion again.

The Sien Lok Park is located next to the Calgary Chinese Elderly Citizen Centre. Sien Lok is working closely with the City of Calgary Park Bureau on the redevelopment of the park. A lot of opinion and supported was submitted by several Chinese associations.

The Park Bureau made revision of the park’s original blue print from the opinions collected from the Chinese Street Festival. The 2nd draft is available for display and a second public consulting activity is in progress.

According to Deron Miller from the Landscape Architects and Planners Company, new design has a Community Garden, individual or group can apply for the responsibility to look after the garden or it can be maintained by the City. The playground is mixing Canada Chinese’s History, Culture, Education and entertainment in one. Another feature of the park is that there are many children’s playgrounds throughout the park.

The gate of the pedestrian walkway over at the Riverfront Avenue would be changed to Chinese Style Fan-Shaped to highlight the characteristics of Chinese culture. Community groups can apply to use the pedestrian walkway during any festival; the gate will be opened when the road is being used as a pedestrian only walkway.

Dennis Urquhart from the City of Calgary said, Calgary downtown is missing an area with green for Citizens to enjoy their time, thus, the Park Bureau pay extra attention on the redevelopment of the Sien Lok Park, hope that public can get involved in designing a park that everyone can use with a sense of closeness, at the same time attracting tourists from other communities.

Alteration of the Park blue print would be made during the opinion collected during the consulting period. Park blue-prints and plans can be found at calgary.ca/parks, the public can submit their opinion before December 8th. The final blue-print would be submitted at the beginning of next year to the City of Calgary for consideration.”

The gate of the pedestrian walkway over at the Riverfront Avenue would be changed to Chinese Style Fan-Shaped to highlight the characteristics of Chinese culture. Community groups can apply to use the pedestrian walkway during any festival; the gate will be opened when the road is being used as a pedestrian only walkway.

Dennis Urquhart from the City of Calgary said, Calgary downtown is missing an area with green for Citizens to enjoy their time, thus, the Park Bureau pay extra attention on the redevelopment of the Sien Lok Park, hope that public can get involved in designing a park that everyone can use with a sense of closeness, at the same time attracting tourists from other communities.

Alteration of the Park blue print would be made during the opinion collected during the consulting period. Park blue-prints and plans can be found at calgary.ca/parks, the public can submit their opinion before December 8th. The final blue-print would be submitted at the beginning of next year to the City of Calgary for consideration.”

2017

(2017) The Pagoda located in Sien Lok Park South

On July 1, 2017 the Sien Lok Society worked together with the Chinatown community organizations to celebrate Canada’s 150th anniversary.

Photo Credit:  Danny Ng

Copyright © 2011 Sien Lok Society of Calgary | All Rights Reserved