Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Kamloops Chinese Cemetery ~ Kamloops, BC, Canada

The Chinese people in Kamloops once represented over one third of the population of the town before it was incorporated to the City of Kamloops. They had come to Canada to build the Canadian Pacific Railway and for some, with dreams of building a future here for their families they'd left back in China. For many that dream did not materialize. Once the railway was completed, some settled in Kamloops, BC.

Their presence and hard work helped Kamloops become the city that it is today. They were not allowed to be buried in Pioneer Cemetery in the early days but were allowed a plot of land that was to become their own cemetery which is the burial ground for 123 burial plots today.

Kamloops Chinese Cemetery

The Kamloops Chinese Cemetery was meant to be a temporary burial place for the Chinese people who would later be disinterred after seven to ten years and their bones returned to China for a second burial in their family plot.  This was a ritual practiced by the Guangdon Chinese who were the majority of the Chinese who came over to Canada for work.  Only 50 of the 123 buried in the Kamloops Chinese Cemetery were disinterred before the ritual was stopped in 1920.

Markers of 123 graves in Kamloops Chinese Cemetery
The Kamloops Chinese Cemetery is one of the largest and oldest of its kind in Canada.  The location was chosen for its feng shui, resting on a sloped site with a north south axis and views of the Thompson Rivers.

Special tribute to the workers on the CPR

This plaque was constructed to honor the Chinese workers who lost their lives building the railway in British Columbia.  The numbers vary from 600 to 2200 Chinese workers who lost their life while working.  To see more of the Chinese contribution to building the railway in BC, click here.

To learn more about the Chinese workers on other Canadian railway construction, click here to learn about those who lived in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan.

Monuments of the Kamloops Chinese Cemetery

The Chinese people began to settle permanently in Kamloops  in the 1920's and the first permanent tombstone was dated 1927.  Most of the graves are marked from the 1930's to 1960's then the cemetery was closed in 1979.   The funerary burner is a safe place for ritualized burning of spiritual tributes like facimilies of money and possessions that will serve the deceased in their afterlife. Burning ritual objects is a daily part of life in much of Asia.

The Pagoda and the Chinese History
There are great storyboards inside the pagoda that will tell and illustrate some of the history of the Chinese people of this area.

Information found says the cemetery is being upgraded through a partnership between the Kamloops Chinese Cemetery Heritage Society and the City of Kamloops and much is being done by the Kamloops Chinese Cultural Society to bring honor to those that died building the railroads of British Columbia.
There are plans to build a museum that would honor those and tell the story of the contributions they made.  To learn more on that, visit their webpage.


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