The Garden Memorial to Chinese Pioneers speaks directly to Nanaimo’s Chinese heritage. Around 1890, this small plot was donated by the New Vancouver Coal Mining and Land Company for use as a Chinese burial ground. At that time, the site was just beyond the city’s official boundaries. Bodies were interred here, but it was always intended that the bones of the deceased would be returned to China. The site was in use until 1924, when the new burial grounds on Townsite Road were established. This site served as an essential communal space for the original Chinese community and, later, as an important commemorative space for their descendants.
The Garden Memorial to Chinese Pioneers is a significant example of a community commemorative project. In 1976, the site was presented to the City by the Nanaimo Chinese community. This was the first garden in Canada to commemorate the contribution made by the Chinese and their Canadian children to this country.
Although small, the Garden Memorial to Chinese Pioneers is a significant public green space. The site, with its mature shrubs and trees and gracious lawns, functions as a peaceful oasis within a dense and noisy mixed-use neighbourhood.
The Garden Memorial to Chinese Pioneers is a very good example of an ethnic cultural landscape. The brightly painted, stylized Pagoda structure, inscribed standing stone found on the site, stylized altar for burning joss sticks and other materials, concrete patio with Chinese-style perimeter fencing and graceful arched staircase all give the park a distinct Chinese character.