Monthly Archives: January 2006

Chinese Lunar New Year 2006 in Vancouver Chinatown

Chinese Lunar New Year 2006 in Vancouver Chinatown

The Chinese New Year parade in Vancouve's Chinatown is now Vancouver's longest continually run parade, since the demise of the PNE parade.  Lots of action abounds as the many martial arts clubs all let loose their Lions to the streets.  Along the parade route, some of the Lions will approach different stores and restaurants hanging lettuce as an offering to the Lions.  After the parade, hang out on Pender and Keefer Streets afterwards as the Lions will roam the streets and even venture along Main St in search of lettuce and li-see (lucky red envelopes with money).  If you are lucky, you may see people lean out the 2nd or 3rd floor balconies with a lettuce hanging from a stick.  The lion may even try to climb up the building to get the lettuce to the loud applause of the crowd.

This year's parade featured the return of the Salvation Army Band, bangra dancing, the Carnival Band, and Brazillian dancers – but sadly no dragon boat.

I have never ever been a participant in the Chinese New Year Chinatown parade before, but this year I had 2 offers to join friends in Chinatown Revitalization Committee (Chair Glen Wong is an old childhood friend of mine), and the Dances With Dragons group (First Nations and Chinese supporters organized by Bill Chu).  I chose instead to just watch and enjoy the parade with my girlfriend.  It was amazing how many people we bumped into that we knew.

Todd Wong with friends City Councillor Suzanne Anton and dragon boater Patrick Couling – photo Deb Martin

First of all I bumped into Glen Wong with his young son – both dressed up in Chinese jackets.  Next was Patrick Couling, one of my early dragon boat mentors, then City Councillor Suzanne Anton – who had attended the previous week's Gung Haggis Fat Choy dinner.

“Eve & the Fire Horse” group promote the film, as actor Phoebe Kut hands out fortune cookies – photo Todd Wong

We walked past and through the parade assembly area and I greeted friends with their different groups.  I bumped into my 2nd cousin Nick with his two young sons and their martial arts club, as the club got ready to drum and do Lion Dances.  I met up with Wing Siu Wong, and young son Andy who came and greeted me saying “Toddish McWong!”  They were with the group for “Eve and the Fire Horse.”  Producers Yves Ma and Erik Paulsson were there with the group holding up a big banner sign.  Young actor Phoebe Kut was there too!  After the parade I had a great chat with Yves and learned that we had other friends in common when his young daughter asked me “Are you Jessica's friend?”

I am with the parade crew from “Eve and the Fire Horse”:  actor Phoebe
Kut is delightful – she is on my right.  producer Yves Ma is on my left
with his daughter – who remembered meeting me the week before at the
Firehall Arts Centre.  What a small world! – photo Deb Martin.

How to survive in the year of the Dog – YAPPY NEW YEAR!

Things We Can Learn From a Dog

Yappy New Year
– How to survive in the year of the Dog

People are always asking for what it means to be born in the year of the dog.  The standard answer is loyalty, friendship etc. etc.

What does in really mean to be a dog?  Could be positive… could be negative…  Usually I look up some of the many Chinese Astrology books on my book shelf… but today I succumb to something I  found today that is listed as author unknown and can be found all over the internet (trust me).

Never pass up the opportunity to go for a joy ride.

Allow the experience of fresh air and the wind in your face to be pure ecstasy.

When loved ones come home, always run to greet them.

When it's in your best interest, always practice obedience.

Let others know when they've invaded your territory.

Take naps and always stretch before rising.

Run, romp, and play daily.

Eat with gusto and enthusiasm.

Be loyal.

Never pretend to be something you're not.

If what you want lies buried, dig until you find it.

When someone is having a bad day, be silent, sit close by and nuzzle them gently.

Delight in the simple joy of a long walk.

Thrive on attention and let people touch you.

Avoid biting when a simple growl will do.

On hot days, drink lots of water and lie under a shady tree.

When you are happy, dance around and wag your entire body.

No matter how often you are criticized, don't buy into the guilt thing and pout. Run right back and make friends.

Here I am in Kalamalka Lake Park on Dec 26th with my Border Collie doggie friends, Val, Tess and Hailey.  Thank goodness my cat doesn't get jealous.  Year of the Cat/Rabbit is not until 2011.

Gung Hay Fat Choy! Gong Xi Fa Cai! It's the Year of the Dog!

Gung Hay Fat Choy!

Gong Xi Fa Cai!

– means “wishing you prosperity”
red is Cantonese – black is Mandarin

Sun Nien Fay Lok

Xin Nien Kuai Le!

– means “happy new year”

Here are some links celebrating Lunar New Year around the world

“Eve and the Fire Horse” wins Special Jury Prize at Sundance – very auspicous Chinese New Year's Eve

“Eve and the Fire Horse” wins Special Jury Prize
at Sundance Film Festival
– very auspicious Chinese New Year's Eve

“About 45 minutes ago, we recieved a phone call from Sundance,” said Yves Ma, one of the producers of the independent film Eve and the Fire Horse. “You are the first people to hear this news, outside of us…  We've won the Special Jury Prize.”

Phoebe Kut, who plays “Eve” in the film stood at the front of the theatre with produces Shan Tam, Erik Paulsson and Ma.  They were taking part in a Q&A organized by Anita Adams for First Weekend Club at Fifth Avenue Cinemas in Vancouver.  The 7:25 pm show had ended to audience applause, and all three people were very happy to share their news and stories from Sundance.

“There was lots of free stuff,” said 11 year old Phoebe answering the question “What was Sundance like?” 

“We were the only Canadian film at Sundance, the Canadian Consulate hosted our opening night party and sent two mounties to help us make a splash. We got these nifty jackets sponsored from Telefilm Canada… we got on a bus and people would say “It's the Canadians and start singing O Canada,” shared Paulsson.  All four of them turned around showing off their beautiful jackets and vests – black with a red chinese paper cut design of a horse as the logo.

“We were very fortunate, the buzz started early.  People were lining up to see the show and talking about it.  Roger Ebert's review was great!” said Ma.

I asked them what attracted them each to the film project.  Ma was the first to respond.

“It was such an honest story,  I could relate to it as an immigrant,” said Ma who is Taiwanese-Chinese on his father's side and Parisian French on his mother's side, “It is partly autobiographical for Julia, but the characters are very strong.  Some parts are dramaticized.  I just knew I wanted to be part of it.”

“I knew Julia from film school,” piped in Paulsson.

Sham Tan explained that both of the young actors that played the young girls who are the central characters of the movie, had never acted before.  In each case, another sister or friend had seen the ads calling for actors, and both Phobe Kut and Hollie Lo were “tag-a-longs” who were eventually cast.

Tomorrow the cast and crew will be parade entry #46 in the Vancouver Chinatown Parade.  They will be giving out special custom made fortune cookies.  Look for the group wearing black and red, with big big smiles.

Below are some links to stories about  Eve and the Fire Horse. including a picture of Julia Kwan recieving the Special Jury Prize at the Sundance Festival in Park City Utah, earlier this evening.

Especially check out: Julia Kwan blogs her “Sundance experience” for CBC

7:39 2 World Cinema Special Jury Prizes, to two first time filmmakers: Eve and the

Julia Kwan at Sundance accepting Special Jury Prize Award for Eve and the Fire Horse

Standing behind her is actor Shirley,  Eunhee Cha – associate producer and Tom Brown – executive producer.   Eunhee directed the award winning documentary “Tribe of One” about my cousin Rhonda Larrabee.

gathering major buzz
Featured on the current cover of
’s Georgia Straight is a great way to start off Chinese New Year festivities this week for film maker Julia Kwan.  The timing is perfect for Kwan, since the film opened in Canadian theatres on Friday January 27. Check out the Straight story at

Roger Ebert's review “One of the most beloved films at Sundance.”


Globe & Mail review


The Park Record

Vancouver Chinatown Parade Sunday Jan 29, 2006

Vancouver Chinatown Parade Sunday Jan 29, 2006

This is a Vancouver Chinatown tradition that started in the 1970's to highlight Chinese Culture in Chinatown.  The Parade has really grown as a combination of  things happened:

New waves of Chinese immigrants
Acceptance of multiculturalism and going out to see and promote such events
Revitalized parade reaches out to many community groups

Expect to see Brazilian dancers, a dragon boat on a trailer, First Nations dancers… and of course the usual Lion Dances and a Dragon Dance.

First Nations dancers?  My friend Bill Chu organizers “Dances with Dragons” bringing together First Nations and Chinese Community groups.  Historically there have been many intersections of Chinese and First Nations, some starting when Chinese railroad workers assimilated into First Nations groups and married First Nations women.  This was also due to the lack of Chinese women in Canada because of the head tax and exclusion act.

I have friends that grew up amongst the First Nations in Alert Bay, and of course my mother's cousin Rhonda Larrabee is Chief of the Qayqayt Band (New Westminster) because her father Arthur Lee, married a First Nations women named Marie.  Check out the NFB film “Tribe of One” which tells the story of how Rhonda Larrabbee applied for, recieved Indian Status after initial rejections, then went on to revitalize the Qayqayt tribe.

EVE & THE FIRE HORSE: opening weekend in Vancouver – stars in attendance

opening weekend in Vancouver
– stars in attendance

I do like to support films with Asian Canadian themes.  Eve and the Fire Horse was filmed and set in Vancouver…. and it has been burning up the critic's rave lists.  Gotta go see this one for sure.  Real Chinese Canadians playing real Chinese Canadians, with a Chinese Canadian director and Chinese Canadian themes…. Oops!- excuse me… substitute “Canadian” for all of the above.



*Official Sundance Selection*
Eve & the Fire Horse opens on Friday, January 27…

5th Avenue | 4:40, 7:25, 9:25
 Tinseltown | 12:25, 2:50, 5:10, 7:25, 9:40

A Q&A session will be held at Fifth Ave on Saturday night, January 28, 7:25PM. Stars Phoebe Kut (Eve) and will be in attendance as well as producers.

Even one of the world's most notorious critics could not resist the film's charm. After seeing Eve & the Fire Horse at Sundance, Roger Ebert called it “one of the most beloved films of Sundance” and described it as “luminous”.  For more details, click HERE.

Georgia Straight: Head tax unites activists

Georgia Straight:  Head tax unites activists

Charlie Smith, news editor of the Georgia Straight, interviewed me last week for this week's story about how the head tax issue united multigenerational Canadian-born Chinese Canadians with first-generation Chinese Canadian immigrants, for a shared cause.  This was a great learning experience for me, as my circle of friends really consists of mainly English speaking Canadians of many different ethnicities – but mostly caucasian and chinese ancestries.

The BC Coalition of Head Tax Payers, Spouses, and Descendants – really was developed by Sid Tan, a longtime stalward community activist on this issue, whom I have known since about 1994.    Mary-Woo Sims is the former BC Human Rights Commisioner whose path I have been crossing for the past few years – she stepped off the committee as she became an NDP candidate for Port Moody – Westwood – Port Coquitlam during the election.  Although, also not on the committee, I have called David Wong a friend since
1986 when we met while working on the Saltwater City museum project
celebrating 100 years of Chinese history in Vancouver, chaired by
author Paul Yee.

Thekla Lit and Bill Chu, are both dedicated community activists that I have only me this year.  Both have a strong presence and burning desire to build harmony and to champion human rights issues. Gabriel Yiu is a Chinese language media commentator who has also written for Vancouver Sun and CBC Radio.  It has been a real pleasure and honour to work with these people and develop respect and friendships with them, and the other people on our committee. 

Head tax unites activists

By charlie smith

Publish Date: 26-Jan-2006

the eve of Chinese New Year, local Chinese Canadian human-rights
activists have another reason to celebrate: over the past year, an
alliance formed between some first-generation Chinese activists and
Canadian-born Chinese-head-tax descendants. According to several people
contacted by the Georgia Straight, this culminated in an impressive
demonstration of the community’s political influence during the recent
federal election campaign.

The Chinese Canadian National
Council has traditionally been the leading community organization
pressing for redress for Chinese head-tax payers and their descendants.
Last November, the federal Liberal government announced an “agreement
in principle” to set aside $2.5 million for education programs
concerning the discriminatory head tax. In 1904, the Canadian
government imposed a $500 tax on Chinese immigrants and nobody else. In
1923, Ottawa prohibited new Chinese settlement in Canada, only lifting
the ban in 1947.

The Minister of State for Multiculturalism,
Raymond Chan, refused to bring the CCNC into the negotiations, refused
to issue an apology, and refused to accede to the CCNC’s demand for
direct compensation. His decision flowed out of a Conservative private
member’s bill that included an apology but that also promised to set
aside all money for a rival group, the National Congress of Chinese
Canadians, which has not pressed for individual compensation.

Many long-time head-tax activists, such as Vancouver resident Sid
Tan, CCNC executive director Victor Wong, and local architect David
Wong, immediately denounced the federal Liberal initiative. Tan, a
community-media activist, told the Straight that the NCCC was created
in the early 1990s to counter the CCNC’s criticism of the Tiananmen
Square massacre.

They were joined by Canadian-born head-tax
descendant Todd Wong, veteran human-rights activist Mary-Woo Sims, and
many others who had long been associated with this issue. For the first
time, the head-tax activists also attracted the support of several
first-generation Chinese human-rights activists who regularly comment
in the local Chinese-speaking media.

….Andrew Yan, a local demographic researcher, told the Straight that
the head tax has become a “bridging” issue between first-generation
Chinese immigrants and Canadian-born Chinese, many of whose ancestors
paid the $500 fee. Todd Wong, a fifth-generation Canadian, said he was
especially pleased to see some Chinese-speaking immigrants, such as Chu
and Lit, join the redress campaign.

“That’s going to be the start of a new Chinese Canadian identity,” Wong said.

Read the entire article at Head tax unites activists

Read the companion story:
B.C. elected only one MP of Chinese descent:
Raymond Chan. How concerned are you about this?

B.C. elected only one MP of Chinese descent: Raymond Chan. How concerned are you about this?

B.C. elected only one MP of Chinese descent:


Raymond Chan. How concerned are you about this?

Straight Issues:

Charlie Smith, Georgia Straight news director, called me up last week to ask me about the Chinese-Canadian heat tax/exclusion act issues, and about working with the BC Coalition of Head Tax Payers, Spouses and Descendants.

Check out Charlie's Stories
Head Tax unites activists  

Sid Tan
Head-tax-payer descendant and president of the Association of Chinese Canadians for Equality and Solidarity Society

“It doesn’t really matter. I don’t do the Chinese thing. The head tax is a motherhood issue.”

Thekla Lit
President, B.C. Association for Learning and Preserving the History of World War II in Asia

feel that with the population we have, we should have some Chinese MPs.
I prefer to have good Chinese MPs than any Chinese MPs….I hope that
when the Chinese community becomes more mature, that we will have good
Chinese MPs.”

David Wong
Head-tax-payer descendant, architect, and community activist

actually feel it is important to find a Canadian of Chinese ancestry to
be involved at a senior political level. I’m not talking about recent
arrivals like Raymond Chan….I’m hoping that more ‘banana’ candidates
come out during the course of my lifetime.”

Todd Wong
Head-tax-payer descendant and founder of the annual Gung Haggis Fat Choy Chinese New Year’s dinner

Raymond Chan, who is of Chinese descent and as a Liberal, he really
didn’t seem to understand it was the descendants who needed to be
addressed and not the Chinese-language population….The community is so
diverse and they were just looking at one segment of the population. On
the other hand, we have the NDP—Margaret Mitchell, Libby Davies, and
Peter Julian—who have been working on this issue for a long time.”

More Robbie Burns Day in Canada….

More Robbie Burns Day in Canada….

How did I celebrate Robbie Burns Day?

I put my kilt on and walked through downtown Vancouver on my way to a
meeting at the Royal Bank Tower for the Canadian Club committee meeting
for our “Order of Canada / Flag Day” luncheon.  A number of our
board members had attended the Gung Haggis Fat Choy dinner, and they
all asked me to stand up and display my kilt for their visual

After the meeting, I walked up Burrard St, to the Sutton Place Hotel,
site for the Burns Supper presented by the Burns Club of
Vancouver.  130 men attended.  No women as the tradition is
that Burns Suppers were started by the Tarburton Bachelor Club.  I
had never before attended a Men Only club until I attended a Burns Club
of Vancouver meeting two years ago.  FYI – they do have other
meetings and events where women are invited.  But it is a
historical tradition following the origins of all things Burns.

The evening's main entertainment were 5 pipers and 4 drummers from the
Seaforth Highlanders. The program featured the usual traditional toast
such as “The Immortal Memory” given by Burns scholar Dr. Andrew Noble,
songs and poems read, An Epistle, given by Alistair Taylor, and the “To
the Lassies” given by Harry McGrath, coordinator of the Scottish
Studies Program at Simon Fraser University.

The “Bill O' Fare” included:
a smoked salmon served with greens appetizer, Scotch Broth, Prime Rib
of Beef served with Tatties and Neeps, Haggis, Oatcakes and Cheese for
a dessert course, and a Malt of Glenfiddich.

The only real strange thing was that the draft beer served at the bar
was Warsteiner… my preference for Burns Day celebrations have been
the Irish Malts of Guinness and Kilkenney.

And so for Jan 26th, I went to the Robbie Burns Day celebrations at
Doolin's Irish Pub.  There I bumped into Doolin's former
operations manager Evan – who helped start up the Kilts Night
celebrations at Doolin's – first Saturday of every month.  Wear
your kilt and recieve a free pint of Guinness.  Evan is now
operating his own restaurant in Gastown now – called Curious. 

The Halifax Wharf Rats were playing a mixture of traditional and
contemporary tunes.  They played their covers a la Maritime celtic
style transforming Kiss's disco hit “I Was Made For Loving You” into a
lovely accoustic romp.  I loved their versions of “Tell My Ma” and
songs by “Spirit of the West”. 

I also made some great new friends:  Kent, Lea and Scott, who were
there for the Rotary Club's fundraiser celebrating Burns Night with
Hockey.  We had a great time toasting to Burns and exploring the
historical travels of ancient Chinese, Scandinavian and Norse
voyageurs  to North America – all without passports!  We
discussed the merits of Irish beers Guinness and Kilkenney as well as
Rickard's Red, along with a comparsion taste test of Irish whiskey
Bushmills compared to Glenfiddich.

Hopefully I made some more dragon boat recruits during the
evening.  Many people asked why a Chinese guy was wearing a
kilt.  And I bumped into my old dragon boat mate Charlene – with
whom I paddled in San Francisco on the “Spirit of Vancouver” team.

Mozart turns 250 today! But was Mozart multi-cultural?

Mozart turns 250 today!  But was Mozart multi-cultural?

I love Mozart's music.  This morning I turned on CBC Radio Two – 105.7 FM in Vancouver.
Playing was my absolute Mozart symphony.  #40.  I prefer it
more than the more often played No. 40 “Jupiter” and the No. 25

Mozart also had to write his operas in Italian, since it was “the
official opera language” of the day.  And like many composers he
also drew on folk and ethnic melodies.  His Turkish Rondo is a
good example of this practice.  And Turkish Rondo is also one of
my favorite pieces that I can play on my concert accordion.  Oh…
and I have a jazz inspired transcription of Turkish Rondo titled
“Mozart Gets Around.”  Very cool!

My friend Rick Scott even wrote a
rap tribute called “Yo Mo Concerto” found on Rick's “Making Faces”
children's cd.  “Yo Mo! Hey there Amadeu…. whatcha gonna play

Mozart is universally loved because his music is universal in its appeal and its themes.