An inscribed rock monument commemorating the historic contribution of Nelson’s Chinese community was dedicated Sunday afternoon before a large crowd.
The rock at the corner of Hall and Vernon streets, near the former entrance to the city’s Chinatown district, was the brainchild of local resident Claus Lao Schunke, who lamented the lack of official recognition of the city’s Chinese pioneers. He secured funding from the city and Columbia Basin Trust to erect the monument.
Schunke, mayor John Dooley, and Cameron Mah, whose family has lived in Nelson for six generations, spoke ahead of the unveiling. Mah then lighted incense at the base of the marker, which came from Tom Cherry’s rock farm in Rosemont, and was inscribed by local stonemason John McKinnon.
It was originally going to be dedicated as the culmination of Chinatown Week in May, but the long winter at higher elevations forced a delay.
The monument contains a few lines from a Chinese poem, which translated reads: “Hard is the journey/Hard is the journey/So many turns/And now where am I.” Schunke feels this well expresses the Chinese experience in Nelson.
The English text reads: “A vibrant Chinese community contributed greatly to the growth of Nelson in its early days.
“The Chinese worked in mining and its support services, on railroads, as proprietors of diverse businesses and in extensive market gardens that supplied vital fresh produce to Nelson and area for decades.
“Here was an entrance to Nelson’s Chinatown, one of the largest in the interior of British Columbia.
The corner where the monument sits has also been re-landscaped and the handrail near it painted red.