Lunar New Year legends in Victoria BC’s Chinatown

Hidden Dragon Tours reveal the legends and history of the west coast's second oldest Chinatown.

You know this spot at the intersection of Fisgard and Government in Victoria BC is unique the instant you see the 'Gates of Harmonious Interest'.

Then, when you hear those gates start singing...well, that nails it.

Vivien Ying has been leading tours of Victoria's Chinatown for 10 years now. "It is actually the oldest Chinatown in Canada, second oldest to San Francisco."

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Vivien Ying leads tours of Victoria's Chinatown.

If you decide to go shopping in Victoria's Chinatown for some Chinese New Year's treasures, be sure to pay special attention to what you see in the streets.

Like these bells.

"If you look up the sides at the Harmonious Interest Gate, it's believed that when the dragon comes to town to actually bless the town, the gate bells will ring. I've only heard them run once, and it wasn't actually windy at all,” explained Ying. "Usually during an amazing festival like Chinese New Year it’s about luck, and dragons and phoenixes all coming to bless and wish Chinatown good luck. So that's what it means, dragon will come and bring you good luck and wash away the bad luck for the new year."

Also look for the color red: "Red actually stands for protection. A lot of people think it stands for luck, it does stand for luck, but really, red stands for protection."

Protection from a legendary monster is what Chinese New Year celebrates.

"Every single year, there’s a monster that will go and attack different towns. Now this monster was named Nian, because he came yearly, and that's what Nian stands for, year.”

Ying goes on to explain the story started with a traveler visiting a beleaguered town, and telling an old lady he could help her protect herself from the annual monster attack.

"So at night, before Nian was coming over, the traveler and the old lady had painted her door red, and hung fireworks, firecrackers in front of her house to scare away the monster, and it really worked. So that's why you will see in Chinatown everything is red in color because it really symbolizes power, luck and protection."

In addition to lore, Hidden Dragon tours include food stops, and a walk down Victoria's narrowest street: Fan Tan Alley.

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And there's always a tea break: "Silk Road Tea is one of my favorite places to go to, it's just one of the little secrets of Victoria that nobody knows,” said Ying.

This taste of Victoria's Chinatown is a colorful mashup of legend and history.

"It's really authentic, our stories are close to heart, and each kind of tour is completely different."

And afterwards -- you might see more magic in these streets.

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