2021 Cross Cultural Walking Tour
Yucho Chow and the Chinese United Church
The Cross-Cultural Walking Tour is pleased to share some of the private and public lives of the Chinese United Church as seen through the dual lens of photographer, Yucho Chow, and the Archives of The United Church of Canada, Pacific Mountain Regional Council.
Photographer, Yucho Chow (1876-1949), is best known for his studio portraits of the individuals and families who made Vancouver home in the first half of the twentieth century. Their private lives celebrated through weddings, births and birthdays, anniversaries and other commemorations were captured within Yucho Chow Studio open “Rain or Shine”, day or night, in the heart of Vancouver’s Chinatown.
“Anything Anywhere Anytime” meant he also documented the rich public lives and communities they built, as settlers in an often hostile society. Chow was a favourite and trusted photographer of the Russian, Croatian and Sikh communities, and was frequently invited into their community spaces to photograph their membership.
Vancouver’s Chinese United Church
The Chinese United Church was among the many Chinese community organizations Chow helped document, of which he himself was a member. Many of the photos he took of the church and its significant presence in Chinatown and Strathcona can be found within the archives of the United Church of Canada Pacific Mountain Regional Council.
Chow photographed the congregation’s annual Canada Day picnics at Stanley Park, annual Sunday School graduating kindergarten class, and 50th anniversary in 1938. At Yucho Chow Studio, he took group photos of the congregation’s ministers in their roles as church and community leaders, as well as in their roles as husbands and fathers within family portraits.
Rev. Fong Dickman
One of Chow’s earliest photos is of Rev. Fong Dickman and his family, who arrived in Vancouver from Nanaimo in 1906. This was the year that the Methodist mission (previously established in 1888 at the corner of Hastings and Abbott and moving several times) was able to build a new structure of its own at 531 Beatty Street. It was the same year that the young Yucho Chow established Yucho Chow Studio at its first location at 68 West Hastings, just a short walk away. Both gentlemen were community leaders in their own right. Rev. Fong Dickman also became founder and editor of 華英日報 Wa-Ying Yat-Po (Chinese-English Daily Newspaper), Canada’s first Chinese daily newspaper, which ran from 1906-1909.
Chinatown shifts eastward
In 1925, when the Methodist Church joined other denominations to form The United Church of Canada, the congregation changed its name to the Chinese United Church. By then, the Chinese community had shifted eastward, and a new church was built at 430 Dunlevy (at Pender) in the Strathcona community to better serve its members. By 1930, Yucho Chow also moved his studio eastward, to 518 Main Street at the height of its business, from where he photographed Vancouverites over the next two decades before his death in 1949 and his sons took over.
The Chinese United Church remained in Chinatown for many decades, celebrating its 100th anniversary in 1988. In 1992, it amalgamated with Chown United Church in the Cambie Street Village, leaving behind its legacy of a century of service in Chinatown. Sadly, the former church building on Dunlevy was demolished.
Vancouver Chinese United Church 100th Anniversary
In this 1988 episode of Pressure Point, Barbara Anderson interviews the Rev. James Pan, and musical performances celebrate 100 years of Vancouver’s Chinese United Church.
(Click video to view full size on YouTube.)
Pressure Point was a production of Interchurch Television from 1975 to 2001.
It was an ecumenical venture of churches in Greater Vancouver, supported primarily by The United Church of Canada, BC Conference.