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The Chinese Cemetery history

The Chinese Cemetery
The Chinese Cemetery

The Chinese Cemetery, on the west side of MacLeod Trail, is worth visiting for the story it doesn't tell. Calgary's Chinese pioneers were among the first to develop the west, many emigrating over a hundred years ago from Hoy Sun Country (also known as Toisan) in southern China's Guangdong province.

The newcomers faced terrible hardships in this new land: racial discrimination, loneliness and difficult - often dangerous - work as railway workers on the CPR, miners in the BC interior and labourers in the cities and towns. Many had no immediate family or relatives in Canada since immigration laws of the time prevented them from bringing over their wives and families. And because there were no descendants to maintain the burial sites, many of the headstones in the Chinese cemetery eventually deteriorated.

Headstone in the Chinese Cemetery
Chinese Cemetery headstone

The City took over the Chinese Cemetery in 1935. In 1980, during the Light Rapid Transit (LRT) construction and the widening of Macleod Trail, workers excavating near the cemetery unearthed thirty-nine bodies, which were later reburied in a common grave. Initially, the Hoy Sun Association considered restoring the damaged headstones, but decided to build a common monument instead - not wishing to disturb the Feng Shui of individual graves.

The Calgary Heritage Authority deemed the Chinese Cemetery to be a historically significant cultural landscape that played an important part in the settlement and establishment of Calgary as a city.