The First Chinatown (1860s – 1884)
The first Chinese arrived in Nanaimo in the 1860s to work as labourers for the Vancouver Coal Mining and Land Company. They lived mainly in company-built structures in the Esplanade and Victoria Crescent area. Services to support the workforce soon followed, including a store opened by Mah Hong Jang in 1872 near Pioneer Square. By the mid-1880s Nanaimo’s Chinese community was the third largest in British Columbia, after Victoria and New Westminster.