Harling Point, Victoria, BC
Visit a Victoria landmark rich in history and a reminder of souls past.
|Cross Street |||Crescent Road and King George Terrace|
Profile Last Updated: April 23, 2009
In Victoria during the pioneer era, Chinese gravesites were kept at the outskirts of the Ross Bay Cemetery. At this time, it was common for Chinese remains to be buried in segregated areas that were designated for people of non-European descent. Unfortunately, these areas weren’t prime cemetery real estate and were prone to frequent flooding. Many remains that were near sea level were swept out to sea by stormy weather and high tides. In the late 19th century, a movement was born out of the necessity to find a cemetery location to honour and preserve loved ones without the threat of storms and flooding.
Views and feng shui
The first choice for a new cemetery was land located in close proximity to Christmas Hill. The land was purchased in 1891, but Chinese presence was unwelcome by the farmers with surrounding plots. The next choice for a burial site was what is now the current location at Harling Point, which over-looks the Olympic Mountains and the ocean. Police oversaw the first burial ceremonies here and smoothed a transition for the Chinese Community in Oak Bay. Today, the view of the cemetery is a spectacular one and easy to see it was picked for its positive feng shui.
A period of transition
In 1903 and 1908, the Chinese community exhumed the remains of loved ones at Ross Bay and transferred the bones to the Oak Bay location. There are about 400 Chinese buried here, and the unmarked remains of 900 Chinese that were to be shipped back to China in adherence to customs of the time. The last of the burials took place between 1950 and 1952 and the cemetery fell into disrepair soon after. In 1990, efforts were made to restore the gravesites and in 1996 the cemetery was declared by the federal government to be a National Historic Site after a successful citizen campaign.
Each spring, the cemetery is host to the Ching Ming ceremony—a traditional festival where gravesites are cleaned and gifts are offered to ancestors. Traditionally, items like incense, candles and paper money are burned on an altar, and other gifts of flowers or roasted pig are left to honour spirits. Visitors are welcome.