Adventurers, fortune-hunters, gold-miners … From all four corners of the world, people rushed to San Francisco, and California in the mid-1800s to pan, to dig and to dredge for gold.

In 1858, the discovery of gold in the Fraser Canyon, located in what is now called the province of British Columbia in Canada, caused these gold seekers to migrate north. The first large scale Chinese migrations to Canada began. Although the first wave of Chinese migrants came from California, news of the gold rush eventually attracted many from China itself. Among them was a sizable group of Chinese laborers who, with their traditional robes and sandals, and their long hair braided into a single pigtail or tied in a topknot under their large straw hats, were seen by Westerners as a strange and peculiar group of people.

In 1863, there were a few thousand Chinese living in British Columbia; by 1865, this number increased to tens of thousands. They formed a hardworking labor force, but they were only allowed to work on areas already panned by the Whites. Not surprisingly, they made very little money, and life was hard, and the gold rush quickly receded.