Fan Tan Alley
Victoria, B.C. Canada
Running Toward the Afterlife
Chinatown in Victoria, BC Canada is a popular tourist destination. Beyond the Gate of Harmonious Interest you will find an area steeped in Chinese culture offering amazing dining, interesting import shops and fresh vegetable markets. It is also the home of Fan Tan Alley.
Fan Tan Alley is a narrow passageway between historical buildings and is only 6 feet at its widest. There you will see it’s lined with many interesting and eclectic stores and is enjoyed by all who pass through its colourful depths. Here is a place where you can step back to a time just after the gold rush and easily imagine it’s past; a busy and overcrowded place that was home to brothels, opium dens and gambling establishments. Many people who enter this historical “street” are not aware of its sinister past, one that haunts us even today.
In the 1889 Chan was an eighteen-year-old young man who worked as a servant in a nearby American Hotel. Each day he would pass by a beautiful young “Sing Song” girl named Yau Gum who was a slave girl owned by the brothel owner Yip Tang. Yau Gum’s stunning beauty enthralled the young Chan and the lovely girl always flashed her eyes in his direction whenever he passed by.
Madly in love and saddened by her plight Chan proposed marriage which Yau Gum declined. She was owned by the violent Yip Tang and would never be allowed to leave unless she was bought and paid for in full. Chan knew as a servant he could never save the money Yip Tang would ask so he devised a plan to help her escape.
The determined Chan once again approached Yau this time slipping a vial of poison in her hand. He proposed she could use it to kill her owner and his wife, then she would be free to run away and start a new life with him. Yau was shocked at this proposal and knew it would only succeed in the death of them both. Besides she had it good there, fine clothes good food and as Yip Tang’s favorite she rarely had to entertain the clientele one on one. Chan was penniless she knew he could not provide the life of which she was now accustomed. Yau told him that under no circumstance would she leave the brothel for him. Her words were harsh and she humiliated young Chan.
It was all too much for Chan and he could no longer accept seeing the many men lining up to seek her favor. It drove him mad.
A few days later Chan and a friend stopped by to visit Yau Gum with murder on their minds. Chan took a meat cleaver and cut through her neck after his friend grabbed her hair to bring her into position. Her head fell to the ground in a pool of blood on the street. Chan fled, running down Fan Tan Alley and knocking over anyone who happened to be in his way. He made it to the Hotel in which he worked and hid in the basement until he was found hiding in a coal bin by the authorities, still wearing clothes soaked in Yao’s blood.
Arrested and incarcerated to await trial he hanged himself in his jail cell with his own shirt. The police unaware (or perhaps not concerned) with Chinese burial customs, placed him in a pauper’s grave. No food or money offerings, no gongs to ensure his spirit is aware he is no longer in the world of the living and needs to move on.
It’s believed his spirit is angry and still haunts Fan Tan Alley and the restaurant which is the only remnant of the hotel he once worked.
Even today the owner of the restaurant leaves an offering of food and drink to appease the spirit thereby keeping him calm. People who visit Fan Tan Alley have been known to feel him push past or hear his shoes as he runs by. There was an account of a woman who saw a bloodied young man with a butchers knife running past as she quickly moves to get out of his way.
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