Collecting Chinese histories

Chinese market garden. 1901

Image: State Library of Victoria Accession. Photo: gelatin silver; 7.0 × 9.4 cm. From Hamilton family album. Accession #H26629.

 

With a growing Chinese population in the Orange region and the construction of a new regional museum, work has already begun on collecting, interpreting and presenting Chinese history and their living culture of the district.

Research in the southern part of the region and Central NSW has confirmed a rich Chinese heritage from the late 1840s to the present day. Most Chinese people arrived during the gold rushes, though significant numbers came as indentured labourers prior to the gold rushes, and a few intrepid individuals came seeking work in the early 1800s.

The involvement of the Chinese in gold mining was long-standing and an international trend, but in the Cabonne region the Chinese also operated successful market gardens in almost every village in the district, where a reliable water source was available. Some of the gardens lasted well into the 1950s. The Chinese worked hard wherever they went and whatever they did–working as pastoral labourers, land clearers, storekeepers, and business-owners.

Several well-known Chinese entrepreneurs were important benefactors and philanthropists in their local communities.

Sizeable Chinese communities existed in Blayney, Molong and Orange: Orange had its own Chinese quarter, and several towns, including Orange and Canowindra, had Chinese temples. Traditional functions such as Chinese New Year were often celebrated.

Several well-known Chinese entrepreneurs were important benefactors and philanthropists in their local communities. In order to document and showcase the contributions they made, the Orange Regional Museum is currently burrowing into the lives of several important men: Billy Soo and William (Billy) Lee both from Blayney, Hang Sing and the Ah See family from Orange, the Tankee (Tankey) family from Carcoar, and Sam Lok from Molong.

Researchers Barry McGowan and Genevieve Mott, are still hard at work and welcome contributions from anyone with recollections of the Chinese in their local communities and especially from descendants of the early Chinese settlers.

If you have Chinese-related artefacts, photographs and other memorabilia they would love to see them, and with permission photograph the objects.

 

Contact the researchers through Alison Russell on 63938170 or email museum@orange.nsw.gov.au

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