Uncovering Chinese Gold Rush History

With the interest and financial help of the Heritage Council of Victoria, the See Yup Society in Melbourne is restoring and documenting the thousands of historical memorial tablets that line the halls of their temple in South Melbourne. The memorial tablets, which remember the dead, are helping reveal the extent of Chinese immigration during the time of the gold rush in Australia. Uncovering the stories of those thousands of Chinese who came in search of their fortune is a mammoth task. In the 1850s – 60’s twenty per cent of the population in Victoria were Chinese.

Archaeologist David Bannear said that very little is known about what happened to those Chinese, and that these tablets are able to tell part of the story of those remarkable people. He felt that if the tablets were to be lost then the souls of those 13,000 men would be lost forever. “I was very touched by that,’ he said. “As an archaeologist I understand the moral… the joys and the expectations associated with artefacts and they really change people’s lives.”

As an ongoing project, the Old Chinese inscriptions will be translated and put in a database which will be available to the public. The Executive Director of Heritage Victoria, Ray Tonkin said, “We believe this is a remarkable project which gives great insight into Victoria’s history and heritage.

“The temple itself of course, has been listed on the Heritage register for many years and was always seen to be very important, not only an important piece of architecture, but a great piece of Victoria’s cultural heritage,” he said. Chinese heritage is gaining increasing recognition in Victoria as it is appreciated in being a valuable contribution to early Australian history.

Source: Rayment, P. 2007. Uncovering Chinese Gold Rush History. The Epoch Times.

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