2017 Chinese Australian Hometown Heritage Tour

In March 2017, we – Kate Bagnall and Sophie Couchman – hosted our inaugural Chinese Australian Hometown Heritage Tour to Hong Kong and Guangdong. The tour ran for ten days, from 22 March to 31 March 2017, and visited Hong Kong, Jiangmen, Kaiping, Taishan, Xinhui, Zhongshan and Zhuhai.

We were joined on the tour by sixteen guests, from New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, Tasmania and New Zealand – most of whom were descended from early Cantonese migrants to Australia. The tour was guided by Stony Xiao from China Adventure Tours, with arrangements and bookings coordinated by Active Travel in Canberra.

For the Chinese characters for names of places we visited on the tour, see this glossary of place names in Chinese (pdf, 1.7MB).

Day 1: Hong Kong 香港

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Day 2: Hong Kong 香港

Thursday, 23 March 2017
  • Morning at leisure
  • Afternoon walking tour of old Pokfulam village, including the Tung Wah Coffin Home, with Jason Wordie – the tour introduced the history of Hong Kong and some its of overseas Chinese connections
  • Dinner at Gold Mui Seafood Stall restaurant in Tsim Sha Tsui, with a talk by Dr Catherine Ladds (Hong Kong Baptist University) on the history of Eurasians in Hong Kong and treaty-port China
  • Accommodation at Stanford Hillview Hotel, Tsim Sha Tsui
The group outside Douglas Castle, now University Hall at the University of Hong Kong, on our Pokfulam walking tour (photo: Jonathan O’Donnell)

Day 3: Hong Kong 香港 – Jiangmen 江門

Friday, 24 March 2017
  • Ferry to Jiangmen (3 hours) – arriving in Guangdong by river boat we got a sense of the way overseas Chinese travelled in the 19th century and early 20th century
  • Lunch at Wuyi Kitchen restaurant in the Yucca Hotel mall in Jiangmen – where we got our first taste of local Jiangmen cuisine
  • Visit to the Wuyi Overseas Chinese Museum with Dr Selia Tan from Wuyi University – in this bilingual museum we were introduced to the broader history of overseas migration from the Wuyi (previously Siyi or See Yup) area of Guangdong, including migration to Australia
  • Visit to the Overseas Chinese Culture Research Centre at Wuyi University – where Dr Selia Tan told us about ongoing research at Wuyi University on overseas Chinese history
  • Dinner at leisure – most of us ate in one of the restaurants in the glossy shopping mall attached to the Yucca Hotel
  • Accommodation at Yucca Hotel, Jiangmen
At the Wuyi Overseas Chinese Museum in Jiangmen (photo: Kate Bagnall)

Day 4: Jiangmen 江門 – Kaiping 開平

Saturday, 25 March 2017
  • Visit to Cangdong village, Tangkou, Kaiping led by Dr Selia Tan – the Cangdong Heritage Education Centre, run by Selia, is working with local villagers to restore and revitalise the village of Cangdong; Cangdong is the ancestral village of Sydney-born Chinese revolutionary James Ah See or Tse Tsan-tai
  • Lunch at Cangdong village – lunch was a traditional village meal prepared by women from Cangdong in the communal kitchen, which we ate sitting in one of the restored ancestral halls
  • Visit to Li Yuan mansions and garden – built as a private home by Chinese American Xie Weili in the 1920s and 1930s, Li Yuan’s residences and garden were restored in the early 2000s and opened as a tourist site, which now also features a museum
  • Cultural activities at Cangdong village – we listened to performances of traditional folk music, watched calligraphy, paper flower-making and toy-making, and sampled some traditional Cangdong village sweets
  • Dinner at Lingzhiyuan restaurant in Tangkou, Kaiping – Lingzhiyuan’s menu is based around the lingzhi mushroom (Ganoderma lucidum), a ‘magic fungus’ formerly credited with miraculous powers and considered a symbol of good luck!
  • Accommodation at Pan Tower International Hotel, Kaiping
View from the top of the diaolou (watchtower) in Cangdong village, Kaiping (photo: Jonathan O’Donnell)

Day 5: Kaiping 開平

Sunday, 26 March 2017
  • Visit to Fengcai Tang (Yee Ancestral Hall) in Dihai with Dr Selia Tan – Fengcai Tang, now the site of a secondary school, is a magnificent example of the Western-influenced Chinese architecture of the early 20th century; one of our tour guests is a descendent of the Yee clan from Dihai, so it was an extra-special visit for her
  • Visit to Chikan town – a riverside market town built with overseas remittances mainly in 1920s to 1930s
  • Visit to Zili village – a magnificent example of the Kaiping’s tower mansions, which have been inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list
  • Lunch at Youzhiming restaurant in the countryside in Sanbu, Kaiping – Youzhiming specialises the local Kaiping delicacy, goose!
  • Visit to a cluster of Poon villages in Qiaotou, Yueshan, Kaiping – Kate has been researching one of the Poon families from Victoria, so brought everyone to visit the Poon ancestral villages; one of our tour members is a descendent of the Poon clan, most likely from this same cluster of villages
  • Afternoon tea in the market town of Yueshan – Yueshan is renowned for its streetside stalls, selling a range of afternoon tea treats each day from three o’clock; we enjoyed chatting, and resting our legs, while munching down freshly baked egg tarts and other delights
  • Visit Longtian village in Lechong, Kaiping – we visited the ancestral home of the mother of one of our tour guests
  • Dinner at leisure in Kaiping city
  • Accommodation at the Pan Tower International Hotel, Kaiping
  • And yes, this was a super busy day!
Diaolou (watchtowers) in the World Heritage listed village of Zili, Kaiping (photo: Kate Bagnall)

Day 6: Kaiping 開平 – Taishan 台山

Monday, 27 March 2017
  • Visit to Meijia Dayuan (Moy Family Compound), in Duanfen, Taishan – an interesting example of a market square built by overseas Chinese, perhaps best known today as the set for the 2010 action comedy film, Let the Bullets Fly
  • Visit to Longtengli, Shandi, Duanfen – here we saw the sadly delapidated home of famous Sydney merchant, Quong Tart, which he built for his parents in the late nineteenth century
  • Lunch at Qianmanyuan restaurant – this charming private restaurant is located in the grounds of the Taishan Library, surrounded by its own vegetable garden (arguably the most delicious meal of the trip!)
  • Visit to Taishan No. 1 Middle School – Taishanese people overseas contributed greatly to education in their home county and many of the school buildings were funded by overseas Chinese contributions, particularly from Canada
  • Free afternoon and evening in Taicheng (Taishan city) – the old part of the city, with narrow streets, shop houses, two historic churches and old-style shops is fun to explore
  • Accommodation at Taishan Gaoye Hotel, Taicheng
Stalls selling snacks and local products at the Mei Family Compound, Dingjiang, Taishan (photo: Kate Bagnall)

Day 7: Taishan 台山 – Xinhui 新會 – Zhongshan 中山

Tuesday, 28 March 2017
  • Visit to the Xinhui Fan Palm Museum – Xinhui is known for its fan palm trees, and the museum gave an interesting insight into some of the local crafts made using fan palms
  • Lunch at Yutai Temple, Guifeng Mountain Park, Xinhui – here we had the opportunity to visit a Buddhist temple, located at the top of a lush mountain park, and sample the temple’s vegetarian cuisine
  • Visit to Shiquli village, Luokeng town, Xinhui – Kate has been researching the Australian connections of Shiquli; the first men from Shiquli arrived in Victoria in the 1850s and migration continued up to the 1950s
  • Visit to Chen Chong village, Luokeng town, Xinhui – the grave of a man from this village is one of the few Chinese headstones in the Old Chiltern Cemetery in Victoria
  • Dinner at Shiqilao restaurant in Zhongshan – a fabulously kitsch (!) restaurant specialising in local Zhongshan cuisine
  • Accommodation at Sheraton Hotel, Zhongshan
The group outside the rundown 1920s school in Shiquli village, Luokeng, Xinhui (photo: Jonathan O’Donnell)

Day 8: Zhongshan 中山

Wednesday, 29 March 2017
  • Morning yumcha at Rongguang Guoyan Hotel, Zhongshan – a traditional Cantonese breakfast of tea and dimsum
  • Visit to the Xiangshan Commercial Culture Museum, Zhongshan – a museum dedicated to telling the story of the town of Shekki (now part of Zhongshan city), where the top floor highlights the Cantonese history of the ‘Big Four’ department stores of Nanjing Lu, Shanghai, all of which were started by Cantonese Australians from Shekki
  • Free time to have lunch, wander and explore around the Sunwen West Road pedestrian walking street, the historic heart of Shekki where there are shops, restaurants, a hillside park, temple, more museums and lots of interesting little backstreets to explore
  • Dinner at Time 1912 restaurant, Sanxi village, Zhongshan – Sanxi is a historic village tucked away in the centre of Zhongshan city, and has been converted into heritage zone with restaurants and galleries and a nice little pub
  • After dinner some of us took the opportunity to do admire the lights along the river and do some night-time shopping along Sunwen West Road
  • Accommodation at Sheraton Hotel, Zhongshan
Evening view over the Shiqi River, Zhongshan, looking north (photo: Kate Bagnall)

Day 9: Zhongshan 中山 – Zhuhai 珠海

Thursday, 30 March 2017
  • Visit to the Museum of the Former Residence of Sun Yat-sen and the Zhongshan Folklore Culture Museum in Cuiheng – we saw Sun Yat-sen’s ancestral home and village houses furnished to show how they would have looked at different points in the 19th and 20th centuries
  • Lunch at the Shi Shen seafood restaurant, Tangjiawan, Zhuhai
  • Visit to Waisha village, Tangjiawan, Zhuhai – we saw the home and ancestral hall of Choy Hing and Choy Chong of the Dah Sun Company department store, as well as the primary school they built; one of our tour members has been researching the Choy family history (his wife’s family) and made valuable connections with local officials
  • Dinner at De Yue Fang restaurant, Xiangzhou, Zhuhai – here we experienced some of the splendour and spectacle of modern China at a famous local seafood restaurant for our final night together; De Yue Fang is in a ‘boat’ off Yeli Island, with a view over the lightshow at the new Zhuhai Opera House
  • Accommodation at Guangdong Hotel, Gongbei
Exploring Choy family history in Waisha village, Tangjiawan, Zhuhai (photo: Kate Bagnall)

Day 10: Zhuhai 珠海 – Hong Kong 香港

Friday, 31 March 2017
  • Breakfast in the revolving restaurant atop the Guangdong Hotel – alas, we only got glimpses of the view through the fog and misty rain!
  • Ferry to Hong Kong (1 hour) – a leisurely return by boat that gave us time to reflect on the trip and say farewell to other tour members before going our separate ways
View over Gongbei, Zhuhai, from the top of the Guangdong Hotel (photo: Kate Bagnall)

 

4 comments

  1. Alice Mackay says:

    A wonderful experience and chance to learn something of our ancestors’ lives and culture. Hope there will be more tours.

  2. Helene Shepherd says:

    The trip sounds wonderful. I only wish that I could discover what was the actual Chinese surname of my ancestor, Thomas Gam, which may then allow me to undertake research on him and his Chinese family.

    • Kate Bagnall says:

      We designed the tour with people like you in mind! Even if you’re unable to locate your ancestor’s precise origins, the tour gives you a great introduction to the history and culture of Guangdong province, where most of Australia’s early Chinese migrants came from – although less relevant of course if your ancestor was from Amoy!

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