Tag: Chinese in Tasmania

‘Joss and Chinese festivities’ – Weldborough, Tasmania, 1884

Kung hei fat choi! 恭喜發財! Happy new year!

As we enter the Year of the Dragon in 2024, here’s a look back at how the Chinese community in the tin mining settlement of Thomas’ Plains (also known as Weldborough), Tasmania, celebrated New Year in 1884 – one hundred and forty years ago.

The report by ‘Miner’, published in the Hobart Mercury on 6 February, 1884, includes a mention of the joss house at Weldborough. This temple was only newly opened at the time of writing, and it remained in use until 1934. Today, its contents, and those of five other nineteenth-century joss houses from the north-east of Tasmania, make up the Guan Di Temple (關帝廟) at the Queen Victoria Museum & Art Gallery in Launceston.


‘On first pitching my tent within the margin of this sunny oasis of the forest, I little thought eight years hence its echoes would be awakened by the discordant jinglings of a Chinese orchestra; but so it is, and the year 1884 of the Christian era, and the ninth year of the reign of Tsai-Tien, Emperor of China, leave an established epoch in the history of Weldborough.

Wooden plaques either side of the entrance to the Guan Di Temple in Launceston, which originally came from the joss house in Weldborough (QVM.1990.H.0193 and 0195; photograph by Kate Bagnall, September 2020)

Like most mining settlements, we, too, have passed through a series of perplexing ups and downs since the year 1875. So great, indeed, are the changes through which we have entered as to make us often somewhat doubtful of our position. Many who came here as the pioneers of our tin mines have retired from the field, some to rest upon their gains, and others, to toil afresh in pastures new; and some, I regret to think, are numbered with the past. What with births, deaths, and marriages, and earthquakes, we are induced to review the principles of cause and effect.

Both morally and physically we indicate a transition : the Celtic and Saxon blendings are fast yielding to the strongly-marked tendencies of the Mongolian. This is seen in all our public and festive gatherings, but strongly so in the large brood of almond-eyed, olive-cheeked urchins attending our day school. If there is any truth in the tenet advanced by many of our philosophers, touching Nature’s fiat on the ‘surviance of the fittest’, John, here, may be said to be in the ascendant, since he has driven the European from the field, and is now master of his position. …

We are now in the midst of the high festivities of their new year. There is one continual round of feasting, music, fireworks, and Joss ceremonials. There must be fully 300 men congregated within the camp, all living in the highest state of enjoyment, for the time being all things seem to be held in common, even the barbarous European is present again and again to partake of their dainties, consisting of pork, fowls, and rice, with oceans of oil and other celestial condiments.

There is one very noticeable feature brought out in John’s feastings, he does not forget his god. The inevitable pig is roasted whole, and borne as an offering to the altar, amid the burning of incense, the clashing of cymbals, prostrations, prayers, incantations, and a crackling blaze of fireworks, after which it is returned to render a more substantial service, as the sacred tit-bits of another feast.

Whatever may appear the architectural frailties of our Chinese dwelling places, which may be said to consist for the most part of palings, poles, and rice-bags, they have spared no expense in embellishing and decorating their Joss House, which may be said to glitter with adornments. The altar-pieces, and symbolical carvings, and gilding, and painting on glass, show much artistic skill and cleverness; but, alas! to what strange purposes employed. …

Yours, etc., MINER
Thomas’ Plains, February 1, 1884.’

A naturalized Chinese Tasmanian: Ah One from Hobart

While visiting Canberra in January 2021, I looked (again) at a collection of Tasmanian naturalization certificates held in the National Archives of Australia in series A804. Here’s one of the stories found in these records – which I tweeted at the time but have reproduced here for posterity.

Let’s have a look at one of the Tasmanian naturalization certificates from NAA: A804 to see what we can find out. This one caught my eye because it was witnessed by Andrew Inglis-Clark, and it has no annotations related to travel (NAA: A804, 706).

The certificate was issued to Ah One, a gardener from Hobart, on 21 September 1897. He was 38 years old, a native of Canton in the Empire of China, and had lived in Tasmania for seven years. He had applied for naturalization on 17 September 1897.

On the back of the certificate we can see that Ah One swore the required oath on 24 September 1897, before a Commissioner of the Supreme Court of Tasmania, and this was ‘enrolled and recorded’ the same day by the Supreme Court Registrar (No. 706, Bk 5, page 247).

Tasmanian Archives holds colonial naturalization records for Tasmania, so more information about Ah One’s application can be found there – using both the Tasmanian Names Index and the information provided on the certificate.

A search of the Tasmanian Names Index led to Ah One’s naturalization application (memorial) and correspondence about it (CSD22/1/3/56 pp 216–218, https://stors.tas.gov.au/CSD22-1-3-56$init=CSD22-1-3-56-P216).

The memorial gives more information about Ah One: he was born at Canton on 1 February 1859; he arrived at Hobart on the Southern Cross in 1890; he could sign his name in English; and his application was endorsed by JG Davies, JP and Mayor of Hobart.

The accompanying correspondence shows that Ah One was one of nine Hobart gardeners who applied for naturalization at the same time through Tinning & Propsting Solicitors, all endorsed by the Mayor of Hobart.

The nine gardeners were: Ah Doo, Ah Look, Ah Now, Ah One, Ah Koon, Hie Mane, Kie Sung, Sing Gin, and Sing None.

The approval process took four days and issuing their naturalization certificates cost the applicants 2s 6d each.

On the back of Ah One’s naturalization certificate in NAA: A804 is the annotation ‘No. 706, Bk 5, page 247’ – which refers to Tasmanian Supreme Court series SC415, which contains copies of denization and naturalization certificates. A copy of Ah One’s certificate is found on pp. 247–8 of Book 5 (SC415/1/5, https://stors.tas.gov.au/SC415-1-5-P247).

Under s 7 of the Aliens Act 1861 (Tas), a copy of each naturalization certificate had to ‘be enrolled for safe custody as of record in the Supreme Court’.

Almost 600 Chinese people were naturalised in Tasmania up to December 1903. Tasmania stopped naturalizing Chinese people after the new Commonwealth Naturalization Act 1903 came into force from 1 January 1904. By contrast, New South Wales and Victoria stopped naturalizing Chinese in the mid-1880s.

Bibliography on Chinese in Tasmania

Earlier this year I was commissioned by the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery (TMAG) to compile a bibliography on Tasmania’s Chinese history and heritage.

The bibliography is intended as a tool to help with the study of Tasmania’s Chinese communities across the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. It documents existing research relating to Chinese people in Tasmania, focusing on history, heritage and community, and provides a survey of publications and other research outputs.

The bibliography was funded as part of TMAG’s Contemporary Migrant Experiences project, with funding from the National Foundation for Australia-China Relations.

On Sunday, 5 June 2022, Kirstie Ross and Grace Williams from TMAG and I presented copies of the bibliography to the Chinese Community Association of Tasmania Inc 澳洲塔省華人聯誼會 at their monthly meeting in Hobart.

Presentation of the bibliography to the Chinese Community Association of Tasmania Inc., North Hobart, 5 June 2022. Pictured L–R: Ruby Lee, Kate Bagnall (UTAS), Grace Williams (TMAG), Daniel Chan (President, CCAT), Brian Chung, Kirstie Ross (TMAG), Hingor Chung, Jan Everett. Photo courtesy Daniel Chan.

The bibliography will be made available in Libraries Tasmania and the National Library through the National edeposit service. I have also made a copy available online in Zenodo.

The compilation of the bibliography marks the beginning of my work on Chinese Tasmanian history and heritage, which I will be pursuing further through the new Everyday Heritage project. Everyday Heritage is an Australian Research Council Linkage project and is a collaboration between researchers at the University of Canberra (Tracy Ireland and Tim Sherratt), University of Western Australia (Jane Lydon), University of Tasmania (me) and GML Heritage in Sydney.

Population statistics on Chinese people in Tasmania

Note: Terms used in the following population tables reflect the original historical sources and are considered offensive today.

Chinese population of Tasmania, 1881–1947

    1881 1891 1901 1911 1921 1933 1947
Chinese Persons 844 1056 609 529 321 197 111
Male 842 993 536 450 283 160 81
Female 2 63 73 79 38 37 30
‘Full’ Chinese Persons 844 939 506 427 262 132 68
Male 842 931 482 400 247 117 51
Female 2 8 24 27 15 15 17
‘Half-caste’ Chinese Persons _ 117 103 102 59 65 43
Male 62 54 50 36 43 30
Female 55 49 52 23 22 13

Source: Compiled from the Official Year Book of the Commonwealth of Australia, No. 18, 1925, Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics, Melbourne, 1925, p. 955; Census of the Commonwealth of Australia, 1933 and 1947.

View a PDF version of this table.


Chinese in Tasmania, 1901

An Appendix in the 1901 Census of Tasmania contained specific tables enumerating Chinese and ‘half-caste’ Chinese, as well as ‘other alien races’ and Tasmanian Aboriginal people.

View a PDF of the Appendix to the Census of Tasmania, 1901.

Find the complete Tasmanian Census 1901 (look for TAS-1901-census.pdf) in the Historical and Colonial Census Data Archive (HCCDA) Dataverse.


Chinese British subjects in Tasmania and Australia, 1911

In this table, ‘Chinese’ indicates ‘race’ not birthplace. It is taken from a section of the 1911 Commonwealth Census on ‘Non-European Races’.

British subject by Total Chinese British subjects Total Chinese
Birthplace Parentage Naturalization
Male Chinese Australia 2 679 67 3 261 6 007 23 374
Tasmania 84 1 116 201 450
Female Chinese Australia 2 137 3 49 2 189 2 398
Tasmania 72 0 6 78 79
Total Chinese Australia 4 816 70 3 310 8 196 25 772
Tasmania 156 1 122 279 529
 
Male ‘full Chinese’ Australia 1 168 65 3 259 4 492 21 856
Tasmania 34 1 116 151 400
Female ‘full Chinese’ Australia 643 3 49 695 897
Tasmania 20 0 6 26 27
Total ‘full Chinese’ Australia 1 811 68 3 308 5 187 22 753
Tasmania 54 1 122 177 427
 
Male ‘half-caste Chinese’ Australia 1 511 2 2 1 515 1 518
Tasmania 50 0 0 50 50
Female ‘half-caste Chinese’ Australia 1 494 0 0 1 494 1 501
Tasmania 52 0 0 52 52
Total ‘half-caste Chinese’ Australia 3 005 2 2 3 009 3 019
Tasmania 102 0 0 102 102

Source: Compiled from the Census of the Commonwealth of Australia, 1911, Part VII: Non-European Races

View a PDF version of this table.

The Hung family of Lefroy, Tasmania

Peter Cox’s local history of the former gold-mining town of Lefroy in north-eastern Tasmania, Lefroy: Tasmania’s Forgotten Gold Town (George Town and District Historical Society, 2016, p. 90), mentions a market gardener named Ah Hung, who with ‘his European wife Jemma’ had a large vegetable and fruit garden to the north of Lefroy, ‘on the old Douglas township site’.

Douglas was a town that never eventuated, about four kilometres east of Lefroy. By contrast, Lefroy was once a substantial town, reputed at one point to have been the fourth largest town in Tasmania. There was a notable Chinese community in Lefroy, including a temple. Today, there are only a few houses remaining.

Chinese miners occupy their own chapter of Cox’s study (Chapter 3, ‘Chinese and Slate’), but Jemma and Ah Hung receive only the one brief, unreferenced mention in Chapter 10 (‘The Peak of the Boom’). On a recent holiday in the East Tamar district, I set out to see what I could find out about them.

Jemima Cox and Ah Hung married in Launceston in 1875. She had come to Tasmania as a small child, after migrating with her family from Hertfordshire, England in 1856. Jemima and Ah Hung had three children, born in the early 1880s, Henry, James and Mary, and they lived on land owned by Jemima at Douglas, near Blanket Creek outside of Lefroy, where they ran a garden. Ah Hung died in 1904, after which time it seems that Jemima moved to Launceston with her eldest son, Henry. They lived in Forster Street, Inveresk, and Henry was a gardener like his father (and Jemima’s father, too). Jemima died in 1923, at age 74, in Broken Hill, New South Wales, where she was living with son Henry – she had been in Broken Hill for four months.

The town of Lefroy, Tasmania (George Town and District Historical Society, GTH_HS0194, https://eheritage.libraries.tas.gov.au/resources/detail0f3f.html?ID=GTH_HS0194)

Below is a chronology of the information I uncovered through Trove Newspapers, the Tasmanian Names Index, the NSW Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages, Ancestry.com, General Register Office UK, Broken Hill Cemetery website, and maps from the National Library and Libraries Tasmania (thanks to Imogen Wegman for the latter reference). There are many leads that could be followed up about the life of Jemima and Ah Hung and their children, and I’ve noted some of these for future reference!

Chronology

c. 1835–1846: Ah Hung was born.

1850: On 13 September 1850, Jemima Elizabeth Cox was born in at Nancy Bury, Tewin, Hertfordshire, England, the daughter of Daniel Cox and Mary Gregory. Her father was a woodman and her mother signed with an ‘X’.

Birth of Jemima Elizabeth Cox, Oct-Nov-Dec 1850, Hertfordshire, Vol. 6, Page 547, FreeBMD, England & Wales, Civil Registration Birth Index, 1837-1915 [database online], Ancestry.com.

Birth registration of Jemima Elizabeth Cox, December Quarter 1850, Hertford Union, Vol. 6, Page 547, General Register Office, United Kingdom.

1851: The family of Daniel and Mary Cox was listed in the 1851 England Census as living at Nancy Bury, Tewin, in Hertfordshire, England. The household consisted of Daniel (farmer labourer, age 32, born Tewin), Mary (housewife, age 26, born Codicote), Daniel (age 4) and Jemima (age 7 months).

Census record for Daniel Cox and household, Tewin, Hertfordshire, England, Class HO107, Piece 1711, Folio 170, Page 26, 1851 England Census [database online], Ancestry.com.

1856: On 5 February, Daniel and Mary Cox and their children arrived in New South Wales as assisted immigrants on the James Fernie. The Cox children were 7-year-old Daniel, 5-year-old Jemima, 2-year-old Joseph and a male infant born on board.

Assisted immigrants records for Daniel Cox, Mary Cox and Daniel, Jemima and Joseph Cox, arrived on James Fernie, 1856, Assisted Immigrants Index 1839–1896, NSW State Archives and Records.

Passenger list for the James Fernie, arrived Sydney on 5 February 1856, New South Wales, Australia, Assisted Immigrant Passenger Lists, 1828-1896 [database online], Ancestry.com.

1869: Jemima Cox gave evidence in a case about trespass on the land that her father, Daniel Cox, rented in Glen Dhu Street, Launceston.

‘Trespassing on Land’, The Cornwall Chronicle (Launceston), 27 November 1869, p. 5, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article65988017.

1875: Jemima Cox and Ah Hung were married at the Wesleyan Church in Patterson Street, Launceston, by the Rev. E.W. Nye. Jemima was incorrectly said to be a native of Tasmania, aged about 25 years old, and she was still living with her parents at Cataract Hill. Ah Hung was described as a ‘middle aged man’.

They were married on 13 May 1875. He was recorded as being aged 29 and she was 25. He was a bachelor and she was a spinster. He was a miner and she was a gardener’s daughter.

‘Another Chinese Benedict’, The Cornwall Chronicle (Launceston), 14 May 1875, p. 2, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article66073314.

Reprinted as: ‘Fifty Years Ago’, The Mercury (Hobart), 16 May 1925, p. 12, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article23817025.

Tasmanian Names Index, Ah-Hung and Jemima Cox (Marriage), 13 May 1875, Tasmanian Archives, RGD37/1/34 no 503, https://stors.tas.gov.au/RGD37-1-34$init=RGD37-1-34P266.

Tasmanian Names Index, Ah-Hung and Jemima Cox (Marriage), 13 May 1875, Tasmanian Archives, RGD37/1/34 no 503, https://stors.tas.gov.au/RGD37-1-34$init=RGD37-1-34P266.

c. 1880: Henry Charles Hung, son of Jemima Cox and Ah Hung, was born in Tasmania.

c. 1882: James Hung, son of Jemima Cox and Ah Hung, was born in Tasmania.

c. 1884: Mary Hung, daughter of Jemima Cox and Ah Hung, was born in Tasmania.

1889: The premises of Ah Hung at Lefroy were robbed on Tuesday, 3 September 1889, and £75 in gold and silver was stolen. The theft was not discovered until 5 September. The main suspect was another Chinese man.

‘Tasmanian News’, The Tasmanian (Launceston), 7 September 1889, p. 25, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article200288906.

1892: Jemima Hung was recorded as the owner of 2 acres, 0 roods and 31 perches of land on the main road from Lefroy to Back Creek, close to Blanket Creek.

A 1973 Tasmanian Department of Mines map of Lefroy still noted that the land is owned by J. Hung.

‘Map – Douglas D32’ (AF819-1-82), Printed Town Charts (AF819), Land and Surveys Department, Tasmanian Archives, https://stors.tas.gov.au/AI/AF819-1-82.

‘Lefroy’, Tasmania mineral chart series, Tasmania Department of Mines, Hobart 1973, http://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-668738343.

Detail of 1892 map of Douglas, Tasmania, showing Jemima Hung’s land on what is now Douglas Road (Tasmanian Archives AF819-1-82)

1901: An article in April about ‘Crown Land Sales’, under the heading ‘Town Lands’, mentioned land in the town of Douglas ‘fronting on the road to Back Creek, opposite land purchased by H. Ah Hung’.

‘Crown Land Sales’, Daily Telegraph (Launceston), 15 April 1901, p. 4, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article153962637.

1904: James Hung, ‘a Chinese gardener’, went missing from his home near Lefroy at the beginning of February and had still not been found several days later.

‘Launceston’, The North Western Advocate and the Emu Bay Times, 4 February 1904, p. 3, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article65130652.

1904: James Hung returned home on Thursday, 4 February; he had been reported missing from Blanket Creek near Lefroy. He was said to be in a weak state.

‘Current Topics: Returned Home’, Examiner (Launceston), 6 February 1904, p. 4, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article35790680.

This land on Douglas Road at Lefroy, near Blanket Creek, was owned and occupied by the Hung family in the late nineteenth century. On the land there are two old fruit trees, possibly apples. (Photograph by Kate Bagnall, October 2020)

1904: On 6 February 1904, Mr and Mrs Hung of Lefroy placed a notice in the Launceston newspaper to thank people for searching for their son, James, who was lost in the bush.

‘Family Notices’, Daily Telegraph (Launceston), 10 February 1904, p. 1, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article153921840.

Google Earth satellite image showing the boundary of Jemima Hung’s property at Douglas, Tasmania (Created by Tim Sherratt, October 2020)

1904: Ah Hung, aged 69, died at his home at Lefroy on 23 October 1904 after a long and painful illness. He was the ‘dearly beloved husband’ of Jemima Ah Hung.

‘Family Notices’, Daily Telegraph (Launceston), 25 October 1904, p. 1, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article153825631.

‘Family Notices’, Daily Telegraph (Launceston), 25 October 1904, p. 1, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article153825631.

1910: Mrs J. Hung of Melbourne Street, South Launceston, won the ‘Robur’ Tea Ticket Collecting Competition for February 1910 and her name was listed in a Launceston newspaper (under ‘3/6 Rewards’ in the first column).

‘Advertising’, Examiner (Launceston), 26 March 1910, p. 9, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article50412200.

1913: Mrs Jemima Hung was listed in the Post Office Directory as living at Forster Street, Inveresk, on the righthand side from Invermay Road after Goderich Street.

Tasmania Post Office Directory for 1913–14, H. Wise and Co., Hobart, p. 154, Ancestry.com. Australia, City Directories, 1845-1948 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2015.

1914: Mrs Jemima Hung (domestic duties) and Henry Charles Hung (gardener) were living in Forster Street, Inveresk.

Electoral Roll, Tasmania, 1914, Bass, Launceston North, p. 25, Ancestry.com. Australia, Electoral Rolls, 1903-1980 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010.

1915: Mrs Jemima Hung was listed in the Post Office Directory as living at Forster Street, Inveresk, on the righthand side from Invermay Road after Goderich Street.

Tasmania Post Office Directory for 1915–16, H. Wise and Co., Hobart, p. 152, Ancestry.com. Australia, City Directories, 1845-1948 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2015.

1922: Jemima Hung (domestic duties) and Henry Charles Hung (gardener) were living in Forster Street, Inveresk.

Electoral Roll, Tasmania, 1922, Bass, Launceston North, p. 31, Ancestry.com. Australia, Electoral Rolls, 1903-1980 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010.

1923: Jemima Hung died at Broken Hill, New South Wales (father Daniel, mother Mary).

New South Wales Registry of Birth, Death and Marriage, death of Jemima Hung, 3771/1923.

Death registration of Jemima Hung, Broken Hill, New South Wales, 10 January 1923 (NSW Registry of Birth, Death and Marriage, death of Jemima Hung, 3771/1923)

1923: On 11 January 1923, Jemima Hung was buried at Broken Hill Cemetery in the Methodist section.

Broken Hill Cemetery Records Navigator, Burial Number 30291, Methodist Section (METH M4 Row 23A Plot 15), Buried 11 January 1923, http://www.bhcemetery.com.au/.

1923: Probate record for Jemima Hung, late of Broken Hill, New South Wales.

Tasmanian Names Index, Jemima Hung (Wills), 1923, Tasmanian Archives, AD963-1-4 (Will no. 3880), https://stors.tas.gov.au/AD963-1-4-3880$init=AD963-1-4-3880-1.

1947: ‘Half-caste Chinese’ James Hung, age 65, died. He was the brother of Henry Charles Hung of 53 Charles Street, Launceston. James Hung’s body was found at the bottom of a cliff in the Gorge on Saturday, 1 February 1947.

‘Body Over Cliff’, Examiner (Launceston), 3 February 1947, p. 2, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article60998659.

Things to follow up

  • Birth certificate of Jemima Elizabeth Hung ordered from the GRO.
  • Assisted immigrant record for Daniel and Mary Cox and family, 1856, ordered from NSW State Archives.
  • Passenger record for Cox family from Sydney to Tasmania, probably in mid-late 1850s.
  • Land purchase records for Jemima Hung’s land at Douglas near Lefroy, before 1892, and any other land purchase by the family.
  • Death registration for Ah Hung, 1904.
  • Marriage of Mary Frances Hung and James Quong in Tasmania in 1905 (1905/852) – is this Jemima’s daughter Mary, who was listed on her death certificate in 1923?
  • Birth of Edna Elizabeth Florence Quong, in Hobart on 13 October 1906 to James and Mary Frances Quong.
  • Reason for Henry Hung, and his elderly mother Jemima Hung, to have moved in c. 1922 from Launceston to Broken Hill.
  • Inquest record for the death of James Hung in Launceston in 1947.