Temples, ghosts and Christians – Melbourne Chinese Studies group seminar

Date: Friday 2 July 2010
Time: 6pm
Admission: $2
Venue: Jenny Florence Room, 3rd Floor, Ross House, 247 Flinders Lane, Melbourne (between Swanston and Elizabeth Streets)

Topic: Temples, ghosts and Christians – A brief history of Chinese spiritual practice in Australia

Speaker: Paul Macgregor

Traditional spiritual beliefs and practices were fundamental to the lives of most Chinese in colonial Australia. Temples were built across the goldfields and in major cities. Cemeteries and burning towers to maintain relations with the spirits of the those who died here were also established around the country. Rituals and ceremonies were central to community events and the annual spiritual calendar was adhered to by many. On the other hand a small but growing number chose to adopt the Christian faith and formed congregations that, by the Federation era, also had key roles in community organisation, business affairs and political activity. New migrants from the Chinese diaspora to Australia from the 1950s onwards have also continually reinvigorated and diversified Chinese spirituality in Australia.

Historians and archaeologists have undertaken significant documentation of many of the temples and cemeteries. Others have enquired into the organisational history, and the political and social influence, of traditional Chinese spiritual organistions such as the Hung League as well as key Chinese Christian congregations. This seminar however will focus on exploring the actual spiritual beliefs and practices – both traditional and Christian – of Chinese Australians, how these were transformed in Australia, and how they have underlain individual lives as well as community history.

Paul Macgregor is an historian who is the convenor of the Melbourne Chinese Studies Group, and was the curator of Melbourne’s Museum of Chinese Australian History from 1990 to 2005. He is the editor of Histories of the Chinese in Australasia and the South Pacific (1995), and joint editor of both Chinese in Oceania (2002) and After the Rush: Regulation, Participation and Chinese Communities in Australia 1860-1940 (2004). He has organised three international conferences on the Chinese diaspora in Australasia, and has curated numerous exhibitions on the history and material heritage of Chinese Australians.

Talk followed by an informal, inexpensive meal in a nearby Chinatown restaurant.

Following seminar:
Friday 6 August – Pauline Rule: A transnational Chinese-Australian family and the ‘New China’

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