The Four Counties apply for naturalisation, 1857

In June 1857, four Chinese men from Melbourne – named Sun Tring, Yun Peng, Sun Woee and Hoy Peng – applied for naturalisation. Their memorials for naturalisation give basic details about them:

  • Sun Tring of Melbourne, 29 years, merchant, arrived on the Annie Bailie in 1852, desires to purchase and hold land
  • Yun Peng, of Melbourne, 30 years, merchant, arrived on the Challenge in 1854, desires to purchase and hold land
  • Sun Woee, of Melbourne, 35 years, merchant, arrived on the Cornwall in January 1857, desires to purchase and hold land
  • Hoy Peng, of Melbourne, 30 years, merchant, arrvied on the Liverpool in 1854, desires to purchase and hold land.

The memorials for naturalisation were each signed by the same six witnesses who knew them and attested to their good character and reputation.

The men were granted their naturalisation certificates on 2 July 1857. They were four of the eight Chinese men granted naturalisation in Victoria in 1857 – the others were Louis Ah Mouy, John Affoo, William Tsze Hing and Abu Mason.

Looking at the signatures on the memorials for naturalisation, I realised something odd about these four men. Their names are the same as those of the Sze Yup (四邑) or Four Counties districts:

  • Sun Tring – Sunning 新寧
  • Yun Peng – Yanping 恩平
  • Sun Woee – Sunwui 新會(会)
  • Hoy Peng – Hoiping 開平

Very curious!


The applications for naturalisation are held in NAA: A712, 1857/A4334 (digitised).

Confirmation that the men were granted naturalisation is found in’s Victoria, Australia, Index to Naturalisation Certificates, 1851-1928 (original data: Chief Secretary’s Department. Index to Naturalization Certificates (1851–1922), VPRS 4396. Public Record Office Victoria).

Tim Sherratt’s People of Australia Twitter bot randomly tweeted about Yun Peng, which brought the file to my attention.


  1. Jeannette Hope says:

    Camilles Sue enlisted in the 8th Australian Light Horse Regiment under the name Wallace Essay; he died at Gallipoli 7 Aug 1815. (Yes, the Light Horse served at Gallipoli, without their horses). His father was George Sue, a well-known Chinese hawker in Wentworth, NSW, his mother was English; he was born in Wentworth.

    I have wondered at the choice of his unusual pseudonym given that there is exactly one ‘Essay’ in the White Pages for Australia. It has occurred to me that maybe it is ‘SA’ = South Australia. I’ve not been able to find any connection between the Sue family and South Australia, but the Wentworth area was primarily settled by people coming up the Murray from South Australia and many Chinese got to the Victorian goldfields via South Australia. Camilles enlisted in Victoria, perhaps he was rejected in Wentworth, where everyone knew his father was Chinese.

    It’s not unknown for people to adopt names based on their birthplace or other associated place: Dame Nellie Melba, for example. A friend of mine, after a couple of marriages, changed her name to the town in England where she was born.

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