The Chinese in Sydney in 1900

Kung Hei Fat Choy! Happy Chinese New Year!lanterns

“Two Chinese men were waiting for Fergus outside his front door the next morning. Their suits and bowler hats indicated they were not market gardeners selling goods, nor common labourers, but businessmen on a formal errand. Fergus knew one of them as Yuen Le, an official of the Loong Yee Tong and a well to do Chinese merchant. The Tong was a Chinese society. Some said it worked as a respectable funeral fund; others that it was an illegal gambling gang. Fergus thought it was probably both.”

(extract from Taken At Night)

Chinese The Chinese have had an important role in Sydney’s growth and history, and were prominent in Sydney in 1900, when Taken At Night is set. Accordingly several Chinese characters feature in the story.  Fergus Blair has a close relationship with a Chinese businesswoman, An Hing. Although readers don’t meet An in person, they will learn she has a mind of her own and is a significant presence in Fergus’ life.

By 1900, the historic district of The Rocks in Sydney had a number of Chinese businesses, but a second Chinatown in the Haymarket area was also established. In researching my novel I read the report of the 1891 Royal Commission into the Chinese of Sydney, which visited opium dens and heard evidence from Chinese and police about gambling practices.  Chinese stores were often bases for clan tongs, societies which supported Chinese men who had migrated to Sydney. One of the Commissioners was the well known merchant and tea impresario, Mei Quong Tart.

In 2016 Sydney’s Chinese New Year celebrations will feature a trail of Chinese Zodiac lanterns, with 2016 being the Year of the Monkey. Monkeys are cheeky, fun loving and wise, as any fan of the cult TV series Monkey! will know.

You can read more about the history of the Chinese in Sydney in the Dictionary of Sydney.

 

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