NE's forgotten Chinese chapter

CHINESE gold miners who flocked to the North East diggings in the mid-19th century represent an often sometimes forgotten chapter of the region’s history.

But not this past weekend in the pretty sub-alpine village of Harrietville.

Between 1855 and 1865, 10,000 Chinese left their families in China to seek their fortune along the banks of the Ovens River, determined to return home with their new-found wealth.

Most eventually sailed back to China but many died from disease, starvation, accidents, murder or manslaughter, buried in and around goldfield settlements like Harrietville at the foot of Mount Hotham.

The biggest race riot in Australian history occurred in the nearby Buckland Valley in July 1857 when more than 2000 Chinese were violently expelled by European miners.

Few vestiges of Chinese settlement remain in Harrietville except the odd moss-covered headstone, the remains of a few remote huts and occasional fragments of crockery or timber carvings from long-forgotten temples or joss houses.

Since Friday, residents and visitors, including descendants of the village’s Chinese pioneers, have been recognising the contribution made by the Chinese gold seekers of the 1850s and ’60s including the market gardens tobacco and hops they planted.

The three-day Harrietville Historical Society Chinese History Celebrations featured displays by families and friends of the Ah Shin, Pan Look, Mon Shing, Quonoey, Ah Ket and many other families.

Re-enactments depicted life on the gold fields, a play about NSW anti-Chinese goldfields attacks was performed and visitors inspected the Chinese section of the Harrietville Cemetery.

The region’s Chinese heritage was also remembered on Saturday in Wandiligong where member for Benalla Bill Sykes launched the Song of Spirits Chinese Pavilion and Chinese Heritage Track.

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