Launceston

In 1934 the last remaining Chinese temple in the North-East was given to the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery in Launceston by the Chinese community for safekeeping. The event marked the end of an exotic chapter in Tasmania’s history.

At the height of the North-East tin mining boom in the late 1800s there were nearly 1500 ‘Celestial Sojourners’ working across the region. Throughout the 1880s they outnumbered the European miners working the field.

Whereas in the United States and on the Australian mainland gold fields there were long running anti-Chinese tensions that frequently errupted into violence, here in Tasmania the Chinese miners were welcomed. They were generally respected as hard-working and law-abiding citizens. They took active part in the life of the remote communities, raising funds for local schools and hospitals. Many Europeans joined in the Chinese New Year festivals, attended Chinese funerals and formed close friendships with the ‘Celestials’. Chinese businessmen in Launceston also became well known, including the storekeepers Chin Kitt and Ah Kat. A Chinese Carnival incorporating the ‘Illuminations of the Gorge” were instrumental in raising the money to extend the City’s famous walkway to the First Basin.