From Canton to Parramatta

Early Chinese contact with Australia is thought to have occurred through merchants scouring the Australian coastline for sandalwood and sea cucumbers. Records show that 18 Chinese settlers had immigrated to Australia by 1848, with Mak Sai Ying as the earliest known Chinese immigrant to arrive in Sydney. In recent times, according to the 2016 Census, 16.3% of the population in the suburbs of Parramatta is made up of individuals with Chinese ancestry.

Chinese labourers 1850

Chinese labourers 1850, Image from National Museum of Australia

Chinese Labour

Before the 1850s, Chinese labourers faced physical hardship in Australia. This image depicts Chinese labourers walking along a winding country road in search of work and helping to clear bushland for farming.

China Rose

China Rose

China Rose

Roses were introduced to Australia from China and were grown profusely in the beautiful and exotic gardens situated around the Red Cow Inn in Parramatta.

John Shying (1798 – 1880)

Mak Sai Ying (1798 -1880) was born in Guangzhou (Canton) and is one of the first recorded Chinese-born to settle in Australia. He arrived as a free settler in 1818. He purchased land in Parramatta and was granted the licence for The Lion, a public house in Parramatta. He was known by many names, including John Pong Shying, Mak Sai Pang, Mai Shi Ying, Mark Opong, and (possibly) John Sheen. Mak Sai Ying married Sarah Jane Thompson (1802 – 1836) on 3 February 1823 in St John’s Church, Parramatta.

Mei Quong Tart (1850 – 1903)

Mei Quong Tart was a complex individual. Chinese born, he was arguably one of the most westernised of Australia’s Chinese. A successful businessman, particularly as a tea importer and restauranteur, he also worked for social causes both within and outside the Chinese community. Mei received some education in China before arriving in Sydney in 1859 at the age of nine. In 1886 he married an English women, Margaret Scarlett and had six kids – 4 daughters and 2 sons.

Research posts: From Canton to Parramatta

Chinese Australian Religion

In 1868, Reverend J. K. Tucker wrote in his observations of the Chinese attitude to religion:"With them all religions are equal, as they are in Australia and this favourite colonial opinion, they will tell you, has been cherished by them for more than two thousand...

Chinese Australians in Rookwood Cemetery

Chinese monuments in Rookwood Cemetery (from left to right):  萬年寶鼎 Wan Nian Bao Dǐng,   廣善堂 Quong Sin Tong Shire, 六福亭 Luk Fook Tang  Chinese World War II Pavilion Rookwood Cemetery or officially the Rookwood Necropolis opened in 1865 and consecrated in 1867. At the...

Lunar New Year – Year of the Rat

Recent years of the rat are: 2020, 2008, 1996, 1984, 1972, 1960, 1948, 1936, 1924, 1912, 1900. 2020 is the Year of the Rat according to the Chinese zodiac and this year will be the Year of Metal Rat, starting from the 2020 Chinese New Year on 25 January 2020 until the...

Lunar New Year around the world

SIGNAGE - Year of the pig (Source: Anne Tsang) City of Parramatta is home to a diverse multicultural community with 20 percent of the population with Chinese ancestry. Many people with Asian heritage will be celebrating Lunar New Year.[1] Lunar New Year starts on the...

Lunar New Year – Year of the Dog

Lunar New Year -  Year of the Dog (Source: City of Parramatta) The celebration of the Lunar New Year has long been part of the Parramatta region and community. Lunar New Year is one of Parramatta’s most popular annual events. On 16 February, Parramatta  will welcome...

Sing Choy – Market Gardener, Green Grocer & Interpreter

Advertising (1888, October 6). The Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers Advocate, p. 5. Retrieved on 25/01/2018 from [1] Sing Choy’s smile and sonorous ‘Good Morning’ was described as ‘a feature of Parramatta town life’. As...

The ‘White Australia’ Policy

There was never an actual policy or law that was referred to as the ‘White Australia’ policy. Rather, the ‘White Australia’ policy refers to a range of policies which determined Australia’s approach to immigration from the 1850s, until its official abolition in 1973....

George Tin Sing

George Tin Sing, who was also known as George Sing, arrived in Australia from China in 1893. He was eighteen years of age. George worked throughout Australia as a storekeeper and greengrocer. In 1905 he received his naturalisation papers in Perth. George remained in...

Chinese Settlement in New South Wales

Life for Chinese labourers in Australia before the 1850s. Image from National Museum of Australia  The history of Chinese Australians provides a unique chapter in the history of Australia. The earliest contact with Australia appears of searching the Australian...

Mak Sai Ying Aka John Shying

Private John Joseph Shying, Grandson of John Shying, Source: Sydney Living Museum Photo - Charles Picking Courtesy Winsome Doyle Chinese migration and settlement in New South Wales has a long history. Records show that about 18 Chinese settlers had immigrated to...

Cheng Fan-Cheong/ Ah Hing /Henry Fine

Henry Fine (Ah Hing)  and Lily Ah Poo Wedding June 1896. Brad Powe family photographs and documents, 1862-1931, relating to Chinese ancestry. State Library of NSW. Henry Ah Hing Fine Chong was a successful merchant and portraitist who lived and worked in Parramatta...

Images From Our Collection

Resources From Our Collection

Resources From Our Collection
  • Williams, Michael, Chinese settlement in NSW : a thematic history, NSW Heritage Office, 1999
  • Clyne, Joanna, Smith, Richard & Hodges, Ian, Chinese Anzacs, Canberra Department of Veterans’ Affairs, 2015
  • Cheng, Shirley, Cooking and sharing – a booklet of Chinese recipes, Dundas, N.S.W. : Dundas Area Neighbourhood Centre Chinese Social Group, 2013 (Chinese and English versions)
  • The Chinese Times newspaper [microfilm], 12 December 2002 to 27 March 2003
  • Ryan, Jan, Ancestors : Chinese in colonial Australia, Fremantle, W.A : Fremantle Arts Centre, 1995
  • Stacker, Julie, Chinese immigrants and Chinese Australians in NSW, ACT : National Archives, 1998, c1996
  • Boileau, Joanna, Families of fortune : Chinese people in the Tweed, Murwillumbah, N.S.W. : Tweed Shire Council, 2009
  • Jones, Doris Yau-Chong, Remembering the forgotten : Chinese gravestones in Rookwood Cemetery 1917-1949, Pymble, N.S.W. : Invenet, c2003
  • Fitzgerald, Shirley, Red tape, gold scissors : the story of Sydney’s Chinese, [Sydney] : State Library of New South Wales Press, 1997
  • Brook, Jack, From Canton with courage : Parramatta and beyond: Chinese arrivals 1800-1900, [Parramatta], N.S.W. : Jack Brook, 2010
  • Jones, Paul, Chinese-Australian journeys : records on travel, migration and settlement, 1860-1975, [Canberra] : National Archives of Australia, c2005
  • Pearson, Michael, Tracking the dragon : a guide for finding and assessing Chinese Australian heritage places, Canberra : Australian Heritage Commission, 2002
  • Gervasoni, Clare, Castlemaine petitions : petitioners for a Castlemaine municipality and petitioners against the Chinese Residence Licence, Ballarat, Victoria : Ballarat Heritage Services, c1998
  • Young, Faye, Sources for Chinese local history and heritage in New South Wales, Kareela, N.S.W. : F. Young ; Alexandria, N.S.W. : N. van Barneveld, 1997