Chinese Memorial at Whiteland Cemetery Hyem

Hume & Hovells’ 1824 exploration of the North East opened the door for European settlers to begin  to move to the North-East in large numbers.  It was the discovery of gold at Beechworth and in the Ovens Valley in the 1850s that spurred a temporary population boom that included thousands of Chinese migrants seeking their fortune.

Predominantly originating from the Guangdong Province, the miners brought their own customs and culture with them. Their encampments contained places of worship, as well as shops, opium dens, and market gardens.

Unfortunately, the arrival of Chinese migrants was not always met with welcome and tensions mounted causing a number of incidents, most notably The Buckland Riot of 1857, which occurred when a large number of Europeans violently stormed a Chinese camp.  In reponse, the Victorian Government provided compensation to the miners after the riot and encouraged them to return under the protection of police and an appointed Chinese Protector.

Eventually new cross-cultural interactions such as the first celebration of Chinese New Year in the area,  met with awe and curiosity, with many locals joining in the festivities and sampling new food and music.

After the Gold rush, many Chinese migrants returned home. However, a number settled in the area as merchants, market gardeners and, notably, as tobacco and hops farmers both in the Ovens, King and eventually Buffalo River Valleys.
hyem_chinese_2_option2

The names on the headstone read:

UNKNOWN
YET SOH
AH YIP
AH YIN
UNKNOWN
MAN
AH FAT
AH FOY
JOHN SING
LOW FOOK
WEE GOOK
AH TOON
EN POW                                                                                            AH SAM