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The Chinese community, Sydney, 1870-1901

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posted on 2022-08-02, 01:27 authored by Vivien Suit-Cheng Burrage

This study deals primarily with the Chinese community in N.S.H'. in general and Sydney in particular during the period 1870-1901. It emphasises the extent to which the Chinese conformed to the characteristic trends towards increased urbanization during this period. The thesis seeks to analyse the changes within the Chinese community and also to examine the social, economic and political life of the Chinese in Sydney, both in terms of this community per se and in its inter-relationships with the broader colonial society. 

Material on the Chinese in Sydney and N.S.W. became hard to find after the goldmining era and historians have paid little attention to the Chinese in the colony after 1870 until the issue of a 'white Australia' came into prominence at the end of the century. The fact remains, however, that the Chinese were not finally excluded from N.S.W. with the coming into operation of the Commonwealth legislation in 1901 but by the Chinese Restriction & Regulation Act of 1888. A number of questions arise in this period, some of which the present study hopes to answer.

This thesis is divided into four topic areas. The first deals with early Chinese life in the colony from 1848, followed by a discussion of the social, religious and educational factors which motivated Chinese life. It then looks at Chinese economic life in Sydney, where the community was, in this respect , divided into two main groups - the larger being the labouring classes and the smaller, merchants, again divided into 'lesser' and ‘elite’.  Finally, Chinese political life is examined and the discussion here revolves around the awakening of political conscience of the Chinese in Sydney, brought about largely by chaotic political conditions in China and local organizations such as the Yee Hing Hui, the Chinese Empire Reform Association and others. 

The overall picture of Chinese life in this period is one of a minority's struggle for social and racial acceptance and economic survival through conformity and ‘accommodation’ , sometimes, in fact, unwillingly, to the Australian way of life. 


Table of Contents

Chapter 1. Early Chinese immigrants -- Chapter 2. Social Organization & county societies -- Chapter 3. Lack of family life & immoralities -- Chapter 4. Religion & education -- Chapter 5. Labouring classes -- Chapter 6. Lesser merchants -- Chapter 7. Merchant ‘elite’ - Quong Tart -- Chapter 8. Chinese competition -- Chapter 9. Secret societies -- Chapter 10. Awakening of political life -- Conclusion -- Appendices I – V -- Bibliography -- Map - Sydney inner city, 1888


Thesis submitted to the School of Historical, Philosophical & Political Studies of Macquarie University, in part-fulfilment of requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts. Degree conferred 1975. Includes bibliographical references (pages 152‐159)

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis masters research


Thesis (M.A.), Macquarie University, School of Historical, Philosophical & Political Studies, 1974.

Department, Centre or School

School of Historical, Philosophical & Political Studies

Year of Award



Copyright disclaimer: Copyright Vivien Suit-Cheng Burrage 1974. This thesis was digitised for the purposes of Document Delivery. Macquarie University attempted to locate the author but where this has not been possible; we are making available, open access, the thesis which may be used for the purposes of private research and study. If you have any enquiries or issues regarding this work being made available please contact Macquarie University ResearchOnline - Copyright Vivien Suit-Cheng Burrage 1974.




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