Endurance – Historic Arrowtown Chinese Settlement

Above Arrowtown, on the banks of Bush Creek, a tributary of the Arrow river, is the partially restored and well interpreted Arrowtown Chinese Settlement. This is a mute reminder and tribute to the contribution made by the Chinese goldminers and business people to the region’s goldmining, cultural and business history.

Census figures for 1874 reveal that there were 3,564 Chinese in Otago. Often victims of discrimination they lived on the fringes of European settlements and in isolated gullies close to their mining claims. Chinese that died were either buried in graves in a Chinese section or just outside the cemetery.

By 1885, the Arrowtown settlement had grown to consist of about ten huts, a large social hall and at least two stores. There was also an extensive garden area. A range of construction techniques was used for the buildings, including mud brick, mortared stone, wood, corrugated iron, and canvas. Some buildings were thatched while others were roofed with corrugated iron.

At first the men lived together in communal huts, usually between two and six men to a house. It seems that the community centred around the large social hall, which was perhaps fifteen metres long, until it collapsed or was demolished in around 1900.

It seems that Ah Lum’s store (separately registered as an historic place) later took over this social function. It is unlikely if any women ever lived in the settlement; the first recorded arrival of a Chinese woman in New Zealand was not until 1873 and by 1896 there were only eleven throughout the country.

– story extracted from Dept of Conservation, Te Papa, Atawhai

This is endurance.  Conservation of the Chinese Settlement in Arrowtown, Central Otago, New Zealand.


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7 thoughts on “Endurance – Historic Arrowtown Chinese Settlement

  1. This looks interesting. Something different from your usual Chinatown, and it looks like quite a stretch too. Love how the shots are framed, very up close and personal with the olden days living quarters. Hope you had a good week and enjoying the weekend, Jess. I’ve been busy with work, and it’s going to be a few busy-blockbuster work weeks from next week. So taking it easy this weekend 🙂

    • This isn’t really a Chinatown as such but more like a little town for Chinese miners. There are lots of Chinese Kiwis in Otago, heritage of these miners.
      Are you still with the same job or gone into full time writing, Mabel? I had a relaxing weekend. It was election day yesterday and landslide victory for the ruling party. 🙂

      • Yeah, from your description it did sound like a town and attraction paying tribute to the early Chinese settlers. Apart from Chinatown, I can’t think of anything like that in Melbourne. Sure, we have Chinese populated suburbs like Box Hill but that’s different.

        I went back to my old job a few weeks ago. Longer hours but more fun than the previous one. Too bad it ends in December, but come then will be a new beginning. Sounds like NZ is very happy with the election 🙂

    • Yes, this isn’t really a Chinatown as such, more a simple village for the Chinese miners. It is really good the government preserved this site. Huge historical value to the Chinese migrants and the country as a whole. 🙂

  2. Pingback: Papa | tnkerr-Writing Prompts and Practice

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