Silk triangular Hung League-Chinese Masonic Society regimental/ritual flag with Chinese chararcters painted on the front.

Chinese resources

This guide is for scholars, researchers, historians, students, genealogists and anyone with an interest in Chinese topics.

About this guide

In this guide you will find information about Chinese people in New Zealand, Chinese New Zealanders, and some prominent non-Chinese New Zealanders who spent time in China.

The topics covered include:

  • general histories and overviews of Chinese settlement
  • Chinese people in the gold rush era
  • history and experiences of Chinese women in New Zealand
  • histories of Chinese associations in New Zealand
  • information relating to official documents, such as the poll tax
  • The Chee Kung Tung (Doris Chung collection)

Use the links on the right-hand side of the page under the heading ‘In this research guide’ to see all the topics and to navigate the information on this page.

People celebrate on the steps of Parliament holding their hands in the air as blue and white balloons float skyward.
National Member of Parliament Pansy Wong, with her supporters, releasing 130 balloons from Parliament steps, Wellington, to mark 130 years of Chinese settlement in New Zealand. Photograph taken 18 March 1997, by Dominion newspaper staff photographer Dave Hansford, and published by the newspaper on 19 March 1997. Ref: Dom/1997/0319/1/25-F. Alexander Turnbull Library.

Overview of Chinese settlement in New Zealand

There are a number of general histories covering early Chinese settlement in New Zealand in the gold rush era through to settling in other towns and cities, industries and livelihoods, and present day information.

Te Ara New Zealand Encyclopedia's entry on Chinese in New Zealand

Our collections hold published books with an overview of Chinese Settlement in New Zealand. Some examples are:

A Chinese dragon puppet is operated by four men who hold it aloft and animate the dragon using poles held in their hands.
Dragon Dance at Lantern Festival, Lower Cuba Street, Wellington, 2018. Photo: Amalaratna. Used with permission.

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Chinese people in the gold rush era

Chinese gold seekers first came to New Zealand's Otago goldfields (the new “Gold Mountain”) in 1866 to escape poverty and famine in south China and to send money back home to their families in China.

Our collections include photographs, books, articles, manuscripts, images and oral histories.

Website search — Results for 'chinese gold miners'

Book subjects include the settlement of Cantonese gold seekers, specific settlement towns such as Arrowtown, mixed marriages, attitudes towards Chinese people and Chinese mission work.

National Library catalogue — Search results of books related to 'chinese gold miners'

More comprehensive information about the gold rush era

Author James Ng has written comprehensive books with information on the history of Chinese people in the gold rush era.

  • Don's 'Roll of Chinese' / James Ng; [... edited and indexed by Otago Heritage Books]. Series: Windows on a Chinese past, v. 4. Dunedin N.Z.: Otago Heritage Books. 1993. Don's 'Roll of Chinese' lists the names of 3,500 Chinese in New Zealand from 1883-1913. Section 1 covers 1883-1896 with names in English. Section 2 covers 1896-1913 and gives names in Cantonese, with details in English. Indexed in English.
Image on left: a group of gold miners standing and seated posing for the camera. Image on right: a miner standing with his tools of the trade, a box filled with dirt and a scoop.
Chinese gold miners at Muddy Creek, Waikaia, alongside a cob cottage. Ref: 1/2-019165-F. On the right: Chinese gold miner, Wing Chung, with cradle on the banks of the Clutha River taken ca. January-February 1901. Ref: 1/2-019695-F. Alexander Turnbull Library.

Prominent, early Chinese people in New Zealand

Prominent, early Chinese settlers include Appo Hocton, Choie (Charles) Sew Hoy and Chew Chong.

Appo Hocton

Appo Hocton (1819[23?]-1920) was the first naturalised Chinese immigrant to New Zealand. He arrived in Nelson in 1842 after deserting the ship on which he was a steward and became a property developer, merchant and farmer.

Chew Chong

Chew Chong (1827[44?]–1920) arrived in Otago around 1867 and lived in New Plymouth in 1870. He opened stores in several towns and was an entrepreneur who helped establish the dairy industry in the Taranaki Region.

Choie Sew Hoy

Choie Sew Hoy (1836[8?]-1901) arrived in Otago around 1868. He was a prominent businessman, merchant and entrepreneur whose new gold dredging technology improved the gold mining industry.

Two formal portraits of older Chinese men, one wearing more traditional dress and the other wearing suit and tie.
A carte de visite, or cabinet photograph, of Charles Sew Hoy, originally taken by the Burton Brothers circa 1895. Ref: 1/2-037249-F. On the right, Taranaki business man Chew Chong. Ref: 1/2-023954-F. Alexander Turnbull Library.

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Early Chinese settlement in cities and towns

After the gold rush era in Otago finished, many Chinese people settled in cities and towns around New Zealand, forming communities. In Wellington, the ‘Chinatown’ was centred around Haining and Frederick Streets in Te Aro. We hold information on specific cities and towns:

Wellington

Christchurch

Chinese of Christchurch = Ka lai zuo zhi hua qiao / Vanessa Sue ... [et al.]. Christchurch, N.Z.: Sociology Dept., University of Canterbury. c1982.

Taranaki

In the mountain's shadow: a century of Chinese in Taranaki, 1870 to 1970 / Helen Wong = Zai shan de yin ying: yi ge shi ji han ren Taranaki 1870 dao 1970 / Chen Meiying. Helen Wo. Auckland, N.Z.: H. Wong. 2010.

Four wooden houses closely situated together along a street with prices listed for each in pound sterling.
Cottages in Haining Street, Wellington, labelled with 1947 prices. One is listed as selling for 30 pounds, two are selling for five pounds, and one for four pounds. Photograph taken by an unidentified Evening Post staff photographer in 1947. Ref: PAColl-9150-14. Alexander Turnbull Library.

History and experience of Chinese women in New Zealand

The Library holds books and other resources such as manuscripts, oral histories and articles on the history and experience of Chinese women in New Zealand. Some examples include:

A formal group portrait with four rows of women, those in the front are sitting on the ground, all are wearing traditional dresses.
Group portrait of Chinese women with pianist Lili Kraus. Photograph taken 22 February 1947, probably before or after Kraus' concert at the Wellington Town Hall. Ref: 1/2-170582-F. Alexander Turnbull Library.

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Industries and occupations involving Chinese people in New Zealand, including market gardens, laundries and fruit shops

After the gold rush era, people set up their own businesses, including market gardens, shops, and laundries.

We hold books with extensive research on the history of Chinese market gardens, fruit shops and laundries. There are also some manuscripts, photographs, oral histories and journal articles related to this topic.

Two men holding vegetables in their laps, on the left is a mostly empty street with a laundromat in the center.
Ah Sam and Joe Quin with vegetables, preparing for the market in Roxburgh, ca. February 1903. Ref: PAColl-7581-96. On the right is a photograph of Quin Street, (later Sturdee Street, and later Victoria Street), Wellington, circa 1903-4, showing the Lue-Lee Laundry building. Ref: PAColl-6348-59. Alexander Turnbull Library.

Chinese associations and communities in New Zealand

Communities, societies and associations often formed according to specific ancestral areas of origination in China. These included the Tung Jung Association of New Zealand, the Poon Fah Association of New Zealand, the New Zealand Seyip Association, the Chee Kung Tong and the Tung Meng Hui.

The New Zealand Chinese Association, the very first Chinese Association of New Zealand was established in 1909 by Consul Huang Roliang to help the Chinese community organise its affairs and to run training courses in Chinese and English.

In September 1934 in response to Consul Qinxuns request that the many Chinese organisations (Chee Kung Tong, the Tung Meng Hui, Tung Jung Association, Poon Fah Society and Seyip Society) existing at that time come together and form one association to reduce friction, avoid clashes and to improve unity and harmony within the New Zealand Chinese community. This Association was named the New Zealand Chinese Association to differentiate it from the original Chinese Association.

Formal group portrait with young men in black and white striped uniforms.
Group portrait of the Tung Jung Young Men's United Association Football Club, taken in 1927. Ref: PAColl-6215-4. Alexander Turnbull Library.

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Poll tax and other official documents

The Chinese Immigrants Act of 1881 until 1944 introduced a poll tax of £10 per person and allowed entry to New Zealand of one Chinese passenger per 10 tons of cargo. This was changed in 1896 to one passenger per 200 tons of cargo, but the poll tax was increased to £100. In 2002 the New Zealand government officially apologised for these and other policies.

Immigration Restriction Act 1899

The Immigration Restriction Act 1899 required certificates of registration for non-British citizens leaving New Zealand so that they would be permitted to re-enter New Zealand. These certificates, along with photographs of the person are also held at Archives New Zealand.

We hold only a very few poll tax records or the certificates of registration; the main collections are held at Archives New Zealand.

Archives New Zealand

Archives New Zealalnd hold a wealth of information about the Poll Tax and the Chinese experience in New Zealand.

Recent accounts, biographies and published family histories of Chinese New Zealanders

Books of personal accounts, biographies, autobiographies, and some published family histories have been written. These range over several generations either from the ancestral village in China to New Zealand in recent times or from settlement in New Zealand, to more recent accounts.

Four men stand in front of a grocery shop with three holding bicycles.
Shows the store front of On Kee & Co, with the display sign 'Fruiterers & Grocers' and 'Cash buyers for fungus'. Three men holding bicycles are standing outside the store while another man, possibly Chan Sheen Chong from Manaia (brother in law of Wong On Kee),with legs crossed and one arm leaning on boxes, stands behind. Photograph taken by James McAllister ca 1910. Ref: 1/1-007957-G. Alexander Turnbull Library.

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Literature, historical fiction and poetry

More literary works are being published by Chinese New Zealanders every year. Some examples of the books we hold are below.

A faded photo shows a woman crouched on the ground next to a star-shaped wooden weaving wheel.
Spinning thread on spinning wheels, China, photographed by an unknown photographer in the 1940s. Ref: PA1-o-899-04-3. Alexander Turnbull Library.

Prominent New Zealanders who spent time in China — Rewi Alley, Kathleen Hall and Agnes Moncrieff

Rewi Alley

Rewi Alley, Rewi, (1897-1987) A well-known New Zealander for his work in China, was a farmer, teacher, social reformer, peace activist, and writer. Born in Canterbury, he attended Christchurch Boys' High School. After World War I, he farmed in Taranaki before visiting China, where he spent the rest of his life. He supported the Chinese revolution and helped organize the industrial cooperative "Gung Ho" (Work together) movement and the Shandan Baillie School for Agriculture. He wrote poems and accounts of his work in China.

The Library acquired his large personal collection. There are also items about him by others. The collections comprise photographs — both digital and physical prints, photograph albums, manuscripts, books, abstracts to articles, articles in digitised New Zealand newspapers, art works, recordings and a music score.

An informal group portrait in a dining room with people of all ages surrounding a table with food.
Rewi Alley with his Chinese family, China, ca. 1983. Ref: PA1-q-655-07-1. Alexander Turnbull Library.

Kathleen Hall

Kathleen Anne Baird Hall (1896-1970) was a nurse, missionary. Daughter of Thomas Hall, the district land registrar in Napier, and Helen Baird Hall (née Macky). She carried out pioneering medical work in 1930s China, mainly in Baoding Prefecture, Bebei Province. She worked with the Canadian surgeon Norman Bethune and organised the smuggling of medical supplies past Japanese occupation forces. A contemporary of Rewi Alley she was known as "Nurse Ho"; her Chinese name was He Mingqing, meaning "Clear, bright, earnest".

Two portraits side by side, one of a woman wearing a white nursing uniform and on the right a man leaning against a cane somewhere in China.
Photograph of Kathleen Hall (1896-1970), missionary and nurse in China, ca. 1930. Ref: 1/2-181983-F. Agnes Moncrieff in the temple court, Hyokunji, China, ca. 1930. Ref: PA1-o-1191-29-3. Alexander Turnbull Library.

Agnes Moncrieff

Agnes Meikle Moncrieff (1898-1988) born in Carterton, the daughter of James Moncrieff. Teacher at Fitzherbert Terrace School (1917-1920) and Feilding Agricultural High School (1925). She was a travelling secretary (1922) and vice chairman for the New Zealand Student Christian Movement. She worked for YWCA from 1929 to 1946, with the majority of this time (1930-1945) spent in China. She later worked as an assistant teacher with the Correspondence School in Wellington.

View looking down into crowded boats with people seemingly changing between boats.
Boats full of people at Weihaiwei, Shandong Province, northern China. Probably photographed by Agnes Moncrieff some time in the 1930s. Ref: PA1-o-1191-30-4. Alexander Turnbull Library.

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The Chee Kung Tong (Chinese Masonic Society) / Doris Chung Collection

The Chee Kung Tong (Society for promoting public good) was a secret Masonic society with early roots in China. It began in New Zealand in 1907, had branches throughout New Zealand and was one of the Chinese communities’ lead organisations.

This collection was donated to the Alexander Turnbull Library by Doris Chung (1917-2017). It includes banners and flags, printing blocks; divining sticks, boxed candles, ink grinder, and uniforms worn by members of the orchestra. Also stringed and wooden musical instruments, and percussion instruments.

There are also some photographs and some items have been digitised. Access to physical items is through an appointment with the Curator of Drawings, Paintings and Prints.

Formal group portrait of musicians wearing similar uniform.
Wellington Chee Kung Tong orchestra, taken ca 1925 at Hardie Shaw Studios, Willis Street, Wellington. Ref: 1/2-169302-F. Alexander Turnbull Library.
Silk triangular Hung League-Chinese Masonic Society regimental/ritual flag with Chinese chararcters painted on the front.
Flag of the 1st Lodge, Hung League. [ca 1925-1946]. Ref: D-014-022. Alexander Turnbull Library.

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Feature image at top of page: Flag of the 1st Lodge, Hung League. [ca 1925-1946]. Ref: D-014-022. Alexander Turnbull Library.