Almost from the beginning of gold mining in Creswick, Chinese were prolific in the town. Overnight the Chinese population rose from around 500 to over 4,000 at the height of mining in the district.
Left: Monument erected in April 2010 to commemorate the Chinese in Creswick
The following is an extract from J. A. Graham's "Early Creswick" pages 61, 62, & 63. John Alexander Graham was born in Creswick. He grew up not far from the Chinese Camp and was able to write about it first hand.
"By the end of the 1850's the Chinese camp was established on the Black Lead. This "China Town" resembled a tiny section of the ancient Celestial Empire transplanted into the New Eldorado. There the denizens of this unique village conducted their fan tan shops, which were crowded with gamblers counting out the Chinese coins and chattering in their native tongue, almost obscured by tobacco smoke. In small bunks clamped to the walls lay opium smokers leisurely drawing in the fumes which wafted them to the realms of morpheus.
In the business street individuals walked in single file, resembling a caterpillar, talking to others in the line without turning to address them. Their hair hung in long plaits which were lengthened by the addition of black braid and were designated "pigtails" the loss of which was a stigma greatly dreaded by John Chinaman.
Joss Houses were in close proximity, where sinners and saints beseeched the mercy or blessing of their idols.
Some of the inhabitants of China Town were to be seen heavily laden with baskets swung by ropes from the ends of bamboo poles. The load was balanced either on one shoulder fore and aft or beamwise across the backs of both shoulders. the bearers moved with the characteristic rhythmical trot of the Chinese, and their stamina was a continual source of wonder to Europeans. Many wore the broad brimmed, parasol shaped, cane hats and were often seen carrying a bottle of gin suspended on a strip of wire or string. A few of the more affluent were attired in navy blue silk pantaloons and braided jackets, with heelless shoes turned up at the toes.
Funerals were of great interest to the boys and girls of Creswick. Two Chinamen usually sat with the driver of the hearse and scattered to the winds slips of sand coloured paper extensively perforated. These slips the boys believed, were intended to hold the evil spirits in subjection and frighten away the devil.
The feeding of the dead was an elaborate cememony. Roast pigs, puddings, oranges, cumquots, fychang toffee and strange concoctions were placed on the graves; quantities of coarse blotting paper were burnt in a brick furnace; hundreds of tallow candles painted pink, with strips of cane inserted into them, were placed in the ground and lighted. It was the invariable experience that the dead were not hungry, as they made no appearance, and the good things were transported to China Town, where a feast for the living was joyously celebrated.
The Chinese were expert gardeners, and supplied the community with vegetables. They were industrious, honest, generous, and law abiding. In the course of time their number dwindled, until only a remnant was left." The last Chinaman "Bobby" passed away in 1923, until his death he lived at the Black Lead just above the Swimming Pool.
To Remember the large part the Chinese played in the history of Creswick, the Creswick Cemetery Trust and the Chinese Memorial Foundation Inc., have combined to erect a monument in the Cemetery to remember all of those Chinese who lived and died in Creswick. November 2010 another memorial was erected with the names of the Chinese who are buried in Compartment 6 at the cemetery.