Pybus, Cassandra: China and Tasmania

Pybus, Cassandra

China in the Tasmanian imaginary‘, Griffith Review, 39, January 2013

Towards the end of the 19th century, a vibrant Chinese community existed in northeastern Tasmania based on tin mining. The now tiny hamlet of Weldborough was the centre of the spiritual life for this hard-working Chinese outpost and was home to an ornate and significant temple built for the worship of Guan Di. In the 1930s, long after the Chinese community had largely left Tasmania, the Weldborough ‘joss house’ was moved to the Launceston museum. It was eventually restored and put on display.

The temple in a museum had been frozen in time and, because of this, it represents a unique example of the heyday of Guan Di’s adoration. The temple’s uniqueness attracts contemporary scholars from China who are amazed to discover that it is now a key part of a tourist route running through this corner of Tasmania. The Chinese presence in the 19th century has been creatively re-imagined in this part of Tasmania in the hope of stimulating the economy of this otherwise impoverished, empty region.

The article also touches on the story of a famous proto-Tasmanian, the actress Merle Oberon. The article is one of a number about Tasmania in this edition of Griffith Review. under the overall title of ‘Tasmania – the tipping point’

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