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Chinese Cemetery
Headstones

 

Home Up Creswick Chinatown Chinese Community Chinese Cemetery Resources

Introduction

Chinese migrating to Australia during the gold rush period were mainly from the Pearl River Delta of Guangdong Province, whilst others came from the southern part of Fujian Province.

Approximately 390 Chinese were buried in the old cemetery at Creswick, however only 22 Chinese headstones have survived. These headstones have been translated and where possible further information gathered concerning the named individuals. Several of the headstones give the owners birthplace as the county of Taishan. Given that the Chinese lived in communities based on their places of origin, it suggests the existence of sizeable community probably from a common set of villages within Taishan.

Cemetery and other records reveal the existence of extended family groups within the Creswick Chinese community, it was not uncommon for find cousins, brothers, uncles and nephews represented among the population further strengthening the conclusion that community would have had pockets of Chinese speaking the same dialect of Cantonese, having similar features and sharing similar ideologies and backgrounds. These in turn would have provided the critical mass for traders and business men expand the commercial provision of goods and services for that group.

Of the 390 burials, 14 of these bodies were subsequently exhumed for repatriation of the remains home to China, via the Tung Wah hospital in Hong Kong. Significantly there are 4 Gin clan members shown on the surviving headstones and recent CHIN research in China has confirmed this clan had a multigenerational involvement in gold mining, and other interests, in both Australia and the United States.

The Ballarat Chinese gravestones may give an indication of the likely origins of the larger community. Of the surviving 480 Ballarat Chinese headstones, over 52% are from Ningyi County, 26% give Sun Hui in Gangzhou as the place of origin, with the remainder being a mix of Tahisan, Chang Shen, Hoi Ping, Oon Yee, Tung Kuan , Soon Tack etc.

The first recorded Chinese burial at Creswick was Ah Chin and Ah Chung on December 28th 1858, the last burial was Shong Yuang on October 21st 1910.

Creswick Cemetery: Chinese Section

General Introduction

The Chinese Section is located at the South East part of the General Cemetery, towards the right hand side of the main cemetery road.   Originally the Chinese Section consisted of two neat rows of headstones. The headstones were moved by the Creswick local community, in particular, the Rotarians, from the original Chinese Cemetery, near the then Chinatown, now part of the Calambeen Park in Cushing Street.  This was an attempt by the caring and kind community to better preserve the Chinese heritage, as the headstones near the Calambeen Park were in an unsupervised area and they were prone to destructions caused by vandals.

In 2003, our Organisation restored two additional headstones returned to the Cemetery Trust by some locals, thus making a total of 22 Chinese headstones in the cemetery.  It is interesting to note that one headstone was used as a house foundation stone and as the headstone was not exposed to the elements for all these years, the paint on the Chinese characters written across the headstone were as fresh as the day they were inscribed.

In general the headstones are in good conditions.   However, there are instances where the ravage of time and the unfortunate cases of broken headstone made it difficult to entirely decipher the inscriptions on the headstones.  there are three areas of challenges.

(A) Dates:  The date system used.  Gregorian, Chinese era name or Solar-lunar calendar. (See also Help? on date systems)

(B) Name of the departed: usually clear in Chinese, if the headstone remained intact.  Correlation with public record can be a challenge, given that their “English Name” can be represented in a number of possible ways – usual problems of transliteration.

(C) Place of Birth: Style of Chinese characters used.

General Description of Headstone Inscription Layout 

In general, each headstone has four clusters of Chinese inscriptions, namely, Top Row, Left Column, Central Column and Right Column.   All inscriptions are in traditional Chinese as still employed by overseas Chinese in Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore etc.   This is to be expected, as Simplified Chinese Characters did not come into fashion until after 1948, when the government of The Peoples Republic China (PRC) introduced the simplified character set, in an effort to reduce the number of strokes, which make up the written word, and thus help lift literacy in PRC. 

The Chinese place great emphasis on honouring the departed.   Unlike most Western cultures where fine verses would be inscribed on the headstone, such as “In loving memory, dearly loved and missed etc.” Instead, the headstone is used to record a number of important matters about the person, such as the name of the individual, date of birth, date of death, where the individual originated, down to the home village level.  Thus care and attention are taken in the preparation of the words and inscriptions on the headstone.   

In Creswick, the Chinese Characters on the headstones are usually beautifully formed.  From this, it would appear that within the Creswick Chinese community, there must have been a well educated individual, perhaps employed as the community Scribe who would write letters for and on behalf of any illiterate Chinese pioneers.  It would not be surprising that this Scribe offered his service to draft the inscriptions on the headstones.  It is also likely that the process of headstone making for the Creswick Chinese burials must have been advanced, and the stone mason who followed the Chinese written transcription, a true craftsman.   Interestingly, on some headstones, there are English Inscriptions, of what we presume to be the deceased adopted “English name”.   From a calligraphy point of view, by comparison, the English inscriptions are of a lower quality.  

 

 Top Row: usually the District where the individual came from.  There are exceptions, as in Headstones x,y,z, where the individual’s "English" name is shown.

 Left Column: Date of Death, usually in the year of the Chinese Emperor in power. (See the Supporting Section on ‘Calender & Date System in use by the Chinese Pioneers’)

 Middle Column: Name of the individual being memorised or interred.   We use the term “memorised” as we are uncertain if after exhumation of the remains for re-interment in their native country the headstone remains in the cemetery. (Exhumation was a common practice for individuals whose relatives can afford exhumation and re-interment in China, as wished by the individual or his relatives.)

 Right Column: Place of Birth, usually to the level of village.

 In the following paragraph, we list some of the headstones still standing. We have transcribed the the original Chinese characters.  Reading from left to right, Chinese characters, the Pinyin pronunciation, the English definition of the character, the Cantonese pronunciation, the possible name in English (by pronouncing the characters in Cantonese and Hoisan dialect), Date of Death (DoD) in the Chinese dating system, possible Dead of Death in the Gregorian Date system, Village of Origin where shown on the headstone and Note associated with other information that we discovered about the individual.

No. Character Pinyin English Def. Cantonese Possible name in English DOD in Chinese Possible DoD Village of Origin Note
1 zhen1 zhen4 juan4 examine, discern; grade; surname jan1 yan1 Surname variation: Gin, Jin, Chin 光 緒 九年, 二月十七日 17/2/1883    
  hui4 -- wai6 Wai Jung; Ah Jung   25/3/1883   Recorded as a Say Yup Temple contributor
  zhang1 zhang4 composition; chapter, section jeung1          
                   
2 zhen1 zhen4 juan4 examine, discern; grade; surname jan1 yan1 Surname variation: Gin, Jin, Chin 光 緒 二年, 十一月廿五日 25/11/1876    
  wo4 water, irrigate; fertile, rich yuk1 Yuk Bing, Ah Bing, Yoke Bing        
  pin3 article, product, commodity ban2       松林 / Chung Lam  
                   
3 zhen1 zhen4 juan4 examine, discern; grade; surname jan1 yan1 Surname variation: Gin, Jin, Chin 光 緒 二十年, 六月十二日 12/6/1894 花瓶 / Fa Ping  
  zu3 jie1 ancestor, forefather; grandfather jou2 Cho Kin, Chew Gin, Ah Kin   14/7/1894    
  jian4 strong, robust, healthy; strength gin6          
                   
4 zhen1 zhen4 juan4 examine, discern; grade; surname jan1 yan1 Surname variation: Gin, Jin, Chin 光 緒 二十二年, 十一月?日 ?/11/1896 花瓶 / Fa Ping  
  ya4 asia; second -- Ah Hen, as inscribed on the tomb stone   ?/12/1896    
  xin1 happy, joyous, delighted yan1         Inscription on tomb stone, "Ah Hen"
                   
5 lin2 forest, grove; surname lam4 Lim, Lin 廿五年六日 ??      
  ya4 asia; second -- Ah Je?        
  者/北 ? zhe3 zhu1 that which; he who; those who je2          
                   
6 huang2 yellow; surname wong4 Wong, Hwang, Ng, Wee, Bong 光 緒廿五年 1899 (no other info) On tomb stone: 白沙茶園村  
  ming2 name, rank, title, position ming4 Wong Miang Jeuk, Ah Jeuk        
  zhuo2 zhuo1 chuo4 chao1 -- cheuk3 jeuk3          
                   
                   
7 zhao4 tiao3 diao4 surname; ancient state jiu6 Chew, Chu, Chieu        
  zhang1 zhang4 composition; chapter, section jeung1 Chew Jong Bing, Ah Bing     On head stone: 浮石  
  bing3 bright, luminous; glorious bing2          
                   
8 chen2 zhen4 exhibit, display; plead; surname chan4 Chin, Chan, Chen 光 緒十八年八月初六 26/9/1892   Surname Chan or Teng ?
  yuan3 yuan4 distant, remote, far; profound yun5 Possible confusion between Surname.  Chan Yun Dang, Dang Yun Chan     On head stone: 塘边村  
  deng4 surname dang6 Teng, Tang, Theang        
                   
9 liu2 surname; kill, destroy lau4 Liu, Liew, Lau        
  ru2 confucian scholar yu4 Fa Yee, as listed on the tomb stone 光 緒二十一年, 正月一八日 18/1/1895    
  jun1 yun4 equal, even, fair; all, also gwan1       白石 / Pak Shek  
                   
10 li3 plum; judge; surname lei5 Lee, Li 同 治 1862 (not clear)    
  feng2 ping2 surname; gallop; by dint of fung4 Li Pung Mik ?        
  覓? mi4 seek; search mik6          
                   
11 xie1 xue1 kind of marsh grass; feudal state sit3 Sit Ho Dai, Ah Tai, Ah Dai 光 緒十年, 七月立 July 1884    
  a1 a4 a5 e1 e3 a3 prefix to name; transliteration a3 o1          
  dai4 wear on top; support daai3          
                   
12 liu2 surname; kill, destroy lau4 Liu, Liew, Lau 光 緒十年 1884 (no other info)    
  亚/田               ch search unsuccessful
  kang1 peaceful, quiet; happy, healthy hong1          
                   
13 zhu1 shu2 cinnabar, vermilion; surname jyu1 Chu, Gee        
  wu3 five; surname ng5 Gee Ng Fok, Ah Fok 光 緒十九年, 四月 Apr-83    
  fu2 fu4 happiness, good fortune,blessing fuk1       荻海/三八鄉/鄒村鄉/凹頭 / Ow Tau  
                   
14 zhong1 cup, glass, goblet; surname jung1 Chun Li Hock as listed on the tomb stone 光 緒 庚???年 1880, 1890, 1900    
  li3 social custom; manners; courtesy lai5          
  xue2 learning, knowledge; school hok6          
                   
15 lin2 forest, grove; surname lam4 Lim, Lum 光 緒庚寅年六月廿五日 25/6/1890    
  neng2 nai4 tai2 tai4 nai2 xiong2 be able, can, permitted, ability nang4 Lim Nang Oi, Ah Nang        
  ai4 love, be fond of, like ngoi3 oi3