Our Chinese Past Inc

Researching Chinese Australian history and heritage

Our Chinese Past Inc conducts projects to identify, document, preserve, research and promote the rich diversity of Chinese Australian history and heritage.

Formed in 2020 by a group of historians and genealogists- Juanita Kwok, Paul Macgregor, Gill Oxley, Malcolm Oakes and Kira Brown. Our Chinese Past Inc, are a not-for-profit organisation. We have a particular interest in the digitisation and translation of heritage material, historical records and photographs, to make these more broadly available, and better understood. We do this by working with and supporting museums, historical societies, communities and heritage interest groups. We encourage greater awareness of this history and heritage through websites, apps, publications, signage and interpretive displays.

Exploring a Rich Collection of

Chinese Australian Heritage

Our first project was based on the objects remaining from several temples in the New England region of NSW. New projects in development focus on a wide range of objects, records, photographs and stories from museums and private collections around Australia. These projects will demonstrate the linguistic, cultural, political and social diversity of Chinese Australians and showcase the diversity of places from which they and their ancestors hailed. The results of our research will be posted on our website as they are developed. As such, this is a continually evolving website, which will expand into an online encyclopedia resource on Chinese Australian history and heritage. 

To identify early Chinese sojourners and migrants we’ll be posting Chinese language manuscripts with English translations by Ely Finch.

We will also be sharing more family stories and research on descendants. Our Chinese Past genealogist Gillian Oxley shares with you her research on the sons of temple donor Sam Bow. We hope Gill’s research might lead to connecting with living descendants of Sam Bow and Minnie (nee Sing).

For our first project, “Chinese temples heritage of Uralla, Tingha and Emmaville, NSW, Australia”, we photographed and digitised artefacts from historical Chinese temples of these three towns, translated their inscriptions, and researched the artefacts and the histories of these temples and their communities.

This project builds on Janis Wilton’s Golden Threads project (1997-2004) which created national awareness of NSW Chinese migrant heritage. The project has been assisted with a contribution to the funding of translation work under the NSW 2020 Small Grants Program for Local History and Archives, a funding program administered by the Royal Australian Historical Society on behalf of the NSW Government through the Heritage Council of NSW.

Our Stories

Do you own any temple artefacts?

Help us piece together the forgotten history of the Chinese temples. You may have inherited or purchased Chinese temple artefacts that have come from the New England region, if you have we’d love to hear from you.  Please leave us a message on our contact page. 

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Emmaville temple interior, Britain album 1899.

Photographs of the Emmaville temple’s façade and interior

Two photographs taken in 1899, which feature many inscriptions on plaques of the 1887 Emmaville temple. LOCATION Britain...
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St Andrew's Church, Tingha - Temple bell, undated

Temple bell – St Andrew’s Church, Tingha

A temple bell that, at some stage, became a church bell. It is not known in which temple...
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Shrine cabinet panel 8 - McCrossin's Mill Museum

Shrine cabinet panel 8

One of several pieces that would have been part of shrine cabinets. It is not yet known which...
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Main temple at Tingha

Tingha 1874 – Masonic Lodge

The main temple at Tingha, photographed possibly in 1890. Photograph reproduced from Elizabeth Weidemann’s 1981 book World of...
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Painted scenes on bamboo panel 2 - McCrossins Mill

Bamboo panel with painted scenes 2

This painted screen is one of a set of three such panels (see Panel 1 and Panel 3)....
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Processional staff 1 - Wing Hing Long

Processional staff 1

This would have been one of a set of probably eight staffs, which would have been displayed at...
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Yeung Fook Tong” entrance adornment, Wing Hing Long - Tingha

“Yeung Fook Tong” entrance adornment

This entrance adornment—or 彩門 “choy-moon”—is likely the one referenced by the Donation plaque dated 1866, and so would have hung...
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Multicoloured incense-stick packaging - Inverell Pioneer Village

Multicolour-printed incense stick packaging

A remnant of the packaging of an incense packet from Macao, from the firm 陳聯馨 “Chun Lun Hing”....
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Emmaville Mining Museum now occupies the former Foley’s general store (c) Gill Oxley 2016.

Emmaville Mining Museum

by Gill Oxley Emmaville Mining Museum is located at 86 Moore Street Emmaville, some 40 kilometres north northwest...
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The Wing Hing Long Tingha

Wing Hing Long Museum

by Gill Oxley The stories of Tingha’s Chinese heritage and of the great tin boom from the 1870s...
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Yee Hing Society name plaque

This name plaque, which would perhaps have originally been displayed above a front doorway, may come from Tingha’s...
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Shrine cabinet panel 11

One of several pieces that would have been part of shrine cabinets. It is not yet known which...
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Incense crate - Wing Hing Long

Incense crate

Shipping crate for “superior benzoin incense” from the Macao firm of 陳天祥 “Chan Tin Cheung”. This firm was one...
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Mount for eight processional items - McCrossin's Mill

Mount for eight processional items

This mount frame would have been used inside a temple to display processional staffs inside the temple, when...
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Mannequin frame section 1

Part of the framing from a diorama which would have showed mannequins from a scene in a play,...
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