A Bit of China
Although Dunedin was founded by settlers who were predominantly Scottish in origin and is known as the “Edinburgh of the South”, another ethnic group that played a significant part in Otago history was the Chinese. As in most settler countries that experienced big “gold rushes” in the nineteenth century, people from China were part of the ethnic mix of people chasing the allure of the yellow metal. It was also common at that time for European settlers to have a deep suspicion, even hatred, of the Chinese migrants, who were segregated, taxed excessively, denied status in the community, and consigned to menial work. But these people were resourceful. They came from a place where they knew real hunger and hardship and were looking for the better life that a fortune in gold could provide. The gold was, as usual, harder to find that everyone had hoped and many of the gold-seekers moved on the the next big find to try their luck there. Like others in the gold rush communities, some of the Chinese settlers saw opportunities to grow and sell food, provide laundry facilities and trade in other goods needed by the miners. As time moved on attitudes changed and the Chinese settlers gained more rights and became integrated into the community, but still retained their cultural roots.
As a fitting, permanent, recognition of the Chinese people who first came to Otago during the 1860s gold rush and stayed to establish some of the city’s businesses, the Dunedin Chinese Garden Trust developed a yuanlin style garden in Dunedin which was opened in 2008. The garden has become an important attraction in Dunedin.