Artefacts from a Chinese camp that serviced the Lawrence goldfield may be bound for an exhibition in Beijing.

Discussions are taking place between the Overseas Chinese History Museum of China, the Chinese Institute for Overseas Chinese History Studies and the University of Otago’s Department of Anthropology and Archaeology about sending some of the artefacts dug from the camp.

The camp had numerous stores, a hotel, boarding houses, physicians, a butchery, gambling facilities and opium dens. Items such as old coins, keys, knives, razors, lighters, pocket watches, opium pipes, bottles and ceramic jugs have been recovered in four excavations on the site since 2005.

About a dozen delegates from the Beijing-based organisations visited the University of Otago on Saturday and looked at some of the artefacts on display.

Head of the University’s Department of Anthropology and Archaeology Prof Richard Walter said the delegation was in New Zealand because the institutions were interested in expanding and reaching out to overseas bodies that were working on the history of the Chinese diaspora.

“Our university has a very strong interest in the very first Chinese communities in New Zealand and their origins, which we’ve been looking at through archaeology and history.”

“They’ve really come to make connections with the scholars and researchers here in New Zealand. They’re looking at opportunities for publicising the overseas Chinese research back in China.

“One of our ambitions would be to hold an exhibition in Beijing, on the overseas Chinese research that we’ve done here.”

Discussions were continuing, he said.

Overseas Chinese History Museum of China director Huang Ji Kai also hoped some of the artefacts found in Lawrence could be exhibited in Beijing.

He was impressed with the objects recovered from the Lawrence Chinese camp, and seeing them gave him a sense of pride.

He said life was very hard for Chinese 150 years ago, after their civil war. Many came to Otago in the hope of finding their fortune and realising their dreams of creating a better, more prosperous life for their families back in China.

“To come to New Zealand took a long time, maybe one or two months, and they went to Lawrence and Central Otago.

“When I saw these artefacts, I understood how hardworking they must have been and the difficulties they must have faced in that time. They were pioneers, travelling across to the other side of the world 150 years ago.

“I am very proud of the resilience they showed.”



This article was originally published by the Otago Daily Times on 19 June 2017.