Fair dinkum indeed….

chinesegold%20c%201866.jpgI couldn’t resist…..vilify me if you will – but did you know that the origins of what is considered a corner stone of Strine, the Australian language is purportedly derived from Chinese?

What? I hear you say. I’m sure a majority would have heard of this before…..and “Rubbish”, I hear from others.

This little anecdote was told to me by a man whose family helped found Bendigo, he was blond and blue eyed, but his ancestors were Chinese and first arrived in late 1853.

Trust me, it was wierd.

But his surname was O’Hoy which is one of the anglicized Chinese surnames.

So here it goes.

An aside for those non-Aussies, “Dinkum” means genuine – the true article.
Fair Dinkum can be translated as “is that true/right?” or “I kid you not/this is the truth” depending on the tone.

The word “dinkum” as I’m sure you would all agree is about as Ozzie Ozzie Ozzie Oi! Oi! Oi! as you can get. It would seem, though this has been disputed, this word entered the “Australian” vernacular during the gold rush, which commenced in 1851.

Chinese miners first arrived in Melbourne in 1853, by then they already had a history of mining in Malaysia, Singapore and the Californian gold rush.

Most of the Chinese were from Canton and Hong Kong. Between 1855 to the end of 1857 the Chinese population had climbed up to 26,000. In Bendigo, 43% of the population were Chinese.

In cantonese, “Ding Kum” means “real gold”, according to my Bendigonian friend, the Chinese Miners used to strike gold and dash around yelling “Ding Kum! Ding Kum!” – “Real gold, real gold” – hence “dinkum”.

[one might want to note, fools gold – pyrite and arsenopyrite was also around in Bendigo]

The history of the Chinese in Australia actually dates back to 1803, his name is known as “Ahuto” – probably “Ah-To” – he was a carpenter and a freeman who arrived in 1803.

The first major industry of the Chinese was actually cabinet making, with the first Chinese cabinet maker in Melbourne in 1836. The Chinese furniture industry is well documented. In fact, after the gold rush, many of the miners turned to the established furniture making industry.

Lonsdale, Little Lonsdale, Exhibition and the east end of Little Bourke (site of Melbourne’s Chinatown) became the hub of the industry.

The Chinese-Australian Historical Images in Australia has quite interesting facts on the plight of the Chinese Furniture industry. I think it’s most interesting to note that in 1909, Chinese employers and employees formed their first trade association to protect them from discriminatory legislation.

Discrimination against the Chinese had started quite early in the piece; in June 1855 Victoria’s Legislative Council passed Australia’s first Immigration Act.

In trying to limit the numbers of Chinese miners (who by now were coming in teams and sending all the gold home – which was starting to anger the other gold miners); the government emposed a special tax of poll tax for the master of the ship of 10 or 20 pounds (the references vary) for every Chinese immigrant on board. Of course other measures, were also implemented.

This did slow the arrival of the immigrants, however, the masters of the ships found a way around the Act by landing the Chinese in Port Adelaide and Robe, South Australia. And here we have the famous Robe to Bendigo Trail, which was re-enacted in 2001 to highlight the hardship endured by the Chinese on the 150th Anniversary of the discovery of gold in Victoria – facinatingly none of the walkers were Chinese.

CorrectionSenator Tsebin Tchen, first Chinese overseas born Federal Senator and Mr Jack Wu, founder of Bendigo’s Golden Dragon Museum joined in the final leg. I’d say they didn’t have the time for the whole trip which was a gruelling 15 days.

Approximately, 16,500 Chinese landed in Robe between 1856 and 1858; about 11,000 walked from Robe to Bendigo, which is about 500 km. It was actually during this journey that the Canton Lead was found – the world’s richest shallow alluvial gold field, and the town of Ararat was founded by the Chinese.

Gum San – Chinese Heritage Centre, “Gum San” – meaning “Gold Mountain” has been developed to commemorate the history.

I think other towns and mining sites were discoved along the way. Central Victoria is full of facinating chinese relics.

It’s poignant to think, that this long and rich history – filled such adversity and adaptability – has contributed to the foundations of this amazing state – with a migrant Chinese Lord Mayor.

I could go on, but I think that’s plenty for now…..

ps. this post is not infallible, do let me know if you have anything to add or correct

7 Comments so far

  1. adrock2xander (unregistered) on August 18th, 2006 @ 8:47 am

    “he was blond and blue eyed, but his ancestors were Chinese and first arrived in late 1853.”

    Utterly ridiculous. White Australians have better bloody apologise to us for all the racial villification and abuse Asians have suffered if it were true.

    But it’s not.

    And there’s no way in hell they’d bow down and be humble to what they supposedly call an ‘inferior’ culture, colour and race.

    Pfft.

    It’s an interesting thought though. But another old wives’ tale.


  2. neomein (unregistered) on August 18th, 2006 @ 10:16 am

    I’m sorry adrock, are you saying that the Bendigonian I spoke with is a figment of my imagination?

    Cause I’d assure you that when you can trace your ancestry back 6th, 7th or 8th generation – there is no guarantee that you have the same obvious ethnicity as your great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandfather. Pop down to Bendigo – YOU might actually learn that YOU just might not know as much as you think you do.

    But does that mean that it gives all asian descendents the right to extract an apology for their suffering and abuse?? – read carefully here Adrock…..think before you snap, because as with all things – there are MANY facets that you might not know.

    Are Asians the only ones that have suffered discrimination at some point? Did not the Greeks, the Italians and other migrants also experience a less that welcoming reception at some point?

    My post was about history, of Melbourne and Victoria. It was the tale of people who came and adapted, worked hard and made a life for themselves. It wasn’t easy; don’t you find it interesting that the Chinese have a relatively long history in such a young country?

    In your everyday life do you not also find it interesting that especially here in Melbourne, and generally in Australia – multiculturalism is not something divides us – but rather unites us in the commonalities? People are open to discover more about each other. If you don’t, I’m sorry that your life is not that rich.

    As an aside, I should point out that this is not a RANT. I’ve lived in many places that purportedly are “Multicultural”, I feel that none are as integrated as this country, perhaps I’m biased there.

    Flippant comments such as yours doesn’t anger me, it just makes me sad to think that in some ways you are just as myopic as those that you consider racist.

    Considering you work for CoM, do you not question the fact that your ultimate boss – the Lord Mayor himself is not a White Australian but an Australian of Chinese descent? And a migrant at that.

    Really, what does that say?


  3. adrock2xander (unregistered) on August 18th, 2006 @ 11:29 am

    There’s no cause for anger here. It’s a public forum. And a civil one at that.

    I speak from an ‘Asian’ point of view. I can’t speak for the wogs out there. I am, however, not oblivious to the patronising attitude the wogs and Asians were subjected to just 50 years ago.

    If anything, i find that Melbourne has a long way to go before calling herself a multicultural city. I’d like to think that Australians are generally ‘multi-tolerant’. This is in no way a sweeping statement and it’s not directed at all Anglos in Australians. I know of many wonderful Anglos who’re just as receptive to other cultures as i am to them.

    My point is, and i’m sidetracking here, people who talk brazenly about racism – the clamping down and the existence of it – are normally people who’ve never experienced it first-hand. Do you know what it’s like to be subjected to racial profiling or stereotyping even before you open your mouth, just because you look ‘different’ from them?

    Perhaps you have, perhaps you haven’t. But it’s not a competition.

    Correct me if i’m wrong, but are you claiming that some Caucasians have Chinese blood in them? That’s unheard of. Until as recent as the 1980s, a majority of white Australians still viewed the ‘Yellow Peril’ with great suspicion. The Australian Nationalist Party (or something along the lines of that) have always made it clear that should the white Australians not stem the tide of the yellow ‘invaders’, there’ll be more Asians than white Australians by 2050. Clearly, they don’t see any problem when they visit Asia, and expect to be treated the same as they are back home. Double standard anyone?

    Anyway, this post is about history. And i just cannot agree with Caucasians have Chinese extraction in them. It took over 100 years for the Asians to assimilate into the white Australian culture. And they’re still working at it, as the prejudice and stereotype is still there. I can’t see how, 100 years ago, an Anglo and a Chinese who both have problems communicating would be dating, marrying and having kids. They’d have been stoned in public and burnt at the stake like a heretic.

    Perhaps i should visit Bendigo one of these days. It’s just several hours away.

    Peace Neomein. Looking forward to your civil reply :O


  4. Brett (unregistered) on August 18th, 2006 @ 11:55 am

    Adrock, Neomien is right: there was in fact a certain amount of inter-racial marriage between Chinese and European Australians. See here for one example from Richmond in 1869: http://halflives.adc.rmit.edu.au/memory/hl005.html

    You’re quite right that such couples would have faced much hostility (though not, I think, literally stonings and burning at the stake!), but there will always be some people who are willing and able to swim against the tide.

    While I’m here though, it seems scholarly opinion agrees that the claims for a Chinese origin for the word “dinkum” are bogus, and it actually comes from a Lincolnshire dialect (of English): http://www.abc.net.au/wordmap/rel_stories/talkback.htm (near the end of the page)


  5. Neil (unregistered) on August 18th, 2006 @ 12:53 pm

    Racism, sexism,whatever ism is a part of life. You’re either constantly angry or you roll with the punches. Chinese people seem to have the best stereotypes out of all races. I mean I wish as an American, we were stereotyped as smart. We are just considered by the world as dumb, fat, lazy, gunwielding assholes. Consider yourself unique.


  6. Laurie (unregistered) on August 23rd, 2006 @ 9:23 am

    O, I give up!!!

    Homo sapiens sapiens-us, the Human species.

    1-White(caucasian)

    2-black(negroid)

    3-Asian/Oriental

    4-Mongoloid

    5-Polynesian

    We are all same, geez!

    Me, French Acadian extraction.

    Laurie


  7. neomein (unregistered) on August 27th, 2006 @ 2:46 am

    Could it be that Adrock has changed his tune? http://melbourne.metblogs.com/archives/2006/08/i_love_melbourn.phtml#more
    Adrock, I’m looking forward to the day that we meet.

    Neil and Laurie, thank you.

    Brett, thanks for your comments and support – dincum has been attributed to Lincohnshire-ese – I believe there has been one instance recorded in a letter. I do wonder tho, about Chinese records/letters…which have probably not been recorded or translated or even lost. Verbal history is as close as we can get sometimes, let’s note this instance down as my contribution to wikiality.



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