Chinese migrant population in early
Victoria had to make many adjustments to
their ways of life. The mostly male Chinese
population led lonely, boring lives with initially few social
and spiritual outlets. Institutionalised
support came in several forms.
“tong” has the English equivalent of “meeting
place.” Tongs were, and still are,
collectives of individuals bound by a common geographical
origin, ancestry, dialects or purpose.
While the term for westerners has criminal or
underworld connotations—and it is true that early tongs in
Victoria had to depend on the avails of
prostitution, gambling and opium for cash flow—not all tongs
were made up of “Chinese Mafiosi.”
much of the activities of tongs still remain a mystery, save
for the occasional newspaper article, some tantalising
fragments emerge from the past.
were many joss (pidgin English term
for “god”) houses in early Victoria. These spaces
could be described as essentially shrines for Chinese patron
saints or figureheads. Two of these have
survived into present day Victoria.
were two Chinese missions in
Victoria in the late 1800s.
Both encountered their difficulties in getting
established and maintaining a presence, due to conflicts
within the Chinese community as well as the white settler
population, not to mention internal problems within the
churches themselves. Despite these
obstacles, their roles in building bridges between the Chinese
and white communities was
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