40km up the road from Castlemaine is the city of Bendigo. It’s a big and impressive place, made wealthy by the Gold Rush.
It has an impressive art gallery to rival any of the capital cities.
And a sizeable Chinese garden, temple and museum complex.
You can see by all the offerings that the Chinese community is very alive and well in Bendigo today.
20km south-east of Rutherglen is the small town of Chiltern. It’s half the population of Rutherglen, but just a quaint.
Like Rutherglen, the beautiful buildings came courtesy of the Gold Rush in the 1860s. Like this old Bank of New South Wales.
There was even a bit of Chinese history in the town.
You know you’re in country Australia when you see sights like these.
Stubbies and thongs may represent the Australia of the past, but I think a cup of coffee (with a bit of coffee art) represents the Australia of the present.
During our tour, we were introduced to the stories of a few pioneers of the Kimberley. First were the miners of Halls Creek’s very brief gold rush in the 1880’s. They had to walk at least 400km to the nearest port down rough and dusty tracks. A character called ‘Russian Jack’ walked this distance with a very sick mate in his wheelbarrow!
One of the most well-known families of the region are the Duracks, whom I read about in Kings in Grass Castles. They were were cattle owners who drove their mob overland from Goulburn in New South Wales, to the Channel Country in Queensland, and finally to the East Kimberley. Their homestead has been preserved beside Lake Argyle, and it was touching to visit the (surprisingly modest) home where so many legends had lived.
It was touching also to see the grave of the Durack’s indigenous companion, Pumpkin, beside those of the family. Pumpkin was from the Boontamurra tribe of the Cooper Creek district, helped them establish their station, build their homestead, and train the local indigenous lads as stockmen.
And lastly, there were the Chinese. The first came to the district during the gold rush, but soon found jobs as cooks for droving teams, gardeners at cattle stations, and of course, merchants. This is a well-known shop in the port of Wyndham, first traded at the turn of the 20th century (perhaps earlier), and did a good trade when the town was a vital hub in the region.
The final museum we visited was the Tokyo National Museum. We came wanting to view some Japanese artefacts and learn a bit of Japanese history.
However we were quite excited when we reached the front gate to see this poster.
Yes, the Chinese terracotta warriors were being exhibited! We had seen a small exhibition at the Art Gallery of NSW a few years ago, but this exhibition was something else – three very large rooms filled with artefacts, not to mention the warriors themselves. This is just about as good as it gets, apart from visiting Xi’an itself. Unfortunately we weren’t allowed to photograph much of the exhibition, only this display.
We did learn a few new things about the warriors – that aside from being each of them being unique and life-sized, they also armed as were their function. So the standing warriors above, infantry, would have held lances; and the archers, like the kneeling warrior above, would have held bows. One wonders at the power of the man that instigated this entire scheme, the first Emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang, all the way back in 246 BCE (2,362 years ago).
It’s interesting how shooting a roll of film makes you think more about what you shoot. Black and white film and processing is so expensive these days that I didn’t want to waste too many shots if I could help it. I wanted to take some more interesting streetscapes, and inspired by Joan’s recent shots of the city, I headed into Chinatown.
The sights and smells certainly brought back memories. I went to university just around the corner and so frequently came down these streets in search of lunch. Although we certainly didn’t have Emperor’s Puff in my time.
The street corner was still busy with students.
This Irish salesman was a new addition though.
Sam and Opal’s story deeply resonated with me as I am also of Chinese heritage. My ancestors arrived on Bangka Island, Indonesia, in the early 19th Century. Like Sam, they also came from southern China, and like Sam, they had come to a new country because of mining – to work in the tin mines there. In both cases, they had to adapt to the changing circumstances and make the best of it. My ancestors moved up from mining to become book-keepers at the mine. Later, they bought a bit of land nearby and started a pepper plantation.
Not much was left of Sam and Opal’s settlement a hundred years on.
A hand-made mortar and pestle.
A few rusty tractor parts.
The odd slab of sandstone from their homestead.
However, it was enlightening to learn about this couple, and to know that their descendents still live in the district. It is people like Sam and Opal that make Australia what it is today.
We saw a memorial plaque dedicated to two pioneers of the region, Sam and Opal Ah Bow.
Sam came to Australia from Guangzhou to mine the gold fields, ending up as a cook at Lawn Hill Station. He was ‘given’ Opal, a local indigenous woman, by the station owner, Frank Hann. A marriage ensued. Chinese/Aboriginal marriages were common in the Outback as both races were discriminated against. However it wasn’t only love that compelled them to tie the knot. If they didn’t marry, their children would have been taken away by the local authorities to be part of the Stolen Generation.
Happily, that didn’t happen to this family. Sam and Opal settled at Louie Creek, had eight children, and cultivated the land into a successful market garden, saving many in the district from scurvy. Many Chinese families joined them, and Opal, a mid-wife, was also said to have delivered many babies at the settlement.
This is a relatively new favourite, but I’ve had quite a few smashing scallop dishes in the last year or so that I would now order scallops anytime that it appears on the menu.
Given that it’s such a delicate shellfish, it is more versatile than you might think. I had this scallop dish at the Golden Century, a good Cantonese restaurant in Chinatown. It’s very simply stir-fried with snowpeas and carrots, and a little seasoning.
I had this dish at Char, in Darwin. It has the fashionable paring of scallops and pork belly. Being Darwin, it was served with a south-east asian accompaniment of crunchy salad and peanut sauce. Luscious!
Last but not least, a more simpler take – but just as delicious as the two above – scallops wrapped in bacon, with aioli. I had this at Pearsons, a little bistro-style restaurant in Mortdale.
Lots of cultures make dumplings, in various forms, but no matter where you are, dumplings represent comfort food. Today I’m introducing dumplings from Shanghai and Northern China.
I was first introduced to these dumplings by a Beijing-born friend in my uni days. My first taste were of dumplings we had made with our own hands. They were minced pork with Chinese chive dumplings which we boiled and ate with her family. Dipped in a little black vinegar and chilli sauce, they are juicy and moreish.
I hooked from that day on. Luckily I studied at UTS at the time, and next door in China Town there were a few good dumpling restaurants. Later on, I discovered a whole load of places in Ashfield, which is where I took this photo.
Because my friend doesn’t eat pork we ordered fish dumplings instead. They are pan-fried instead of boiled, and are lighter than the pork versions, but no less delicious.
As I mentioned before, the other dishes that we ordered on my latest visit to Satay Inn were Chinese, or I suppose Australian-Chinese. First came the sizzling chilli lamb, that came on a hotplate. It wasn’t overly hot, and although tasty, not a dish that really got me excited.
That wasn’t the case with the salt and pepper calamari, which was really wonderful. I’d tasted their salt and pepper eggplant before, and the calamari was cooked in the same way – lightly battered, perfectly spiced, with a little crunch. My friends were quite impressed and the whole dish was devoured in less than ten minutes.