Mission to discover Chinese history of the goldfields

CHARLES Zhang may have conquered the walk from South Australia to Ballarat at the weekend, but he’s already on another mission. 

The 56-year old Ballarat man wants to piece together the puzzle of Ballarat’s Chinese history.

Earlier this month Mr Zhang, and his dad Oscar Zhang, travelled from Robe, South Australia, to Ballarat to learn more about the journey of Chinese immigrants to the goldfields. 

The pair walked the same 400-kilometre journey thousands of Chinese immigrants made after arriving in Australia by boat in 1856. 

Mr Zhang said the immigrants made the journey by foot to avoid a costly land tax imposed by Melbourne customs. 

“It was 10 pounds, but back in those days it was a lot of money,” he said. 

“To compare it to today, it would have been $10,000.” 

Stories like this intrigue Mr Zhang, which is why he’s on the hunt for more. 

“There’s no documents about this walk,” he said. 

“There are no diaries from the Chinese.

“I’ve talked to a few Chinese decedents in Ballarat to get some more information,” he said. 

"17,000 Chinese populated the goldfields in 1856"

“Most weren’t registered by customs. But of those that were, 17,000 Chinese populated the goldfields in 1856.” 

One contact he has made along the way is Ballarat woman Glenice Boucher. 

The 68-year-old’s grandfather hailed from Canton in China. 

“His name was Rh Tuk, but he changed it several times,” she said. 

“He went from Rhoon, to Wy Hoo to Wy Hoon to William Wy Hoon.” 

Mrs Boucher grew up in Avoca and has conducted her own research on her grandfather.

She is working with Mr Zhang to help track down more information about her family history. 

kara.irving@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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