Asian Studies Program

Chinese Australia

Digital Documents Record

1586 Letter requesting permission to exhume bodies from the Sydney cemetery for removal to China, 1862

Full Document Caption:
It was culturally important for Chinese to have their remains to be buried in China with their ancestors. Clan societies or wealthy merchants’ families organised for remains to be exhumed and shipped back to China for reburial in family tombs. This letter provides early evidence in New South Wales of the exhumation of Chinese remains for shipment and reburial in China.

Source: NSW State Archives, Colonial Secretary’s Correspondence, Request to exhume bones, 4/3476

Region: Date From: 1862 To: 1862
New South Wales    

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26 August 1862
No.17 Bridge Street
Mollison & Black
Sydney, 26th August 1862

The Hon. Charles Cooper
Colonial Secretary

On behalf of the influential Chinese, for authority to exhume the remains of their Countrymen (from about 150 to 200) with a view to their removal to China

We have been requested by Chin Aleck, [name - ?] Wah, and [name - ?] [name - ?chou] influential Chinese [heads]. [now] resident in Sydney, to apply to you for an Authority under any reasonable conditions as will enable them or their accredited agents Heong San, Tong [Jong?] Coon and [name - ?cheung] Saw, to exhume the remains of a number (estimated at 150 to 200) of their deceased Countrymen with a view to their removal to China at an early date.

The custom is held in great reverence by the Chinese and [so] believe has been put in practice several times in California.

We [closing courtesies - ?]
Molisson & Black [signature]