Asian Studies Program

Chinese Australia

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1256 Chinese demonstration in aid of Melbourne Hospital, 1900

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This article describes a large procession organised by the Chinese of Victoria to raise money for the Melbourne Hospital held on the 28 April 1900. William Ah Ket, a prominet Australian-Chinese lawyer, provided information about the meaning of the various elements of the display for the article.

The article claims that the procession, with over 600 participants, was a traditional Chinese procession and the most impressive one yet put on by the Chinese. The organisers were listed as including: 'W. Shi Geen [Wong Shi Geen], She Wah, Cheok Tan, Hoy Ling, Tseong Kang, Leong Mow, Bob Lay, Tse Shing, Tseong Hoo, W. Ah Ket [William Ah Ket], and the Rev. Moy Ling [Rev. James Moy Ling]'. A four-horse drag in the procession contained the following additional organisers: Hoy Ling, Shi Hoo, Yick Chun, Teong Hoo (probably the same person as Tseong Hoo) and Bok Lay (probably the same person as Bob Lay).

Source: ‘Chinese demonstration in aid of Melbourne Hospital’, Weekly Times, 5/5/1900

Region: Date From: 1900 To: 1900
Victoria - Ballarat
Victoria - Bendigo
Victoria - Melbourne

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The Chinese residents of Melbourne and provincial cities and towns have never been backward when their assistance has been sought on behalf of charity, and they have often gone to great pains to organise demonstrations and processions in aid of hospitals. One of the banners carried in the procession was presented to the Chinese in 1886 in recognition of their efforts to raise funds for the Women's Hospital. In Bendigo and Ballarat a Chinese procession takes place at least once a year, but very seldom seen in Melbourne. That a Chinese procession through the city streets was quite a novelty was evident by the big crowds which collected in the city on the 28th of April, when the procession depicted in our illustrations was seen. People flocked in from all the suburbs, and traffic for the time being was entirely suspended.

The procession was arranged by a representative committee of Chinese gentlemen, including Messrs W. Shi Geen, She Wah, Cheok Tan, Hoy Ling, Tseong Kang, Leong Mow, Bob Lay, Tse Shing, Tseong Hoo, W. Ah Ket, and the Rev. Moy Ling. The organisation of the procession involved nearly three months of busy preparation, and it is claimed to have been the most imposing procession ever attempted by Chinese in Victoria. It is also claimed that it was a true representation of the great processions of China, which are organised for the purpose of bringing before the people life-like portrayals of notable personages, and exact representations of notable events of the past ages of the Chinese empire, dating as far back as the 40th century. Over 600 Chinese took part, and there were many Chinese "bands" in the procession.

To most people who witnessed the procession, the allegorical and mythical representations were, of course, lost, although the imposing nature of the procession, the beautiful art and fancy work displayed, and the novel costumes worn were all greatly admired. By the courtesy of Mr Ah Ket, one of the committeemen, we have been able to gather some particulars as to the meaning of the various symbols displayed.

The procession was headed by the Post Office Band, and was followed by two carriages, in which were seated the members of the Melbourne Hospital committee, including the President (Mr F. R. Godfrey), Cr. Wm. Strong, Cr. S. Gillott, Mr Burton, J.P., and other well-known gentlemen. Then came the gong-men, announcing the arrival of the procession. In China the gong-men would march in front to clear the way. These are followed by a man bearing the "plan" of the procession (called "Loo-ching_pi"), and showing the route. Next came the Imperial flag of the Emperor of China on which two dragons are beautifully emblazened in gold. The national flag of China, which is next in order, was supported by two other dragon-flags, and the beautiful and costly banner which followed was presented to Chinese residents by the committee of the Women's Hospital, Melbourne, in 1886 in recognition of services rendered. Next followed a "herald" on horseback, gaily dressed with the long feathers of office in his head-gear. A lady of the Imperial Court, on horseback was followed by eight pairs of sacred emblems, representing the eight articles dear to the hears of the eight deities of Chinese history. It is a tradition, handed down from the mythical period, that these articles have the magic power of charming away evil. Next came the circular banner, carried to protect the dignitaries from the sun, and also as a mark of rank. After several beautifully-worked banners there followed an interesting and clever tableau, representing Hon-men-Koong (the famous statesman, who lived about 3000 years ago) being rescued from a snow-storm and carried to a place of safety on nothing more substantial than a reed flute - the favorite instrument of his nephew, who it was supposed had shortly before been deified. The next representation was that of the Emperor's Men, who in the period [?]100 B.C. was troubled with vexed questions of state, and searched his country in person for an able Minister to assist him. He found one, it is said, in the hermit, King-Li_Koong, whom he took with him in his own carriage, and made him chief adviser to the Throne, whereupon peace reigned once more. Next in the procession were 18 young ladies, tastefully dressed, carrying sacred emblems, and after them six generals together, representing the provinces Tsi, Chor, Yen, Chew, Guey and Hon. The period represented is about 500 B.C., when continuous warfare raged between the six generals. Peace had just been concluded through the good offices of the famous diplomat, Sue-Toon, and the generals are seen marching together as a "happy family," having first sworn "brotherhood for ever." The generals were followed by soldiers with more banners, and then came the banner of "Victory," belonging to a famous leader, who, it was claimed, was never beaten in war. The dragon which followed, and which was probably the centre of attraction, was supposed to be a visitor from Heaven, guardian of the Imperial Throne, and controller of the refreshing rains, emblematical of power, peace and prosperity. The four-horse drag which followed, contained the members of the Chinese committee. Chief among these were Shi Geen, in the costume of a vice-roy; and Hoy Ling, Shi Hoo, Cheok Tan, She Wah, Yick Chun, Teong Hoo, Moy Ling, Cheok Cheong, Bok Lay and Ah Ket. With the exception of Cheok Cheong, who was in clerical clothes, and Ah Ket, who was attired in the yellow of the literary men, the Chinese were all dress in the court uniform of the chief mandarin. The lion, of which a photograph is given, is an emblem of strength. A string of banners ornaments, solders, lictors, braves, trophies and gongs proceeded another tableau, representing Set-Ing-Shau and his sister on a shooting expedition. Set-Ing-Shau was a general, afterwards made viceroy. Another dragon and more lions, and men carrying banners brought up the rear of the procession, which was witnessed by many Chinese residents, who were delighted, no doubt, to recall early recollections of the Flowery Land.

On the arrival of the procession at the Exhibition, the Chinese were received by Sir Malcolm McEacharn, who thanked and congratulated them for the splendid display. Mr Ah Ket, on behalf of the Chinese, made a felicitous speech and thanked the Mayor for his remarks.

The procession was repeated on Saturday, when the streets were again crowded with spectators.