Saturday, January 7, 2012

The Disinterment of Chinese Bodies.

STRONG COMMENTS BY A SOUTHERN PAPER - A considerable exodus of Chinese has taken place in tuis colony aunng tne last few years. Most, if not all, the celestial emigrants are returning to the Flowery Land and now that others contemplate removing, the Chinese love of their departed kinsmen is exemplified in a manner, which to Europeans, to say the least (says I'riday's Bruce Herald) is revolting in its ghoulishness. We refer to the wholesale disinterment of Chinese corpses taking place in this Island at the time. From information received, it appears that the bodies of upwards of 400 Chinamen (recently disinterred) are now deposited m depots—chiefly at Greymouth and Dunedin— awaiting transport to their fatherland. On Tuesda- morning a party of ten almondeyed strangers arrived at Milton, and esnquiries as to the purport of their mission elicited the fact that they intended removing all that remained of a deceased countryman, who had been silently reposing in the Fairfax Cemetery for seven long years- Armed -with spades, shovels and grappling iroiv*, the squad, under the supervision of a half-caste Chinaman, proceeded to work. When the long buried coffin was brought to light, the scene which folloewd baffles description. It would take the imaginative pen of a Zola or a Defoe to'fittingly describe in realistic language the revolting nature of the proceeding to a European. The modus operandi as described to us is- as follows:—The Chinese, after immersing their hands in some antiseptic wash, open the coffin and commence to remove any particle of flesh still adhering to the skeleton; they then smoke the bones in an ordinary riddle, and afterwards hold the bones in a wire sieve over a 'brightly burning fire to accomplish the final cleansing. The recital of this is sickening enough in cold print, but the reality faugh! And yet this is the sort of thing that has been going on in Greymouth for months, and is now daily being performed by a paid band ot Celestials throughout the South Island. No doubt it may be said that the disinterment of Chinamen (who have died in a foreign country) by their fellows is in accordance with ancient Chinese religion or national obligations, but such a barbaric custom is. hardly justifiable, considering the sanitary aspect of the matter, judged from a European standpoint. Aqcording to accounts which appear most reliable, nearly every Chinaman in New Zealand has contributed something, according to his means, and the work is being carried out by a contractor and nine men. Those who contribute are presented with a ticket with the amount stated thereon, and this is negotiable in some way when the pilgrims return to China. It is estimated that an expenditure of £20,000 ('ncluding the charter of a steamer, etc. will have been entailted before the skeletons can be landed in China. Altogether the remains of about 450 Chinamen will be shipped. The contractors have been engaged on their unenviable and repulsive task for about ten months now, and anticipate that their labours will be completed in another two months. The carriage of the skeletons is also a matter of comment from a sanitary point of view. The bones after removal from the original coffin, are placed in zinc-lined teak boxes. There is nothing suggestive about these, and being varnished, they might pass for ordinaiy travelling trunks. This receptacle of what was once a human being is consigned to the depot by train, and the tools used in disinterment are bundled into the railway track anyhow. The thought of a consignment of potatoes or other artillce of diet coming to you by the same truck next day is not inspiring. Surely this is a matter for the Health Department. In our wires yesterday it was stated that Dr Mason had the matter under consideration. Wanganui Chronicle, Volume XXXXVII, Issue 11734, 11 September 1902, Page 2

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