Monday, September 23, 2013

Second Burial, NZ Chinese Experience 1883 and 1903

'Newsletter Tauranga West Coasters Association
vol 9 no5"

A book, "Second Burial, NZ Chinese Experience 1883 and 1903" written by Helen Wong and
published recently is of interest to Coasters.   Chinese goldminers came to NZ hoping to find
riches and then to return home. Many died here and the Chinese believed that that after death the
soul hovers over a grave. If a Chinese man died in a foreign country his soul would be homeless
and unable to rest until his body was shipped back to China. Local newspapers in 1883 reported
that bodies were being removed from the Greymouth and Reefton cemeteries. Again in 1901
the exhumation of Chinese from 40 cemeteries around the country saw the remains cleaned,
washed, wrapped in linen and placed in watertight zinc coffins which were soldered shut. The
steamer Ventnor left Dunedin with 263 coffins, picked up 173 in Greymouth and a further 86 in
Wellington. The steamer was bound for Hong Kong but tragically it struck Cape Egmont and
foundered with the loss of all coffins. The steamer Energy was employed to locate the wreck and
recover the bodies but very few were found.

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