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Stereotyping the Chinese


Postcard - "I can a tail unfold"
Courtesy of Dennis O'Hoy
Golden Dragon Museum Showing Face Exhibition

Racist miners used Chinese stereotypes to ensure the Chinese remained second-class citizens. The Europeans invented numerous sayings or ditties to convey their sense of superiority over the Chinese. Often, these sayings were used to teach children about the separate and largely unacceptable identity of the Chinese. Children were often told, for example, never to put a coin in their mouths because a Chinaman has had it in his ear.


Postcard - "England"
Courtesy of Dennis O'Hoy
Golden Dragon Museum Showing Face Exhibition

Numerous references to the Chinese as a racial group may be found in newspapers, journals, court reports and police records, among others, from this period. Sometimes the references are unemotive or even supportive, while at other times they are intended to carry a racial slur. Generic terms like Chin, Chow, Ching Chong Chinaman, Johnny and Celestial were used to describe the individuals and groups of Chinese alike. Poetry and literature reflected this sentiment. Henry Lawson wrote "He was meaner than a goldfields Chinaman and sharper than a sewer rat".


Our chinamen
Courtesy of the La Trobe Collection
State Library of Victoria
A/S21/02/74/193


Pictorial images of the Chinese in Victoria at this time are also very revealing of European attitudes to Chinese identity. While the Chinese are sometimes represented in romantic ways, particularly in paintings or etchings, they are also at times represented as an amorphous threatening horde. The cartoons and other images used by newspapers and journals, particularly those that supported the restriction of Chinese immigration, were often overtly racist and satirical.



Credits

Golden Dragon Museum

Text adapted from the Showing Face: Chinese identity in regional Victoria from the 1850s to Federation exhibition booklet, courtesy of The Golden Dragon Museum.
All images from the Showing Face exhibition, on at the Melbourne Immigration Museum from 13 June to 16 September 2001.




 
 

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