Leslie WONG

 
 
 

Restoring old Chinese gravestones

Background

It is interesting to know, the number of Chinese in New Zealand during the gold mining days reached 5,000, in 1881.  The men toiled in the gold fields of Otago, Southland and the West Coast.  A century later, it would be hard to find many reminders of the large numbers of Chinese ever having been here at all.  The only tangible record of them would be in the cemeteries of the southern South Island and the Southern Cemetery in Dunedin.

 

Time frame

Scattered in the very early cemeteries are pieces of the Chinese graves; the majority of the remaining gravestones have been broken, vandalized or have fallen over from neglect.  At present, there are many lost graves that no longer have any remaining memorial stones at all. If the remaining broken pieces are not gathered up and restored now, they will rapidly disappear.  The earliest stone fragments dated from the 1870s and the period of the restorations spanned from the late 1870s to about 1950.  It would be unethical to handle headstones later than 1950 because they may be attended to by living descendants.

 

The first restoration

The first stones restored are in the Andersons Bay Cemetery, they spanned the years of 1917 to 1948.  The entire gravesite was an overgrown pile of rubble.  This was an important collection of stones as they bridged the end of the golden times when Chinese moved from the gold fields into the cities and blended in with the market gardeners, laundrymen and fruiters.  This six year project began in 1998 when forty-four broken stones were restored.  In doing the restorations, there was a lot to learn.  Often the English records bore no resemblance to the Chinese characters engraved on the stone.

 

Central Otago cemeteries

Having the experience of that first restoration gave the confidence to restore what was found in Central Otago.  Tragically, there are now only about thirty of them in all.  Over twenty have been restored so far.  The travel distance and cold climate has been the problem and it has been a summer project.  In some cases the fragments were brought to Dunedin for reassembly.

 

The biggest project

The biggest project was the Southern Cemetery in Dunedin. It is the biggest burial site of the early Chinese in New Zealand. Burials dated from the 1880s to just beyond 1920.  Originally there were one hundred and fourteen recorded stones in 1985 and many unmarked graves but the whole area resembled a bomb site in 2005.  The project was too big to do single handed.  However, The Historic Cemeteries Conservation Trust successfully applied to the Chinese Poll Tax Heritage Trust for funding to pay for monumental expertise and replacement stones for those that were beyond repair.  Luckily the transcriber in 1985 had used some Malaysian students to transcribe most of the Chinese characters from the stones. Though shortcuts were taken in the hand-writing, it was possible to figure out the standard characters for engraving onto the new stones. 

 

Leslie WONG

2015

 

Leslie WONG

When I visited the Chinese section of Southern Cemetery in Dunedin with Leslie WONG [黄閏樵], I was engaged in a sense of stillness. Many of the restored Chinese gravestones, apart from having a different style than the local ones, still preserve the original crude aesthetics.

Each gravestone embodies the story of an individual or a family. Coming from afar and looking for fortune in a place unfamiliar to them, these early ‘Digging the Gold’ settlers were strong-minded, or otherwise they wouldn’t be able to endure the hardship of life. Their goals were simple: to earn a better living for their family at home and to save up sufficient money to return home for retirement. Unfortunately, for many of them, their material desire was largely unquenched and their wish to return home was not accomplished.

I wonder why these gravestones could engage the visitors to contemplate and to immerse in a moment brimmed with emotions. Isn’t it the holistic crudeness of the environment?

 

King Tong HO

2015


修复中国古墓碑

背景

早在一八八一年淘金时期, 在纽西兰的华裔人数已多达五千。他们在 Otago, Southland 和 West Coast 的金矿区做苦工。一个世纪以后, 已很难找到曾经大量华裔生活在这里的痕迹了。唯一实在的关于他们的记载是位于但尼丁的 Southern Cemetery 及南岛南方的一些墓地。

 

时间跨度

散落在这古老墓地的是零碎的中国坟墓。残留下来的墓碑大都已经破损, 毁坏或掉落。现在, 许多坟墓已丢失了。曾经存在的已丢失了很多。如果, 现在不把残留下来的破损碎片收集起来并进行修复, 它们将很快消失。最早的石头碎片可以追溯到十九世纪七十年代。修复的时间跨度从十九世纪七十年代直到一九五零年, 因为处理一九五零年以后的墓石是不道德的, 他们(墓石主人)的后代可能需要参与。

 

第一次修复

第一次修复的墓石位于 Andersons Bay 墓地, 它们的时间跨度为一九一七到一九四八年。整个墓地是一片废墟。这次的墓石收集意义重大, 它们为淘金末期、华裔从金矿区进入城市、加入到蔬菜种植者、洗衣工和水果商中。这个为期六年的项目始于一九九八年, 共修复了四十四座破损的墓石。在修复过程中, 我们获得很多经验。不少英文上的记录有别于刻在墓石上的中文字。

 

Central Otago 墓地

有了第一次修复的经验,我们有信心修复位于中央奥塔戈的墓石。可惜的是, 当时只剩下约三十座墓石, 至今,已修复了二十多座。由于路程遥远和寒冷的天气, 修复只能在夏季进行。有时候, 碎片会被带到 但尼丁进行重组。

 

最大的工程

最大的工程是位于但尼丁的 Southern Cemetery 南方墓地。埋葬的时间跨度为十九世纪八十年代到一九二零年以后。根据一九八五年的纪录, 共有一百一十四座墓石和许多没有标记的坟墓, 但在二零零五年, 整个区域就像被炸过一般。这工程太大了, 是个人力量无法完成的。幸好, 历史墓地保护信托基金成功地得到中国人头税遗产信托基金的支持, 聘请专业者重制那些无法修复的墓碑。更幸运的是, 在一九八五年, 得到一批来自马来西亚的学生帮忙把残破墓石上部份能辨别的中文字抄写下来, 使能刻在新的墓石上。这里是居住在纽西兰最早期的中国人的最大埋葬地。

 

黄闰樵

2015

 

黄闰樵

当我首次来到但尼丁南区墓园的华人墓地时, 一片寂静。除了式样不同外, 重修过的华人墓碑, 仍隐现原本的粗糙美。

每个墓碑都埋藏着一段故事。他们从老远跑来这完全陌生的国度, 为了追寻财富。这些早期的“寻金者”, 若不是那坚强的意志, 相信无法忍受他们艰苦的生活方式。目标很简单:为祖家的家人谋求更好的生活及在储够金钱时返乡退休。遗憾的是他们对物质的欲望从无止熄, 而回乡之愿难圆。

我思索着为何这些墓碑令访者陷入沉思和感慨, 是这整体粗糙的环境吗?

 

何经棠

2015


修復中國古墓碑

背景

早在一八 八一年淘金時期,在紐西蘭的華裔人數已多達五千。他們在 Otago, Southland 和 West Coast 的金礦區做苦工。一個世紀以後,已很難找到曾經大量華裔生活在這裏的痕跡了。唯一實在的關於他們的記載是位於但尼丁的 Southern Cemetery 及南島南方的一些墓地。

 

時間跨度

散落在這古老墓地的是零碎的中國墳墓。殘留下來的墓碑大都已經破損,毀壞或掉落。現在,許多墳墓已丟失了。曾經存在的已丟失了很多。如果,現在不把殘留下來的破損碎片收集起來並進行修復,它們將很快消失。最早的石頭碎片可以追溯到十九世紀七十年代。 修復的時間跨度從十九世紀七十年代直到一九五零年,因為處理一九五零年以後的墓石是不道德的,他們(墓石主人)的後代可能需要參與。

 

第一次修復

第一次修復的墓石位於 Andersons Bay 墓地,它們的時間跨度為一九一七到一九四八年。整個墓地是一片廢墟。這次的墓石收集意義重大,它們為淘金末期、華裔從金礦區進入城市、加入到蔬菜種植者、洗衣工和水果商中。這個為期六年的項目始於一九九八年,共修復了四十四座破損的墓石。在修復過程中,我們獲得很多經驗。不少英文上的記錄有別於刻在墓石上的中文字。

 

Central Otago 墓地

有了第一次修復的經驗,我們有信心修復位於中央奧塔戈的墓石。可惜的是,當時只剩下約三十座墓石,至今,已修復了二十多座。由於路程遙遠和寒冷的天氣,修復只能在夏季進行。有時候,碎片會被帶到 但尼丁進行重組。

 

最大的工程

最大的工程是位於但尼丁的 Southern Cemetery 南方墓地。埋葬的時間跨度為十九世紀八十年代到一九二零年以後。根據一九八五年的紀錄, 共有一百一十四座墓石和許多沒有標記的墳墓,但在二零零五年,整個區域就像被炸過一般。這工程太大了,是個人力量無法完成的。幸好,歷史墓地保護信托基金成功地得到中國人頭稅遺產信托基金的支持,聘請專業者重製那些無法修復的墓碑。更幸運的是,在一九八五年,得到一批來自馬來西亞的學生,幫忙把殘破墓石上部份能辨別的中文字抄寫下來,使能刻在新的墓石上。這裏是居住在紐西蘭最早期的中國人的最大埋葬地。

 

黃閏樵

2015

 

黃閏樵

當我首次來到但尼丁南區墓園的華人墓地時, 一片寂靜。除了式樣不同外, 重修過的華人墓碑, 仍隱現原本的粗糙美。

每個墓碑都埋藏著一段故事。他們從老遠跑來這完全陌生的國度, 為了追尋財富。這些早期的「尋金者」, 若不是那堅強的意志, 相信無法忍受他們艱苦的生活方式。目標很簡單:為祖家的家人謀求更好的生活及在儲夠金錢時返鄕退休。遺憾的是他們對物質的慾望從無止熄, 而回鄉之願難圓。

我思索著為何這些墓碑令訪者陷入沈思和感慨, 是這整體粗糙的環境嗎?

 

何經棠

2015