'Melbourne Illustrated-The Chinese Quarter', Illustration from The Graphic Magazine, London, November 13, 1880, page 484.Contributors
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As with all communities on the goldfields there was a dark side.
Although anti-Chinese propaganda tended to overstate the levels of Chinese vice, illicit dealings in Chinese communities were as common as amongst Europeans.
Although its use was not illegal, opium was becoming increasingly recognised as a harmful and addictive drug by the 19th century. Due to its ubiquity in Canton, a large proportion of Chinese sojourners were opium users. There were also many Chinese opium traders.
Gambling, which was a largely prohibited activity in the Victorian colony, was a popular pastime amongst the Chinese and the cause of many violent disputes.
Victorian society frowned upon both gambling and opium use, but this didn't stop European settlers from indulging when they wanted to.
Chinese communities were also accused of other vices, including managing brothels and dealing in spurious gold (gold-coated base metal passed off as pure gold).
Inquest records, crime reports and newspaper articles document many crimes and violent acts both perpetrated on, and perpetrated by, Chinese migrants on the goldfields. Crimes of violence against Chinese by Europeans were common and probably under-reported.
Pictured here is an extract from the London Graphic from 1880 illustrating some of the so-called Chinese vices. Fan tan, depicted in one of the illustrations, is a Chinese gambling game which was illegal in Victoria. It also shows Fook Shing, a detective and translator who was employed by the Victorian government to investigate Chinese crime.
With thanks to the Museum of Australian Democracy at Eureka ‘Chinese Fortunes’ exhibition curator Cash Brown.