Saturday, June 25, 2011


A considerable exodus of Chinese has taken place in this colony during the 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 kindred is exemplified in a manner which, to Europeans, to say the least (says the Bruce "Herald"), is revolting in its ghoulishness. We refer to the wholesale disinterment of Chinese corpses taking part in this Island at the present time. From information received, it appears that the bodies of upw-ards of 400 Chinamen (recently disinterred) are now deposited in depots —chiefly at Greymouth and Dunedin—awaiting transport to their fatherland. On Tuesday morning a party of ten almond-eyed strangers arrived at Milton, and inquiries 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 Fairfax cemetery for seven long years. Armed with spades, shovel, and grappling irons, the squad, under the supervision "of a half-caste Chinaman, proceeded to work. When the longburied coffin was brought to light, the scene which followed 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, aud afterwards hold the collection 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 of 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. According 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 (including the charter of a steamer, etc.) will have been entailed before the skeletons can be landed in China. Altogether the remains of about 45 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 teakboxes. There is nothing suggestive about these, and being varnished they might pass for ordinary 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 truck anyhow. The thought of a consignment of potatoes or other article of diet coming to you by the same truck next day is not inspiring. Surely this is a matter for the Health Department. Auckland Star, Volume XXXIII, Issue 219, 15 September 1902, Page 5

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