Sunday, December 18, 2011

Book & Print in New Zealand

Statistics of New Zealand (1866) record a total of 534 letters from Hong Kong in the Otago mail. The texts of a few family letters have survived and been printed: for example, Don printed translations of four family letters, including one from the leper Kong Lye to his mother (New Zealand Presbyterian, 1 October 1884). A boxful of envelopes, some containing letters regarding the Cheong Shing Tong's first exhumation (completed in 1884) was found in a shed in Sew Hoy's store, Dunedin, in 1992. The envelopes had fascinating chop imprints, in various artistic forms enclosing the name. In his diary Don has described other Chinese letters; he also collected 'queer addresses' from mail sent to him by the Post Office to decipher (see his Diary 1899-1907, items 334, 408 and 442, etc.).

Gravestones may also be included as print culture. Chinese examples were usually inscribed in Chinese, bearing the name, county and village of origin, and the time and date of death. The earlier gravestones dated the year by the emperor's reign. Sometimes the name and date of death were added in roman script. The Chinese also used wooden grave markers, but none remain, and many gravestones have been vandalised or illegally removed. The last Chinese to die on the goldfields were probably buried in paupers' unmarked graves, but many others are unaccounted for. The Dunedin Genealogical Society has drawn and recorded in a booklet the Chinese gravestones in the Southern Cemetery, Dunedin. Mrs B. Hayes has photographed the Cromwell Chinese graves (private collection), and Len Smith likewise those at Naseby (Hocken Library).

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