Monash University

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Tong Yun Gai (Street of the Chinese): investigating patterns of work and social life in Melbourne's Chinatown, 1900-1920

posted on 2017-02-08, 23:59 authored by Couchman, Sophie
Chinatowns and the people who live and work within them have been subject to some powerful stereotypes and generalisations that obscure the diversity of experience and understanding of these areas. The objective of this thesis is to reveal the diversity of Melbourne's Chinatown in the 1900 to 1920 period through a detailed examination of the livea and businesses of those who lived in Swanston to Russell Street block of the eastern end of Little Bourke Street. This approach builds on a trend in recent research towards more detailed regional studies of Chinese communities across Australia. By understanding the minutiae of life in this block in the broader context of Chines and Australian history it is possible to move beyond generalisations and create new understandings of Melbourne's Chinatown. Sands and McDougall Street Directories were used to construct a spatial framework. The database created was part of my commissioned work with the Museum of Chinese Australian History. This spatial framework was overlain with a wide range of other primary sources. The use of electronic databases and a spatial approach for collecting and analysing material assisted overcome the particular difficulties of searching for Chinese names within English language records. Detailed vignettes of the lives of individuals and organisations at different timesand locations emerged from this spatial overlay of information. These vignettes are discussed geograaphically like a walking tour. As the narrative progresses along Little Bourke Street the nature of the people and place emerges.


Principal supervisor

Seamus O'Hanlon

Year of Award


Department, School or Centre

Historical Studies


Master of Philosophy

Degree Type


Campus location



Faculty of Arts