Arrowtown Chinese Settlement


Points Of Interest

Fascinating restoration of the old Chinese settlement in this former gold mining town. It's a historic reminder of the 'forgotten' community, and the contribution they made to Arrowtown's fortunes.

Arrowtown Chinese Settlement is a recreation (some of it is original and restored) of the Chinese-occupied part of this 19th century gold mining town. Unknown to many people, the Gold Rush brought people from many countries to the Otago region, in search of their fortunes, and according to the 1874 Census, there were over 3,500 Chinese workers in the region at that time.

In this recreated settlement, you can see what their huts would have looked like, and get a real sense of the harshness of their day-to-day lives.

Here in Arrowtown, there were around 60 Chinese, who were marginalised and kept separate from the European settlers. Even when they died, they were kept apart from everyone else, in either their own section of the small cemetery, or in unmarked graves outside the cemetery walls. The Chinese lived on the outskirts of Arrowtown, in a collection of crude huts, which had a social hut at its centre (now destroyed), plus a couple of supply/grocery stores and some gardens so, in effect, it was their own self-sufficient community.

Interestingly, there is no record of any Chinese women living in Arrowtown during the gold-mining era, and because the European and Chinese communities did not mix, this would explain why the Chinese were nearly 'forgotten' in the area - they would simply have died out or left Otago, never to return.

The famous Ah Lum's Store was the focal point of the later settlement (around 1910), and was run by a man who was one of the few Chinese to earn respect from the Europeans, often acting as interpreter between the two, and once saving the life of a drowning man from the Shotover River. When Ah Lum died in 1926, the Chinese community seemed to disappear with him. Ah Lum's Store is original, restored in 1986, and has since been designated a Category I Historic Place.


Buckingham Street, Arrowtown

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