A Reminder of Home

The Ceramic Vessel Heavy with Goldfield History

Following the frenzied days of the gold rushes, which swept across various parts of New South Wales and Victoria between the 1850’s and the 1870’s, there was an influx of Chinese miners from these areas to Holbrook, then known as Germanton. A vast number of these men sought to find their fortune in the abandoned diggings in the area, where other miners had given up on their hopes of finding gold.

Just like most migrants, many of the Chinese miners brought familiar items of material culture, including vessels like this, as a means of maintaining cultural traditions and a connection to their homeland. The vessel is coated with a rich brown glaze and likely made of stoneware or earthenware. The exact use of this vessel remains unknown but it likely served the utilitarian purpose of storing and pouring liquid.

For the most part, many of these Chinese miners were sojourners, meaning migrants who had plans of returning to their families in China once they had accumulated enough money. Life was difficult living on the diggings, with many people making a living by selling what fresh fruit and vegetables they could grow, starting small businesses, or operating opium dens.

Although many members of the Germanton community were kind and generous in their relationships with the miners, significant acts of racism and prejudice impacted on the ability of Chinese miners to live and work safely. One can imagine that these experiences made small reminders of home worth their weight in gold.