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QUONG TART’s TEA ROOM, QUEEN VICTORIA BUILDING, SYDNEY & HIS TRIP to CHINA

When Governor Lachlan Macquarie arrived in New South Wales in 1810 he found the colony’s main landing place disturbed by the produce. Livestock and poultry of the daily water front market at King’s Wharf. He ordered the market to be moved to a more convenient location in a paddock bordered by George Street to the east, York Street to the west and the colon’s first cemetery on the south. A 2-storey building was built on the site in 1820, designated as a market, and its Druitt Street end had administrative offices. The building was originally known as the Queen Victoria Markets, and a larger building replace the former, and it was renamed the Queen Victoria Building (QVB) in 1918. I had its official opening on July 21 1898. The ground floor contained 58 shops, one of which was designated as a tea room.

When Quong Tart & Co. Tea Merchants wrote the following letter on 23 Nov.1898 he had not moved in for he gave his address as 137 King Street, Sydney. The contents of the letter sent to The Right Worshipful, The Mayor of Sydney were as follows: Dear Sir,

To make my rooms at the Queen Victoria Markets complete and in all respects suitable for my purposes it seems necessary to provide a Cloak and Smoke Room. Room No. 12 is the most conveniently situated but the rent asked for it is too high. Will you therefore be good enough to consider what concession you can make in view of all the circumstances so that if possible I may add it to my present tenancy. Yours faithfully, Quong Tart (Figure 1).

Quong Tart’s trip to China was quoted in the Sydney Morning Herald which appeared in the Maitland Mercury & Hunter River General Advertiser N.S.W. on 24 September 1881. The article was headed ‘A Chinaman’s Experiences in China’, as follows:

"On the 23rd April last , Mr. Quong Tart, a chinaman who had been for twety years a resident of Australia, left Sydney for the purpose of paying a visit to his native land. He returned to the colony by the s.s. Menmuir a few days ago, and in the narrative of his experiences there are some points of general interest at the present moment when public attention is so much occupied with the subject of Chinese immigration. Mr. Quong Tart visited Hongkong, Foochow , and Canton, and also travelled about 200 miles into the interior, and everywhere he was cordially received, not withstanding the fact that he was generally regarded by his countrymen as a foreigner, inasmuch he had discarded Chinese dress and manners and faith."

"At Hongkong he had an interview with a mandarin in reference to the anti-Chinese agitation in Australia. He explained that the influx of Chinese into Australia was so great that stringent restrictive legislation was proposed to keep the Chinese out of the colonies. The mandarin stated that they had heard of the movement. He pointed out that the proposed action of the colonial Governments was not just, in the face of the treaties between the Governments of Great Britain and China. Many years ago the Chinese nation shut itself up from intercourse with the rest of the world. Then the English nation, for trade purposes, thrust itself upon China, forced open the Chinese ports, and in consideration of certain concessions entered into a bargain to have free traffic between the peoples of the British and Chinese Nations. It might be argued that the Australian Governments were not responsible for the action of the Imperial authorities in this matter, but so long as the Australian colonies remained a part of the British Empire the colonists were subject to the bargain struck between the Government of England and that of China."

"At the same time, if there was a danger of national injury being suffered by the colonies by the influx of Chinese immigrants in large numbers, he thought that the colonial Governments might take steps to regulate that influx; but he strongly opposed the imposition of a poll-tax, which, he considered, embodied an odious principle. If such taxes were imposed upon Chinese entering Australia, he considered it would be fair retaliation to impose a similar tax upon the numerous traders and others who travelled to China from Australia every year" (Figures 2a, 2b & 2c).

The Queen Victorian Building postcards were very popular cards to send overseas and a Miss E. White of Camainus, Vancouver Island, British Columbia received a view of the Queen Victoria Markets in 1908 (Figure 3).

As a personal note, one of my uncles had a menswear shop in the large ground floor corner of Market and George Streets in the Queen Victoria Building, Sydney, in the 1930s and 1940s.

 
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