Bew Chip’s Ledger

This is a rare historcial source that details an essential aspect of Chinese-Australian history – the sending of money back to the villages in China. In this ledger a long-term resident of Hill End – Bew Chip – has kept an account of the sending of money back to his family. The account begins with his sending gold dust in the 1860s and continues with the sending of sovereigns into the 1890s. The account also names the individuals and their villages that he at first used as couriers and later the businesses that took over the handling of remittances.

Bew Chip, his earnings in Hill End, and the money he remitted back to his family in Zhongshan County was part of a network of movement, businesses and money around the Pacific and throughout S-E Asia which saw vast sums enter the villages and the economy of China. So much so that families and whole villages became dependent upon remittance money.

Bew Chip, like many others, sent money but did not return home himself. He was still living in Bathurst in 1933 and died there aged 104. Having lived in Australia for at least 80 years he died unable to claim Australian citizenship or a pension. These were rights not finally extended to Chinese people until 1956. It can only be speculated as whether he continued to send money after the ledger ends or if declining personal fortunes stopped the flow of money. If the latter, Bew Chip may not have felt able to return to his village and family as a visit home was expected to be a ‘return in glory’; not to be able to do so was shameful. [For more information on this last aspect see: “In the Tang Mountains we have a Big House”East Asian History, Vol. 25/26, June/December 2003, pp.85-112.]