Continuity and change – North Hobart

The Old Peking restaurant in North Hobart is a typical Chinese restaurant of the modern type in Australia run by a family that migrated to Australia at the end of the 20th century. However this seemingly typical Chinese-Australian experience is merely the latest version of an older experience that is revealed in one of the heritage bricks embedded in the footpath outside the Old Peking.

The brick embedded in the path outside tells us the same North Hobart building was occupied for some 25 years from the 1920s until 1950 by Wah Shing and his laundry. Though the simple description ‘Chinese Laundry’ does not perhaps convey the full dignity of Wah Shing’s enterprise. On his death in 1951 this building in Elizabeth Street was the site of an auction of Wah Shing’s stock of “Toilet requisites, Fancy Goods, Tobacco, Soaps, Stationery, Glass Counter case, and sundry Furniture”.

Little more is known of Wah Shing but he was by no means the only Chinese person to run a laundry in Tasmania. When others did so in Hobart in 1908 a protest was raised claiming it would “take work from poverty-stricken women”.

Chinese-Tasmania – Historical Overview