For much of our evidence on Chinese Australian history – especially in the 19th century – reliance is necessarily on European observers and European records. A great deal of this material is patronising at best and stereotypical or even plain made up at worst. In general, such observation pieces often tell us more about the writers than those being observed – but this too is useful. Nevertheless, amid this diverse material can be found many instances of careful and interesting observation – even when it is patronising (and/or ignorant). Personal observation when sincerely given can provide much of value. Here is to be found a small selection of the great amount of such material to be found. The selections range from the comments of a naive English teacher to those of an experienced China consul, from eyewitness to the arrival of the first 150 Chinese gold seekers to pass through Bathurst in 1855, as well as the astonished spectator to a Chinese opera, not to mention the efforts of the authors of both Mary Poppins and The Man from Snowy River. Of course, the section would not be complete with the reports of those instant experts – the journalist and the travel writer.
No. 1: My Chinese by Margaret Egerton
No. 2: The Man from Shanghae, J. Dundas Crawford
No. 3: Amazing the yokels of Bathurst
No. 5: Ah Wong meets Mary Poppins
No. 6: A white women in Chinatown
No. 7: To the goldfields by Omnibus