A pleasant retreat: Chinese immigration

Yiu Ming Temple

Chinese market gardeners thrived in Green Square during the 1880s and early 1900s as the fertile Waterloo swamplands were perfect for growing produce.

They lived in wooden huts alongside their plots and spent their days off in Retreat Street, Alexandria, which was notorious for its gambling houses.

In 1909 the now heritage-listed Yiu Ming Temple was built in Retreat Street. Many Chinese grocers, cabinetmakers and butchers flourished in its surrounds.

Photograph
Yiu Ming Temple Image: Stewart Watters. Copyright New South Wales Government, Office of Environment and Heritage, published under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International licence.

Due to the infamous White Australia Policy, the Chinese community was unfairly targeted. Gambling houses were raided while Board of Health sanitary inspections constantly interrupted their lives.

Despite these challenges, the Chinese community reached out to their neighbours donating produce to the Unemployed Workers Association and funding the Royal South Sydney Hospital.

Alexandria and Waterloo were named to celebrate British victory in the Napoleonic Wars yet Chinese settlement in Retreat Street has reshaped this meaning – the street has become known as a retreat due to the tranquillity of the Yiu Ming Temple.

Main image: Stewart Watters. Copyright New South Wales Government, Office of Environment and Heritage, published under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International licence.