The Chinese Community in Victoria

Among Chinese individuals, family and community remain top priorities. Physical boundaries don’t appear to exist as friends put their arms around each other and lean on each other on crowded subways.

Many Chinese people have found a new home in cities across the world, where Chinatowns have sprung up to serve as safe havens and second homes. They provide an opportunity to shop for familiar food and worship in traditional temples.


The Chinese community has a long history of migration and emigration. During the second half of the eighteenth century, many came to work for British companies and the Blue Funnel Line as cooks. These immigrants largely hailed from Kwangtung Province but people of all origins were present in the community. The establishment of the Strangers’ Home on West India Dock Road provided one nexus around which the community could grow.

In the nineteenth century, large waves of emigration were directed to North America and Australia. The California Gold Rush saw a great many coming to San Francisco where they helped build one of the first Chinatowns. Others went to Latin American countries and established thriving business communities in each one.

In these communities, social life was centred in the shequ. Shequs took on responsibilities which in democratic states would be taken on by government agencies and civil society organisations. Nevertheless, Chinese culture remains deeply traditional and secluded from the world at large.


China is a vast country with a wide variety of people and cultures. It also has a number of spoken languages that differ greatly from one another. Although the Chinese language varies, it has a relatively stable written form and a standard spoken dialect known as Mandarin. Spoken Chinese is monosyllabic, has no inflection and is tonal, meaning that words carry a specific relative pitch or contour. Words may consist of one syllable, of two or more syllables that each have a distinct meaning and of syllables that have no meaning at all.

Chinese is a member of the Sino-Tibetan family and like many other members of that family, it uses subject-verb-object word order, classifiers and measure words. Most spoken varieties of Chinese are mutually unintelligible, although some branches such as New Xiang and Southwestern Mandarin share enough features for limited intelligibility. As with other cultures, a significant number of foreign words have entered the Chinese language through direct phonetic borrowing, as well as morphologically based loanwords.


The early religions of China were animistic, with people worshipping gods for their various benefits. For example, Fuxi, the god of fire, was invoked to cook food, bring light, and keep warm. In more recent times, Buddhism and Taoism have become more central to Chinese religious practice.

However, the government continues to limit freedom of religion. A church leader at Early Rain Covenant Church in Sichuan Province reported that police pressured family members to encourage him to renounce his faith and warned him that he would lose employment and education opportunities and have his children placed into state custody.

Authorities also used a program called the “Sinicization of Christianity” to encourage churches to incorporate Chinese elements into their services and to replace their traditional crosses with red ones. In Ningxia, they removed Islamic structures such as minarets and replaced them with curving Chinese roofs. In the Xinjiang region, officials force Uyghurs to give up aspects of Islam such as eating pork and circumcising their sons.


The Chinese community is an established and growing group in Victoria. It has medium levels of English language proficiency, so many need to access in-language information, resources and support. Many also have to work around traditional festivals based on the Chinese lunar calendar.

Many Chinese immigrants have retained their cultural identity, despite the pressures of the modern world. They form social groups and maintain family traditions. Chinese community organisations include a variety of charities and sporting clubs.

The CMEVQ and CMEVEBQ measure the importance of an individual’s ethnicity by capturing a broad set of values and related value-expressive behaviors. The first-order factor structure for both measures indicates that the items capture a fundamental aspect of the concept of ethnic-minority-values, although the specific instantiations in the two questionnaires differed between the samples. For example, the CMEVQ included items such as “It is important to him/her to honor his/her own diverse ethnic taboos” while the CMEVEBQ includes items such as “He/she agrees with the traditional norms of his/her own minority to deal with matters.” These items may be useful tools in the study of Chinese minorities.

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