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Image Chinese market gardener, c1880s

TLF ID R8181

This is a black-and-white photograph showing A H Wong, a Chinese market gardener in Brisbane, watering a bed of what appear to be vigorous cabbages or cauliflowers. He uses a traditional Chinese method of watering - a shoulder yoke or pole with a large watering can at each end. He wears protection from the sun - a hat and long-sleeved shirt. The perimeter of the vegetable garden meets native bush.

Educational details

Educational value
  • Chinese market gardeners such as A H Wong made a major contribution to the health of many Australian communities including Brisbane in the 1880s by ensuring that fruit and vegetables became a cheap staple in the residents' diet. They provided a valuable service to householders and markets, often supplying the only fresh produce available. Their gardens were spread throughout several Brisbane suburbs, with some sites marked by old lychee and mango trees.
  • Although details about A H Wong are unknown, he would probably have been one of the small community of about 450 Chinese, some probably ex-goldminers, concentrated in Brisbane in the early 1880s and employed as market gardeners, furniture makers, servants and traders. While all members of the Chinese community suffered discrimination, market gardening was tolerated as a traditional Chinese job rather than seen as a threat to white Australians' jobs.
  • Chinese market gardeners turned previously unwanted wasteland into productive plots and grew a range of crops including cabbages, tomatoes, cauliflowers, potatoes and lettuces. Employing their traditional agricultural and water management skills, they cleared the land, dug canals and irrigated, practised crop rotation, manured heavily and double cropped, all using handmade tools and simple but effective technologies such as the watering cans seen here.
  • Market gardens were often leased by groups of up to ten Chinese who worked as a team and practised a division of labour. Marketing the garden produce was assigned to members of the group most familiar with the English language. They sold the produce directly to households or to Chinese storekeepers and greengrocers. Other group members such as Wong worked mainly in the gardens and were responsible for producing the high-quality fruit and vegetables.
  • Original Chinese market gardens such as this one disappeared in the early years of the 20th century as a result of restrictive state and federal immigration laws, particularly those known as the White Australia Policy of 1901, which caused a great decline in the Chinese population in Australia. Before that, at the height of the gold rushes in the 19th century, more than 100,000 Chinese had arrived in Australia, largely from the poor southern area around Guangzhou.
Year level

4; 5; 6; 7; 8; 9

Learning area
  • History

Other details

  • Contributor
  • Name: State Library of Queensland
  • Organization: State Library of Queensland
  • Description: Content provider
  • Address: QLD, AUSTRALIA
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  • Name: Education Services Australia
  • Organization: Education Services Australia
  • Description: Data manager
  • Copyright Holder
  • Name: State Library of Queensland
  • Organization: State Library of Queensland
  • Address: QLD, AUSTRALIA
  • Publisher
  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organization: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Description: Publisher
  • Address: VIC, AUSTRALIA
  • URL:
  • Resource metadata contributed by
  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organisation: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Address: AUSTRALIA
  • URL:
Access profile
  • Colour independence
  • Device independence
  • Hearing independence
Learning Resource Type
  • Image
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