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The Life of Quong Tart: Or, How a Foreigner Succeeded in a British Community

Date: 1911
Overall: 11 x 145 x 226 mm, 300.68 g
Medium: Cardboard, paper, cloth
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Classification:Books and journals
Object Name: Book
Object No: 00046954

User Terms

    'The Life of Quong Tart: Or, How a Foreigner Succeeded in a British Community' is a rare first edition of the biography compiled by Margaret Quong Tart seven years after her husband's death in 1903. The book provides an illustrated account of the life of Chinese immigrant Mei Quong Tart, who became one of the most successful merchants and philanthropists in late colonial Australia. Quong Tart operated a network of popular tearooms and dining halls in Sydney, advocated for the abolition of opium importation and facilitated relations between the European-Australian and Chinese-Australian communities.

    SignificanceThe book stands as a loving tribute to a man who contributed greatly to the social, political and commercial life of late 19th century Victorian Sydney, and was highly respected and accepted by the European-Australian community. Indeed in 1897 the Daily Telegraph acknowledged, "Quong Tart is as well known as the Governor himself, and is quite as popular among all classes" - a remarkable feat in the context of growing anti-Chinese sentiment in Australia at the turn of the century, signalled by escalating tension on the goldfields and encapsulated in the introduction of the Immigration Restriction Act in 1901.
    HistoryMei Quong Tart was born in 1850 at Hsinning in China's southern Canton (Guangdong) Province. He migrated to Australia in 1859, accompanying his uncle to the Braidwood goldfields in New South Wales. He lived in Thomas Forsyth's store at Bell's Creek before joining the household of Scotsman Robert Percy Simpson. Robert's wife Alice taught Quong Tart to read, write and speak English (with a Scottish accent) and converted him to Christianity. He acted as a government interpreter in the districts of Braidwood and Araluen, and was involved in local sporting, cultural and religious affairs.

    Quong Tart became a naturalised citizen on 12 July 1871. After visiting his family in China in 1881, he returned to Australia and opened a tea and silk store in Sydney. By the end of the 19th century Quong Tart operated a network of tearooms and dining halls in the Sydney Arcade, the Royal Arcade, King Street and the newly completed Queen Victoria Markets (now the Queen Victoria Building). The latter, known as the Elite Hall, was officially opened in 1898 and could accommodate almost 500 people. Quong Tart's tearooms hosted the first meetings of Sydney's suffragettes, and his commercial endeavours contributed to the development of Australian-Chinese trade and diplomatic relations.

    A respected community leader, Quong Tart advocated for the rights of Chinese residents in Australia and actively campaigned against the import of opium, a substance that caused widespread addiction amongst his countrymen. From 1891-1892 he was involved in the NSW Royal Commission on Alleged Chinese Gambling and Immorality and Charges of Bribery Against Members of the Police Force.

    In 1887 the Chinese emperor made Quong Tart an honorary Mandarin of the fifth degree, in recognition of his services to overseas Chinese and Australian-Chinese relations. In 1894 he advanced to the fourth degree and was appointed Mandarin of the Blue Button.

    Quong Tart died at his home, Gallop House, Ashfield in July 1903, having never fully recovered from a savage attack by an intruder in his Queen Victoria Markets office the previous year. He was survived by his English wife Margaret Scarlett, two sons and four daughters.
    Additional Titles

    Web title: Book titled 'The Life of Quong Tart: Or, How a Foreigner Succeeded in a British Community'

    Primary title: The Life of Quong Tart: Or, How a Foreigner Succeeded in a British Community

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