7 July, 2015

Tuesday 7 July 2015

The Auckland branch of the New Zealand Chinese Association (NZCA) will hold an official presentation of its history Turning Stone into Jade: The History of the New Zealand Chinese Association to the Auckland Chinese community on Sunday 12 July at 11am in the Tasman Room, Alexandra Park, Greenlane. 

Turning Stone into Jade tells the story of the country’s oldest national Chinese community organisation. In its early incarnations the NZCA offered kinship and a united voice for an often marginalized and fragile minority. 

The history recounts the change as the New Zealand Chinese have evolved into a community with a sense of place in the diverse population of present day New Zealand. Eighty years ago, the NZCA advocated for basic rights, such as citizenship and an end to the discriminatory poll tax exacted on the early Chinese and, in the late 1990s, worked with Government to finally see a national apology for the poll tax. In more recent times, the NZCA has sponsored forums like the Going Bananas conferences that have explored contemporary themes about culture and identity. 

The NZCA commissioned author David Fung, fluent in Chinese and English to go through the organisation’s archives and put down on paper a history that was at risk of disappearing into dusty archives or fading from memory, as the ranks of the elder members of the NZCA grew thinner with the passing of time. 

The origins of the NZCA lie in the formation of the Wellington-based New Zealand Chinese Association in 1935, created with the encouragement of the respected Chinese Consul-General of the time, Wang Feng. Its initial aims were to promote the “intellectual, moral and physical wellbeing of the Chinese.” Formed by members of the community, the NZCA continues its work, supporting young leadership initiatives, language and culture classes and Easter sporting tournaments.

For media inquiries, please contact Branch chair Richard Leung 021 891 942 


Turning Stone into Jade: The History of the New Zealand Chinese Association


How old is the New Zealand Chinese Association?

The NZCA owes its origins to two initiatives, the formation of the Wellington-based New Zealand Chinese Association in 1935 and the New Zealand Chinese Salvation Conference in 1937.

What does the title mean?

The NZCA has taken a Chinese proverb, that translates as “turning stone into jade”. This refers to the meticulous carving required to turn a piece of stone into a jade amulet. The metaphor of the precise work needed to transmute a base substance into a valuable object reflects the work of past generation of the New Zealand Chinese community to create a better life from difficult beginnings. The Chinese were first invited to New Zealand 150 years ago by the Otago Chamber of Commerce in 1865 to work the tailings of the gold fields. From these first hardy pioneers who braved isolation, poverty and years of hard labour has come a community who are proud to call themselves Chinese New Zealanders.

What’s the book about?

Turning Stone into Jade is a community history based on records and documents from the NZCA archives. In its earliest days the NZCA conducted its business in Chinese. In later years, as the Chinese New Zealand community prospered and grew, the NZCA switched to English as its main language, while always acknowledging its Chinese heritage. The author David Fung is literate in Chinese and English. Turning Stone into Jade is a history of the development of the New Zealand Chinese Association and explores wider themes concerning the New Zealand Chinese community. Themes include the struggle to articulate a changing identity; how to preserve heritage in an increasingly anglicised community and how to articulate the voice of a community made up of diverse voices, from the regions and urban centres.

Why is this happening now?

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the first invitation from the Otago Chamber of Commerce inviting Chinese to come to New Zealand to work in the gold mining industry. It is also 80 years since the incorporation of the New Zealand Chinese Association. The history tells the story of how a community of bachelor sojourners were able to put down roots to grow the Chinese New Zealand community that is part of the diverse fabric of New Zealand today.

What does the New Zealand Chinese Association do?

It seeks to act as the voice of the New Zealand Chinese community. With the growth of the Chinese population in New Zealand, it is important that there be a focus for the community’s voice and aspirations. The NZCA is committed to preserving Chinese cultural roots and fostering the next generation of Chinese New Zealand leaders. There are a wide range of Chinese communities in New Zealand. The NZCA is the oldest representative organisation and has worked to reach out to newer migrants to offer support and assistance to understand the responsibilities and rewards of New Zealand citizenship.