THE DEAD don't always remain undisturbed, historians say 155 years after grave diggers arrived with shovels at the White Hills cemetery in central Victoria.
A body was taken a century and a half ago.
Its bones were carefully placed on the cool ground, under the late autumn sun.
"Every particle of flesh had disappeared, but the skeleton and the clothes were quite perfect," a Bendigo Advertiser journalist there that day would write.
The bones were cleaned, parcelled and put in a box.
"The box, with its strange contents, was then taken to the Chinese Camp at Epsom, where there are some dozen more skeletons ready for exportation, one or two of which having the flesh upon them are preserved in gin," the journalist reported.
The body belonged to Quang Yang, a Chinese miner who had died 14 months earlier, his body ravaged by pneumonia, thousands of kilometres from his home village.
He was not yet 20 years old.
Quan Yang was one of the many Chinese people whose remains made it home to China, historians told podcasters for a new episode of Voices of Real Australia.
This episode's about the Chinese people who came to Bendigo in central Victoria for gold and never left.
Quan Yang was one of the lucky ones whose remains made it back home to their Ancestral tombs in China - an important thing for many Asian miners of the era - Golden Dragon Museum historian Leigh McKinnon said.
"It has been estimated by another researcher, Carol Holdsworth, that perhaps 10 per cent have been exhumed," he said as he stood in the Chinese section of White Hills' cemetery, in the area Quan Yang's body once rested.
"So a majority are still most likely laying where they were laid to rest."
The podcast episode charts the story of Chinese miners on the goldfields as well as the descendants who still call Bendigo home.
Chinese immigrants made their fortunes here. Some set down roots and helped build the gold rush city from the ground up.
Today, only one per cent of Bendigo residents have Chinese ancestry - less than 1400 people.
That's a drop in the ocean compared to the number who have come and gone from the area.
In 1854 alone, 4000 Chinese people came to this goldfield - and at times they have made up a quarter of the population.
But not all of them came to Bendigo searching for gold.
Dennis O'Hoy's grandfather Loui arrived in 1860 with his wife and had no intention of wasting his time searching for gold.
He was eyeing different riches.
"He was an entrepreneur who opened several businesses," Dennis said from his home in Bendigo.
"At his peak he had at least seven shops, a piggery, three or four market gardens and as the business expanded, in 1894, he brought my father out from the village."
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By this time, Bendigo had its own Chinatown and established market gardens (which often turned out to be more profitable than searching for gold).
Bendigo has been good to the O'Hoys.
The same can't always be said for other Chinese immigrants who have tried to make a go of it in the city.
In 1854, a man named WC Denovan got up in front of a crowd of European miners and allegedly called for Chinese people to be driven off the goldfields.
He later denied that is what he meant.
But it rattled the authorities. They sent a detachment of mounted troops up from Melbourne to keep a lid on things.
It is one early example of anti-Chinese sentiment on Australia's goldfields.
It is not the only one.
In late 1860, white miners rampaged through Chinese camps in Lambing Flat - now the New South Wales town of Young in the state's South West Slopes.
They killed several people, injured many others.
Then they did the same thing half a year later, beating, degrading and robbing fleeing Chinese residents.
It was a classic fear of the unknown, Bendigo historian Darren Wright said.
"A lot of people on the goldfields who had come from backgrounds where they had never seen a Chinese person in their lives," he said.
Victoria came up with a raft of ideas to dissuade Chinese people from coming to its goldfields.
They were only allowed to work the mine tailings and wastelands other miners had forsaken, or where the government thought there was no gold.
Chinese people did have supporters, though, including Bendigo authorities who liked them because they largely kept to themselves, and paid their license fees on time.
It became harder for many Chinese people to see a life in Bendigo though, especially as the 20th century and the White Australia Policy arrived.
Asian immigrants faced barriers bringing their families out. Bendigo's Chinese population began to dwindle.
Those who did stay knew that succeeding meant integrating into the community.
Dennis's grandfather was one of the many who made a point of it.
"Grandfather and Father were very quick to be part of the community and they were very generous with their time - and of course, money," he said.
It is one reason why the biggest event on the town's calendar is full of Chinese lion dancers and musicians.
Bendigo's Easter festival culminates in a 125 metre long dragon named Dai Gum Loong snaking down the main road, surrounded by tens of thousands of cheering spectators, thudding drums and bursting firecrackers.
The Chinese community went to great expense in the 19th century to bring costumes and banners out from China for these Easter parades.
The first parades raised money for the city's hospital and asylum.
Organisers often put the Chinese people at the back of the parade, perhaps assuming they would be the least interesting to festival goers, or maybe thinking they would be so exotic the crowds would stay to the end.
As time went by, Chinese residents spent a fortune to bring out Bendigo's first dragon, called Loong.
Soon, this place was being called "the Dragon City".
The name stuck.
By the end of the 20th century, Bendigo had a Chinese museum, Chinese gardens and a host of civic leaders who could trace their ancestry back to those from Asia who decided to make a go of it, way back at the dawn of the Gold Rush.
Listen to the the full story on the podcast. Search Voice of Real Australia on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or any podcast app. You can also listen on the web player above.
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