The Lawrence Chinese Camp was a centre of celebration on Saturday afternoon as the community came together for the opening of the recently relocated Joss House, or Chinese temple.
The Joss House was returned to the site of its former foundations in December last year, having previously been moved into Maryport St, in Lawrence, in 1948.
Opening the house, Lawrence Chinese Camp Charitable Trust chairman Dr Jim Ng told the crowd of more than 150 people that the house had been very important to the Chinese community.
It was used as a meeting house, a hospice and “altar to departed souls”.
The Chinese camp had been formed during the Otago gold rush after Chinese miners were banned from living in Lawrence.
The Joss House joins the red brick Chinese Empire Hotel, built in 1884, and a stable at the site.
Chinese consul general Jin Zhijian told the crowd the opening was a “very special occasion for the Chinese community in Dunedin and Central Otago” and he thanked everyone whose efforts had made it possible.
“Thousands of Chinese miners gave their energy, youth and even their lives to the community. Some settled in New Zealand and became part of the big family of Central Otago. They should be respected and remembered.”
He believed the Chinese camp would become a great attraction, particularly with Chinese visitors.
Clutha Mayor Bryan Cadogan said he was embarrassed by the attitudes of Lawrence’s original inhabitants towards Chinese miners.
“It was the first meeting of a council in Clutha that led to the creation of this camp,” he said.
“It [the opening] is a day of special significance.”