Gum San Chinese Heritage Centre

So much to see and do

The Story

One day in May, 1857, 700 Chinese miners from Southern China, travelling overland from the Port of Robe in South Australia, to the Central Goldfields in the Colony of Victoria, rested at a place in the foothills of the Great Dividing Range, some 400 kilometres due east of Robe. Replenishing their water supplies from a spring, they discovered, by chance, the Canton Lead, one of the world's richest shallow alluvial goldfields that stretched eight kilometres at length.

This find marked the beginning of the Ararat Goldfield, which grew to a population of more than 30,000 in a mere few weeks.

In the first three weeks of mining, the Canton Lead yielded ninety five kilograms of gold and in the first three months, more than three tonne. By the time the official gold escort ceased in 1863, more than 15 tonne of gold had been transported to Melbourne.

Designed in the traditional style of Southern Chinese Architecture, the Gum San Chinese Heritage Centre incorporates the principals of Feng Shui. The two-storey building, with its authentic Chinese tiled roof, houses a fascinating selection of interactive, audio-visual and static displays. A series of exhibition spaces, state of the art presentations, and rotating displays of Chinese artefacts and period pieces provide a record of the rich colour and history of Chinese culture in Australia.

The unique Heritage Centre is a tourist attraction offering history, culture and education. It brings to life the story of the immigrant miners on the Victorian Goldfields in the mid1800's and recreates the social, environmental and political situation of the time. Gum San is an important base for the understanding of the influence of Chinese culture on the economic, cultural and social development of Australia. Take your own journey and relive the experience of these Chinese gold prospectors on their great trek from Robe to the Victorian Goldfields

Discover the fun and delight of gold panning, try your hand at calligraphy, learn about the Chinese language and play traditional Chinese games. Become engrossed in the courthouse stories and see the replica of the mining tunnel uncovered during the construction of the Centre. The Gum San Chinese Heritage Centre provides an authentic snapshot of the Chinese culture from the 1800s through to the modern day.  A truly interactive experience for visitors of all ages.

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Getting Involved

Volunteers make an important contribution to the operation of the Gum San Chinese Heritage Centre and are valued members of our team. Our volunteers are involved in providing customer service, both in introducing visitors to the Centre and in retail and also as tour guides. For more information about volunteering at the Gum San please enquire at reception during opening hours, call (03) 5352 1078 or email gumsan@ararat.vic.gov.au

Donations and Loans

Gum San has a varied collection of Chinese artefacts and textiles on display. These objects are either gifts to the Centre or on loan, either long or short term. We welcome gifts and the loan of items that are relevant to Chinese culture or local Chinese history.

Building

The Gum San Chinese Heritage Centre is an authentic recreation of a traditional two-storey Chinese building, set in established Chinese gardens and forecourt. The Centre captures the essence of architecture in Southern China and is designed in principle with the Chinese philosophy of Feng Shui. This ancient Chinese art guides the design and placement of a building to take advantage of the flow of natural energy.

The ornate roof with its curled up hips is typical of Chinese design. Adorned with dragons and other mythical creatures, it has become a unique and striking feature of the Ararat skyline. The tiles were generously donated by The People's Government of Taishan, China and were fixed in place over a four month period by four specialist tradesman contracted from the city of Taishan.

Architect: Patrick Yeung
Interior designer: John Challis
Feng Shui Consultant: Howard Choi

Chinese Heritage Society

The Ararat Chinese Heritage Society was formed in 1985. The committee was established to help Ararat celebrate Victoria's 150th anniversary by commemorating the role of Chinese miners in the settlement of Ararat. The society was instrumental in winning sister city status with Taishan in Guangdong province. In 1989 the Gum San Trust was formed to commence fundraising in earnest for the Gum San Chinese Heritage Centre. The Trust and the Society worked tirelessly for eleven years, fundraising and planning for the construction of the Gum San Chinese Heritage Centre. The result is one of remarkable community dedication.

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