An introduction of the history of Chinese business in Queensland

Guest blogger – Rutian Mi, 2019 Queensland Business Leaders Hall of Fame fellow.

There are many studies on Chinese immigrant history in Queensland but few studies have been done about Chinese business history in Queensland.

This research focuses on Chinese businesses in Queensland during 1840-1940 with two case studies: Kwong Sue Duk and Tom See Poy  (also known as Taam Sze Pui).

Kwong Sue Duk with his three wives and fourteen children, Cairns, 1904. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg 10203

Portrait of Taam Sze Pui. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Image 31892

This is not an academic study. The purpose of this research is to find out how Chinese business started and developed in Queensland during this 100-year period and the impact they had on the community. Based on the collections of the John Oxley Library and the research found in published work and theses, I would like to tell the story of Chinese business people 1840-1940.

To help understand the historical background and the social background of Chinese business in Queensland I created this chronological overview of Chinese business in Queensland online using the time graphics platform .

Above the timeline, there are the main events that happened in China and during the life of Kwong Sue Duk.

Under the timeline, there are the main events happened in Australia and the life of Tom See Poy.

We can divide this period into four stages:

  1. Pre Gold rush: 1840 -1850
  2. Gold rush: 1851-1881
  3. Farming: 1882-1900
  4. Merchandise: 1901-1940

I will explore each of these stages in upcoming blogs.

About the author
Rutian grew up in China during the Cultural Revolution, he had a passion for reading and libraries. Rutian studied Archaeology and later international business. Rutian now works as an international business and export market consultant and language expert speaking Mandarin, Japanese and English. Alongside his business and language expertise, Rutian has a passion for history which he is exploring through his current fellowship.


We welcome relevant, respectful comments.
Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.
We also welcome direct feedback via Contact Us.
You may also want to ask our librarians.

My Chibese grandparents had businesses in Townsville & Brisbane 1900 to 1940