200 George Street

No Place Like Home

Case 2

A well in the yard of Ah Toy’s cabinet factory contained an unusually high number of bowls produced in both China and Britain. Like many of the Chinese people who immigrated to Australia, these blue min yao (people’s wares) came from southern China. Made for the local market, but exported to Chinese people around the world, they would have either been brought out with immigrants or shipped to Australia by merchants and sold in Chinese-run stores. The abundance of British-made bowls found at 200 George suggests that Chinese-made wares could not always be sourced. So the occupants made do with similar forms made by non-Chinese manufacturers.

Rice bowls were the most basic tableware for southern Chinese people. Their diet was primarily rice-based, supplemented with small amounts of meat, fish and vegetables. The high proportion of fish bones and butchered animal bones found in the well suggests these foods were eaten by the Chinese furniture makers and families who were working and living on site.

In family settings, members would have shared meals around a table, each with an individual rice bowl. Each worker in Ah Toy’s factory probably had his own rice bowl too, with lunch often provided by their employer and served out of common cooking pots directly into these bowls.

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