The Lost Chinese Village

Written by Paul Clacher Copyright 2000

In the hills of the Pyreneese Mountain Range in Victoria, are the remains of a lost Chinese Village. I have been told this by several of the more senior residents of St Arnaud. These people are also quite prominent in that community. It is unfortunate though that all of the eye witnesses who had actually visited the site of the "lost chinese village" have all now passed on. I was told that this site was said to be extremely interesting and contained foundations of buildings, stone stair ways leading in and out of the village and various other artefacts of that era. I became very interested in finding the village and set myself a goal of finding it or at least exploring the area. At that stage I had befriended many of the locals and had built up a real friendship with one of the local farmers in particular. He was a really nice bloke and we got on very well. He and I developed a good friendship and on many occasions we travelled into the bush together in search of different places. Some of these places included secret diggings, old camps, rock carvings and other places of significance. He imparted much knowledge to me and I became very fond of the bush around that area.  One such area of significance and actually commanded considerable folk lore in the area was the "Lost Chinese Village".

I think what really grabbed my imagination about this village, was the "Lost" part. I felt like I had a challenge to find it, or at least try to find it. You see the area is so rich in history that just about any wandering in the bush in this area, will almost certainly turn up something. I was told that the chinese had set up their own village, as in that era the chinese were not encouraged to live near the white folk. There was also a law that the chinese were not allowed to own a gold claim. So what they did, was to move into an area after the white diggers had moved on, and rework the old claims. So as not to be a bother to the white diggers, they built a village in one of the most inhospitable locations in the area. This would ensure that the white diggers would also not bother them too. It was said that the village was on the Western side of the Pyraneese on the Rostron side of the range in the most rugged area. It was also said the the village was built on a mini plateau with stone steps leading up to it. I was also told that it was West of the Fire Tower somewhere in the gullies. Well the challenge was out. I figured that if I bought an aerial photograph of the area I would be able to spot it easily, as I have been trained in aerial photographic interpretation. Fool me!

While you can get an idea from this photograph what the area is like, you can also see it was not going to be an easy task just spotting stairs or foundations. I think I must have spent about 100 hours scanning this photo. I have spotted many things in the photo but no "Lost Chinese Village". I think I may have a few possible spots, but as I now live out of Victoria my opportunities of visiting this area are limited. The area in the photo which has no vegetation is a cleared area around the Fire Tower Lookout. You can see the road which winds past it. Don't be fooled by the photo the track up to the top is quite steep. I made it to the top in a conventional vehicle, but I would recommend a four wheel drive. The view is worth the trip. One gets a beautiful view of the Australia Felix to the West and Teddington Reservoir to the East. My friend told me of "drains" which lead to nowhere on the sides of the hills. I have walked these hills on numerous occasions in search of the "Lost Chinese Village" and have found these "drains", but I tend to think they are costines and not drains. For those who do not know what a costine is (and I do not know if this is the correct spelling), it is a test channel dug by the fossickers trying to pick up the gold lead.

In all of the hundred of kilometres I travelled on foot trying to find the village, I did not find it, although at times I found some of their diggings. I did find some old historical charcoal pits dug and used during the Second Word War. I must say though there does not appear to be the gold on the Western side of the Pyraneese as there is on the Eastern side. My friend was right though the area is very rugged and very difficult to traverse.

I was told of a story of two chinese who were the only ones left in the end from the village. They moved from the village to a large dam which was situated at the base of the Fire Tower hill. This was located on the Northern end of the track up to the Fire Tower. The dam no longer exists, but the depression where it was can still be found if you know where to look. The two chinese gents were Ah Dan and Ah Dew. Ah Dew fell in the dam and was drowned. Ah Dan was quite upset by this and became very lonely and as a result he moved to St Arnaud to live. This was in the early part of this century and sadly Ah Dan is no longer alive. As I said earlier there does not appear to be any one left alive who has a knowledge of where the "Lost Chinese Village" may be found today. I am sure though it would be an anthropologists dream to find and study its structure and possible artefacts if it were to be rediscovered today. If you choose to go looking for the "Lost Village", I wish you luck. BUT, if you do find it please let me know.  I would like to see it one day.

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