In the early days of Chinese settlement in Wellington, they generally settled in the area encompassing Haining and Frederick Streets [1], colloquially known to by the Pākeha community as the "Celestial Quarter"[2] "Chinatown[3] or "Chinese Quarter"[4][5]

The area gained a notorious reputation for being "a Chinese-infested pit of opium and gambling"[6] and home to "white slave traders"[7], although in 1896, Police Inspector Doyle wrote: "In some of the houses opium was being smoked and gambling was going on ... [but] I must say that I visit these places at least once every month and I have seen nothing whatever to justify the sensational rumours that ... Chinese houses are dens of infamy."[6]

Author Alison Wong's fictional novel "As the Earth Turns to Silver" provides a fictional account of life for Chinese living and working in and around Wellington's Chinatown during the early 1900s.[8]

This area is considered by the Wellington City Council as significant to Wellington's heritage[9], however only three original 'Chinatown' buildings remain, all on Frederick Street[7], these being:

  1. Alex Fensome. (2014, December 1). Chinese settlers sparked some sensational rumours. Retrieved 8 August 2017, from
  2. NZ TRUTH, ISSUE 405, 29 MARCH 1913
  4. ANOTHER RAID ON CHINESE QUARTERS,Wanganui Chronicle, Volume 17, Issue 15000, 17 November 1900
  5. Manying Ip, 'Chinese - Later settlement', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, updated 25 Mar 2015 (accessed 4 April 2017)
  6. 6.0 6.1 Alex Fensome. (2014, December 1). Chinese settlers sparked some sensational rumours. Retrieved August 8, 2017, from
  7. 7.0 7.1 Shelton, L. (2009, January 12). How Wellington’s buildings tell our story. Retrieved December 17, 2017, from
  8. Wong, A. (2009). As the Earth Turns Silver. Penguin Books (NZ).
  9. Wellington City Council. (2013). Thematic Heritage Study of Wellington. Retrieved 8 November 2017, from


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