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Who was Quong Tart?

Students learn about identity and diversity in both a local and broader context. Moving from the heritage of their local area, students explore the historical features and diversity of their community as represented in symbols and emblems of significance, and celebrations and commemorations, both locally and in other places around the world.
Key inquiry question #1: 
What is the nature of the contribution made by different groups and individuals in the community?

Content Summary

The role that people of diverse backgrounds have played in the development and character of the local community (ACCHK062)


  • focusing on ONE group, investigate their diverse backgrounds and outline their contribution to the local community using a range of sources, e.g. photographs, newspapers, oral histories, diaries and letters.

Background Notes for Teachers

Mei Quong Tart, or Quong Tart as he was known, was a famous and popular figure in Sydney in the late nineteenth century.

Quong Tart was born in China in 1850 and came to the goldfields near Braidwood at age nine. He was taken in by a local family, the Simpsons, from whom he learned English and became an Anglican.

Quong Tart made his initial wealth by speculating in gold claims, but his popularity was due to his active involvement in the sporting life of the area. He was captain of the local cricket team, founded a football team and promoted horse-racing.

In 1881 he visited China to see his family and on returning to Australia started business as a tea merchant in Sydney. At his small tea house, he served samples of his imported tea; it became so popular he opened a chain of them.

In 1886 Quong Tart married an Englishwoman, Margaret Scarlett, and they eventually had six children.

In 1889 Quong Tart opened his Loong Shan Tea shop in King Street. It soon became famous and was frequented by Governors and Premiers. Louisa Lawson, mother of the poet Henry Lawson, sipped tea in the Loong Shan while she organised the campaign for female suffrage in Australia.

In 1898 Quong Tart opened the Elite Hall in the Queen Victoria Building. It was a very luxurious tea house and restaurant which could hold 500 people.

The popularity of these shops was due to the quality of the tea, the excellent food, the rich and exotic furnishings and the nature of Quong Tart himself. He dressed as a European, treated workmen and politicians in the same manner; he was a great philanthropist, holding many benefits for charity, and he was a generous employer. He was also active on behalf of other Chinese in Australia, and the Chinese Emperor appointed him a Mandarin for these efforts.

Sadly, Quong Tart’s successful career and life came to a tragic end in 1902 when he was savagely beaten during a botched robbery at his Queen Victoria Markets (now QVB) shop. The wounds he sustained left him bedridden. He made a partial recovery but died from pleurisy at his home in Ashfield almost a year after the attack.

Quong Tart’s contribution to Australian society

Quong Tart was an Australian of Asian heritage who had a significant influence on his local community in many ways:

  • After seeing the devastating consequences of opium addiction in Sydney’s Chinatown he waged a long campaign against the importation of opium. Opium at this time was sold and consumed in Australia for its ‘medicinal’ purposes. Despite lobbying politicians for many years, and having the clergy on his side, he never lived to see the importation of opium stopped. Many politicians, businessmen and journalists argued (incorrectly) that opium was non-addictive and the colony needed the import revenue.
  • He was a remarkably successful, innovative and fair businessman. His employees (mostly waitresses) were treated well, working reasonable hours (for that era), provided with meals in the restaurant, and allowed free time for reading and needlework. Part of his success can also be attributed to the care he took with the decor of his tea rooms, which had fountains, ferneries and fish ponds inside, the provision of special rooms for reading and non-smoking rooms for ladies. Another part of his success was that he provided good food at affordable prices.
  • Quong Tart was a true philanthropist. He organised many charitable dinners, at one time inviting all the city’s newsboys, and another time local Sydney Aboriginal people to free banquets.
  • He helped clothe and feed the children of Waterloo Ragged School and undertook many other efforts to alleviate the plight of Sydney’s poor. As a cultural benefactor he also promoted concerts and exhibited the work of local painters at his shops.
  • In 1888, a time of significant anti-Chinese feeling, a passenger ship, the Afghan, sailed into Sydney carrying a large number of Chinese immigrants. The ship was placed under quarantine and Quong Tart helped in conciliating between the passengers and the government. This was one of the many times that he was integral in creating bridges between the Chinese and European interests in Australia at this period.
  • Quong Tart was also a true celebrity of his time. He would attend social functions dressed either in Mandarin robes or in a kilt and sporran (his affection for things Scottish stemming from his association with the Simpson family at Braidwood). He could tell jokes and anecdotes, recite Robert Burns’ poetry or sing Scottish ballads. Everyone in Sydney at that time either knew or knew of Quong Tart. When he died in 1903 he was farewelled with a huge public funeral and thousands of mourners turned out to pay their respects.

Student Activities

Quong Tart

Students examine a range of photographs and answer questions about the life of Quong Tart and his contribution to Australian life.

Number of set tasks: 1

Tea House

Students learn about the Quong Tart's Tea House and create their own tea house experience.

Number of set tasks: 1

Activity Notes for Teachers

Activity 2

Some suggestions

  • Put up a photo of Quong Tart in the classroom.
  • Make a poster to tell customers about the Loong Shan tea house and the food served there.
  • Decorate the room with Chinese decorations or symbols.
  • Bring in some Chinese tea sets an Chinese tea.
  • Dress up in Chinese costume.
  • Serve Quong Tart's famous scones - recipe provided below.

Recipe for Quong Tart's famous scones. It makes about 20 scones.


  • 3 cups of flour
  • 4 teaspoons of baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 60g of butter
  • 1 egg
  • ¾ cup of milk
  • Sugar]


  1. Put flour, baking powder and salt into a large bowl and mix together.
  2. Rub the butter into the dry ingredients until they are like breadcrumbs.
  3. In another bowl, beat the egg, milk and a teaspoon of sugar together until the sugar dissolves.
  4. Pour this mixture over the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly into a dough (go on, use your hands)
  5. Sprinkle a board with a couple of tablespoons of sugar (not flour) and using a lightly floured rolling pin, roll out the dough until about 2cm thick. Cut this into 5cm circles.
  6. Place on a greased baking tray in a pre-heated over set at 215°C fr about 12 minutes or until golden brown.
  7. Put on a rack to cool or serve warm with butter, jam or honey.

NSW Syllabus for the Australian Curriculum History K - 10

A student:

  • HT2-2 describes and explains how significant individuals, groups and events contributed to changes in the local community over time
  • HT2-5 applies skills of historical inquiry and communication 


Comprehension: chronology, terms and concepts

  • respond, read, write to show understanding of historical matters

Analysis and use of sources

  • locate relevant information for sources provided (ACHHS068, ACHHS084, ACHHS215, ACHHS216)

Explanation and communication

  • use a range of communication forms (oral, graphic, written) and digital technologies (ACHHS071, ACHHS087)
  • Significance: importance of an event, development or individual/group

Learning across the curriculum

  • Literacy
  • Asia and Australia’s engagement with Asia

Cross-curriculum priority

Achievements and contributions of the peoples of Asia

OI.3 The peoples and countries of Asia have contributed and continue to contribute to world history and human endeavour.

Asia-Australia engagement

OI.6 Australia is part of the Asia region and our histories from ancient times to the present are linked.

OI.8 Australians of Asian heritage have influenced Australia’s history and continue to influence its dynamic culture and society