Cao Bian village lies far enough away from fast growing Zhongshan City that it is still surrounded by fields and continues to have a traditional small village feel to it. But while modern life appears to be passing Cao Bian by for the moment, this village was once central to a network of travel, remittance flows and modernisation that linked it closely with, among other places, northern Queensland.
Proof of this is proudly presented by Cao Bian itself where in a dedicated history room are displayed numerous documents originating in Australia. These documents are CEDT’s (Certificate Exempting Dictation Test), given to Cao Bian villagers in Queensland so that they could return to Australia if they wished without being subject to the Dictation Test. Duplicate copies of these same documents are in the National Archives.
The village of Cao Bian it seems sent many of its residents to northern Queensland where they worked as market gardens, as storekeepers and on sugar plantations. They remitted money to their families and in the early 20th century they also sent money to erect the impressive building in which the history room is now located. This building was the new village school and at the time represented all that was modern and progressive. It is now the administrative offices for the high school adjacent.
That traces of the infamous White Australia policy can be found in this small village set amongst the hills and fields of Zhongshan’s South District (formerly Liang Du) is a reminder that Chinese-Australian history is one that involved and continues to involve people and places in many locations.