Chinese Graves and Burning Towers
The Victorian goldfields were characterised by the large numbers of Chinese miners who, along with others from Britain and Europe, came to try their luck with the gold pan and pick.
Beechworth was no exception. By 1856, there were many Chinese in the district and numbers swelled following the Buckland riots in July, 1857, when many Chinese, having been driven out of the Buckland, joined their brethren at Beechworth.
The Chinese formed their own community within the town, and "Chinatown" was to be found along the Lower Stanley Road, on the high side of where Lake Sambell is now situated. It had its own shops, Joss House and Temple.
The Chinese took an active interest in town affairs and were generous donors to appeal to build Ovens District Hospital in 1856-57. They also formed a colourful part of the annual procession through Beechworth’s main streets.
The Burning Towers were built in 1857, and were used for burning paper prayers and meals for the dead.
The Towers were not used for cremation. It is interesting to note that in northern China, it was the custom to burn paper prayers and meals at the graveside, whereas in southern China, burning towers were used.
The existence of the Beechworth Towers indicates that a large section of the Chinese community here were from southern China.
The altar in front of the Burning Towers was not built until 1883-84.
Although there are thought to be about 2000 Chinese persons buried here, it was the wish of all Chinese persons to be buried in China. For this reason it was relatively common for bodies to be exhumed and sent back to China with relatives, where re-burial would take place.