If people are of one heart even the yellow earth can become gold

Ancient Chinese Proverb


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How can I teach learners about Chinese history?

'Sun Gum Aotearoa' is a set of resources designed to help your ākonga/students learn about and explore the world of Cantonese settlers in Aotearoa New Zealand.

We provide you with a range of lesson plans and resources that address key questions and learning experiences from the Curriculum. Covering topics as diverse as goldmining and its environmental impacts to the post-goldrush experiences of Cantonese Chinese settlers in New Zealand society, tāmariki will learn how the Cantonese Chinese community have influenced and contributed to the Ōtākou and Murihiku regions.


See Chinese/Aotearoa History

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Years 0-3:

  • Seven lesson plans, including a resource kete for each.
  • Lessons can be done in class and might include a field trip to a local museum or educational programme, including Toitū, Otago Settlers Museum; Lan Yuan, Dunedin Chinese Garden or Te Hikoi Museum, Riverton/Aparima.
  • Activities include letter-writing, map-marking, gold-panning and lantern-making.

Your Year 0 - 3 students will learn some of the reasons people leave their homes and settle elsewhere, using their own migration histories as a portal to the past. Learners can discuss the places their whānau are from and explore the ways in which they maintain cultural connections. They’ll also consider how settler groups travelled to Aotearoa New Zealand, how they provided for themselves and why the Cantonese Chinese came to Otago in search of gold. Ākonga will discover what the lives of early Chinese were like, what challenges they faced socially and emotionally, and what other occupations they sought when the gold ran out.

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Years 4-6:

  • Nine lesson plans, including a resource kete for each.
  • Lessons can be done in class and might include a field trip to a local museum or educational programme including Toitū, Otago Settlers Museum; Lan Yuan, Dunedin Chinese Garden; the Waikaia Museum or Lawrence Museum.
  • Activities include historical photo analysis, diary and newspaper analysis, census data analysis, the creation of folded paper dragons and a ‘Choose your own adventure’.
  • This unit is an expanded version of our 0 – 3 curriculum.

Your Year 4 - 6 students will learn about the various cultures that make up a community by first exploring their own migration histories. They will gain an understanding of the reasons why the Cantonese Chinese travelled to Aotearoa New Zealand from the 1860s and the experiences of these settlers in Otago. Ākonga/students will focus on the quest to find gold and try their luck at panning. The unit also delves into attitudes towards early Cantonese Chinese and the discrimination that led to the implementation of the Poll Tax. Students will explore the post-goldrush experiences of Chinese in Aotearoa and some of the various occupations they had after mining, all of which led to the Chinese finding their place in Aotearoa New Zealand. Students will also understand how Cantonese kept their culture and traditions alive in the present, while also adapting to new situations and opportunities. 

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Years 7-8:

In development

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Years 9-10:

In development

Student Stories

Two Chinese men were gold mining. They had a cricket in a cage. One gold miner nearly gave up but the other one said “Do not give up’ so he kept on doing it and he found one million pieces of gold. They went home to their families.

By Chinese Gold Miner Phoebe

I am a Chinese Gold Miner and I found lots of gold. I live in a tiny hut with a mat. Under my mat I keep my gold flakes safe. It is very cold in my hut.

By Chinese Gold Miner Hunter

I am a Gold Miner. I came from China. It is hard work gold mining and I miss my family. We wear the same clothes every day.

By Chinese Gold Miner Vivienne

l am a Chinese Gold Miner, and I came to New Zealand on a boat. I want to find gold at the lake so I can go back to my family. I am sad and tired. I haven’t found a gold flake in months.

By Chinese Gold Miner Demi
I loved teaching this programme to my Year 6 class. They were highly engaged and it was a fantastic topic to integrate into other curriculum areas. The content prompted in-depth discussion on the wrongs of prejudice and discrimination. I enjoyed learning about this important part of Otago history alongside the children.
I learnt a lot during this topic. I really admire what the Chinese immigrants did. Now when I drive through Central Otago I think about what I learnt.
It was very interesting learning about the challenges that the Chinese goldminers faced. We talked as a class about prejudice and discrimination. It is important to learn about this so that people know not to do this in future.
This was a completely different topic from any I had done before. I loved all of the activities such as the art, the writing and reading the novel 'Children of the Rush'. I learnt so much about Otago that I won't forget.
This unit captured my attention. It was so compelling I went on a Chinese Gold Mining weekend to Central Otago and visited the sites, walking their footsteps back in time. Thinking of what life was like for the Chinese, my heart went out to them and it made me question why so little had been documented in our history.