The Chinese In Guyana

The Chinese In Guyana

By Peter Halder


    African slavery provided free labor for the sugar industry in what was then British Guiana. Slavery was abolished in 1834. The freed slaves jubilantly left the plantations and the inhuman treatment meted out to them to seek a new future of their own choosing. That created a vacuum in the sugar industry and an immediate need and demand for cheap labor. The plantocracy in collaboration with the colonial administration first brought Portuguese from Madeira, Portugal. They were found to be unsuitable. They were replaced by Chinese from Canton in China.

 Chinese Arrival

    January 12, 2013 marked the 160th Anniversary of the arrival of Chinese in Guyana.     

Chinese were brought to the colony under a Contract of Indenture to work as directed by the British Immigration Agent.

The first contingent of 811 Chinese arrived on 12 January 1853 on the ship, the Glendenner. The Lord Elgin and Samuel Boddington brought more that year. The last ship to go to the colony was the Dartmouth in 1879.

Each Chinese laborer had to sign a contract under which he was required to perform any kind of work he was ordered to by the British Immigration Agent. He had to work for at least nine and a half hours a day, six days a week. Sunday was a day of rest. For his hard work, sweat and tears, he was paid the sum of $4 a month and received a daily ration allowance of 8 ozs of salt meat and two and a half pounds of other food items.

The flow of Chinese increased significantly between 1860 and 1866. By then, their population increased to 10,822. During their indenture, they were taken to the colony in 39 ships, voyages lasting between 70-177 days.

On arrival, the laborers were distributed to sugar plantations in the three counties of Essequibo, Demerara and Berbice, based on quotas submitted by estate owners. Families were kept together. Avaliable distribution figures were as follows: Essequibo mainland 1,334; Essequibo Islands 945; West Coast Demerara 2,295; Demerara River 1,985; East Coast Demerara 3,118, West Coast Berbice 225; Berbice River 374; East Coast Berbice 565; and Corentyne 424. Females are excluded from the figures.

The flow eventually began to decline and only two ships, in 1874 and 1879, brought Chinese.

By 1900, the population of Chinese in Guyana was reduced to 2,919. Many of the immigrants had left to find better working conditions and a new future in Suriname, Trinidad and French Guiana.

The first President of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana, the late Arthur Raymond Chung, was of Chinese ancestry. He took office on 17 March 1970. And the current Chief Justice (acting), Justice Ian Chang, is of Chinese ethnicity.

Today, there are still Chinese in Guyana. Their population, unlike a century ago, is expanding due to the growing involvement of the People’s Republic of China in Guyana, the presence of Chinese companies carrying out major construction projects and the steady flow of Chinese entrepreneurs to the country. A Chinese conglomerate, the BOSAI Minerals Group, owns and manages the bauxite industry at Linden.

The Chinese Association on Brickdam has played a central role among the Chinese in Guyana and the Chinese Sports Club, later COSMOS, on Thomas Lands, was a popular hangout for cricket, hockey, 4-ball billiards, table tennis and Dances, particularly on Old Year’s Night.

Chinese restaurants and cook-shops are plentiful and Chinese dishes are a feature of the food culture of Guyana.


*Source: The History of The Chinese In Guyana by Trev Sue-A-Quan

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  • de castro compton  On September 18, 2013 at 4:59 pm

    Without stereotyping people I do feel that greed played a major part in the success the Chinese enjoyed in business in Guyana….their astuteness and thrift was ever present in their business operations….like the Portuguese before them they were good shop keepers.
    Today corporations hand pick graduates who show this greed-factor in their
    higher education at universities….some of the best market traders/marketeers
    in business are greed driven…some so greedy that they “gamble” and loose
    only to be exposed as per rouge trader Lesson….examples of how greed can
    become an obsession….
    A chinaman can survive on a bowl of rice a day yet produce as much or more than most other races so they are very much in demand in production…today Chinese produce almost every consumer items the world buys …it is a simple matter of numbers that Chinese and
    China has the most consumers so in production of consumer items they are world leaders…today they are a very vibrant nation of hard working people….
    China is now the most capitalistic country on the planet….replacing USA.
    India and Brazil not far behind….
    Our world is changing
    Our world will change
    Our world must change

    Hopefully for a more productive healthier and wealthier one…

    My opinion entirely
    Many may disagree but I welcome disagreements as I learn more by it !


  • Deen  On September 19, 2013 at 3:05 pm

    Kamptan, I agree with your comments. I recall the Chinese in Guyana were very diligent and most popular as shopkeepers. I grew up loving Chinese dishes and pastries. One of the most popular chines merchant in my community was widely know for his “mauby and white-eye.”…….his shop was the best place for a snack. Also, another had the best restaurant for Chinese food. At he time, It was rumored that the wealthiest Chinese used to indulge in opium and gambling. I thought they have made and are still making a great contribution to the Guyanese society….even though they are the minority.

  • Rosaliene Bacchus  On September 19, 2013 at 4:06 pm

    While growing up in Guyana, I observed the Chinese ability to start a business with little means and, through hard work and diligence, build it into a successful enterprise.

  • de castro compton  On September 19, 2013 at 10:27 pm

    In my days in Royal Mail working with the Chinese I found them quick to learn
    but lacking in creativeness….today they not only “copy” but they “improve” “perfect”….they have come a far way….today their leaders are concerned
    about “social media” ….. Revolution of thinking….am sure they fear another
    tinaman square ….another revolution ! A worry for their leaders……
    You can suppress most of the masses all of the time
    but not ” all” of the masses all of the time…Chinese dilemma…


  • Sandra Westford  On September 26, 2013 at 12:28 am

    Hello, what is wrong with hard work and dedication of any race…check yourself.

  • Lynette Andrews Baker  On October 1, 2013 at 5:08 pm

    Each ethnic group who was part of the landscape at that time played a significant role in the well being and development of Guiana. Applying their inherited skills and talents they were able to make a mamouth contribution to what is now Guyana. Our Chinese brothers and sisters from China will take Guyana into the next stages of development and into the future for years to come, and, also restore the vibrancy that was once part of each and every ethnic group.

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