Chinese Heritage Types collection

Find out about the work of restoring, researching and celebrating the Chinese heritage types that were used to print The New Zealand Chinese Growers Journal.

Wai-te-ata Chinese heritage types
Winnie Chan and Laywood Chan admire the decorative borders designed by Laywood's father. Photo credit: Andy Spain

About the Chinese Heritage Types collection

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington and the Dominion Federation of New Zealand Chinese Commercial Growers unveiled the Chinese Growers Printing Collection on Thursday 15 September 2016 as part of Chinese Language Week.

At the event the project between the University and the Dominion Federation of New Zealand Chinese Commercial Growers was officially launched, and the agreement signed. The agreement marks the formal start of the relationship and the transfer of guardianship of New Zealand’s only surviving Chinese language printing typeface collection to the University.

Restoring a national treasure

The printing collection holds significant cultural and historical value for the Chinese community and was used by the Dominion Federation of New Zealand Chinese Commercial Growers to print its monthly newsletters, the New Zealand Chinese Growers Monthly Journal, from 1952-1972. The print collection will now be restored, revitalised and rehoused at the University's Wai-te-ata Press.

Dr Sydney Shep of Wai-te-ata Press says: “Repatriating these unique types back to Wellington and putting them back into action offers an unprecedented opportunity for Victoria University of Wellington to help link past with present, language with culture, scholars with communities, and to catalyze new interest in the complexities of Chinese print history and its New Zealand stories.”

Funding for the Studio and project

The Chinese Scholars’ Studio and Heritage Type project is supported by donations from the Chan family, the Chinese Poll Tax Heritage Trust, the New Zealand China Friendship Society and the Dominion Federation of New Zealand Chinese Commercial Growers.

The Chan family have a long and generous history of giving to the University and they have a very personal connection with the project as their grandfather, Dan Chan, was the first editor of the New Zealand Chinese Growers Monthly.

Watch a video about the history of the collection

detail of handwritten list of Chinese characters to order

Building the original collection

Two manuscript collections at the Alexander Turnbull Library yield insights to how the type collection grew.

Staff gathering up and placing handfuls of metal type on a galley tray

The restoration process

Preparing the Chinese heritage type collection for future studio use requires significant restoration work.

Wai-te-ata team enjoy a typesetting demostration by Mr. Wu of Letterpress Teahouse

Our research journey

The Wai-te-ata team visit Taiwan and Hong Kong in search of answers to our Chinese heritage type research questions

A hand applies ink to a forme; two people operate a printing press.

Past activities

The Press celebrates Lunar New Year and Moon Festival each year and has taken part in a diverse range of local and international initiatives.