Season 2 Episode 1: John Shying - The story of Australia's first known Chinese settler


Listen via the player above, via Apple Podcasts or your favourite podcast app.
John Shying's name on the Welcome Wall at the Australian National Maritime Museum
John Shying's name on the Welcome Wall at the Australian National Maritime Museum
Image: ANMM
John Shying is the first known Chinese person to arrive in Australia and make a life Down Under. He emigrated to the colony at Sydney as a young man in 1818, just 30 years after the First Fleet. He was a skilled tradesman and earned his keep as a carpenter before moving out west and becoming a publican. 

John Shying was a keen property developer, buying and selling land and building houses and hotels. Basically, he dealt in property and booze - quintessential Australian pastimes!

With his English-born wife, he had four sons. All of the Shying boys would go into trade as carpenters, undertakers and merchants. Between them they had at least 31 children, meaning that there are literally thousands of descendants of Australia’s first Chinese settler in Australia today. 

Many of Shying's descendants became undertakers and cabinetmakers. This is J. & G. Undertakers at George Street.
Image: State Library of NSW

There’s an idea amongst European Australians that if you can trace your lineage back to the early years of the colony, you are part of “Australian Royalty”. So if your last name is Shying or Dunn, Slayford, Owen, Proctor or Murphy, you may very well be a part of Australian Royalty through Australia’s first known Chinese immigrant.

John Shying - Sale of Peacock Inn 1844
John Shying's signature from power of attorney 1831
John Shying Publican's license for the Lamb Inn, 1837 - State Archives NSW
John Shying - Publican's license for the Golden Lion, 1830 - State Archives NSW
Private John Joseph Shying, grandson of John Shying - SLM
John Shying - Mak Sai Ying Signatures - Parramatta Heritage Centre
John Shying - Undertakers
John Shying-Bridget Gillory Marriage Certificate 1842
John Shying Sarah Jane Thompson marriage - St John's Anglican Church Parramatta
John Shying Bridget Gillory marriage certificate
John Shying Bridget Gillory marriage certificate full page - St John's Parramatta
John Sheen’s gravestone - Picture and grave-clean by Chris Pigott
John Joseph Shying (grandson) - Museum of Chinese Australian History
Elizabeth Farm
John James Shying (son)
Chinese signiature from John Shying Bridget Gillory Marriage Cert 1842
Attorney General's letter to Sarah Shying, wife of John Shying
John Shying Australian Census NSW 1828


12 May 1821 - SURVEYOR GENERAL'S OFFICE, SYDNEY. (1821). The Sydney Gazette and NSW Advertiser.

Bagnall, K. (2013). Man Sue Bach, 1790–1862: the ‘oldest Chinese colonist’ in New South Wales. Retrieved from The Tiger's Mouth: 

Blomer, V. (1999). AN ALIEN IN THE ANTIPODES. Retrieved from 

Clarke, R. (2018). How Chinese immigration became one of the most controversial topics in the colonies. Retrieved from National Library of Australia: 

Dr Soutphommasane, T. (2018). The Chinese presence in Australia | Australian Human Rights Commission. Community Sentiment and Chinese Australian Experiences. Parramatta.

Early Chinese migrants. (n.d.). Retrieved from National Museum of Australia: 

Fang, J. (2019). 200 years of Chinese-Australians: First settler's descendants reconnect with their roots. Retrieved from ABC Australia: 

Fitzgerald, S. (2008). Chinese | The Dictionary of Sydney. Retrieved from Dictionary of Sydney: 

Han, H. (2018, 12 February). Bicentenary's unlikely poster boy. The Australian.

John Pong Shying. (n.d.). Retrieved from Australian Royalty: 

John Shying. (n.d.). Retrieved from WikiVisually: 

Lyell, L. (2019). Persons of interest...: The Mystery of Mak Sai Ying: What’s in a name? Retrieved from 

Mak, Sai Ying | The Dictionary of Sydney. (n.d.). Retrieved from 

Sahni, N. (2017). Mak Sai Ying Aka John Shying. Retrieved from Parramatta Heritage Centre: 

Su, T. (2018). Chinese in the Australian Dictionary of Biography and Australia. Australian Journal of Biography and History, 1, 171-180.

Tao, K. (2018). Two centuries of Chinese migration. Retrieved from Australian National Maritime Museum: 

Williams, M. (1999). Chinese Settlement in NSW: a thematic history. Parramatta. Retrieved from