The Museum has recently purchased a suite of etchings by John Young 楊子榮 titled TIMES SLOW PASSING - the 19th century asylum diary of Jong Ah Siug. 

Jong Ah Siug (c.1837–1900) was a young illiterate miner in Victoria from Zhongshan. In 1867 at Bealiba, Victoria, Jong was tried for ‘malicious wounding’ following an altercation with a fellow miner. Though found not guilty, he was sent to the Yarra Bend and Sunbury lunatic asylums. In time he learned some English and documented his plight in a minuscule palm-sized diary. Jong remained incarcerated for thirty-three years until his death in 1900. The original diary is held in the Victorian State Library Collection.

With this artistic project, the artist John Young intimately and painstakingly replicated, often in reverse, segments of this palm size diary. For Jong Ah Siug, the diary was the only testament for his sanity, endurance, agency, hope and ultimately his existence - in the harsh, lifelong incarceration. The act of replicating to scale this miniature diary, the artist found and learnt of the somatic value of rhythm, concentration and the marking of time’s slow passing from Jong Ah Siug. By doing so, the artist points to Jong’s impossible attempt of exoneration due to a denial of language and agency, but points to aspects that kept him alive - hope, presence and fantasy.

John’s contemporary artistic works will feature in one of a series of exhibitions to be held at the Museum over the next 12 months comprising contemporary works and historic paper-based records from the Museum’s Collection that become a rich documentation of Chinese Australian life and circumstance of the late 19th to early 20th Century.

The funding to acquire this artwork was generously donated by Carrillo Gantner.