Melbourne's Chinatown, dating from the gold rush days of the 1850s, is the longest continuous Chinese settlement in the western world. Today it is clearly marked by enormous Chinese arches along Little Bourke St, from Spring St down to Swanston St at each intersection. Roughly near the middle lays Celestial Avenue, a dead-end lane between Swanston and Russell streets.
Celestial Avenue was first known as Celestial Alley, and was named for its Chinese residents, as 'Celestial' was a term commonly used in European colonies of the nineteenth century to refer to Chinese immigrants, the sons of China's Celestial Empire.
From 1853 Chinese people first began arriving to Melbourne in significant numbers on their way to Victoria's gold rushes. In late 1854 the first Chinese lodging houses were recorded in Little Bourke Street and Celestial Avenue. Initially the area was a cheap and convenient staging post for new Chinese immigrants as well as supplies en route to the goldfields. Lodging houses were quickly joined by merchants, provisions stores and the premises of clan and district benevolent societies which catered to this shifting population.
The Chinese established themselves as storekeepers, importers, furniture-makers, herbalists and in the wholesale fruit and vegetable and restaurant industries. Christian churches were built and Chinese political groups and newspapers were formed.
Little Bourke Street today is a bustling collection of Asian restaurants and cafes mingled with an eclectic mix of Chinese run businesses, car parks and building sites. On the corner of Little Bourke and Celestial is Kun Ming. Established in 1958 it is one of Chinatowns oldest cafes still under the same ownership.
A well seasoned cacher may choose to come have lunch or dinner at on of the many cafes around ground zero. You probably wont find peppermint on the menu, but you'll be looking for it around here.