9 February, 2018

About The Fruits of Our Labours: Chinese Fruit Shops in New Zealand

Many of us remember well the daily or weekly trip to the local shops to buy our food supplies – meat, bread, milk, fruit and veges. Often, the fruit and vege shop was run by a Chinese family, all working together to provide the customer with the freshest fruit and produce, always accompanied by personalised service. However, the introduction of self-service retailing and the emergence of supermarkets led to the demise of the independent retailer, and the days of the Chinese fruiterer have all but ended.

The Fruits of Our Labours traces the development of Chinese fruit shops from the general store-cum-greengrocer of the 1880s through to the fresh fruit and vegetable retailer of today. The 1950s and 60s were the heyday years of Chinese fruit shops: a time of economic growth and prosperity after the hard times of the Depression and the Second World War, both of which affected Chinese fruiterers.

Authors Ruth Lam, Beverly Lowe, Helen Wong, Michael Wong, and Carolyn King were commissioned by the Chinese Poll Tax Heritage Trust to produce this fully-illustrated, two-volume set. It combines historical research and statistics with the personal stories and photographs of Chinese fruit shop families to give a better understanding of the hard work and sacrifice that led to their eventual prosperity and that of their descendants – the fruits of their labours.


About the authors of The Fruits of Our Labours

Ruth Lam

Ruth Lam (林陳露) is a second-generation New Zealand Chinese of Jung Seng descent and she grew up in the family’s fruit shop in Papatoetoe. Both her paternal and maternal grandparents were also fruiterers. She is married to Alex Lam, a market gardener at Pukekawa and they have four children and three grandchildren. She has a Master of Arts with Honours in education from the University of Auckland and worked for the Franklin District Library Trust as the customer services manager for seven years. The arrival of grandchildren encouraged her to find out more about her ancestors’ origins and she has researched the family histories of both her own family and Alex’s family.

Ruth co-authored Sons of the Soil: Chinese Market Gardeners in New Zealand published in 2012. This was a major project that enabled her to combine research skills with an interest in the history of Chinese New Zealanders. In 2014, Ruth assisted with the writing of Har Gee Chans in New Zealand for the family reunion of the Chan families who came from Har Gee in Jung Seng county, her father’s ancestral village. Ruth has appreciated the opportunity to be involved in the fruit shops project as it has enabled her to follow her interests and give this aspect of Chinese history due recognition.

Beverly Lowe

Beverly Lowe (劉翠琼) is a first-generation New Zealand Chinese, born in Auckland. In 1916, her maternal great-grandfather arrived in New Zealand from Jeung Bi, Jung Seng, followed by her grandfather in 1920. They opened their first fruit shop in 1922. Three generations continued as fruiterers until 1981. Her paternal grandfather, from Sek Har, Jung Seng, arrived in 1920 and had a market garden in Mangere. Her grandmothers came to New Zealand as war refugees in 1939 and 1940 with their children, aged 10 and 13. Beverly grew up working in the market garden and later helped in her father's fruit shop in Howick.

Beverly first qualified and worked as a telecommunications technician, blazing a trail for women by being the first female employed in this role by the New Zealand Post Office. She became involved in the education of her two daughters, which led to a career in teaching. She gained her Higher Diploma in Teaching and held senior management positions in primary schools and continued to study towards a Diploma in School Management. After retiring, she tutored students in reading, writing and mathematics. Beverly has three grandchildren.

Beverly has a passionate interest in the history of Chinese New Zealanders and over the last few years had the time to research her own family history. It was through this research that she became involved in the history of Chinese fruit shops project.

Helen Wong

Since the 1980s, Helen Wong (陳美英), a second-generation New Zealand-born Chinese, has assisted people discover their Chinese roots. She has successfully helped New Zealand, American and Canadian Chinese to trace their ancestral villages which often results in visits to China and family reunions. To share her knowledge and encourage others to find their ancestors, Helen presented From Sojourners to Fair Dinkum Kiwi – research on Chinese families who migrated from China to New Zealand – at New Zealand’s Family History Fair in Manukau (2013); research on finding Chinese ancestors to the New Zealand China Friendship Society (2014); and several talks at the Auckland Libraries Central Research Centre.

Helen’s passion for Chinese genealogy has led her to self-publish two books: In the Mountain’s Shadow: A Century of Chinese in Taranaki 1870-1970 in 2010 and Second Burial: New Zealand Chinese Experience 1883 and 1902 in 2013. She co-authored Gwa Leng Wongs in New Zealand: Our Genealogical History, Our Village’s Story, Our Families’ Stories (2010) and contributed research to Har Gee Chans in New Zealand (2014) and Zengcheng New Zealanders: A History for the 80th Anniversary of the Tung Jung Association of New Zealand (2006). Helen records family histories and maintains a message board, Facebook pages, Twitter account and several blogs.

Michael Wong

Michael Wong (黄定球) is a chartered professional civil engineer with Jung Seng ancestry. His great-grandfather was Wong Wei Jung who came to New Zealand in 1896 and was brutally murdered in his fruit shop in Adelaide Road in Wellington in 1914. This tragedy has inspired him to write not only about his family history on both sides of his family, but also to contribute to books such as Zengcheng New Zealanders and co-author Gwa Leng Wongs in New Zealand. Being from a fruit shop background of three generations he is pleased to be able to contribute to this book as he is passionate about Chinese history. He is married to Linda and they have three sons, Chris, Spencer, Brandon, and five grandchildren. He is a past-president of the New Zealand Chinese Association (Hawke’s Bay) and was NZCA national vice president for two years. Michael was a member of the government appointed Chinese Poll Tax Advisory Team formed in 2002, following the Government apology to New Zealand Chinese for past injustices. In his role as co-ordinator for the lower North Island he has enjoyed the contact with many families who have shared their stories for this book.

Carolyn King

Carolyn King (伍黃嘉玲) is from three generations of fruiterers and being the eldest child worked in her mother Ivy’s shop, Wong’s Fruit Shop, in Dunedin throughout her school and university years. After graduating with a Home Science diploma she trained as a dietitian. On her marriage to Tong King, she moved to Ashburton where Tong was in partnership with his dad and two brothers at the King Bros Fruiterers. They have a son, Alton, and a daughter, Julie-Ann, both married with children. After 40 years working as a dietitian and nutritionist in Ashburton and Canterbury rural areas she retired in 2009.

Over the years Carolyn has served on committees of the Ashburton branches of the Heart Foundation, Diabetes NZ, Home Science Alumnae and the Soroptimist International, a women’s service club. She has also done many cooking demonstrations and been involved in fundraising events, and been the guest speaker at schools and community groups.  Carolyn enjoys the garden, walks 3-5 times a week for exercise, loves reading a good book and plays golf and contract bridge in her leisure time.

In 2013, she wrote and published Por Pors’ Cookbook, featuring home cooking through the generations since Chinese women settled in New Zealand and the grandmothers’ life stories. With her Chinese heritage and wide family connections, Carolyn has found communicating and reconnecting with families of the fruiterers from the South Island most pleasurable over the last three years.




Wong Gar Sui and his wife Chung Mew Yuen, with son Peter, daughter Anne and unknown boy, in their fruit shop, W Chong, at 305 Ponsonby Road, Auckland, c1922.

REF 1/2-037502-G, image has been modified and cropped. ALEXANDER TURNBULL LIBRARY





Chinese Fruit Shops Research Group, back, from left: Carolyn King, Michael Wong and Helen Wong.

Front, from left: Ruth Lam and Beverly Lowe.



Information for ordering The Fruits of Our Labours 

The Fruits of Our Labours is a two-volume, softcover set of books. To ensure you get your copy as soon as it is released and at the best price, please pre-order and pay before 24 February 2018. Then come along to one of the book launches to collect your order and meet the authors. 



The Fruits of Our Labours is available as a two-volume softcover set for $90.00 per set incl GST. There is also a limited edition of hardcover sets available (first come, first served) for $120.00 per set incl GST. Postage and packaging is $11.00 extra.


Pre-order special price

Pre-orders will be accepted until 24 February 2018 at the special price of $80.00 per set (softcover) plus P&P. NB: there is no special price for the hardcover set.



Cheques - make payment to theChinese Poll Tax Heritage Trust and post cheque to Ruth Lam, 35 Hunt Road, RD1, Tuakau, 2696

Online banking - transfer funds to BNZ account: 02-0536-0112633-26  

Please use your surname and phone no as the reference                                                            

Please email a screenshot of the confirmation of payment page to fruitsofourlabours@gmail.com

How to take a screenshot on a PC or laptop:     

Press the Windows keyand the print screen key (or Shift key + print screen key) at the same time to take the screenshot. Paste or attach it into your email message. 

NB: the screenshot may have been saved to the Screenshots folder of your Pictures folder. If so, then copy the screenshot and paste it into your email message.

How to take a screenshot on an iPad or tablet:

Press the Home button and the on/off button at the same time to take the screenshot. It will be saved to the Photos folder and can be emailed as a photo.


General enquiries

Email the Chinese Fruit Shops Research Group for all other enquiries fruitsofourlabours@gmail.com