The Northland woman who revived knowledge of the Ventnor tragedy among New Zealand's Chinese community says the spirits of the 499 men whose bones went down with the ship are now at peace.
On Saturday several hundred people gathered at Manea Footprints of Kupe Centre in Opononi for the dedication of a memorial to the Chinese men whose remains were lost when the SS Ventnor sank off Hokianga Heads in 1902.
The men's exhumed bodies had been on their way to China for burial in their home villages so, according to Chinese tradition, families could tend their graves and their souls could rest.
The memorial also thanks the people of Te Roroa and Te Rarawa who gathered the remains as they washed up along the coast, then buried them alongside their own dead.
While the story was part of west coast oral history it was not widely known elsewhere in New Zealand, and it was almost entirely forgotten by New Zealand's Chinese community.
That was until 2007 when Liu Sheung Wong of Rawene stumbled on the story.
"I was at a film course and I realised you best have a topic if you want to make a film. I knew [historian] James Ng of Otago so I rang him and he said, 'Fantastic, there's lots of research to do about the Ventnor, but I ran out of time'."
At that time Wong knew a ship of that name had sunk in sad circumstances but that was all. The more she learned the more she realised she would have to build relationships with Māori.
"So I spent the next five years gathering information and giving presentations and I just met the most amazing people in that process. They said, 'Keep going, do more research'. They told me their stories and it all matched up."
Wong passed her research to the NZ Chinese Association and helped organise the first Ching Ming ceremony in Hokianga in 2013 to allow the men's spirits to rest.
Later, around 2017, the association took on the project of building the memorial.
After a major setback when construction work at Rawene cemetery caused graves to collapse in heavy rain, trustees of the Manea centre offered the Ōpononi site and work started again.
Wong said she felt "incredibly proud" of the memorial and delighted the names of all 499 men, plus the 13 crew, had been read aloud for the first time during Saturday's ceremony.
She hoped people would continue to travel to Hokianga each year for Ching Ming celebrations, in which people make food offerings and light incense sticks for the dead.
Wong said she was not a direct descendant of any of the 499 Chinese men but she came from the same district of Guang Dong.
Despite the difficulties along the way Wong said she was never tempted to give up.
"You sit it out and slowly the path is built, and now here we are at journey's end. This ends this project for me, now I can devote my time to other things."
As for the souls of the 499 men Wong said they were no longer lost or hungry.
"We will keep feeding them, I will keep lighting joss sticks and telling them: 'This is your home now. We're looking after you'."