Panels 11-15

Panel 11: Intimacy, Class, Ethnicity and Power Inversion


Kitchen Snacks: Chinese Cooks and the Colonial Children in Twentieth-Century Asia

Cecilia Leong-Salobir

University of Wollongong

This paper examines representations of the Chinese cook by two members of the colonial household in twentieth-century Malaysia and Singapore. The Mem or colonial mistress presided over the household, ‘supervising’ meal preparation and food procurement. Children from the British families who were raised in the Southeast Asian colonies mostly had close ties with the cook, often eating with the cook and obtained special treats from the kitchen.

Although having no explicit duties for the colonial project, Mems followed the unwritten rule of maintaining the colonial home as a pristine environment, away from the natives and unhealthy environment of the tropics. Within these opaque but rigorous terms of reference the Mem and the Chinese cook developed a distinctive hybrid colonial cuisine. We can glean from cookbooks and household manuals not just recipes for the colonial table but specific instructions on how to treat the cook with a firm hand and view him as dishonest and with unsanitary habits. Memoirs similarly tell stories of untrustworthy and cheating cooks but grudgingly concede the marvels of the cook who had to prepare food in primitive kitchens.

Children from the British families in the colonies had a different relationship to the cook and other servants. Not quite colonizer and yet ranking above the servants the colonial children complicated the wider relationship between ruler and the ruled. Unaware of the dynamics of the colonial divide these colonial children had a different perspective to colonial life.  Parents tried to ensure that the children did not get too close to the domestic servants for fear of them ‘going native’. Colonial children grew up and wrote memoirs of their childhoods in tropical lands. Their narratives were of nostalgia tinged with present-day understanding of the colonial past. They almost always recount memories of time in the kitchen with the Chinese cook.

Chinese cooks known generically as ‘Cookie’ in the Southeast Asian colonies were usually male and were from among the large groups of Chinese immigrants partaking in the colonial economy in twentieth- century Asia. Although household servants working for British families were from a range of multi-racial and multi-ethnic origins the cooks were usually Chinese as they were seen as more skilful in their culinary practices.


Contests of Colonial Mastery in Photographs of Chinese ‘Houseboys’ From Southeast Asia, 1880s-1920

Claire Lowrie

University of Wollongong

The archives of colonial Southeast Asia contain hundreds of photographs of white masters and mistresses with their seemingly devoted Asian ‘houseboys’. The Chinese men who predominated in domestic service in this region feature heavily in these images. This paper analyses this rich photographic archive, drawing on examples from the Netherlands Indies, Singapore, Hong Kong, the Philippines and the Northern Territory of Australia.

The central argument of this paper is that photographs of Chinese ‘houseboys’ tending to their white colonial employers constituted a ‘visual discourse’ of empire.  The term ‘discourse’ is used here to describe the shared language, knowledge and messages cultivated within these photographs which at once contributed to and inhibited European colonialisms in Southeast Asia.  I explore how, through the use of the careful choreography, props and captioning, this visual discourse sought to reinforce colonial hierarchies by emphasising unquestioned white mastery and devoted Chinese servitude. At the time, the self-conscious arrangement of these images speak to anxieties about the viability of colonial projects and highlight the potential of the domestic service relationship to destabilise colonial hierarchies.

As well as a tool for understanding the assertions and insecurities of white colonisers, the paper argues that photographs of Chinese male servants can be used to illuminate their working lives and the ways in which they responded to European colonialism. In a context in which archival records left by Chinese male servants are scarce, this paper ‘reads’ photographic representations of male servants ‘against the grain’ in order to destabilize the master narrative of domestic service and, where possible, to bring ‘into focus’ the stories of the servants.  I conclude that both white masters and Chinese servants used the photographic medium to assert their power in the home and the colony.


Mere ‘Child’s Play’: Social Welfare, Transnational Intimacies, and Mixed-Race Asian Lives in Interwar London

Nadine Attewell

McMaster University

In 1932, Irene Ho, second daughter of Hong Kong businessman and philanthropist Sir Robert Ho Tung, enrolled in a doctoral program at the Institute of Education in London. Born into one of Hong Kong’s most prominent Eurasian families, Ho set out to research juvenile delinquency in London’s impoverished East End. Her focus, as she explains in her autobiography (2007), was to have been the children of working-class Chinese men and white women living near the West India Docks in Poplar, whom she had first met at a 1928 Lunar New Year function organized by members of London’s Chinese diplomatic and business circles. Inspired by the work of Basil and Rose Henriques, Jewish social reformers closely associated with the British children’s club movement, she established the Chung Hwa School and Club with the aim of “help[ing] these children to become happy and well-adjusted human beings, worthy of the countries of both their parents” (Ho 79). However, in 1933, she had a breakdown, brought on by physical illness, overwork, her deterioriating relationship with Sir Robert, and “the psychological stress posed by my voluntary work with the young British Eurasians” (Cheng 212). Following her recovery, she changed research topics, and, in 1936, graduated on the strength of a thesis entitled “Ancient and Modern Educational Theory in China.”

In this paper, I reflect on the encounter between Ho, a wealthy postgraduate student from colonial Hong Kong, and Chinese diasporic working-class Britons, as a vexed site of self- and community-formation. Reading Ho’s scholarly and philanthropic involvement with the Chung Hwa Club in relation to similar endeavours spearheaded by members of her Eurasian peer community back in Hong Kong, including the Welfare League (1930) and the Hong Kong Eugenics Society (1936), I enquire into the ends of social welfare work as this was imagined to mediate not only working-class aspirations for individual and communal futures, but elite ones as well. How, conversely, might we read (for) the desires of those working-class Chinese Londoners who Ho claims actively sought her assistance in overcoming deficiencies in the justice system and the provision of social services? What kind of Chineseness – transnational, multiracial, cross-class – was performed or articulated as Ho negotiated with the children of Limehouse and their families and advocates? And how, finally, might we understand Ho’s failure to complete her planned study of “the Intellectual and Temperamental Characteristics of British and Sino-British Children Living in East London”? As a scholar researching the experiences of mixed-race people of Chinese descent in interwar Britain and Hong Kong, I am tantalized by the gap that Ho’s unwritten thesis has left in the archival record. What can this absence, and the pain it bespeaks, tell us about the risks that attend attempts to “know” multiraciality in the past, perhaps especially by mixed-race researchers like myself?


Turning the Tables: How to Bring a Chinese Bushranger’s Perspective Back into History

Meg Foster

University of New South Wales

In Australia today, ‘bushrangers’ are remembered folk heroes. White men who took to the bush and survived by committing ‘robbery under arms’ are lauded as national icons, associated as they are with reckless bravery, chivalry and ridiculing inept or corrupt authorities. But this was not how all bushrangers were seen in their own times, and white men were not the only people to engage in such crimes. There was also a Chinese bushranger named Sam Poo who has received a very different reception to his Anglo, male counterparts.

In the archive, Poo is an ‘absent centre’ around which colonial discourse about crime, punishment, law and race revolve. There are abundant, salacious details of his crimes, but very little can be divined from colonial sources about his background or life before he was branded a criminal. This paper examines the impact of this colonial legacy in history and memory about Australia’s ‘only Chinese bushranger’. It explores the stakes involved in uncritically accepting the information volunteered by colonial archives, as well as the possibilities of an alternative history. To gain more information than the archive was originally intended to tell requires us to read colonial sources against the grain and piece together disparate, fragmentary and often elusive information. But by reading in between the lines of source material and interrogating absences, our understanding of the past changes. What happens if we re-write Sam’s story as an ethnographic history? How does the narrative change if we track down Sam’s origins, and read his actions alongside his experiences and culture?

When historical traces about this Chinese figure are so scarce and incomplete, an alternative approach to history can appear a daunting task. This paper charts the obstacles, trials and triumphs of trying to bring a Chinese bushranger’s perspective back into history. It promotes a critical approach to historical sources and the past, as well as challenging the legacy of this history today.

Panel 12: Chinese-Aboriginal Relations


Chinese—Aboriginal Identity, Indigeneity and Diaspora in Northern Australia

Hilda Maclean

David Trigger

Richard Martin

University of Queensland

Studies of identity in Australia have begun to focus on the complex negotiations of ancestry and heritage involving Aboriginal people and settlers, particularly in the north Australian setting. Indigenous identity can no longer be simply contrasted with settler identity, nor with histories of mixing, mobility and diaspora. Nevertheless, the impact of Chinese and other broadly Asian influences on Aboriginal people in Australia is under-researched, particularly as such influences impact on the politics of post-colonial recognition. In this paper, we discuss Chinese-Aboriginal interactions in the Gulf Country which complicate existing understandings of indigeneity and diaspora in Australia. Many Chinese-Aboriginal families with histories in the region are notable for the lengthy journeys they undertook between China and Australia, as well as subsequent histories of movement both within and outside the Gulf Country. We present indicative case studies that not only demonstrate these movements but also highlight the richness of the publicly available archival resources. In addition, the genealogies of Northern Australian Aboriginal people collected by anthropologist and entomologist Norman Tindale in 1938 have been examined for evidence of Chinese heritage in the population. The preliminary findings of this research which reveals the degree of Chinese ancestry and the impact this has on the social identity of the current generation will be presented.


Chinese—Aboriginal Relationships in Rural and Regional Australia

Barry McGowan

Australian National University

The history of Chinese Aboriginal relations is fraught with misunderstandings, stereotypes and conflicting images. The most negative images of Chinese Aboriginal relationships come from the Palmer River goldfields in North Queensland. The most bizarre story was the rumoured claim that there was a large cave called the Devil’s Kitchen, where captured Chinese were hung on trees outside until needed. I will argue that these accounts were designed to deter the Chinese from travelling to the Palmer and to demonise the Aboriginal people and justify acts of repression and dispossession.

On the southern goldfields the story was different. In Victoria, Aboriginal people were ‘an integral part of goldfields cultural experience for many miners’, as they were on some goldfields in southern NSW, where a number of tribes were at some of the goldfields with their families. Important in this scenario are the drawings of the famed Aboriginal artist Tommy McRae, who lived in north east Victoria. He drew scenes of Aborigines, Europeans and Chinese market gardeners. His most controversial drawings show Aborigines chasing Chinese gardeners with axes. I argue, however, that these drawings cannot reflect reality, at least not locally.

Away from the goldfields many Chinese and Aborigines lived and worked together on the pastoral stations. One obvious area of interaction, as suggested by McRae, was between the Aborigines and the Chinese market gardeners. For example, in central west NSW some Aboriginal elders have attributed the survival of the Aboriginal people largely on the opportunity to work for the Chinese market gardeners, who would provide food and jobs.

A similar picture emerges in North Queensland after the gold rushes. The Chinese were pioneers of tropical North Queensland, clearing much of the dense tropical rain forest and dominating the banana and corn industries. They also owned many other businesses. Many Aborigines provided the casual labour for the Chinese enterprises, and long-term sexual relationships between the two races were common. The Aborigines preferred to work with the Chinese, who were regarded as good employers and usually better and fairer than their European counterparts. A similar pattern of interaction and intermarriage emerged in the northern Territory, where the Chinese were the principal mine and business owners.

That Aborigines and Chinese would associate, work together and intermarry should come as no surprise for both were marginalised people and more culturally aligned than were Europeans with either group. There were of course considerable differences in belief systems and social norms, however, the bulk of the evidence suggests that these liaisons and associations were very real and lasting, and a vital part of the economic and social fabric of rural and regional Australia.


Encounters at the Margins: Chinese Relations with Indigenous Peoples on the Northern Frontier of European Colonization in Australia, 1850 to c.1870

Margaret Slocomb

Independent Researcher

By the mid-nineteenth century, European pastoralists in colonial New South Wales had pushed north with their flocks to around 25 degrees latitude, establishing vast squattages in the lands of the indigenous tribes and clans. Their economic hegemony and physical occupation was formally recognized by declaration of the Burnett District in 1847. Hundreds of indentured labourers, all young men, were imported

from Fujian Province to provide a substantial part of the pastoral workforce in the district. As near outcastes in this small, remote, white-male dominated society, the Chinese shepherds ranked barely above the indigenous inhabitants in terms of their status and regard within the colonial system. This social proximity, however, led to closer and perhaps more equal encounters between the two racial groups than those experienced by the white society.

This paper will examine those personal encounters that were recorded in the local media of the day. In broad terms, those interactions were frequently violent, even fatal in some cases. They were also sexual, although not explicitly referred to as such. There was also commercial exchange, and further cultural destruction visited upon the indigenous peoples through the illicit barter of opium ash. There were also, however, rare recorded instances of simple friendship between men who shared the same menial tasks allotted to them by the squatter employers.

The destruction of aboriginal society and culture in the Burnett district was as swift and thorough as it had been in the southern and middle districts of New South Wales, despite organized and courageous resistance by the embattled indigenous warriors. Did the Chinese indentured labourers contribute to this destruction? The answer is undoubtedly affirmative, but whether there was any permanent and positive legacy emanating from this curious meeting of two ancient cultures is much harder to estimate.


Re-storying and Rekindling: Narratives of Chinese and First Nations Relationships along the Fraser River in British Columbia

Sarah Ling

The University of British Columbia

Panel 13: Archaeological Perspectives on Overseas Chinese

Part 1


Overseas Chinese Archaeology in Australia: Awareness and Reinterpretation

Melissa Dunk

University of Queensland

The research on Overseas Chinese sites in Australia has shown that archaeologists have a good understanding of the type of material culture and the descriptive information expected at each site nevertheless previous approaches has produced a lack of comprehensive, behaviorally orientated research aims and a further analysis of material culture. This has stemmed out of the salvage and conservation of Chinese artefacts, cultural heritage management and opportunistic research which results in an often incomplete and homogenous interpretation of the Overseas Chinese experience. In order to assess the theoretical archaeological approaches on the Overseas Chinese sites in Australia, a review of the existing archaeological research at North Queensland is required; utilising North Queensland Chinatowns as a case study. The most significant movement of Chinese in Queensland was from the coast into the tablelands and therefore the region attracted the Chinese community to establish Chinatowns in coastal places such as Cooktown, Cairns, Townsville, Innisfail and inland places such as Atherton and Croydon. These Chinese places during the nineteenth and early twentieth-century, were well established residential, business and cultural spaces that provided a range of services to both the permanent as well as transient Chinese population. This presentation provides an update on the research into the archaeology of the Chinese in Australia during the nineteenth and early twentieth-century by looking at the current archaeological research at these sites and the results compared to other Overseas Chinese settlement sites. The significance of this research is to contribute towards future research directions, archaeological interpretation and approaches applied to Overseas Chinese sites.


Archaeology of the Chinese Diaspora in British Columbia

Douglas Ross

Simon Fraser University

Archaeological research on the Chinese diaspora in North America and Australasia, which began in the United States in the late 1960s, has grown exponentially in the past two decades. However, although a number of such projects have been undertaken in British Columbia since the early 1980s, Canadian research and researchers are little known and have had relatively little impact on the development of this field of study. I argue that this relative anonymity relates in part to provincial heritage legislation, irregular dissemination of research results, and the one-off nature of most research projects on Chinese sites.

With my recent studies of Chinese and Japanese sites in B.C., I seek to raise the international profile and highlight the research potential of Canadian sites within the broader field of Asian diaspora archaeology, and to contribute to developing method and theory within the discipline. For my doctoral research I compared the everyday lives and consumer habits of Chinese and Japanese labour migrants based on excavations at the historic Ewen Salmon Cannery (1885-1930) on the lower Fraser River in Richmond, using an interpretive framework rooted in theoretical literature on transnationalism and diaspora. I propose that this framework should form the basis for comparative studies of Chinese and other Asian and non-Asian diaspora sites worldwide.

More recently, I have initiated a collaborative historical and archaeological research project with colleagues at UBC and elsewhere focusing on the everyday lives, industrial technologies, and interethnic relations of Chinese placer gold miners in the Fraser Canyon of B.C.’s interior (c. 1858-1910). The Fraser Gold Rush and the industry it spawned have been grossly understudied by archaeologists and historians alike. To date, we have conducted preliminary field surveys of four mining sites and identified remnants of Chinese mining activity at three of them, including household objects and a style of U-shaped cobble hearth similar to ones associated with Chinese miners in Montana.

Together, my colleagues and I hope to fill important gaps in the history and archaeology of the Chinese in British Columbia and contribute in significant ways to the further development of Chinese diaspora archaeology, which is poised to become a major voice in historical archaeology and Chinese diaspora studies more broadly.


Did Ancient Chinese Explore America? My Journey Through the Rocky Mountains to Find Answers

Charlotte Rees

Independent Researcher

A Chinese classic, the Shan Hai Jing, reportedly from 2000 BC, claimed travels to the ends of the earth. However, today many, while accepting the antiquity of this account, believe it was just mythology. But was it more than that?

In 1953 Chicago attorney Henriette Mertz, comparing descriptions from the eastern journeys of the Shan Hai Jing Book 4 and topographical world maps, said that those descriptions fit nowhere else on earth but North America. However, neither Mertz nor anyone else actually went to those locations that she charted.

In early 2003 Charlotte Harris Rees, picked up the research of her late father, Dr. Hendon M. Harris, Jr. about early Chinese exploration in America. She has now written an abridgment of her father’s work plus three other books of her own.

In 1972, Harris, born in Kaifeng, China, to missionary parents and a missionary himself, came across an ancient Asian world map. Harris recognized that many of the locations on that map were from the Shan Hai Jing and that it also showed the Americas. Harris eventually wrote The Asiatic Fathers of America. In the past few years much new evidence supports his thesis – including DNA matching exact Native American and Chinese families.

In 2012, testing Mertz’s hypothesis that the Shan Hai Jing described actual surveys of North America, Rees completed an alleged Chinese trek of 1100 miles (1800 kilometers) along the eastern slope of the US Rocky Mountains. The Shan Hai Jing descriptions should have been easy to disprove but Rees was able to validate over 90% of what had been described.

American archeologists relate that an advanced people went through the Rocky Mountains around 2000 BC but have no idea who those people were.

Rees recognized the correlation between those advanced people and Chinese of the same period. An unexplained astronomical device there is similar to ones from early China. Rock art in that area was previously linked to similar art from China’s earliest dynasties.

Along the route Rees found that the rivers flow as described – some flow north. She recognizes that many ancient homes and burial sites were constructed according to principles of feng shui – facing south and a body of water.

Animals native only to North America, some now extinct, are described in correct habitats. The Shan Hai Jing also describes plants native to China which today unexplainably grow wild in the  Rocky Mountains.

An expert in petroglyphs found ancient Chinese script along this route including names of two Shang dynasty kings on boulders with very old patina, believed to date between1200 to 200 BC.

Nearby is an early etching of tian田 (field), a pictogram of the Chinese irrigation farming – a method used by Native Americans there since at least 1200 BC.

If this section of the Shan Hai Jing is true, then all of the Shan Hai Jing needs to be re-examined in a new light.


Food, Presentation, and Tradition Reflect in Pollen, Phytolith, and Macrofloral Remains From the Market Street Chinatown Site, San Jose, California

Linda Scott Cummings

Peter Kováčik

PaleoResearch Institute

Maintaining traditional diet and customs when away from a homeland, whether temporarily or permanently, presents challenges.  An Overseas Chinese population residing on Market Street in San Jose, California during the mid-19th century left behind an abundance of remains.  Salvage archaeology in 1985–1986 recovered 145 samples.  Ten samples collected from two wood-lined trash pits or possible privies, three unlined trash pits, a wood-lined cistern, and an unlined pit containing pig bones were examined for microscopic and macroscopic botanic remains.

Evidence for consumption of fruits and vegetables, obtained both locally and by import, was recovered.  Fruits represented include watermelon, figs, strawberries,  raspberries/blackberries, elderberries, grapes, jujubes, possibly prickly pear fruits, possibly persimmon fruits, and possibly a member of the soapberry family such as lychee or longan fruits.  Arecaceae phytoliths reflect either dates or coconuts.  Plants consumed as vegetables include many plant parts, including fruits.  They include Chinese winter melon, winter squash, bitter melon, other members of the squash family, several types of beans, peas, tomatoes, and eggplant.  Brassicaceae pollen might reflect consumption of vegetables such as broccoli or cauliflower or possibly greens collected during or after flowering.  Cereals that were part of the diet include rice, corn, barley, wheat, sorghum, and possibly millet.  Walnuts, almonds, eggs, and fish also left remains.   Evidence of field weeds accompanied this record.

Beyond mere identification of foods consumed, the archaeobotanic record contributes to understanding maintenance of traditional concepts either through import or substitution of local foods with similar visual, olfactory, or other properties.  Diet is more than a list of foods consumed.  It includes traditions that become particularly important to people who have relocated.  Concepts of fan (carbohydrates) and tsai (additions such as meat, vegetables, etc.) provided the basis for diet.  Tsai components gave food texture, variety, visual appeal, and context.

Recovery of Agave pollen in numerous samples suggests an attempt to recreate use of “golden needles”, which are used in a variety of dishes.  Traditionally lily buds, this important ingredient must have been difficult to find in their new home.  Substitution of Agave flowers, which provide a similar visual component, is likely.  Sweetness imparted through inclusion of lily flowers also would have been duplicated with use of agave flowers.  Agave flowers, however, are shorter, requiring adaptations by users.

Chinese winter melon, bitter melon, jujubes, and lychee or longan fruits would have been available primarily as imported foods until local gardens were established to grow melons.  Some foods, such as jujubes and lychee and/or longan fruits would have continued to be imported.  Use of rice straw as packing material is posited from recovery of phytolith evidence of leaves.

Panel 14: Archaeological Perspectives on Overseas Chinese

Part 2


Intersections: the Overseas Chinese Social Landscape of Historic Cooktown and Atherton

Kevin Rains

Independent Researcher

In 1873 alluvial gold was discovered on the remote Palmer River in Cape York Peninsula, Queensland, Australia.  This initiated a rush of miners and businesses into the area, with Cooktown being established on the coast as a supply port.  The influx included a large number of Chinese and the Palmer River gold rush was to be a major event in Chinese migration into Queensland. After the gold-rush, many Chinese returned home, but many others moved across the north and moved into a variety of economic pursuits. The town of Atherton was established during this later settlement phase it emerged as a significant centre for Chinese farming.

Within Australian history narratives overseas Chinese have been subject to stereotypes portraying them as transient, insular sojourners with little socioeconomic diversity or connection with the host country.  They have been perceived as communities isolated from broader society by their cultural conservatism and desire to return to China, as well as the experience of European racism.  Perspectives of the overseas Chinese in northern Queensland have been limited further by the promotion of a European history that stigmatizes or ignores the Chinese participation in colonial expansion.  More recent studies have, however, begun to recognize the social complexity and dynamism within the Chinese Diaspora, and to highlight the important roles Chinese played in the socioeconomic development of Australia.

It is within the context of this new approach that this paper is presented.  It adopts a framework based on current theories of social networks, power and landscapes to look at overseas Chinese social relations.  The social landscapes of Cooktown and Atherton are examined from data collected from archival material and an analysis of the physical landscape, including archaeological deposits.  What emerges is a social landscape of many complex and layered relationships between the Chinese, European, Indigenous and other communities of the region.


The Importance of Chinese Farming in Nineteenth Century Victoria, BC

John Adams

Discover the Past

Men from the farming districts of Guangdong came to Victoria via San Francisco in June 1858 as part of the influx connected with the Fraser River gold rush. Victoria, a Hudson’s Bay Company trading post, was the port of entry for all arrivals and soon boomed as a merchant city and supply centre. Chinese businesses, labourers and transient miners clustered along the northern edge of town, an area that now comprises the Chinatown National Historic Site, the oldest permanent Chinatown in Canada. However, agriculture provided the opportunity for many Chinese to work or live beyond Chinatown.

The first market gardens developed on the edges of Chinatown, notably along a stream that separated the Chinese and non-Chinese quarters. By the mid-1860s Chinese operated farms in the rural areas close to the town, wherever water was available. In the 1870s former governor Sir James Douglas was impressed how the Chinese farmers who leased a portion of his estate kept their grounds “in splendid order.”

At first Chinese rented the land they worked, but by the 1890s several had purchased farms, notably in the districts now known as Oak Bay and Gordon Head. During the twentieth century Chinese ownership of farms increased throughout the region. Market gardening, raising pigs and growing tomatoes and cucumbers in heated greenhouses provided a livelihood for many. By the 1930s a large proportion of vegetables consumed in Victoria was grown on Chinese farms.

The farms provided seasonal and part-time employment to Chinese men and eventually women. By the mid-twentieth century, however, the situation changed as new generations pursued other careers, suburban development spread over the farms and competition from Vancouver firms increased. By the beginning of the twenty-first century, few traces remained of this once important aspect of Chinese Victoria.


Exhumation Records in Queensland

Jonathan Richards

The University of Queensland

Records of exhumation and repatriation of Chinese from Queensland are worth careful examination because they offer much useful detail on demographic and nosological factors and trends. They also provide particular information on the health and success (the ‘critical mass’) of specific Chinese communities across Queensland, showing which locations and groups were still connected to Hong Kong’s Tung Wah Hospital. As the numbers of Chinese residents in Australia declined after the passing of racially-prescriptive legislation, the exhumations tell us which families and village organisations still had sufficient numbers and wealth to organise the return of human remains to China.

Bio: Dr Jonathan Richards, currently an adjunct Research Fellow at The University of Queensland, is an experienced professional archive specialist, with an ongoing interest in records relating to poverty, violence and death. After much time spent researching frontier violence in Australia, he has widened his focus to include documented Chinese deaths and repatriation in Queensland, recognising the significance of these individuals and events for a more complete understanding of Australian history.

Panel 15: Heritage Through Museums


Newly Established Emigration Museums in Beijing and Shanghai: Reasserting the Chinese Nation State by the Representation of Those Leaving It

Mette Thuno

Aarhus University

Since 2009 when China’s State Council upgraded culture to a strategic industry intended to contribute to China’s GDP and enhancing China’s soft power museums have been multiplying rapidly. The 5-year plan 2011-2015 spells out that culture is “the spirit and soul of the nation” and hence a powerful force in the development of the nation. In this paper, I will explore how two such new museums devoted to emigration are serving the new goals of embodying such a “spirit and soul” when engaging with national subjects as those having left to live beyond the boundaries of the nation-state. I intend in particular to explore to what degree the Chinese diaspora is included in the construction of a collective narrative of the Chinese nation and how such a message is communicated in the exhibits. Usually museums display of artifacts confirms national belonging in opposition to other nations and people as well as products, but the display of ‘exotic’ artifacts also demonstrate a national ability to collect and control beyond the border. This project will investigate whether the displays of Chinese emigration serve similar purposes of reflecting international control and cosmopolitanism.

My study will encompass the exhibits, webpages, educational programs, cafées, shops and architecture of the newly established Overseas Chinese History Museum of China (中国华侨历史博物馆) in Beijing under All-China Federation of Returned Overseas Chinese (侨联) and the Foreign Educated Chinese Museum(中国留学生博物馆) in Shanghai that opened in 2014 under the leadership of the Organization Department of the CCP Shanghai Municipal Committee. It is my intention to integrate museum studies of representation and memory studies with Chinese diaspora studies to explore how these museums produce cultural and political boundaries embodied in the display of the emigration act. The overall aim is to highlight how a post-modern state as China shapes its relations to its diaspora through official museum narratives and how the display of global emigration reflects back on the national narrative, since museums wield tremendous power in shaping public views.


Contested Transnational Memories: Historical Museums of Angel Island, American Chinatowns and Wuyi Qiaoxiang

Wing-kai To

Bridgewater State University

Over the past decade major efforts have been made to develop and preserve museums and heritage sites about Chinese American history in both the United States and China.  In February 2009 the Angel Island Immigration Station Museum and grounds near San Francisco in California were renovated and reopened just prior to the Centennial Anniversary of the Immigration Station in 1910.  Half-way around the world the Jiangmen Wuyi Overeseas Chinese Museum in Guangdong near the traditional villages sending emigrants to the United States was expanded and opened in a new site in November 2010, while a new overseas Chinese museum was also open in Beijing in 2014.  The Wuyi museum was originally opened in November 2005 before the inscription of Kaiping diaolou villages (fortified overseas Chinese mansions) as a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site in July 2007. These developments coincided with the renovation and construction of Chinese American historical museums in Chinatowns with new museum sites in Chicago (2005) and New York (2009) as well as expansions in San Francisco and Los Angeles.  Through an analysis of permanent and special exhibits as well as construction of meanings in educational materials, this paper offers a preliminary comparison of the interpretations over Chinese immigration to the United States as contested collective memories of transnationalism. There are multiple state, community, and individual interests of negotiation over the meanings of Chineseness, multiculturalism, and transnational history. While Angel Island and museum in China traditionally focus on stories of discrimination and triumphs in the Chinese American experience, recent trends of globalization and localization have further questioned the monolithic discourse of racism and nationalism by stressing multicultural encounters, conflicting identities, and transnational memories.  The comparative studies of immigrant and ethnic museums in a transnational context shed light on the competing discourses on heritage and history in the study of Chinese diaspora.


Transnational Networks, Local Consciousness, and Historical Representation among Galleries of Chinese Communities in Sibu, Sarawak, Malaysia

Yu-tsuen Hsu

National Chiao Tung University

Chinese communities in Sibu Sarawak manage transnational networks with ancestral homelands as the travel restriction to China gradually reduced in the 1980s. These efforts set the stage for the construction of parks and galleries in the 2000s. First, Chinese sub-ethnic groups joined the project of public private partnership parks proposed by the Sibu Municipal Council. Specific associations donated for parks construction to elaborate their connections with ancestral homelands and their migration history to Sibu. Secondly, a series of galleries (local museums) offered more delicate interpretations to their local and transnational identity.

This essay will discuss the latter with a special focus on the transnational networks, local consciousness, and historical representations among three galleries in Sibu. They are the Sibu Chinese Gallery, the Global Fuzhou Ten Counties Gallery and the Inland and Overseas Zhang Clan Heritage Gallery. These galleries represented different segment levels of local Chinese culture; therefore, they epitomize diversified historical narratives and local consciousness held and negotiated by Sibu Chinese.