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Returning Home with GloryChinese Villagers around the Pacific, 1849 to 1949$

Michael Williams

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9789888390533

Published to Hong Kong Scholarship Online: September 2018

DOI: 10.5790/hongkong/9789888390533.001.0001

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You Have Been Loyal Wah Kiu

You Have Been Loyal Wah Kiu

(p.191) 9 You Have Been Loyal Wah Kiu
Returning Home with Glory

Michael Williams

Hong Kong University Press

Abstract and Keywords

The huaqiao are often seen as loyal to the Chinese motherland, but for many in the qiaoxiang loyalty had a narrower focus. Despite this, not everyone who moved between the Pearl River Delta and the Pacific Ports in the generations after 1849 had been “loyal wah kiu” (huaqiao), and it has not been the purpose of this study to argue they were. It has been argued, however, that a concept such as “loyal wah kiu” and the history of the movement of people from the Pearl River Delta over the period are best understood within the context of the qiaoxiang connections. It has also been argued that a nation-state perspective and the conceptions and assumptions that have been characterized as “border-guard views” have failed to understand the significance of the “loyal wah kiu” and the role played by the qiaoxiang links. By interpreting the history of the overseas Chinese, the huaqiao, through the perspective of their places of origin, the qiaoxiang, it is hoped that a successful attempt has been made by this study to improve this understanding.

Keywords:   qiaoxiang links, huaqiao lifestyle, Nation-state perspectives, Chinese diaspora, Transnational, border-guard views

One of the many telegrams that passed between the Zhongshan village of Buck Toy and its fellows in Hawaii during the 1920s and 1930s included the comment, “You have been loyal wah kiu.”1 The loyalty of the huaqiao is usually seen as national loyalty to the Chinese motherland, but for those of Buck Toy as well as many in the qiaoxiang this loyalty had a narrower focus. Despite this, not everyone who moved between the Pearl River Delta and the Pacific Ports in the generations after 1849 had been “loyal wah kiu”, and it has not been the purpose of this study to argue they were. It has been argued, however, that a concept such as “loyal wah kiu” and the history of the movement of people from the Pearl River Delta over the period are best understood within the context of the qiaoxiang connections. It has also been argued that a nation-state perspective and the conceptions and assumptions that have been characterized as “border-guard views” have failed to understand the significance of the “loyal wah kiu” and the role played by the qiaoxiang links. By interpreting the history of the overseas Chinese, the huaqiao, through the perspective of their places of origin, the qiaoxiang, it is hoped that a successful attempt has been made by this study to improve this understanding.

Huaqiao developments

The history discussed here has been that of the huaqiao of the Pearl River Delta and their movements to the Pacific Ports of Sydney, Hawaii, and San Francisco between 1849 and 1949. Chapter 3, “Wading 10,000 Li”, described the basic movement of people from the Pearl River Delta around the Pacific Ports in the century after 1849: where people came from, why they left, their numbers and proportions, and some of the major fluctuations and interactions that constituted the movement over this century. Particular attention was paid to the reactions of those who dominated the societies of the Pacific Ports and the restrictive laws they imposed. Chapter 4, “Because in the Tang Mountains We Have a Big House”, described a (p.192) single qiaoxiang, the impact upon it of the movement and its links with the Pacific Ports. This detailed understanding of a qiaoxiang made it possible to build up a picture of the qiaoxiang links. This picture was begun in Chapter 5, “He Would Have to Send Money”, which investigated what the links consisted of, how they were established, and what were the mechanisms for maintaining them not only over distances but also over generations. Such tangible elements could not explain all there was to the qiaoxiang links, so Chapter 6, “Returning Home with Glory”, discussed the significance of income and prestige in providing motivation for establishing and continuing the qiaoxiang links.

Not everyone who set out for the destinations maintained links with their qiaoxiang in the same way or at all. The existence of the links themselves provided or broadened opportunities that could lead to a diminution or even the loss of the qiaoxiang links. Chapter 7, “Things Did Not Work Out That Way”, discussed the range of factors operating within the context of the qiaoxiang links that could bring about outcomes such as permanent settlement in a destination as well as “return with glory”. Finally, “Anglo-Saxonizing Machines” discussed the three Pacific destinations themselves, in order to demonstrate how the qiaoxiang perspective provides a wider range of interpretations and explanations of huaqiao involvement in their history than is possible within nation-state–related perspectives alone.

This study has presented a picture of the huaqiao and their history in the roughly four generations from 1849. After the initial “rush” generation of 1849 to around 1877, the following generation was able to take advantage of the connections that had been established with the Pacific Ports. More permanent qiaoxiang links were gradually established, based on destination businesses and access to passage money through relatives who were themselves huaqiao. As this occurred, more familyorientated sponsorship tended to replace large-scale labour recruitment through brokers. This generation was hampered by the imposition in the 1880s of major restrictions to their movement by the white-settler–controlled destinations. Despite this, further huaqiao generations were able to establish themselves and it was in these following generations that the huaqiao lifestyle reached a peak of organization in the 1920s and 1930s. They survived the Depression and even the Japanese War, despite reduced incomes and the increasing vulnerability of the qiaoxiang due to dependence on outside income. Major changes to the qiaoxiang links sufficient to diminish or end them occurred only with the establishment of the new Communist government in 1949.

This chronology is built not around destination laws or major events in the nation-states but on developments in the qiaoxiang links themselves. Within this time frame, one of the most significant developments was the growth of a specialized lifestyle in the qiaoxiang, based on expectations that the huaqiao would achieve certain levels of income and status. Much about the huaqiao lifestyle and these expectations revolved around money: money to repay debts, money to support the family, to sponsor others, or for donations in the qiaoxiang. Money and its uses, (p.193) however, cannot be understood separately from the family and cultural networks of the qiaoxiang. From the first contracting of the debt enabling an individual to leave the village and travel to a Pacific Port, the huaqiao became part of a network of obligations and dependence that kept the majority focused on the qiaoxiang and eventual return there.

These networks determined such matters as which destinations and qiaoxiang became linked and the numbers of people that moved. The obligations enforced lengthy initial periods of absence before a first return, and also tied people to their qiaoxiang fellows in the destinations. As the generations passed and huaqiao returned, they had the means and the incentive to assist the next generation. Sponsorship, both legal and illegal, support with paperwork, and help in dealing with administrators was needed with the growth of restrictive laws. These changes encouraged some to remain in the destinations while narrowing the range of people that could participate in the movement.

The continuing dependence of the qiaoxiang on huaqiao earnings in the destinations and consequent vulnerability to outside factors meant that the qiaoxiang links and the huaqiao lifestyle were themselves, in a sense, a dead end. That is to say, the links were a cycle of dependence that could not be escaped without a change in the nature of the qiaoxiang links themselves. Such change could only come about if the qiaoxiang became economically independent of outside income or if individual villagers left the qiaoxiang and settled in Hong Kong, Shanghai, or one of the destinations where productive occupations were more viable. The majority of huaqiao were neither able nor willing to take either of these options; instead, from 1849 until 1938, most huaqiao continued to send their remittances and ultimately retire to the qiaoxiang. By doing so they fulfilled intentions that had taken them from their villages, in some cases, forty or fifty years earlier.

The year 1949 was chosen to mark the end of the qiaoxiang links in the form that they had been developing for roughly four generations, because at this point the huaqiao could no longer achieve their aims in the qiaoxiang. This was not a matter of the cutting off of remittances, which the new government did not do, but more significantly, the end of the huaqiao’s ability to turn their efforts in the destinations into prestige and status in the qiaoxiang. This was a development imposed on the qiaoxiang by the nature of the new China government and one that removed an essential motivation for the qiaoxiang links.

Nation-state perspectives

The history of the qiaoxiang links developed here is one that is difficult to appreciate within the nation-state perspectives of most studies. It has been argued that understanding of the history of the movement of Chinese people to the Pacific destinations (p.194) is limited by conceptions of the nation-state.2 These limitations allowed the views of what can be termed border guards to predominate, even in studies that sought to refute these views. Studies based on transnational concepts, such as those of the “Chinese diaspora” have also been unable to escape many of these limitations. As a result, continuing links with places of origin, including return, and motivations not centred on one-way migration and settlement are either neglected or interpreted as the result of destination laws and prejudices. Rarely are these actions or choices seen as those people might make according to their own ideals or intentions.

Analyses built around concepts such as nation-states, diaspora, or even transnationalism have a tendency to focus on movement to and outcomes in a specific location. In particular, the crossing of borders and patterns of settlement in a specific nation-state are given great emphasis to the neglect of motivations and relationships with other places, except insofar as they provide background to the history of settlement or border crossings. These emphases did not develop by chance but are an evolution of the views of the border guards, who observed and commented on Chinese people in “their” territory from the first huaqiao arrivals.

A significant characteristic of the border-guard view is the assumption that the Chinese were a “problem” in need of a “solution”. Missionaries saw the problem as one of conversion, while racists and those with faith in the desirability of an “Anglo-Saxon” society saw the solution as restrictions on entry. Many who have rejected the assumptions of difference and hostility underlying such views and sought non-racist solutions have done so by simply reversing the views, but not the assumptions, of the border guards. The Chinese, in such studies, remain a problem, but the problem becomes “Why didn’t they become ‘normal’ migrants and settlers?” The solution is to deny, minimize, or neglect behaviour outside a narrow definition of migration and settlement, or to attribute blame for such behaviour to destination racism and laws. The problems, as originally defined by the border guards, are not confronted but instead are assumed to have disappeared by shifting blame and ignoring or neglecting what the huaqiao themselves intended.

The most prominent of the border-guard views was that which, from the beginning of huaqiao arrival in the destinations, defined them as “refractory” migrants. This was not based on ignorance of the huaqiao wish to return or of the fact that many did return, rather it was because the possibility of their staying in the destination was what concerned observers the most. Those huaqiao who did stay and the fear that new arrivals would wish to stay dominated popular attitudes. These border-guard assumptions about the normalcy of intentions to settle were subsequently taken on by later researchers, but this time as part of an effort to prove that migrating and staying had been the main intention of the huaqiao all along, hampered only by destination restrictions and prejudices. In both cases, a basic assumption is that one-way migration and settlement represents normal behaviour.

(p.195) The histories of Chinese people within single nations have, it has been argued, been too narrow to encompass the qiaoxiang connections. However, studies based on broader conceptions, such as diaspora research, suffer from other limitations. A lack of historical context is a primary limitation of diaspora studies, whose contemporary focus usually leads to a view of the diaspora and its economic networks as a conscious intention rather than an outcome of historical factors. This is partly because diaspora studies often go beyond the nation-state simply by multiplying them. That is, the Chinese diaspora is seen merely as Chinese people (usually merchants) outside China with interconnections in many places rather than in a single place, while links to, and motivations based on, the qiaoxiang are rarely considered.

Additionally, nation-state and diaspora studies have a tendency to neglect various players in the history of the movement. Most obviously, those who remained in the qiaoxiang or who left the destinations and returned to the qiaoxiang are rarely mentioned. Nation-state studies neglect these participants because such people are beyond their borders, while diaspora studies do so because it is the creation and existence of the diaspora outside China that is the focus. Much emphasis is also given to merchants and traders by nation-state, diaspora, and transnational studies. Such emphasis is partly a matter of the more obvious evidence that the wealthy and those involved in trade networks left of their activities. It is also because the Chinese diaspora is usually seen as an economic network rather than a social one.

This study is not the first to attempt to escape the limitations of nation-state perspectives. Studies by Madeline Hsu, Adam McKeown, Yong Chen, and James Cook have, in their different ways, attempted to place the history of the Chinese overseas in a wider context.3 Of these four, only Madeline Hsu has investigated the qiaoxiang in any detail.4 Hsu investigates the connections of people from Taishan County with the United States as an example of “transnational” families, but a nation-state perspective dominates the context of this history. Her Taishan families must choose between places, and it is the nation-state that seems to provide the determining factors in this choice.

Yong Chen gives an account of a community, San Francisco, which he rounds out by emphasizing the importance of “trans-Pacific” connections. However, his work is based on a very limited view of the qiaoxiang and ultimately fails to account for what motivates these trans-Pacific links. Nor does the “trans-Pacific” concept allow those who left this destination or those who never reached it to become part of the history. Similarly, Adam McKeown tells us much about huaqiao communities and the significance of their links in each of the three places he investigates. However, like Yong Chen, without a full appreciation of the qiaoxiang, the result is that much is missed, particularly concerning motivations.

(p.196) While James Cook perhaps focuses the most on a qiaoxiang in theory, in reality his discussion concerns only merchants in a single city. Cook never acknowledges that Xiamen is not the qiaoxiang of most of his subjects and so fails to see the broader context of their choice to settle in that city. Nor does he acknowledge that merchants were part of a larger movement of people that included not only those who were not merchants but also those who did not settle in Xiamen and even those who never left their qiaoxiang.

Qiaoxiang perspectives

In each of the abovementioned attempts to escape the limitations of nation-state perspectives, difficulties have arisen due to a lack of appreciation of the role of the qiaoxiang. China, or a location in China, as in the research of Yong Chen or James Cook, is not sufficient, as an appreciation of the specific “native place” within China of those who travelled is necessary. This is why the core of the approach taken here takes the qiaoxiang, both as geographic location and locus of identity, as the origin of motivations around which the movement of Pearl River Delta people developed. From this, it follows that movement to the destinations established links, which gave rise to a series of choices and developments played out in both the qiaoxiang and the destinations.

Basic to this qiaoxiang perspective, therefore, has been the qiaoxiang itself, for example the Zhongshan County district of Long Du presented as a case study in Chapter 4. This focus on a single qiaoxiang has allowed details to be seen that greatly assisted in interpreting the qiaoxiang links. Based on this case study, the impact of links between the destinations and the qiaoxiang, including the significance of family, prestige, motivations, and income, was revealed. A great deal of the evidence for this huaqiao history is to be found not in the qiaoxiang but in the destinations, as well as within research that has been interpreted until now only from a nationstate perspective. Both the qiaoxiang-based evidence, and the capacity to reinterpret destination-based evidence, has made it possible to analyse the qiaoxiang links, in particular the mechanisms through which they operated and the choices they gave the huaqiao over some four generations.

This expanded understanding of the role of the qiaoxiang also allowed success and failure to be judged in terms of the qiaoxiang. To become an American or Australian, or even simply to remain in those nations, is a measure of success derived from the nation-state perspective, though a measure undoubtedly chosen by some huaqiao. Knowledge of the qiaoxiang allowed “success” to be seen as the survival and improvement of the family in the village, of houses, lands, education, and a better future for the next generation. This qiaoxiang perspective also enabled the movement of most and the migration of some to be seen in a context in which it could be understood that those who did not return to the qiaoxiang were “failures”.

(p.197) Qiaoxiang standards were those by which most huaqiao would have judged themselves and qiaoxiang-based judgements of success and failure, shame and prestige were how huaqiao determined their actions and responses. The fear and loathing of the destination society, concern for restrictive laws, or even the desire for liberty and wealth in the destinations should not be seen therefore as dominant factors in people’s responses. The huaqiao had their own concerns and issues to deal with, a perspective brought out by the qiaoxiang case study and the development of a qiaoxiang perspective throughout this study.

The phrase “qiaoxiang links” has been used to encompass the connections between the qiaoxiang and the destinations that were maintained by Pearl River Delta people over both time and generations. This concept was developed in order to avoid too much emphasis on place and the act of movement in one direction or another. Discussion of the history, not of places but of relationships, allows processes of interaction to be more easily revealed. Interactions are something often obscured by perspectives in which such actions by a nation-state as imposing laws and indulging in racist behaviour are seen to be determining factors in people’s lives. The “place” emphasis of a nation-state also leads to a focus on those who are in one place more than another, with inevitable distortions in investigations of people who move from location to location. The concept of “qiaoxiang links” was developed to avoid such distortions.

However, as with “transnational” and “trans-Pacific” conceptions, if qiaoxiang links are not to be mistaken for intentions rather than outcomes, it is necessary to explain the motives for establishing and maintaining the links. It is in helping to explain motivation that the qiaoxiang perspective provides a better scope for interpretation than the more descriptively geographical “transnational” or “trans-Pacific” concepts. Motivations to maintain links with the qiaoxiang were not based only on income and a desire to support the family, aims that could also have been accomplished by settling, as many huaqiao did, in the destinations. Just as important were motivations based on prestige, a motive not only linked to the qiaoxiang and families, but one that was difficult to transfer elsewhere.

Certainly, a major reason that previous researchers have focused on laws and prejudice as determining factors for the huaqiao is that, without them, it is difficult to provide motivations for actions or patterns of behaviour. Nation-state studies inevitably look at the entry of Chinese people into a defined territory as the most important aspect of that history, while struggling to explain why they did so in the face of the barriers raised. From a qiaoxiang perspective, however, such entry is seen as merely one step in an overall process focused on the qiaoxiang. Even when qiaoxiang motivations are supplanted by other intentions, they remain important as part of the context in which such decisions and developments took place. A qiaoxiang perspective is essential in allowing broader interpretations of motivation, which operated not only in the destinations but also in the qiaoxiang.

(p.198) Motivation can be clarified through a qiaoxiang perspective because of the broadening of context that this achieves. It is not that settlement, assimilation, and striving to become American or Australian, as outlined in many nation-state narratives, did not occur. These things existed, but only as part of a broader context encompassed by the qiaoxiang connections. For each example of those who chose to settle in a destination, many others made the choice to return to the qiaoxiang, based not only on considerations of destination prejudice or restrictive laws but also on success and failure in terms that require an understanding of the role of the qiaoxiang in the lives of people.

It is obvious that not all huaqiao returned to the qiaoxiang and that many remained in the destinations. However, a consequence of a nation-state focus is that the history of Chinese people in the destinations is generally written in terms of the migration and settlement of only those who stayed. A qiaoxiang perspective allows such settlers to be seen as part of a broader movement and also reveals that even decisions to stay were very often due to the qiaoxiang connections. Many of those who settled in the destinations did so for reasons associated with their qiaoxiang links. Destination conditions and laws undoubtedly influenced the huaqiao, but in a multiplicity of ways when seen from the qiaoxiang perspective.

In similar fashion, huaqiao of the diaspora can be understood to represent a minority who failed to return to their qiaoxiang, due to various destination and qiaoxiang factors. Often missing in discussion of the Chinese diaspora is any acknowledgement that this historical development is only one consequence or result among many. The origin of the Chinese diaspora was largely the consequence of movement during the period 1849 and 1949, and of the choices of a minority of settlers and “non-returners”. The overall consequences of the qiaoxiang links included destination settlement as well as “returns with glory”, diasporas as well as new villages, elaborate towers and destination Chinatowns. The economic focus of many diaspora studies has meant an emphasis on merchants, while a focus on the nation-state has meant a neglect of those who left again or who never came. Yet the role of families in and of cultural and psychological ties to the qiaoxiang was significant to the actions and aims of even huaqiao who spent most of their lives in a destination. A qiaoxiang perspective is especially valuable in encompassing a range of participants regardless of location: women, parents, villagers, qiaokan editors, gentry, the poor and those who failed to earn destination incomes, the destinationborn and white wives, those who returned and those who stayed. These were all participants in this history who are usually neglected by investigations that use the boundaries of nation-states to determine who is included, and about whom diaspora and transnational accounts have added very little.

An essential aspect of the border-guard view is that border protection and restrictive immigration laws are seen to have determining roles. That is, that the history of the movement of Pearl River Delta peoples is about nation-states, governments, and the powerful building up barriers and controlling people’s destinies. (p.199) The huaqiao and others are inexorably seen as victims of this process, outsiders trying to slip through the cracks. However, when the perspective is changed to the bottom-up approach of the qiaoxiang perspective, a very different history is seen in which border controls and restrictive laws are often in fact reactive to the demands and strategies of people in the Pearl River Delta villages. The structure of these laws, the bureaucratic responses, and even to a degree the sense of the nation-state are themselves outcomes of processes and history that can be understood on the level of families and the qiaoxiang.

Perhaps the most significant contribution of the qiaoxiang perspective is the legitimization of huaqiao ideals and intentions. This study has argued that to deny actions of the huaqiao that do not fit assumptions about the correct behaviour of new migrants or residents is to deny the legitimacy of the ideals and intentions of the huaqiao themselves. The assumption here has been that huaqiao efforts to support their qiaoxiang are as legitimate as efforts to migrate and settle. It was not assumed that moving to a destination to earn money and then to leave after a period is behaviour for which blame is to be laid or for which an explanation in racism or legal restrictions must be sought.

The huaqiao are not assumed, therefore, to be a “refractory” element in need of explanation, but are viewed rather as participants in history with legitimate aims. This capacity to understand and legitimize the aims of the huaqiao in their own terms is greatly facilitated, perhaps even only made possible, by the qiaoxiang perspective. This legitimization means that return, support for a qiaoxiang-based family, and toleration of harsh conditions, as well as efforts to subvert restrictive laws, can be seen in a broader light. Such activities do not have to be explained away, turned into heroics, or blamed solely on destination factors. Instead, they are seen as part of efforts by the huaqiao to maintain connections with their qiaoxiang.

When the intentions of the huaqiao themselves are accepted, then the choices and opportunities they had as the result of their qiaoxiang links can also be seen. These choices resulted from the interaction of circumstances in both the qiaoxiang and the destinations, leading some to return and some to stay, some to remain sojourners and others to settle in the destinations or in Hong Kong or Shanghai. The qiaoxiang connections were a complex interaction in which various choices and opportunities were created. There were factors that limited people’s choices and those that widened their opportunities. Some of the choices people made maintained or strengthened their qiaoxiang links, while others weakened or ended the connections. There were those who never considered any other choice but to return, and some who perhaps never intended to return once they had left their qiaoxiang. Within these extremes lie the bulk of huaqiao who made their choices one at a time, seized or neglected opportunities, and found that the choices they made led in unforeseen directions. For some, choices led to a loss of the qiaoxiang-destination link and a return to their qiaoxiang, as entry to a destination became more difficult or the environment more hostile. The restrictive laws and racism, however, could (p.200) also mean profit, obligations to sponsor, or lower incomes, the consequence of which could also be a loss of qiaoxiang connection, but with permanent settlement in a destination the result.

Returning Home with Glory has attempted to improve understanding of the history of the movement of Pearl River Delta people around the Pacific Ports through the adoption of a perspective centred on home villages and districts. Such a perspective, it has been argued, widens the context of this history and allows motivations, choices, and opportunities to be better understood. In addition, this perspective provides an overall context to nation-state and diaspora research, while allowing many assumptions of these approaches to be identified and scrutinized. The qiaoxiang perspective also enables more adequate explanations for many aspects of huaqiao history that allow the ideals and intentions of the huaqiao themselves to be incorporated into this history. Such a perspective also allows us to concentrate on motivation over results, to give cultural origins and explanations greater weight, and to see them with more clarity. Finally, this perspective allows the success or failure of the huaqiao to be judged in their own terms rather than in terms of assimilation, resistance to racism, or restrictive laws. Thus, merchants and ageing bachelors in the destinations can be seen to be just a minority of a much larger group of China and Hong Kong merchants, women in the villages, and a host of retired market gardeners, laundrymen and others who “returned with glory” to their respective qiaoxiang.

Further perspectives

The analysis developed in this work is by no means a final step in establishing a qiaoxiang perspective over nation-state perspectives. As one researcher has stated:

By developing a diasporic history of Chinese migration that does not fit into standard American narratives of what immigration should be, and by resisting the racist and nationalist pressure to interpret such practices as undesirable, we will be able to more fully situate the gender and family composition of Chinese migration, and even embark on a coherent alternative to the hegemonic narratives of nationalistic history.5

Perhaps the qiaoxiang emphasis of this study cannot be described as a “diasporic history”, but it has attempted to go beyond the limitations of “standard American narratives” or those of most Australian research. A focus on the legitimacy of huaqiao ideals and the qiaoxiang perspective has, it is argued, enabled “racist and nationalist” pressures to be resisted. This study has also attempted to escape the “hegemonic narratives of nationalistic history” through its focus on links over places, ports over nations, and, above all, through the use of a qiaoxiang perspective. The result is a history where the concerns and issues of nation-states are pushed (p.201) into the background, while factors such as the restrictive laws imposed by these nation-states are seen as less dominating, and even to some degree reactive and conditional, to the concerns and actions of the qiaoxiang.

Important to the approach of this study has been the focus on a single qiaoxiang. This approach was adopted for many reasons, one being awareness that much previous research has been based on generalizations in an area of great diversity. Many more single-qiaoxiang investigations will be needed before the extent and depth of this diversity can be fully known and adequate comparative analysis done. The range and quality of local sources found in Zhongshan County and Long Du district have demonstrated that such investigations can yield a great deal. The archives, local libraries, villages, and personal collections of this Pearl River Delta county contain much of value to the historian of the qiaoxiang links. While other Pearl River Delta counties have not been looked at to the same degree, there is every probability that similar if not better sources will be found by future researchers.

Oral history, in particular, in both the Pearl River Delta and the destinations, is of great value in this field. Oral research in the qiaoxiang is essential to the qiaoxiang perspective and to bring within the history of the qiaoxiang the connections of those who returned to the qiaoxiang as well as those who never left. Oral history in the destinations is more common but the nation-state perspectives of most studies has meant that oral history research among huaqiao settlers and their descendants has focused almost entirely on actions and attitudes in the destinations. Rarely has the concern been with questions of qiaoxiang relations. Yet such questions are part of the choices of even those who spent most of their lives in the destinations. Choices made within the qiaoxiang context are a significant part of the history of Chinese communities in the destinations and of the development of the Chinese diaspora; these choices require further research, including re-interpretation of much evidence.

A continuing theme identified in nation-state–based research has been the attitude that Chinese migration represents a problem in need of a solution. Central to this has been the concept of the sojourner and sojourning. That people from the Pearl River Delta “sojourned” cannot be denied. The question is, does this sojourning represent something unique in the history of migration? To answer this question, research comparing the movement of Pearl River Delta people to the movements of other peoples is needed. A reconceptualization of sojourning is also needed if the history of Chinese movement is not to be continually seen as a special problem or merely an issue within the racial politics of other nation-states to be explained, defended, or justified.

In the absence of comparative research of the movement of Chinese and other peoples, the focus of much analysis is on the outcomes of migration over its intentions. The results of the movement of the huaqiao are given priority over the intentions of the huaqiao in moving. An understanding of intentions is necessary to bring out choices and their context, without which outcomes become substitutes for motives. This focus on outcomes is common in destination-based research in (p.202) which those who stayed/settled are studied almost exclusively, and so outcomes are assumed to reflect the original intention. The choices leading up to an outcome are rarely considered, while returnees are neglected or interpreted as deviations from outcomes within a nation-state.

This tendency to focus on outcomes can be seen even when sojourning is recognized as a form of migration. Wang Gungwu, for example, has described the existence of a distinct form of migration “featuring ‘sojourners’ who eventually became migrants”.6 The original intention not to settle in a destination is recognized, yet behaviour aside from when “they eventually settled down” is discounted. In a later study, Wang Gungwu described sojourning as “a distinct form of temporary and experimental migration”.7 Here, the legitimacy of sojourning is questioned in favour of migration that leads to permanent settlement somewhere.

If sojourning is not accepted as a legitimate form of movement in itself, then it will merely be seen as a step towards so-called real migration and the primacy of the concerns of the destination nation-states will be maintained. Migration and the movement of people is not by its nature easily divided into types, but the acknowledgement of sojourning is important and points to possible future research.

Research into Chinese sojourning alone is insufficient, however. Comparative studies of what in European studies is called “return migration” would help to determine if the huaqiao differed in quality or quantity in the persistence of their qiaoxiang links.8 Many groups have sojourned in the past and do so today. The nineteenth- and early twentieth-century European missionaries and traders in China were a prominent group of sojourners that are rarely bracketed with the huaqiao, for example. Were the huaqiao unique or simply uniquely persistent? Does the development of huaqiao history have parallels? Was the class nature of huaqiao participation in the movement and the relative ease with which those with overseas income could change their family status the most significant factor? Do the answers to these questions lie in the destinations or the qiaoxiang?

The three Pacific destinations studied here can be seen as three variations on a theme of white-settler ascendancy and exploitation that were inherently racist in conception and execution. Into this stepped the huaqiao, with inevitable consequences for their relations with those who dominated the destination societies. At this point began a problem not just in relations but in perceptions that, it has been argued, has been perpetuated in subsequent research. Nation-state and immigration perspectives, the assimilationalist and racist policies of the post-war period, and the globalizing enthusiasms of the present have all left their mark upon how the movements that took place between 1849 and 1949 are viewed.

(p.203) It has been argued that the aims of the huaqiao were quite different from those assumed by their defenders. From a qiaoxiang perspective, efforts to prove that racism and the restrictive laws were responsible largely or solely for the low number of women or the high rates of return can be seen as a form of apologetics. Such defences can be seen as based on the assumption that Chinese movement is a deviation from a supposedly standard migration pattern. Instead, the contention is that the huaqiao were intent on establishing and maintaining complex links between the destinations and their qiaoxiang that necessitated their crossing national borders for purposes quite different from those defined by migration and settlement alone.

The history of qiaoxiang links is not merely a history of settlement outside the qiaoxiang but a history of efforts to survive away from, return to, retire in, and improve qiaoxiang such as Chung Kok, introduced at the commencement of this work. It is hoped that this study contributes to escaping from the Chinese-as-refractory and border-guard–orientated histories of the nation-states. What this research has tried to do is to illustrate a century of links from the perspective of the village and free of the limits of nation-state and border-guard views. Returning Home with Glory has not been about proving diaspora, transnational, or even nation-state studies wrong, but about putting people such as the 222 huaqiao whose names were inscribed on the side of the Chung Kok village hall in 1913 at the centre of their own history. The perspective of the qiaoxiang was adopted because that was the predominant perspective of those involved for most of the time. The loyalty of the huaqiao to their qiaoxiang, despite the many changes and developments in both destination and qiaoxiang, is the key to this history. Overall, it has been argued that the inherent narrowness of nation-state perspectives in dealing with a history dominated by movement, family, and local loyalties has resulted in limited interpretations. The huaqiao movement to the Pacific Ports did include migration and settlement. But this movement cannot be understood without an understanding of life in a qiaoxiang such as Long Du, and of the aims and ambitions of people there, as well as those in the Pacific destinations. This study has attempted to understand the core of the history of the links between the destinations and the qiaoxiang that is summed up in the expression “you have been loyal wah kiu”. (p.204)


(1.) Glick Archives: Note 3, Bung-Chong Lee, 16 June 1936. Wah kiu is the Cantonese pronunciation of huaqiao.

(2.) See Chapter 2, “The Border-Guard View”.

(3.) See Chapter 2, 30–32.

(4.) Cook does focus on the Fujian city of Xiamen, but fails to distinguish between this port and the actual qiaoxiang of those he is discussing.

(6.) Wang Gungwu, “Migration and Its Enemies”, in Conceptualizing Global History, ed. Bruce Mazlish and Ralph Buultjens (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1993), 133.

(7.) Wang Gungwu, “Migration History: Some Patterns Revisited”, in Global History and Migrations, ed. Wang Gungwu (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1997), 2.

(8.) For a rare example of such a comparative study, see Franklin Ng, “The Sojourner, Return Migration, and Immigration History”, Chinese America: History and Perspectives (1987): 53–71.