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Chinese Diaspora Charity and the Cantonese Pacific, 1850-1949$
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John Fitzgerald and Hon-ming Yip

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9789888528264

Published to Hong Kong Scholarship Online: January 2021

DOI: 10.5790/hongkong/9789888528264.001.0001

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Qiaopi (僑批‎) and Charity

Qiaopi (僑批‎) and Charity

The Mechanisms and Impact of Diasporic Chinese Philanthropy*

(p.51) 3 Qiaopi (僑批‎) and Charity
Chinese Diaspora Charity and the Cantonese Pacific, 1850-1949

Gregor Benton

Hong Liu

Hong Kong University Press

Qiaopi and yinxin are Chinese names given to letters written home by Chinese emigrants, in the 150 years starting from the 1820s. Estimates of the number of qiaopi collected in China range from 160,000 to more than 300,000, sent back to China from main regions of settlement of overseas Chinese, in Southeast Asia and in the Americas and the Pacific (the focus of this chapter). Recent scholarship on qiaopi has focused on remittance networks associated with these letters or the analysis of their content. This chapter examines a hitherto overlooked dimension in qiaopi studies and diasporic Chinese studies, its function as charity, and the operational mechanisms, impact, and theoretical implications of qiaopi charity. We argue that qiaopi and the associated qiaohui networks served as important arenas of diasporic Chinese charity, which in turn connected overseas Chinese and China and thus contributed to the formation of transnational China. This chapter concludes that qiaopi exemplified a key characteristic of diasporic Chinese charity, its systemic combination of individual and family giving and donations to institutions. In China, charity truly “began at home” in two senses: family and friends came first, and the charitable idea was in large part indigenous in shape and conception.

Keywords:   qiaopi, diasporic Chinese, charity, philanthropy, qiaoxiang, network

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