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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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Huiguan (會館‎) as an Overseas Charitable Institution

Huiguan (會館‎) as an Overseas Charitable Institution

Homebound Burials and the Global Chinese Diaspora, 1850–1949*

(p.72) 4 Huiguan (會館‎) as an Overseas Charitable Institution
Chinese Diaspora Charity and the Cantonese Pacific, 1850-1949
Hon-ming Yip
Hong Kong University Press

Seldom have studies of overseas huiguan, i.e., Chinese benevolent associations, covered their charitable service of repatriating coffins/bones of the deceased from their host countries to their hometowns in China for burial. This peculiar long-standing Chinese “modern tradition,” till the early 1950s, can now be solidly evidenced by the voluminous Tung Wah Coffin Home Archives in Hong Kong after the materials have been made known in recent years. According to the correspondence between the Tung Wah Hospital (a charitable organization itself) and huiguan all over the world, thousands of coffins and boxes of bones were shipped back to native places of most Chinese emigrants from the “Gold Rush” era every year through Hong Kong during the first half of the last century, especially after the Tung Wah Coffin Home was built by the Hospital to house coffins and exhumed bones awaiting shipment. Starting with a mapping of the sending points, this chapter attempts to first delineate the function of Chinese benevolent associations there as key organizations in the charity network of the global Chinese world. The implications of their operation in the historical connection between the host countries and hometowns of overseas Chinese via Hong Kong are also exemplified and explicated.

Keywords:   huiguan, homebound burial, host countries and native places, the Tung Wah Coffin Home, Hong Kong, the institutionalization of charity, the charity network of the global Chinese diaspora

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