Private Charity (cishan 慈善) and Public Benefit (gongyi 公益) in the Associational Life of the Cantonese Pacific, 1850–1949
This chapter traces the parallel development of charitable practices and forms of civic association in the Cantonese Pacific over the century to 1949 with a view to exploring ways in which Chinese overseas employed charity to build trust within their own communities and with their host societies in Australia and North America. Business activities and social transactions among Chinese diaspora communities are said to be embedded in personal trust, and to extend to larger trust networks. The chapter argues that the evolution of charitable practices and associational forms among Cantonese diaspora communities of the Pacific largely conform to this pattern. By drawing attention to some of the connections linking civic associations and their charitable activities to a range of trust-building strategies over time, the chapter highlights points of continuity in the work of Chinese community organizations overseas during a period of rapid institutional change from the late Qing Dynasty to the founding of the People’s Republic – specifically the relationship between engaging in private charity and working for the public benefit to build community trust.
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