I will be presenting not once, but twice, during the School of Humanities & Social Inquiry’s Research Week 2016 at the University of Wollongong.
On Monday, 18 April 2016 I am speaking at the Faculty of Law, Humanities & the Arts ‘Early Career Research Presentations with the Vice Chancellor’, 12.30pm to 2.30pm in the University of Wollongong Research Hub, Building 19.2072B. It will be a short presentation outlining my career path to date, my research interests and my new DECRA project. My talk is titled: ‘History, archives and Chinese Australian lives’.
On Wednesday, 20 April 2016 I am speaking at the ‘History Postgraduate and Early Career Researchs Presentation’, 2.30pm to 4.00pm in Building 24.G02. I’ll be talking about my new DECRA project in a presentation titled: ‘The naturalisation of Chinese migrants to Australia, Canada and New Zealand from the 1860s to 1920’. Also speaking will be four History postgrads.
CALL FOR PAPERS Colonial Formations: Connections and Collisions
University of Wollongong
24–25 November 2016
Professor Clare Anderson, University of Leicester
Professor Jane Lydon, University of Western Australia
Dr Alice Te Punga Somerville, Macquarie University
Dr Virginia Marshall, University of Wollongong
This conference will explore colonial formations from a range of historical, contemporary and interdisciplinary perspectives. In particular it seeks to foreground the local and regional particularities of colonial dynamics alongside those of the more studied arena of ‘imperial formations’. We seek to continue the work of decentring the metropole, as well as to shed light on its enduring power and purchase. The conference’s framing themes of ‘connections’ and ‘collisions’ encourages enquiry into processes of borrowing, negotiation and collaboration, as well as contestation, conflict and Indigenous resurgence and mobilisation.
The conference also serves to mark the recent formation of the Colonial and Settler Studies Network (CASS) at the University of Wollongong. CASS promotes critical inquiry into the history, theoretical framing, and contemporary manifestations of colonialism on a global scale. We particularly foster work that places colonial and settler colonial formations in comparative and connected frames, and promote collaboration between scholars of diverse colonialisms.
Paper proposals might consider the following themes:
Indigenous and subaltern networks and exchanges
Settler colonialism and its relation to other colonial formations past and present
Colonial mobilities and movements across different colonial spaces
We are calling for proposals for both individual papers (20 mins) and panels of up to 3 speakers (90 mins). Proposals should include a 250-word abstract and a 50-word biographical statement for each speaker. For panels, please also include a title and brief rationale for the panel as a whole. Please send proposals to email@example.com by 10 June 2016.
The conference will be preceded on 23 November 2016 by an interdisciplinary one-day masterclass for postgraduates and early career researchers — ‘Confronting Colonialism’. This will be led by Professors Clare Anderson and Jane Lydon, along with CASS members. Participants will be mentored to develop their conference papers for submission as journal articles. Some travel bursaries will be available. Places are limited. Interested postgraduates and early career researchers who are submitting a paper for the conference can request a masterclass application form by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
We anticipate that one or more journal special issues will develop from the conference proceedings.
Conference Convenors: Jane Carey and Frances Steel
Conference Administrator: Helen Bones
Hosted by the Colonial and Settler Studies Network, Faculty of Law, Humanities and the Arts, University of Wollongong
On 5 February 1910, Sydney’s Daily Telegraph newspaper published this series of photographs of Sydney’s Chinese community to mark the upcoming Chinese New Year.
One hundred and six years later I’d like to say, ‘kung-hi far-tsoy’ everyone!
‘KUNG-HI FAR-TSOY SUN-NEEN.’
This picture depicts a well-known Chinese merchant in Sydney and his Chinese family, awaiting guests in the reception hall of his residence. The lady, it will be noticed, has the small feet, ‘golden lillies’ as they are known in China. A few years ago no mandarin would dream of marrying a lady who possessed feet more than three or four inches long.
Thursday next will be the first day of the Chinese new year, and that is the occasion for ceremonial visits among Chinese. On the entrance of the visitor there is a general exchange of the season’s greeting: ‘Kung-hi Far-Tsoy Sun-neen.’
MAKING NEW YEAR PURCHASES.
The Chinese shops in Sydney are mostly of the general store type. This represents the interior of one of the principal shops in Campbell-street. On the shelves over the proprietor’s head are silks, satins, and other dress goods. Further along are Chinese shoes–with paper soles. On the extreme right are bags containing Chinese rice, while in the inner chamber are all kinds of Chinese groceries, fire-crackers, and even–sausages. The proprietor also sells Chinese josses and fire-crackers with which to frighten away evil spirits–which are said to be very active at this period.
THE ANCESTRAL ALTAR IN A CHINESE HOUSE.
It will be noticed that over the altar is a picture of Confucius. On the altar itself are offerings to the gods, in the form of fruit, rice, eggs, etc. On New Year’s Day various genuflexions and kow-tows have to be performed before this altar.
POULTRY FOR THE NEW YEAR.
There was great business being done in the ‘cook-shops,’ which are stalls open to the street, on which larded ducks, roast chicken, stewed fowls stuffed with chestnuts are offered for sale. That even a Chinese can appreciate a free advertisement is shown by the expression on the cook’s face.
The list feature in Trove allows registered users to create their own collections of items. They’re a handy thing if you’re researching a particular topic and want to organise the material that you’ve found in Trove, or even if you just want to go back to random stuff that you like. You can keep your Trove lists private, or make them public and share what you’ve found with others.
Tim, who until recently was part of the Trove management team, thought that it would be good to take that sharing to another level — so he’s created a framework that lets you use your Trove lists to create an online exhibition. You can read more about Tim’s thoughts on this process on his blog.
I was keen to give it a try, and decided to make a pictorial exhibition about the Chinese in New South Wales to 1940. I started by making nine lists in Trove, which would serve as topics in my exhibition. Gradually I added a selection of pictures, objects and illustrated newspapers articles to each of my lists. I gave each of my lists a short description and arranged the items in chronological order. Because I’ve included newspaper articles, it would be best if I took the time to correct the OCR text for each one, but I’m impatient and wanted to get onto building the exhibition itself.
Tim’s DIY Trove Exhibition is pretty straightforward to use, particularly if you have some experience (even very basic experience) with web publishing or coding. He’s written clear, step-by-step instructions. The process first involves getting yourself a GitHub account and a Trove API key, and then customising his code to make your exhibition. Customising the code might look scary, but if you follow the instructions carefully you should be okay! There are further ways that you can customise the exhibition — for example, I changed the fonts — but you don’t need to do anything more if you don’t want to.
Once you’ve made the exhibition, you can easily add or take away items, or change your list descriptions, or change the order items appear in a list. Simply make the change to your list in Trove and it will appear in your exhibition after refreshing your browser.
With the long summer holidays upon us again, we’re back at our local pool every day for a couple of weeks of swimming lessons for the kids. I’ve had one reluctant swimmer, who for a good long time refused to get her face or hair wet, and one little fish, whose propensity for holding her breath underwater has been quite unnerving at times. Growing up in Australia, we teach our kids to swim because it’s fun and a good form of exercise. We also teach them to swim to keep them safe.
According to Kim Torney’s Babes in the Bush (Curtin University Books 2005, p. 13), the most frequent cause of accidental death of children in colonial Australia was drowning. One boy to meet this awful fate was William Sheen.
In April 1862, the body of 10-year-old Willie Sheen was found floating in a deep part of the Macquarie River near Bathurst. Dr George Busby, the Bathurst coroner, held an inquest into his death, but there was no suspicion of foul play and the coroner recorded a verdict of ‘found drowned’.
The inquest, as reported in the Bathurst Free Press and Mining Journal, revealed some interesting details about this young boy’s short life.
According to evidence given at the inquest, Willie was the son of a Chinese man and a European woman ‘of the name of Shean’, and he was said to have been born at sea between California and New South Wales (Bathurst Free Press, 5 April 1862, p. 2).
If he was aged 10 in 1862, baby Willie and his parents would have arrived in Sydney in about 1852, some of the earliest ‘American’ arrivals to the NSW goldfields. The NSW gold rushes had began after Edward Hargraves and his assistants discovered the first payable gold near Bathurst in 1851, and Hargraves himself had recently returned from California.
Juanita Kwok, a PhD candidate at Charles Sturt University, is currently researching the Chinese history of Bathurst, from the 1850s to the 1950s.
Unfortunately Willie Sheen’s death certificate (NSW BDM 2463/1862) provides only a few more details. His father’s name was given as ‘A Chou’, a ‘Chinaman’, and his mother’s name was recorded as ‘Supposed Sheen’, the absence of detail suggesting that her son had probably not seen her for quite some time.
Five years ago I began an as-yet-uncompleted series of blogposts about the various iterations of the Certificate of Domicile and the Certificate Exempting from the Dictation Test.
In the first post I wrote about the first Certificate of Domicile held in record series NAA: ST84/1, ‘Certificates of Domicile and Certificates of Exemption from Dictation Test, chronological series’. The certificate, no. 1903/1, was issued to a man named Ah Shooey on the last day of 1902.
The reason I didn’t write about the very first Certificate of Domicile issued in New South Wales was because it is held in a different series, NAA: SP11/6. I’ve written a bit about SP11/6 before — it’s an odd collections of Customs files that includes a bound volume with the earliest Certificates of Domicile, and the volume isn’t digitised.
On a more recent visit to the archives in Sydney, I therefore photographed the first certificate, which was issued a month after the Immigration Restriction Act came into force in January 1901. It can be found in NAA: SP11/6, Box 3.
The first NSW Certificate of Domicile was issued to 38-year-old Yau Foon (or Yaw Foon or Yow Foon?) on 3 February 1902 by NSW Collector of Customs Nicholas Lockyer. On the certificate ‘No. 1’ is handwritten in clear red letters at the top.
Yau Foon is described as being 5 foot 5 1/2 inches tall (without boots), of medium build, with dark hair and brown eyes. He had a small scar on the back of his right wrist. There is no space on the certificate for details such as nationality or birthplace.
Two photographs are attached to the front of the certificate, one showing Yau Foon front on, one side on. The photographs clearly show Yau Foon’s queue, wound and pinned to the top of his head. Note that on this earliest version of the Certificate of Domicile there appears to be specific spaces for two photographs.
The certificate is marked in red as being cancelled, which would have happened when Yau Foon returned from his trip to China. Customs officer Bragg has written that Yau Foon arrived on the S.S. Chingtu on 5 May 1904.
The Chungking Legation: Australia’s Diplomatic Mission in Wartime China — exhibition on during December 2015 and January 2016 at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Canberra:
R.G. Casey Building John McEwen Crescent Barton ACT 0221 Australia
Over 2015 I have been working with the Chinese Museum in Melbourne and the Australian Consulate-General in Chengdu, China, on an exhibition and book titled The Chungking Legation: Australia’s Diplomatic Mission in Wartime China. They tell the story of Australia’s third overseas legation, which operated in Chungking (Chongqing) between 1941 and 1946. The Australian version of the exhibition and the book were launched on 7 December 2015 at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Canberra.
We initially developed the exhibition for display in China and it was launched there in March 2015 by Australia’s Governor-General, Sir Peter Cosgrove. After first being displayed in the Old Australian Legation Building in Chongqing, the exhibition has since been on show at the Chongqing Intercontinental Hotel, the Chongqing Municipal Library and the Three Gorges Museum in Chongqing.
I spoke at the Canberra launch, following speeches by the Secretary of DFAT, Peter Varghese, and the Chinese Ambassador, Ma Zhaoxu. Here’s what I said.
Seventy-five years ago, give or take a few months, the Australian Government announced its decision to appoint a Minister to China. The news was met warmly by the Chinese Consul-General in Melbourne, Dr C.J. Pao, who commented that:
The tie between the youngest and oldest nations of the Pacific was a great contribution to the united democratic front without which human decency and world order could never be achieved.
In due course, Sir Frederic Eggleston embarked for Chungking and his Chinese counterpart, Dr Hsu Mo, arrived to head the new Chinese Legation in Canberra.
The Australian press reported on these events with some interest. Indeed, they were quite fascinated by the Chinese Legation party of 23 who arrived in Australia in September 1941. Ten children and six women were among their number, including three women who were university graduates – intelligent, educated, sophisticated women emblematic of a modern China.
The Australian press was also interested in the practical logistics of setting up a diplomatic mission in a war-torn country occupied by a common enemy. Chungking was cut off from its usual transport routes to the east, the only land route being the notorious and dangerous Burma Road.
Officers in the Department of External Affairs had to consider every possible aspect of Legation work and life as they made arrangements – from finding suitable office space and living quarters to transporting office equipment, personal luggage, provisions and household commodities, even vehicles. These mundane arrangements had to be sorted out before any real diplomatic work could begin. As one newspaper headline plainly stated: ‘Minister to take food with him – must find house in Chinese capital, then furnish it’.
Suitable staff to accompany Sir Frederic was another question. The government decided it would be unfair to ask an ‘Australian girl’ to go to ‘much-bombed Chungking’ as a typist, no matter what salary was offered. ‘It [was] no job for a woman,’ they said.
But as you will see when you look around the exhibition, this line didn’t hold for long and women, both Australian and Chinese, took on roles in the Chungking Legation. In the exhibition we feature Maris King, who was plucked from the departmental typing pool in 1943 and went on to have a notable diplomatic career. Other women we know who worked in the Legation during those early years were Sylvia Westwood, Alison Waller and Rosemarie Hsia. One little girl, Lynne Westwood, age 7, also lived at the Legation, although a later Chancery report, from 1945, noted that ‘Chungking is not a place to bring young children to’.
One of the joys in researching this exhibition and book has been glimpsing into the everyday lives of the Legation staff and learning something of the extraordinary conditions under which they worked. The Legation records, held by the National Archives, document the Australians’ diplomatic work at the highest levels – in fostering good relationships with Chinese leaders like Chiang Kai-shek and K.C. Wu, for example. But they also reveal the everyday bread-and-butter work of the Legation – issuing permits for travel to Australia, writing despatches, negotiating trade arrangements, and assisting Australians in distress, including those who had been interned by the Japanese.
The Australians were well-known and liked in Chungking, on good terms with Chinese government officials and other foreign representatives alike. Reading through the archives and listening to the wonderful collection of oral histories held by the National Library, you get a real sense of who the Australians were, and what they brought to the remarkably cosmopolitan life of wartime Chungking. In true Australian style, for example, they referred to their distinguished Minister as ‘The Egg’.
The personalities and personal histories of the Australians in Chungking meant they didn’t always get on with each other (and there were some real clashes), but these same characteristics made the Australians a unique bunch – from Eggleston’s intellect and integrity to Charles Lee’s easy friendships within all ranks of the Chinese government to Maris King’s sense of adventure and lust for life.
And so, just as the Legation’s work was a team effort, I’d like to finish by thanking the team I’ve worked with in developing the exhibition and book, particularly Nancy Gordon and Brodie Burns-Williamson and the staff in the Australian Consulate in Chengdu, and Jean Chen and Sophie Couchman from the Chinese Museum in Melbourne.
In 1941, on his appointment as Minister to China, Sir Frederic stated that ‘it would be no small task to interpret Chinese culture to Australia and Australian culture to China’. Seven decades later things have changed somewhat, but I trust that the work we’ve done together on the exhibition, and the work we do separately as diplomats, consular staff, curators and historians, continues to strengthen the relationship between Australia and China and continues to build on our sense of mutual understanding.
Earlier in the year I conducted a survey of people who had registered their interest in my Chinese Australian Hometown Heritage Tour. I received 40 responses, which is great! Feedback I’ve received so far about the tour is very positive, and I look forward to putting together a tour that hopefully fulfils what most people would like to get out of it.
One of the survey respondents asked why I was interested in running the tour. Over the past 20-odd years I’ve had contact with many Australians who know little or nothing about their Chinese heritage, often because the social stigma of racial mixing in the era of White Australia resulted in deliberate ‘forgetting’ and hiding of non-European heritage. Others know more, but have never been to China before. The time I’ve been lucky enough to spend in Guangdong has helped me to better understand the historical lives of those who migrated to Australia, the culture and landscape they came from, and the social worlds they inhabited. I’m hoping that the tour will provide others with the same sort of experience and understanding. I also love to travel, and especially love travelling in the weird and wonderful world of south China!
I’m very aware that the itinerary I’m planning, which includes Zhongshan and the Sze Yup counties of Xinhui, Kaiping and Taishan, leaves out some major hometown districts such as Dongguan and Zengcheng in Guangdong and Xiamen (Amoy) in Fujian province. The tour destinations reflect the areas in which I’ve spent most time and where I have contacts. The first tour in March 2016 will be a bit of an experiment, and if things go well I hope to offer more tours in the future (if the demand exists!).
Here’s a summary of the results of the survey. I’ll be working with this in mind as I put together a firm itinerary and program of activities in the next few months.
What is the main reason for your interest in the tour?
Seventy-five per cent of respondents were descended from a Chinese migrant to Australia or New Zealand, with a further 15 per cent related to someone descended from a Chinese migrant to Australia or New Zealand.
Have you been to mainland China before?
Respondents were divided into three main groups: 45 per cent had lived or travelled in mainland China, 30 per cent had never been to mainland China or Hong Kong, and 25 per cent had been to Hong Kong but not to the mainland.
The tour is currently planned for March 2016, with a possible second tour in November 2016. Which date would suit you best?
Either or both dates suited all respondents. One respondent requested that the tour take place during school holidays, but due to the differences in Australian school holiday dates between the states this may not be possible.
The tour is planned to last 10 days, starting and finishing in Hong Kong. Transfers (ferry, private minibus), accommodation and most meals would be included, as well as entry to sites, talks and workshops. How much would you expect to pay?
Almost 40 per cent respondents felt that between $2000 and $2500 would be the expected cost for the tour, including land transfers, accommodation, most meals, site entry, talks and workshops. Almost equal numbers said they would be prepared to pay up to $3000 or over $3000.
How do you feel about the quality and price of the tour?
Nearly 80 per cent of respondents stated that they would prefer ‘comfortable accommodation, meals and transport at a reasonable cost’, with almost 20 per cent stating that they would prefer basic standards to keep costs as low as possible.
How do you feel about meals and eating on the tour?
Most respondents said that they would like to try local foods and specialities, including eating at street stalls or markets. A smaller number said that they would like to eat local foods, but only in restaurants that met Australian standards. One indicated that they had dietary restrictions.
Would you join the tour by yourself or as part of a group?
Most respondents indicated that they would travel as part of a couple, with friends or family (over 60 per cent). Almost 40 per cent said that they would be travelling alone. I will give the option of sharing accommodation with someone of the same gender, or of paying a single supplement.
What is your level of interest in possible tour destinations and activities? The most popular activity suggestions were:
visiting ancestral villages of early Chinese who migrated to Australia (100 per cent of respondents said ‘definite yes’ or ‘sounds good’)
visiting World Heritage-listed diaolou in Kaiping (85 per cent of respondents said ‘definite yes’ or ‘sounds good’)
visiting other heritage sites with connections to overseas migration (95 per cent of respondents said ‘definite yes’ or ‘sounds good’)
visiting overseas Chinese history museums (over 90 per cent of respondents said ‘definite yes’ or ‘sounds good’)
hearing expert talks on overseas Chinese history and heritage (over 95 per cent of respondents said ‘definite yes’ or ‘sounds good’)
eating local foods, such as dim sum and cakes (over 95 per cent of respondents said ‘definite yes’ or ‘sounds good’)
doing independent activities, such as free time to explore a town or city by yourself (over 80 per cent of respondents said ‘definitely yes’ or ‘ sounds good’)
taking evening shopping walks (80 per cent said ‘definitely yes’ or ‘sounds good’).
Other activities were a bit less popular (with between 70 and 80 per cent of respondents who said ‘definitely yes’ or ‘sounds good’): visiting general history museums, introduction to Cantonese language, village cooking classes and village cultural performances.
The least popular activity suggestion was cycling through the countryside between heritage sites (60 per cent of respondents said ‘take it or leave it’ or ‘not interested at all’).
Is there a particular ancestral village or county in Guangdong you would like to visit?
Thirty per cent of respondents said they had a particular village or town they wanted to visit, while nearly 40 per cent said they knew of the county they wanted to visit but not a particular village. The places respondents listed included: Shekki (Zhongshan), Zhuhai, Hoiping (Kaiping), Sunwui (Xinhui), Taishan, Jiangmen, and Amoy. Over 30 per cent didn’t have a particular place they wanted to visit.
Everyone is warmly invited to the launch of Chinese Australians: Politics, Engagement and Resistance, edited by Sophie Couchman and me.
Bringing together contributions from eleven key scholars in Chinese Australian history, the book explores how Chinese Australians have influenced the communities in which they lived on a civic or individual level. Focusing on the motivations and aspirations of their subjects, the authors draw on biography, world history, case law, newspapers and immigration case files to investigate the political worlds of Chinese Australians in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
The book will be launched by Ms Nancy Gordon, Australian Consul-General in Chengdu, China.
While in Hong Kong I’ve been reading, and really enjoying, Huifeng Shen’s book China’s Left-Behind Wives (NUS Press, Singapore, 2012). The book tells the story of women who stayed in China while their husbands migrated from Fujian province to Southeast Asia between the 1930s and 1950s.
Shen interviewed a number of these left-behind wives, all in their 80s or older, and their oral history testimonies provide a poignant insight into some of the most intimate aspects of their lives — the sorts of things that I struggle to uncover in my own research. Although the women in Shen’s book are from Fujian not Guangdong, and their husbands migrated to Southeast Asia not Australia, her work rings very true with what I know of the lives of wives of Chinese men in Australia. One of the most fascinating things for me, who approaches the subject from an Australian perspective, is seeing the Chinese side of story, particularly where it comes to the question of first and second marriages.
My research has uncovered the unhappiness that many Australian wives felt on discovering that their Chinese husbands had wives, and sometimes children, in China, and the difficulties Australian wives faced when they travelled to China with their husbands. Shen’s research shows that overseas marriages and overseas families created unhappiness, and hardships, for Chinese wives too. Shen notes that — as the result of often long-term separation from their husbands and feelings of fear, jealousy, hurt and betrayal — ‘many fankeshen [left-behind wives] hated the second wives of their husbands, especially the fanpo [‘barbarian’ foreign women], even if they never met them’ (Shen 2012, p. 100).
Some years ago, when I was in a ‘Cuban’ village in southwest Taishan, I was told a story about foreign wives. The story went that foreign wives of Chinese men would give their husbands a dose of poison before they made a return visit to China, a poison that could be reversed only if the man returned overseas to his foreign wife for the antidote within a particular time. My informant stated that this was the cause of the death of his uncle, who had been a laundryman in Cuba in the 1920s and was known to have had a Cuban wife.
I was very interested then to read in China’s Left-Behind Wives that the emigrant communities of Quanzhou, Fujian, also ‘believed that fanpo sometimes … cast spells or hexes on the male migrants who married them’ (Shen 2012, p. 101 n. 58). Furthermore:
Wives who visited their husbands overseas were very careful when they met an overseas wife, believing that the woman might cast spells that would make them sick or insane, or cause them to die. Wives were particularly wary of food and drink provided by an overseas wife, suspecting something harmful might have been added. Hong Q [a left-behind wife interviewed by Shen] said she experienced stomach pain after eating with her husband when she visited him in the Philippines. She did not eat any food prepared by the overseas wife, but she believed that the woman put a spell on her by touching her hand three times (Shen 2012, pp. 100-101).
I came across China’s Left-Behind Wives by accident in the bookshop here in Tsim Sha Tsui, but I’d suggest you seek it out a bit more proactively. As Shen notes in her conclusion, ‘the story of the left-behind wives is not merely an appendix to male migration history but a subject worthy of study in its own right, and an integral part of the history of women, the history of migration, and the history of China’ (Shen 2012, p. 216). Here, here.