Articles by My China Roots: Histories or “mystories”?

Why have so many Chinese gone overseas?

The weather, Christian fundamentalism, greed, babies? Fashion, automation, bling? None of it may seem likely at first, but each played a role in the making of today’s overseas Chinese.

Successions of crop failures, the Taiping Rebellion, banditry, overpopulation: all pushed millions to seek a better life abroad. At the same time, commercial opportunities created by the silk trade, the UK’s Industrial Revolution, Europe’s expansion and North America’s Gold Rush drew countless Chinese to set up new homes overseas.

“Control the globe and let the world hear our voices”: The ideological conflict for the hearts and minds of Chinese Overseas (Part 1)

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China's attitude towards Chinese Overseas has evolved with the political will of the time. In this two-part adaptation of his dissertation at the University of Oxford, our Research Officer William Langley contrasts the stances and policies of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in Beijing and the Republic of China (ROC) in Taiwan.

Chinese Labor Corps: Britain’s Forgotten Army

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Every year on Remembrance Sunday, crowds gather at London’s Whitehall for a commemorative service in honor of the servicemen and women who died in WWI. This year, a large group of people representing a host of organizations and institutions stand out from the crowd; they have come to lay wreaths for the Chinese Labor Corps.

Cuban Chinese: Heroes and Healers

In Havana, a commemorative stele pays tribute to their loyal and unfaltering contribution in Cuba’s wars of independence: No hubo un chino cubano desertor, no hubo chino cubano traidor. “There was not one Chinese Cuban that deserted, not one Chinese Cuban that betrayed [the cause].” As opposed to other countries that the Chinese emigrated to, they are not only remembered as successful business owners, but also war heroes, pioneering doctors, and fervent revolutionaries.

America’s Oldest Chinese Cemetery

In June 2012, archaeologists made a stunning discovery in Mariel, a small town located some 40 km west of Havana, Cuba. Who would have thought that a local fisherman’s tale would turn out to be true?

Jamaica: Out of Many, One People

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During a short stint at a surfing retreat on the south coast of Jamaica, I met a Jamaican Chinese lady named May. She was visiting the surf camp ahead of an organized outing for kids from the school that she runs. Surprised to see a person of Chinese heritage in such a setting, I excitedly told her about the purpose of my visit to Jamaica, which was to research the Jamaican Chinese community, and about my work in roots research. “Oh no,” she told me, “I’m much more interested in tracing my roots to Africa!”

Peruvian Chinese: From Half-Bloods to Proud Tusan

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In the past 50 years, the Peruvian-Chinese community has been working to change attitudes by extending the term tusan to all descendants – regardless of their degree of “Chineseness” – and in response to growing investment by mainland China in Peru.

Havana Chinatown: A Fading Community

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The Chinese community of Cuba is a dying one – but since many early migrants intermarried with local Cuban women, many Cubans today are unaware of their heritage. As the country opens up and increases trade with China, Cuban Chinese around the world may find a newfound interest in their roots.

Today in Chinese History (28 August 2014): Shakespeare and the Taichang Emperor

On this day, August 28th, in 1582, a little boy named Zhu Changluo was born in the majestic halls of Beijing’s Forbidden City.On the other side of the planet, European countries were about to turn the clock forward ten days for the adoption of the modern day Gregorian calendar, and an 18-year old William Shakespeare was soon to marry the older woman he just impregnated.Time cut short and the absence of luck with older women were to be two characterizing factors in the unfortunate life of Zhu Changluo. His reign as the Taichang Emperor became the shortest of all Ming Emperors, lasting less than a month.

Hungry Ghost Festival and the Cross-Cultural Nature of Roots

Ghosts come in all shapes and sizes, especially Chinese ones. There are water ghosts, headless ghosts, friendly old lady-ghosts, and, as pictured here, hungry ghosts.

Bing Han’s Migration Trip

How did your ancestors make their migration journey? How does one travel to a new beginning? This story follows a typical Chinese emigrant on his way to Semarang, Indonesia, some 100 years ago.

Beijing: China’s Attitude Towards Overseas Chinese

China has traditionally regarded itself as the center of all the world’s civilization. As a consequence, it has tended to frown upon citizens that choose to leave the ‘Middle Kingdom’ for foreign, supposedly barbaric countries.

Jinjiang, Fujian: Fast fact

Jinjiang, Fujian: Fast fact   Overseas Chinese donations paid for 90% of Jinjiang’s primary and secondary schools up to the establishment of the People’s [...]

Guangzhou, Guangdong: Foreign trade

Guangzhou, Guangdong: Foreign trade   From 1757 until 1842, Guangzhou, or Canton as it was called back then, was China’s only official door to [...]

London, UK: Tea and Opium

London, UK: Tea and Opium   Who would have thought that the preservation of the ever so civilized ‘tea time’ would drive the British [...]

Nanjing, Jiangsu: The Nanjing Treaty

Nanjing, Jiangsu: The Nanjing Treaty   The Nanjing Treaty of 1842 signalled the end of the First Opium War, easily won by the British. [...]

Lima, Peru: Coolies

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Lima, Peru: Coolies   From 1849-1874, around 100,000 Chinese laborers, also known as coolies, were auctioned in Peru. Most of them were from Guangdong [...]

Guiping, Guangxi: The Taiping Rebellion

Guiping, Guangxi: The Taiping Rebellion   The Taiping Rebellion is one of the most under-recognized events in world history, both in terms of scale [...]

Derailed: Doing Business in China

In 1904, Tjong A Fie, his brother Tjong Yong Hian, and their cousin Cheong Fatt Tze embarked on a journey that would showcase the difficulties of doing business in China for an Overseas Chinese.

Sacramento-Omaha, US: The Transcontinental Railroads

Sacramento-Omaha, US: The Transcontinental Railroads   The Transcontinental Railroads, mostly built during the 1860s, linked the well-developed railway network of the Eastern coast with [...]

Washington DC, US: Chinese Exclusion Act

Washington DC, US: Chinese Exclusion Act   During the 1850s and 1860s, the Chinese were mostly welcomed in the US as much needed physical [...]

Toronto, Canada: A cold welcome

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Toronto, Canada: A cold welcome   Toronto, Canada: A cold welcome Political & Economic Personal Stories It was 1918, the end of the First [...]

Yongding, Fujian: The story of Tiger Balm

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Yongding, Fujian: The story of Tiger Balm   Nestled in the green hills of the Hakka county of Yongding lies a small village like [...]

Xi’an, Shaanxi: Silk

Xi’an, Shaanxi: Silk   Can you imagine Italian politicians today attacking the Chinese for inspiring Italian women to wear scanty and daring outfits? Over [...]

Hong Kong: Cantonese Cuisine

Hong Kong: Cantonese Cuisine   The Cantonese have a reputation for eating “anything that swims, walks, crawls or flies” and their province of Guangdong [...]

Prato, Italy: Today’s emigrant workers

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Prato, Italy: Today’s emigrant workers   Prato is an interesting case of modern Chinese labor migration. Where waves of unschooled Chinese workers flocked to [...]

Li Xiaohong’s Migration Trip

It is the autumn of 1991 and at 20 years of age, Li Xiaohong is set on going abroad. More than half of the people that are officially registered in Li’s township in Wenzhou, Zhejiang, actually live overseas. Most of Li’s family friends have gone to the Netherlands, Italy, France, and Africa, where they started small retail and wholesale businesses. Li’s goal is to go to Germany and set up his own restaurant.

Kingston, Jamaica: Reggae’s Chinese roots

Kingston, Jamaica: Reggae’s Chinese roots   Did you know there are Chinese roots to sunny Jamaica’s reggae music? Vincent Chin Vincent Chin was born [...]

São Paulo, Brazil: Mainland-Taiwan-Japan relations

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São Paulo, Brazil: Mainland-Taiwan-Japan relations   Relations between Mainland China, Taiwan, and Japan have been fraught with disputes over territory and the interpretation of [...]

Taipei, Taiwan: History of ‘native Taiwanese’

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Taipei, Taiwan: History of 'native Taiwanese'   The history of what today is called the ‘native Taiwanese’ population (or ‘benshengren’) started some 350 years [...]

Taishan, Szeyup, Guangdong: Hakka and Punti

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Taishan, Szeyup, Guangdong: Hakka and Punti   In 1661, the Qing emperor ordered all people along the coast of Fujian, Guangdong and Zhejiang provinces [...]

North California, US: The Gold Rush

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North California, US: The Gold Rush   At the start of 1848, there were three Chinese residents in California. The next year, gold was [...]

Kaiping, Szeyup, Guangdong: Money, bandits, buildings

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Kaiping, Szeyup, Guangdong: Money, bandits, buildings   Szeyup means ‘four counties’ and refers to Taishan, Kaiping, Enping, and Xinhui. In the second half of [...]

Quanzhou and Xiamen, Fujian: Harbors

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Quanzhou and Xiamen, Fujian: Harbors   When Marco Polo arrived at the port of Quanzhou at the end of the 13th century he saw [...]

Manchester, UK: The Industrial Revolution

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Manchester, UK: The Industrial Revolution   Towards the end of the 18th century, the Industrial Revolution kicked off in the United Kingdom and steam [...]

Suez canal, Egypt: Global impact

Suez canal, Egypt: Global impact   1869 was a big year for access. Not only did it see the connecting of the American East [...]

Vancouver, Canada: Zhi Gong Tang

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Vancouver, Canada: Zhi Gong Tang   One of the overseas Chinese organizations that financially supported Sun Yat-Sen’s revolutionary struggle in China was called the [...]

Angel Island, US: ‘Ellis Island of the West’

Angel Island, US: ‘Ellis Island of the West’   If you are a second or third generation American-born-Chinese, your (grand)parents will probably have been [...]

Hawaii, US: Charlie and Apana

Hawaii, US: Charlie and Apana   Charlie Chan was a legendary detective in the Honolulu police force. He fought crime and solved mysteries, aided [...]

Min river, Fujian: Fujian dialects

Min river, Fujian: Fujian dialects   The Min river (named Min-Kiang in the map) divides Fujian into different dialect areas: Hokkien or Minnanyu, which [...]

Amsterdam, the Netherlands: The word tea

Amsterdam, the Netherlands: The word tea   The Dutch call it ‘thee’, French say ‘thé’, Spanish ‘te’, Germans ‘Tee’, and the British say ‘tea’. [...]

Boston, US: The Chinese Tea Party?

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Boston, US: The Chinese Tea Party?   The Boston Tea Party was a key event in the run up to the US Declaration of [...]

Suzhou, Jiangsu: The largest fleet in the world

Suzhou, Jiangsu: The largest fleet in the world   On July 11, 1405, the largest fleet in world history sailed out of the port [...]

Malindi, Kenya: The mythical Qilin

Malindi, Kenya: The mythical Qilin   Its tread is careful and gracious. It walks on grass without disturbing a single blade; its gentle nature [...]

Kolkata, India: From the first man…

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Kolkata, India: From the first man… It all started with Atchew. Around 1778, he left China for Achipur (Kolkata) with a dream to set [...]

New York, US: Mad men

New York, US: Mad men   The following is a translation of a typical ad published by a migration agency around the turn of [...]

Fuzhou, Fujian: Fast fact

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Fuzhou, Fujian: Fast fact In the 16 years following the opening up of China in 1979, an estimated average of 60 people per day [...]

No Hollywood Ending: Lily Yee, Mother of Vincent Chin

This is the story of Lily Yee, the mother of Vincent Chin, whose brutal murder in 1982 at the hands of auto workers in Detroit galvanized the Asian American community.

Wenchang, Hainan: A most successful father

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Wenchang, Hainan: A most successful father   Historically, Hainan island was a place of exile for criminals, political prisoners and disgraced officials. However, it [...]

Madiun, Indonesia: Historic footage of a funeral

Madiun, Indonesia: Historic footage of a funeral On an early Wednesday morning in 1930, a group of 20 men placed a magnificently decorated coffin [...]

Luoyang, Henan: The roots of Qingming – Surprisingly relevant in today’s China

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Luoyang, Henan: The roots of Qingming - Surprisingly relevant in today’s China   Every year in early April, the Chinese celebrate Qingming. Across the [...]