This collaborative research project, comprising four teams from the Shanghai, Taipei, Hong Kong and Singapore, aims at investigating, analyzing and comparing the Chinese migration experiences and their diasporic practices in the four cities during the period from 1830s to 1930s when these cities were either under direct colonial rule or indirect colonialism.
Our project focuses on a relatively under-researched aspect in Chinese migration history, i.e., Chinese-Chinese relations. This can be defined in terms of the Chinese immigrants’ relation with the Chinese society from which they came, and with the Chinese early settlers in the places they were migrating to. Most research on Chinese migration seems to focus on Chinese migration to a foreign country and the processes of their adaptation and adjustment in a new environment, but our project will analyse the Chinese networks in the migration process and focus on the linkages and continuities, and find out how these linkages and continuities influenced the social and cultural practices of the Chinese in their new cities.
The fact that the destination of the Chinese migration movement was a “Chinese city” would convey a sense of familiarity and security visa-a-vis that of “foreignness” and uncertainty at the beginning of the migration process, and that the Chinese elements in the receiving end would also shape their migration experience, this marks a clear difference for those who migrated to these cities and those who went abroad to a strange new world. But were these assumptions of familiarity-security and foreignness-uncertainty real? And how these different assumptions would translate into their diasporic practices? In this comparative study we attempt to analyze and compare the collective memory of the Chinese immigrants to the four “Chinese cities” of Shanghai, Taipei, Hong Kong, Taipei and Singapore by examining the sources (written, oral and material) that recorded or expressed their migration experiences, and in addition, to see how different colonial policies would affect their diasporic practices as Shanghai was governed primarily by the French and Anglo-American establishment in the settlements, Taipei was under Japanese occupation since 1894, and Hong Kong and Singapore were British colonies from the early nineteenth century onward.