The Chinese overseas now number 25 to 30 million, yet the 2,000-year history of Chinese attempts to venture abroad and the underlying values affecting that migration have never before been presented in a broad overview. Despite centuries of prohibition against leaving the land and traveling and settling overseas, the "earthbound" Chinese--first traders, then peasants and workers--eventually found new sources of livelihood abroad. The practice of sojourning, being always temporarily away from home, was the answer the Chinese overseas found to deal with imperial and orthodox concerns. Today their challenge is to find an alternative to either returning or assimilating by seeking a new kind of autonomy in a world that will come to acknowledge the ideal of multicultural states.
In pursuing this story, international scholar Wang Gungwu uncovers some major themes of global history: the coming together of Asian and European civilizations, the ambiguities of ethnicity and diasporic consciousness, and the tension between maintaining one's culture and assimilation.
Original integrative work by a leading scholar in an important field of study. It is something entirely new: nobody has undertaken a broad overview of this subject in English, and none that I know of in other languages has achieved anything near Wang's level of inner knowledge and sophistication. The Chinese Overseas is squarely in the emerging fields of diaspora and transnational studies. But it goes well beyond these fashionable specialties by using the overseas Chinese experience to make original comparisons between the modern histories of China and the maritime West. In other words, Wang offers a new and hitherto overlooked setting for understanding China and its history over the past two millennia. Great themes of contemporary global history are illuminated by this book: the coming together of Asian and European civilizations, the role of middleman minorities, the ambiguities of ethnicity and of diasporic consciousness, and the tension between culture-maintenance and assimilation. An original work that readers in many fields will find important and stimulating.
These essays represent the culmination of a lifetime's worth of research and analysis by a very mature and cosmopolitan scholar. The book has a sweeping quality of grand analysis, written in his usual graceful and compelling, yet easily accessible, style. Wang provokes us all to think about the issue of the fate and state of overseas Chinese wherever they may be, however they got there, and whatever their future may hold. He has indeed problematized the history and sociology of the formation of Chinese communities outside China.
Readers familiar with Wang Gungwu's many works on Chinese migration will particularly welcome his general survey of the entire migratory experience...It goes well beyond the Chinese diaspora by using the overseas Chinese experience to make original comparisons between the historical experiences of China and the maritime West. It also offers a new and hitherto overlooked perspective for understanding the development of China itself over two millenia...This work ranges over great themes of world history...Wang's beautifully written book will have broad appeal to readers in many fields and in many parallel quests for autonomy.
The style and scholarship is what we have come to expect from Professor Wang: lucid, comprehensive and extremely well-informed...the lectures will actually prove very useful as introductory reading on the overseas Chinese...It will...prove rather difficult to find other up-to-date reading quite so well written, concise and comprehensive as this book, and we should be grateful to Professor Wang for having taken the time to write it.
Provides a broad overview of the two-thousand-year history of Chinese attempts to venture abroad and the underlying values affecting migration.
- 160 pages
- 4-11/16 x 7-3/16 inches
- Harvard University Press
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