POR­TRAITS OF PER­SE­VER­ANCE

A dis­play of more than 100 pho­to­graphs shows the lives of Chi­nese mi­grants in New Zealand more than a cen­tury ago, re­port­sWang Kai­hao.

China Daily (USA) - - LIFE | CULTURE - Contact the writer at wangkai­hao@chi­nadaily.com.cn

When de­scrib­ing the his­tory of early Chi­nese mi­grants over­seas in the 19th cen­tury, “blood and tears” are com­monly used words in China’s text­books; many en­dured mis­er­able lives as la­bor­ers and faced dis­crim­i­na­tion from lo­cals.

But, Phoebe Li, a Chi­nese New Zealan­der so­ci­ol­o­gist, who is cu­rat­ing a photo ex­hi­bi­tion in Beijing about Chi­nese mi­grants’ 170-year his­tory in her coun­try, wants vis­i­tors to see the story through a dif­fer­ent prism.

On Fri­day, Rec­ol­lec­tion of A Dis­tant Shore: A Pho­to­graphic In­tro­duc­tion to the His­tory of the Chi­nese in­NewZealand, opened at the Over­seas Chi­nese His­tory Mu­seum of China. It runs through Jan 21.

“Dis­crim­i­na­tion was in­evitable at that time. It was just like what was faced by first-gen­er­a­tion Chi­nese mi­grat­ing to the United States, Canada and Aus­tralia,” says Li. “But, the Chi­nese over­seas faced the dif­fi­cul­ties, made an ef­fort to in­te­grate, and joined main­stream so­ci­ety.

“So, we’d do well to adopt a more pos­i­tive at­ti­tude when re­view­ing the past and cher­ish their per­se­ver­ance,” she says.

Li, who­has been study­ing theChi­nese com­mu­nity in New Zealand since 2002, is now based at Ts­inghua University’s Cen­ter of Chi­nese En­tre­pre­neur Stud­ies in Beijing.

Ac­cord­ing to Li, the 100-odd photos on dis­play were se­lected from nearly 100,000 of­fer­ings pro­vided by 16 pub­lic in­sti­tu­tions in New Zealand, in­clud­ing Archives New Zealand, the Na­tional Li­brary of New Zealand and Auck­land Li­braries, be­sides pri­vate col­lec­tions.

They cover a wide spec­trum, from the mid-19th cen­tury on­wards.

Li says that typ­i­cal news photos were culled out in fa­vor of im­ages re­flect­ing peo­ple’s daily lives, and renowned in­di­vid­u­als are high­lighted in the ex­hi­bi­tion.

Appo Hoc­ton, whose name was spelled in Man­darin pinyin as Huang Het­ing, was a for­mer sailor who worked on a Bri­tish ship.

He set­tled in Nel­son, New Zealand in 1842, and be­came the first recorded Chi­nese mi­grant to that coun­try.

Large groups of Chi­nese from south­ern Guang­dong prov­ince fol­lowed in the 1860s, prompted by a gold rush in the Otago re­gion.

“Af­ter the gold rush faded, the green gro­cery be­came a com­mon busi­ness for Chi­nese mi­grants,” says Li. “These gro­ceries not only sold veg­eta­bles and fruit, but also func­tioned as job agen­cies and banks, which helped peo­ple re­mit­money to China.”

Some Chi­nese ty­coons were nur­tur­ing when it came to Chi­nese mi­grants. For in­stance, Choie Sew Hoy in Dunedin, a prin­ci­pal city in Otago, first of­fered im­mi­gra­tion in­for­ma­tion and sold in­stru­ments to gold min­ers, and grad­u­ally es­tab­lished a busi­ness em­pire.

His fam­ily, nowin its sixth gen­er­a­tion in New Zealand, still plays an im­por­tant role to­day.

Chew Chong, an­other Chi­nese en­tre­pre­neur fea­tured in the ex­hib­ited photos, be­came the first busi­ness­man in New Zealand to use re­frig­er­a­tion tech­nol­ogy to ex­port cream. He is of­ten re­ferred to as the found­ing fa­ther of the coun­try’s dairy in­dus­try.

Strict re­stric­tions on Chi­nese mi­grants came into play in 1881, fol­lowed by a se­ries of dis­crim­i­na­tory laws in the sub­se­quent decades.

“Then, a Chi­nese mi­grant was re­quired to pay tax, which roughly equaled two-year’s av­er­age in­come of New Zealan­ders at that time, to stay in the coun­try,” says Li.

But, when many Chi­nese joined the New Zealand mil­i­tary dur­ing WorldWar II tofight Ja­pan, they­won a great rep­u­ta­tion for the whole com­mu­nity, and the re­stric­tions were lifted. One re­sult, the cu­ra­tor says, was that “many pho­tog­ra­phers be­gan to then take pic­tures of or­di­nary Chi­nese”.

Chi­nese en­trepreneurs con­tin­ued to be pathfind­ers dur­ing that time.

For in­stance, the first su­per­mar­ket in New Zealand was opened in the 1970s by a Chi­nese mer­chant.

Mean­while, John McKin­non, New Zealand’s am­bas­sador to China, would like to take the panoramic ex­hi­bi­tion to his coun­try.

“The ex­hi­bi­tion has a huge va­ri­ety of sources, and it’s per­haps the first time where the his­tory of the Chi­nese in New Zealand can be seen from the be­gin­ning,” he says.

“I grewup in­Welling­ton,” McKin­non says. “And when I went to a Chi­nese restau­rant there many years ago, all Chi­nese peo­ple work­ing there were from Guang­dong.

“But now I find some are from Harbin (in north­east­ern Hei­longjiang prov­ince) and some are from Chengdu (in south­west­ern Sichuan prov­ince), and only a few­come from Guang­dong.”

New Zealand govern­ment sta­tis­tics show there are about 170,000 Chi­nese in the coun­try, but only onequar­ter of them were na­tive born, while the rest are “new im­mi­grants” from China and else­where in the world.

“It (the sce­nario) changes, they are peo­ple with skills am­bi­tions,” saysMcKin­non.

In 2002, He­len Clark, New Zealand’s prime min­ster at that time, of­fi­cially apol­o­gized to the Chi­nese for the re­stric­tive laws of the past, which Huang Jikai, the di­rec­tor of the Over­seas Chi­ne­seHis­to­ryMu­seum of China, sees as a mile­stone, show­ing an im­prove­ment in the so­cial sta­tus of the Chi­nese there.

“The Chi­nese (in New Zealand) not only know the lo­cal econ­omy, pol­i­tics and cus­toms well, but also carry their own tra­di­tions,” says Huang. “They thus func­tion as an im­por­tant pil­lar in im­prov­ing bi­lat­eral com­mu­ni­ca­tions to­day.”

“So, it is cru­cial to study the his­tory of the over­seasChi­nese ifwe­want to fig­ure out the re­cent his­tory of China,” says Wang Jian­lang, the head of the his­tory re­search in­sti­tute at the Chi­nese Acad­emy of So­cial Sciences.

Wang notes that an ex­pert panel study­ing Chi­nese mi­grant his­tory in New Zealand was es­tab­lished in his acad­emy in 2014. “No mat­ter what mo­tive they had to go to New Zealand in the first place, or which job they took, they have to­day be­come am­bas­sadors for cross-cul­tural com­mu­ni­ca­tion.” but and

From left: Photos por­tray Chi­nese gold­min­ers by Alexan­der Don; a Chi­nese fam­ily run­ning a green gro­cery in the 1920s by an un­known pho­tog­ra­pher and a newly wed Chi­nese cou­ple in 1975 by Ron­ald D Wolf at a Beijing ex­hi­bi­tion fo­cus­ing on the his­tory of Chi­nese mi­grants in New Zealand.

WANG KAI­HAO / CHINA DAILY

John McKin­non, New Zealand’s am­bas­sador to China, at the ex­hi­bi­tion at the Over­seas Chi­nese His­tory Mu­seum of China.

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