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Book Review - Gilbert Wong, N Z Listener November 3 2007
Tags: Zengcheng New ZealandersTranslate
http://www.tungjung.org.nz/images/stories/newsletters/2003/TungJung_Newsletter_Mar2003.pdf page 7
Explanation to Tung Jung Association - from Henry Chan - 2003 - for the publication Zengcheng New Zealanders. (N Z History Research Trust Fund)
Many Chinese New Zealanders have unclear ideas about where they came from. A new book provides some answers.
For long-established Chinese New Zealanders, the past is not only another country, it is often a mysterious, even mythical place.
You might meet a stranger at a wedding or a funeral and learn they are your “village cousin” without quite knowing what that means. At other family occasions, an ageing grandparent can be coaxed to tell stories from the days before New Zealand. These stories are fragments from another life: summer days spent tending water buffalo, the cloying perfume of lychees ripening on the tree, the sharp odour of saltpetre and the staccato percussion of firecrackers lit to keep bad spirits at bay.
Although picturesque, these stories don’t provide much to respond with when the taxi driver asks, “Where are you from?” If pushed, I identify myself among the sons and daughters of gold miners who arrived in Otago in the late 19th century or as refugees from the Japanese invasion of China before World War II.
The 1949 Communist Revolution and then the Cold War froze off the tiny Chinese community in New Zealand from China for more than 20 years. Until the 50s, they were such a smidgen of a percentage point that the census counted them as “others”. Generations grew up with a taste for Marmite and dreams of becoming All Blacks, although at the cost of the slow fade of memories of the villages their forebears had come from.
The Tung Jung Association decided to do something about this. Founded in Wellington in 1926, its original and present members are descendants of those who came from the Zengcheng and Dongguan areas of southern China. To mark its 80th anniversary, the association published Zengcheng New Zealanders, edited by Henry Chan, a retired academic. This is the first time many of these stories have been published for a wider audience.
Zengcheng was one source of the great Chinese diaspora of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Driven by Pacific Rim gold fever and later by famine and lawlessness as civil society crumbled with the dynasties, the diaspora created overseas communities of Chinese from Vancouver to Sydney. Many long-established Chinese New Zealanders can trace their origins to 38 villages at the tip of the Pearl River delta. Zengcheng New Zealanders recounts the histories of the 12 major villages.
This is not an academic or even a popular history. It is a forthright, proud community history, written by community members with guidance from Chan. Chinese linguists will wince at the romanisation that fails to match any of the major systems for rendering tonal Chinese into English. But to do otherwise would have required Chan to trace the original Chinese names of hundreds of people that had been rendered haphazardly into English by immigration officials from the 19th century until well into the 1940s.
First names became surnames, so the descendants of Lau Ho Luen today bear the surname Lowe. Often it was easier to approximate an English name for the Chinese pronunciation. The Ng family are often known as King. The Chan Thackery family can thank the English tutor of Chan Pui-Lam, the first to arrive here, who told him the name meant “newcomer” in Welsh. That’ll do, he thought.
A chapter on Zengcheng women provides accounts of the author Bickleen Fong, the first Chinese woman to gain a masters degree in 1956. Molly Ngan Kee was the first woman deputy mayor of Lower Hutt, in 1980. Pam Chong Dunn became the first Chinese New Zealander to head a diplomatic post when she served as Consul-General in Shanghai in 2002.
Younger generations have pored over this book, scanning the family snapshots of weddings, fruit shops and market gardens and the stories of individuals from a tiny part of China who made a life on the other side of the world. Bill Wong earned his pilot’s wings in World War II fighting for New Zealand. Arthur Leong from Hamilton represented New Zealand in soccer from 1959 to 1964. George Gee was the Mayor of Petone. Stephen Chan became the dean of the faculty of International Studies and Law at the University of London (see feature, p30). Ron Wai Shing ran for Labour three times against Bill Birch in the staunchly National seat of Franklin. Birch always won, but Wai Shing had the last laugh. He named one of his sons Franklin. By Gilbert Wong | Published on November 3, 2007 | Issue 3521
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Tags: Zengcheng New ZealandersTranslate, Immigrant songTranslate, Gilbert WongTranslate