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Eurasian: Mixed Identities in the United States, China, and Hong Kong, 1842–1943

Emma Jinhua Teng
Copyright Date: 2013
Edition: 1
Pages: 352
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    In the second half of the nineteenth century, global labor migration, trade, and overseas study brought China and the United States into close contact, leading to new cross-cultural encounters that brought mixed-race families into being. Yet the stories of these families remain largely unknown. How did interracial families negotiate their identities within these societies when mixed-race marriage was taboo and "Eurasian" often a derisive term? In Eurasian, Emma Jinhua Teng compares Chinese-Western mixed-race families in the United States, China, and Hong Kong, examining both the range of ideas that shaped the formation of Eurasian identities in these diverse contexts and the claims set forth by individual Eurasians concerning their own identities. Teng argues that Eurasians were not universally marginalized during this era, as is often asserted. Rather, Eurasians often found themselves facing contradictions between exclusionary and inclusive ideologies of race and nationality, and between overt racism and more subtle forms of prejudice that were counterbalanced by partial acceptance and privilege. By tracing the stories of mixed and transnational families during an earlier era of globalization, Eurasian also demonstrates to students, faculty, scholars, and researchers how changes in interracial ideology have allowed the descendants of some of these families to reclaim their dual heritage with pride.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-95700-8
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. A Note on Romanization
    (pp. xi-xi)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xii-xiv)
  6. Prelude
    (pp. xv-xviii)

    Having spent my formative years in the United States, with its long history of anti-miscegenation laws (which were only repealed in 1967), I found that my friends’ commonsense understanding of the desirability of Eurasian admixture called into question some of my fundamental presumptions concerning the racial order of things.¹ I had to wonder: How widespread was this attitude—which I found at once liberating and disturbing—among contemporary ethnic Chinese, and what were its historical roots? How did this desire for intermixing coexist with Han Chinese chauvinism, which continues to be a powerful force in the contemporary era, even in...

  7. Introduction
    (pp. 1-22)

    Fate brought me face to face with a remarkable woman. She had skeletons in the closet, she told me. Born in China, as a teenager Lily had come to the United States via Hong Kong. On paper she was a recent immigrant, yet in fact she had deep ancestral links to this country: like so many other Cantonese, her great-grandfather had been among the “Railroad Chinese,” as she called them, who had helped to build the great American transcontinental railroad before returning to his village with tales of Gold Mountain. As a child, Lily thought often of her greatgrandfather’s adventures...


      (pp. 25-26)

      The Reverend Samuel Robbins Brown (1810–80) was in a hurry to set sail. Seven days after his marriage to Elizabeth Goodwin Bartlett, the Yale graduate and newly ordained missionary took his bride aboard the Morrison, ready to voyage halfway across the globe. The Reverend Brown was to take up a calling at the Morrison School in China, and the newlyweds had been sent off with fanfare from their hometown of East Windsor, Connecticut. They were set to sail with free passage on the Morrison, for the ship belonged to the Olyphant brothers, prominent figures in the tea trade and...

    • CHAPTER 1 A Canton Mandarin Weds a Connecticut Yankee: Chinese–Western Intermarriage Becomes a “Problem”
      (pp. 27-52)

      As a pupil at the Morrison School, Yung Wing (fig. 1) had once written an English composition on the subject of “An Imaginary Voyage to New York and up the Hudson.” At the time, he little dreamed that he would ever have the chance to see New York in person. Yet a mere two years later, in 1847, the imagined voyage became a reality as Yung Wing set sail for the great metropolis. In his memoir, My Life in China and America (1909), Yung pondered, “This incident leads me to the reflection that sometimes our imagination foreshadows what lies uppermost...

    • Prologue to Chapter 2. THE MERCHANT WITH TWO WIVES
      (pp. 53-56)

      A decade after Yung Wing was recalled to China, the Chinese minister to France returned from Paris and settled in Shanghai. After a fifteen-year sojourn abroad, he must have taken pleasure in the romantic stories and gossipy anecdotes featuring Western women published in the popular illustrated newspaper, Dianshizhai Pictorial (Dianshizhai huabao). One item published in 1892, shortly after his return, however, may have struck him as less than amusing (fig. 5):

      Since the opening of commerce with the West, there have been many cases of Westerners taking Chinese women as their mates, but few cases of Chinese marrying Western women....

    • CHAPTER 2 Mae Watkins Becomes a “Real Chinese Wife”: Marital Expatriation, Migration, and Transracial Hybridity
      (pp. 57-80)

      Fong See was known for his habit of reading the Chung Sai Yat Po, San Francisco’s Chinese Daily Paper, taking particular notice of stories of interracial couples.⁵ If Fong See had been reading the paper on December 13, 1913, one item would surely have caught his attention. The paper advertised a special lecture on law to be delivered that evening at the Chinese YMCA by a graduate of Detroit College of Law, Huang Tianfu (ca. 1889–1919), who was passing through San Francisco en route home to China. Accompanying the announcement was a striking photograph of Huang in his graduation...


    • Prologue to Chapter 3. QUIMBO APPO’S PATRIOTIC GESTURE
      (pp. 83-85)

      In the same year that Yung Wing sailed across the Atlantic trade route aboard the Huntress, bound for New York with its cargo of tea, an aspiring tea merchant from Ningbo sailed the Pacific route for San Francisco. Years later, their paths failed to cross once again—for Yung Wing graduated from Yale and returned to China in 1854, too early to see Quimbo Appo’s tea shop listed in the New Haven city directory of 1855. With his hopes for a prosperous future, Quimbo Appo (1825–1912) must have been overjoyed when his wife gave birth to a son in...

    • CHAPTER 3 “A Problem for Which There Is No Solution”: The New Hybrid Brood and the Specter of Degeneration in New York’s Chinatown
      (pp. 86-106)

      The most famous Eurasian in America during the 1890s was a criminal. A notorious pickpocket and “green-goods man,” George Washington Appo (1856–1930) (fig. 7) regularly appeared in newspaper stories of the time. After he testified in the sensational Lexow Committee investigation of New York police corruption, the New York Times dubbed George “one of the country’s most picturesque criminals,” while Yung Wing’s local paper, the Hartford Courant, unfailingly chronicled the “half-breed’s” trials and testimony.¹⁰ George Appo even turned up on the stage, playing himself in George Lederer’s theatrical melodrama, In the Tenderloin, to national acclaim.¹¹ To cap it all...

      (pp. 107-111)

      At some point between 1855 and 1858, roughly around the time that George Appo was born in New Haven, a family of silk growers near Shanghai met with hard times and were forced to sell their daughter “down the river.”¹ The daughter, Sze Tai, would turn up later in Hong Kong, where she became the “protected woman” of a Dutchman, Charles Henri Maurice Bosman (1839–92). Bosman worked for the firm of Cornelius Koopmanschap, which shipped goods and laborers between China and San Francisco, and he soon rose to partner.² Unlike Edward Eaton (see chapter 2), Bosman upheld the colonial...

    • CHAPTER 4 “Productive of Good to Both Sides”: The Eurasian as Solution in Chinese Utopian Visions of Racial Harmony
      (pp. 112-134)

      September 21, 1898. Yung Wing and Kang Youwei were wanted men. Yung Wing had buried his beloved wife Mary in 1886, and now he was in China once again, hoping to promote the cause of reform and modernization—his boys left to the care of “Uncle Joe” Twichell. In the heady Hundred Days of Reform, launched by the young Guangxu Emperor under the urgings of leading reformer Kang Youwei (1858–1927), Yung had allowed his Beijing headquarters to be used as a rendezvous.¹⁵ Now, the empress dowager had staged a reactionary coup d’état, and both Kang and Yung had a...

      (pp. 135-137)

      On the first day of her arrival in Shanghai, Rosalind Phang (1893–1933) met a young American reporter by the name of George Sokolsky (1893–1962). It was 1919, and Rosalind’s friends had organized a welcome for her at a restaurant: it would be the first time in Shanghai history that Chinese and foreigners danced together in public, and the party was screened off in a separate area. This was Rosalind’s big “homecoming,” her first time in the ancestral land that she knew only through her grandmother’s tales, for her Hakka family had migrated from Canton to the British West...

    • CHAPTER 5 Reversing the Sociological Lens: Putting Sino-American “Mixed Bloods” on the Miscegenation Map
      (pp. 138-162)

      Writing for the American Journal of Sociology in 1936, Herbert Day Lamson made this bald pronouncement concerning “The Eurasian in Shanghai”:

      Not that they are biologic freaks, but the fact of being “half-caste” gives them a position in the social structure which interferes with their mobility and social contacts even in a so-called cosmopolitan society. For this reason this intermixture has important sociological consequences.¹¹

      In casting the “human hybrid” as an object, not of fear and loathing, but of social scientific interest or importance, early twentieth-century sociologists like Lamson and his mentor Robert E. Park sought to distance themselves from...


      (pp. 165-167)

      Harry Hastings was an intrepid traveler: born in China circa 1874, he would travel to Hong Kong, Formosa, the Philippines, Hawaii, Fiji, and as far afield as Europe and Africa. Hastings would even cross Siberia six times. He would eventually migrate to Canada. But this fearless globetrotter would never in his life, ever, visit the United States—to the great puzzlement of his friends.

      When the Survey of Race Relations (SRR) found Hastings in British Columbia in 1924, he had already earned a reputation as the “half-breed Chinese intellectual of Victoria.” The son of a Chinese woman and a British...

    • CHAPTER 6 The “Peculiar Cast”: Navigating the American Color Line in the Era of Chinese Exclusion
      (pp. 168-190)

      In 1895, three full years before Louis Beck published his account of the infamous “half-breed” George Appo, a fledgling reporter wrote a piece on “Half-Chinese Children: Those of American Mothers and Chinese Fathers” for the Montréal Daily Star, describing the lives of Eurasian children in the Chinatowns of New York and Boston. The article informed readers that “the white people with whom these children come in contact, that is, the lower-class, jibe and jeer at the poor little things continually, and their pure and unadulterated Chinese cousins look down upon them as being neither one thing nor the other—neither...

      (pp. 191-194)

      In the spring of 1912, the same year that Harry Hastings arrived in Canada, a dashing young man set off from Hartford, Connecticut, bound for adventure in the newly established Chinese republic. Excited that his father’s long-held dream of a New China had at last come true, Bartlett Golden Yung placed his company, the Rotary File and Machine Company of Brooklyn, New York, in the hands of a Yale classmate and signed on as the East Asia representative for Colt’s Patent Firearms. For Yung Wing’s younger son, this was not only an opportunity to see his father’s native land for...

    • CHAPTER 7 On Not Looking Chinese: Chineseness as Consent or Descent?
      (pp. 195-216)

      In 1934, a pious lady of great gentility brought distinction to her family by publishing the Travelogues of Famous Mountains (Mingshan youji), a collection of essays recording a lifetime of travels to more than twenty sacred mountains and Buddhist temples—no simple accomplishment given her tiny bound feet. Written in terse but elegant classical Chinese, the text closely followed the conventions of an established genre among Chinese scholars, and one might be forgiven for thinking that there was nothing much exceptional about this slim volume. But the author was, in fact, as exceptional for her time as were Edith and...

      (pp. 217-221)

      When census enumerator Nellie Thornton knocked on the door at 911 Monroe Street, Ann Arbor, Michigan, on January 12, 1920, she must have faced quite a surprise. 911 Monroe was home to Mr. and Mrs. Henry O. Watkins, ages sixty-two and fifty-nine, respectively; a young widow who looked white but was Chinese by nationality; and three young children, one born in the United States and two in China. Ms. Thornton settled on returning the entire family as “white.” The issue of mother tongue posed a conundrum. Ms. Thornton marked “English” for Alason and Cecile, then crossed it out and wrote...

    • CHAPTER 8 “No Gulf between a Chan and a Smith amongst Us”: Charles Graham Anderson’s Manifesto for Eurasian Unity in Interwar Hong Kong
      (pp. 222-246)

      On December 23, 1929, a meeting of prominent Eurasians was convened in Hong Kong. Prompted by a spontaneous donation of $10,000 by an anonymous Eurasian donor—possibly Sir Robert Ho Tung—they were joined together by a common purpose: to discuss the establishment of an association to take charge of the welfare needs of Eurasian families in the colony. Yet, something greater than relief of the destitute was at stake. Invited by the chair to take the stage, C. G. Anderson, a man whose oratorical prowess was well known to his friends, delivered a rousing address in which he declared:...

  11. Coda: Elsie Jane Comes Home to Rest
    (pp. 247-252)

    In 2009, the remains of Elsie Jane Yung made a final journey to their resting ground alongside her venerable ancestors.¹ It would have been a familiar ritual to the old-time sojourners on Gold Mountain, who arranged when they could to have their bones shipped back home to China for reburial. From the days of the “Railroad Chinese,” organizations like the Kong Chu Company of San Francisco had specialized in the ritual collection and transport of “Chinese bones,” sending agents across America to gather the remains of their deceased countrymen.² The practice continued until it was interrupted by the Japanese invasion...

  12. Epilogue
    (pp. 253-262)

    “Can Mongrelized Mixed-Bloods Really Improve the Chinese Race?” Such was the inflammatory title of online pundit Shangguan Tianyi’s column, posted on Duowei zhoukan in August 2001—the very word mongrelized (zajiao) signaling to readers his obvious distaste for the notion. Directed at a transnational Chinese audience, the editorial opened consideration of this issue by contrasting the racial thinking of the past with contemporary attitudes. In the past, Shangguan wrote, German Nazis had “promoted the idea of Aryan superiority on the basis of the notion of racial purity,” but nowadays, “ironically, people take an avid interest in racial intermixing as a...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 263-304)
  14. Glossary of Chinese Personal Names and Terms
    (pp. 305-308)
  15. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 309-320)
  16. Index
    (pp. 321-332)