Richard Charles Lee Canada-Hong Kong Library
8th floor Robarts Library, 130 St. George Street
University of Toronto
Hong Kong and the Gold Mountain Dream
In the latter part of the 19th Century, hundreds of thousands of Chinese left China for California, first to “seek gold” and then to work on the railroads. Others dreaming of Gold Mountain went to Australia, Canada and New Zealand. Almost all the “Gold Mountain” migrants were from the Pearl River Delta, and almost all of them went through Hong Kong on their way out of China and on their way home, thus raising Hong Kong’s status as an international port – a space of flow for people, shipping and trade, remittances, ideas, information, cultural practices and the remains of deceased migrants.
Hong Kong’s experience as a migration hub has inspired the idea of “in-between place”. Migration studies generally focus only on the sending countries and/or the receiving countries, yet migration is seldom a simple, direct process of moving from Place A to Place B. The 19th century Chinese migrant typically moved in a circular rather than unilineal pattern. In the process of repeated, even continuous, movement, hubs arose which allowed sojourners to leave while also enabling them to maintain ties with the home village; these hubs, which I call “in-between places” to underline the sense of mobility, played special social, economic, emotional and cultural roles in the migrants’ lives. The idea of “in-between place” – also exemplified by places like San Francisco, Vancouver, Liverpool and Singapore – can provide insights into migration as well as offer a new paradigm in migration studies.