Xijiang

Topics: Guangdong, Wuzhou, Guangzhou Pages: 39 (13875 words) Published: June 19, 2013
Expanding the Cantonese Diaspora: Sojourners and Settlers in the West River Basin Steven B. Miles

Journal of Chinese Overseas, Volume 2, Number 2, November 2006, pp. 220-246 (Article) Published by NUS Press Pte Ltd DOI: 10.1353/jco.2006.0017

For additional information about this article
http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/jco/summary/v002/2.2miles.html

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S T E V E N B . M I L E S | E X PA N D I N G T H E C A N TO N E S E D I A S P O R A

Expanding the Cantonese Diaspora: Sojourners and Settlers in the West River Basin 1 STEVEN B. MILES

This article describes Cantonese migrants along the West River basin linking the two southern Chinese provinces of Guangxi and Guangdong during Ming (1368–1644) and Qing (1644–1911) times. Based primarily on genealogies of Pearl River delta lineages, the article examines a range of interconnected activities — including land settlement, commerce, and temporary sojourning in order to win civil service examination degrees — that Cantonese sojourners and settlers pursued outside the delta. These delta genealogies also prove to be valuable sources for the study of Cantonese overseas migration. In fact, many of the families discussed in this article sent sojourners both upriver along the West River basin and abroad to Vietnam and elsewhere in Southeast Asia. Thus, the author argues that the West River trajectory was an important component of the larger Cantonese diaspora. I N THE OPENING YEARS OF THE 20 TH CENTURY , Ruan Yijun ,=a successful overseas Chinese businessman based in Kuala Lumpur, visited his ancestral home in Dongan (Yunfu) county along the West River (Xijiang ) basin in western Guangdong province. Perhaps to celebrate his commercial success, Ruan compiled a small genealogy of his direct ancestors in Dongan. He began with his tenthgeneration ancestor, who in the 17th century had moved from Nanhai county in the heart of Guangdong’s Pearl River delta to Dongan, and ended with his own grandchildren (Jilong Ruanshi zupu: 49a).2 The compilation of the Ruan genealogy suggests some interesting links between two components of the larger Cantonese diaspora: the overseas Cantonese diaspora, which has received much scholarly attention, and the less frequently studied riverine Cantonese diaspora along the West River basin. That an early 20th-century overseas Cantonese merchant could demonstrate kinship ties to Cantonese ancestors who earlier had migrated Steven B. Miles is Assistant Professor in the History Department at Washington University in Saint Louis. His email address is smiles@artsci.wustl.edu

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upstream along the West River basin linking Guangxi province and western Guangdong is not highly unusual — perusal of 19th- and 20th-century Pearl River delta genealogies reveals numerous examples of lineage members who ventured up the West River basin, into Southeast Asia, or to destinations further abroad. Thus, conceiving of a riverine and an overseas component of a larger Cantonese diaspora both expands the notion of a Cantonese diaspora to include migration along the West River basin and helps to transcend what Adam McKeown has recently described as an artificial divide that scholars have constructed between Chinese internal and external migration (McKeown 2001: 65). Historians of overseas Cantonese migration have increasingly paid attention to emigrant communities in Guangdong province, seeking to understand the local conditions that led to the adoption of migration as a family strategy. Scholars based in North America have typically focused on emigrant communities in the Siyi (Four Counties) area west of the Pearl River delta, containing Xinning (Taishan), Xinhui, Kaiping, and Enping counties, as this area supplied the largest number of immigrants to the United States and...

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