Academic journal article Canadian Ethnic Studies Journal

Chinese Islanders: Making a Home in the New World

Academic journal article Canadian Ethnic Studies Journal

Chinese Islanders: Making a Home in the New World

Article excerpt

Chinese Islanders: Making a Home in the New World. Hung-Min Chiang. Charlottetown: Island Studies Press, 2006. 187 pp. $24.95 sc.

When considering the state of Prince Edward Island's historiography, the topic of its Chinese population rarely, if ever, arises. The reason for this is simple. In a province dominated by the Scottish, Irish, English, and French, the Chinese have never formed a large component of the population. Coinciding with their small population, this topic lacks a ready abundance of sources. While these factors might normally lead to shelving a project, Hung-Min Chiang would not be deterred. A former professor of psychology at the University of Prince Edward Island, Chiang began his research intent on publishing a magazine article six years ago simply because "nobody else would do it" (p. 11). As vague references were investigated and fresh leads discovered, the project slowly evolved into the book currently under review.

Based on the interpretation of personal letters, government references, newspaper accounts, and commercial advertisements, Chiang has traced the first reference to a Chinese Islander to the 1850s. This was four decades prior to the influx of laundry operators traditionally associated with the beginning of Chinese immigration to the province. He is able to trace the earliest immigrants to the River Delta region in the province of Guangdong. While the arrival of the laundrymen, and later the restaurateurs, would cause the population to increase, the gains were small. In explaining the failure of the Chinese population to take root--in a graph on page 37 it is revealed that between 1901 and 1971 they never amounted to more than forty-five inhabitants--Chiang cites the prevalence of bachelors as the most important reason.

Chiang divides the Chinese settlement of Prince Edward Island into four periods. Immigration between 1891 and 1923 was restricted due to the head tax. …

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