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Vivienne Chow 唐睿 黃念欣 徐忠雄 聯合推薦
Recommended by Vivienne Chow, Tong Yui, Wong Nim Yan, and Shawn Wong
A biographical novella of Prof Gregory B. Lee’s grandfather
A dramatic story of Chinese seamen at the turn of the 20th century
Cantonese-English bilingual version
Chan Chin Lee, a ‘Chinese merchant’, left Canton in the early 1910s for the United Kingdom. Having traversed the anti-Chinese racism of 1920s and 1930s Britain, during World War Two he would open a café-cum-gambling house frequented by Chinese sailors. Counting on the seamen’s patriotism, he collected funds through the gambling house to support the anti-Japanese war effort back in China. In 1945–1946, a combined operation of the then Labour government, the Home Office, the police force and a shipping company sought to forcefully repatriate all Chinese seamen from the UK. This anti-Chinese action was concealed for over half a century. Based on personal memories of his grandfather Chan Chin Lee and relying on government documents relating to the repatriation, Gregory Lee raises provocative questions in this biographical novella about the long-neglected history of the diasporic Chinese in the UK.
Recommendations (in alphabetical order)
The Eighth Chinese Merchant and the Disappeared Seamen is a uniquely fascinating project that looks into not only the untold stories of Chinese migration, but also champions Cantonese Chinese writing, which has long been discarded and disregarded in the field of Chinese studies. It’s a timely read amid the ongoing geopolitical turmoil, offering us insights into the present by taking a good look at the past.
──Vivienne Chow, Arts and cultural journalist
It is a condensed story full of a humanistic spirit. It is a story of a revolutionary who left China for the United Kingdom to overthrow the Qing Dynasty. Having missed the revolution of the Republic in China, a series of world events forced him to live in the foreign land in the first half of the 20th century. This story culminates in the accusation of the British government repatriating a few hundred Chinese seamen as a result of force in 1946. Despite their immense contributions to the British shipping business and resource supply during WWII, these Chinese seamen were abandoned immediately after the war. Our protagonist Chan Chin Lee and his fellows endured discrimination and injustice as a tiny part of the bigger story of the complicated Sino-British relationship during the late Qing and the early Republic. The World without China is not the World, and that China without the World can no longer be China, as Gregory Lee once said. An overseas Chinese perspective reveals that this melancholy yet humorous novella can revive the shrewd historical understanding ordinary people might have of history, especially if they learn about it from the grand narrative or from a narrative offered by either China or the UK alone.
──Tong Yui, Assistant Professor, Department of Humanities and Creative Writing, Hong Kong Baptist University
Prof. Gregory B. Lee continues his academic journey of reimagining the Chinese diaspora by means of a biographical novel. The Cantonese-English bilingual version of The Eighth Chinese Merchant and the Disappeared Seamen uses two imaginary “mother tongues” to show the multi-reflections among identities of the Chinese, Irish, and Liverpudlian. This sentimental annotation is an unremovable record of patriotism, revolution and decolonization.
──Wong Nim Yan, Associate Professor, Department of Chinese Language and Literature, Chinese University of Hong Kong
The dramatic story of Gregory Lee’s grandfather, Chan Chin Lee, is both a unique immigration story and a common one at the turn of the 20th century. It is a story of uncompromising perseverance and determination against a wall of institutional racism in the United Kingdom and a story of Chinese seamen who served Britain during WWII only to find themselves forcibly repatriated to China without their families. It is a story of racial erasure that cannot be silenced and forgotten.
──Shawn Wong, Author of Homebase, Professor of English, University of Washington
Author: Gregory Barry Lee
Translator: Huang Yu Heidi
Translation-revisers: Gregory Barry Lee, Patrick Poon, Liang Hongling, Enoch Yee-lok Tam
Editor: Enoch Yee-lok Tam
Proofreader: Lina Xie
Art & Design: mmmmor studio
Edition: July 2022, 1st Edition
About the author
As a writer, broadcaster and academic, Gregory Lee has been writing and talking about China and ‘Chinatowns’ for the past forty years. He is Founding Professor of Chinese Studies at the University of St Andrews, Scotland. He has lived and worked in France, the USA, mainland China, and Hong Kong. His most recent book is China Imagined: From European Fantasy to Spectacular Power (Hurst, 2018).
Slow Boat from China
War and Chinatown
Their Mode of Thought is Eastern
Collar and Shirts
An Empty Café
Stranger on the Shore