Being Eurasian: Memories Across Racial Divides by Vicky Lee

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By Vicky Lee

This publication is an outline and research of the lives of 3 recognized Hong Kong Eurasian memoirists, Joyce Symons, Irene Cheng and Jean Gittins, and explores their very alternative ways of making and searching at their very own ethnic identity.

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What seems to worry Alabaster is the ambiguous status of the 'Chinese Eurasians' (the Eurasians that oriented towards the Chinese culture) rather than the 'British Eurasians' (the westernized Eurasians). Regarding the Chinese Eurasians, Alabaster says, One would have no difficulty in giving a Chinese classification to a half-caste, even though his father were English, who wore Chinese clothes and a queue, who passed under the name of Wong or Chang, who had married according to Chinese customs a 'Kit Fat' (wife) and had three concubines, and who after some years' business training in the compradore department of a foreign firm was trading on his own account under a Chinese 'hong' name, besides being a member of the Chinese Chamber of Commerce Whether deliberately or not, the Chinese Eurasian that Alabaster has depicted resembles in almost every way Ho Tung, the Eurasian doyen to be discussed in the next chapter.

Provisions were customarily made by the putative husband for the Chinese women and their offspring in form of an annuity, a trust or gift of real estate (Smith, 1969, 13-17). 20 Being Eurasian: Memories Across Racial Divides In describing these protected women, E. J. Eitel, also recorded in his Minutes of 1 November 1879 that these women were: as a rule, rather raised in their own esteem by the connection, of the immorality of which they have no idea,- they are also, as a rule, better off than the concubines of Chinese well-to-do merchants, they are generally provided for by the foreigners who kept them, when the connection is severed, and at any rate these women are as a rule thrifty, and always manage to save money which they invest in Bank deposits, also in house property, but principally in buying female infants whom they rear for sale to or concubinage with foreigners, by which they generally gain a competency in about 10 years (Sweeting, 235) T h i s practice of concubinage, whether or n o t it was really a widespread practice, had seriously affected the perceived moral standing of these kept women and, consequently, on how the early Eurasians were looked upon by b o t h the European and Chinese communities.

Norman Miners explains this phenomenon as a result of the fact that governors did not find it easy to locate suitable Chinese to fill the seats customarily reserved for them. The appointed Chinese member had to be fluent in English so as to be able to take a full part in the business of the Council. He had to be a man of standing and influence within the Chinese The Birth of a Eurasian Community 25 community. He had to be a British subject and loyal to the British Crown. But Chinese possessing all these qualifications were rare.

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