The Lost Dead of China: Why Does Hong Kong Retain the Unowned and Unclaimed Dead from the Chinese Diaspora of the 19th and 20th Centuries?
Author(s): Steven Gallagher
The 19th and 20th century Chinese diaspora directly contributed to the economic and social development of many nations in the Asia-Pacific region. It also had one unforeseen effect as many if not most Chinese who traveled overseas to seek safety or economic gain for themselves and their family had a deep-rooted desire to have their corpse returned for burial to their home village in China, as evidenced by the wreck SS Ventnor whose hold carried the remains of almost 500 Chinese from the New Zealand gold fields.
This paper considers the Chinese customs and traditions of returning the dead to their home villages, the history of the development of co-operative societies and charities which paid for the repatriation of the dead to home villages and why these were centered on Hong Kong. The paper considers the historical incidents in the history of China which resulted in the repatriation of human remains becoming so difficult that "Coffin Rooms" intended for temporary storage of corpses have become more permanent resting places. The paper concludes with a consideration of the issues of legal ownership, duties of disposal and privileges that may be consequent from this assumption of temporary stewardship of the dead.
Cite this Record
The Lost Dead of China: Why Does Hong Kong Retain the Unowned and Unclaimed Dead from the Chinese Diaspora of the 19th and 20th Centuries?. Steven Gallagher. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 429247)
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min long: 59.678; min lat: 4.916 ; max long: 92.197; max lat: 37.3 ;
Abstract Id(s): 14437