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Pacific Crossing

Californian Gold, Chinese Migration, and the Making of Hong Kong

Elizabeth Sinn

Publication Year: 2012

During the nineteenth century tens of thousands of Chinese men and women crossed the Pacific to work, trade, and settle in California. Drawn by the gold rush, they took with them skills and goods and a view of the world which, though still Chinese, was transformed by their long journeys back and forth. They in turn transformed Hong Kong, their main point of embarkation, from a struggling infant colony into a prosperous international port and the cultural center of a far-ranging Chinese diaspora.

Published by: Hong Kong University Press, HKU

dedication, title page, copyright

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pp. v-vi


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pp. vii-x

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pp. xi-xiv

I am grateful to the Hong Kong Research Grants Council for several grants that enabled me to pursue my research. The grant that contributed most directly to this book was for the project “The Impact of Chinese Emigration on Hong Kong’s Economic Development, 1842–1941” (Grant 7047/99H). ...

Note on Romanization

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pp. xv-xvi

Note on Currencies and Weights

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pp. xvii-xviii

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pp. 1-10

The discovery of gold at Sutter’s mill, 75 miles from San Francisco, on January 24, 1848—almost seven years to the day after Hong Kong’s occupation by the British in 1841 and five years after it formally became a British colony— set off a remarkable migration movement: within a relatively short time span, ...

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1 - Becoming a Useful Settlement: Hong Kong on the Eve of the Gold Rush

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pp. 11-42

As news of the gold discovery in California electrified the world, Hong Kong responded with alacrity. A lively export trade emerged to supply all kinds of consumer goods demanded by the tens of thousands of emigrants pouring into California from around the world—one of the most dramatic migration movements of the nineteenth century. ...

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2 - Leaving for California: The Gold Rush and Hong Kong’s Development as an Emigrant Port

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pp. 43-92

It may be impossible to pin down exactly when and how news about the California gold discovery first reached Hong Kong, but, we do know that when the Julia arrived in January 1849 with a considerable amount of gold dust, the excitement around town was barely containable.1 All the rumors about the fabulous treasures were now confirmed. ...

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3 - Networking the Pacific: The Shipping Trade

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pp. 93-136

The gold rush led to the rise of a thriving trade zone on the Pacific, centered on San Francisco and its bay. Being difficult to access by land, especially from the big markets on the East Coast and Europe, and before being connected to the rest of the continent by railroad, San Francisco relied on the sea to provide the only easy and economic link with the world. ...

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4 - The Gold Mountain Trade

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pp. 137-190

The gold rush is well known for stimulating migration from China; however, much less has been said about it as a stimulus of trade. Even before Chinese went to California in any significant numbers, firms and individuals in Hong Kong and South China had discovered that California was not only a place full of gold mines, ...

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5 - Preparing Opium for America

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pp. 191-218

The high income of California created a market for top-quality commodities and luxury goods. The Chinese there demanded, and were able to afford, No. 1 China rice, refined white sugar, shark’s fin and bird’s nest. Above all, they wanted the best opium that money could buy. ...

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6 - Bound for California: The Emigration of Chinese Women

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pp. 219-264

Sometime between late 1848 and early 1849, Ah Toy—tall, slender, with bound feet and laughing eyes—sailed for San Francisco, leaving her husband behind in Hong Kong. She made the perilous and arduous journey across the Pacific to “better her condition” by working as an independent prostitute. ...

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7 - Returning Bones

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pp. 265-296

On May 15, 1855, the American ship the Sunny South left San Francisco for Hong Kong with what the Alta California described as a “strange article of export”—“a freight of seventy dead Chinamen.”1 This was the first of many such shipments; for the next hundred years, the remains of tens of thousands of deceased Chinese ...

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pp. 297-308

It would be hard to exaggerate the immense impact of the California gold rush on Hong Kong history. By expanding horizons in terms of new geographical frontiers, new navigation routes, new markets, and new potential for networking, the gold rush brought far-reaching economic and social consequences. ...

Appendix 1: Hong Kong Exports to San Francisco, 1849

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pp. 309-311

Appendix 2: Migration Figures between Hong Kong and San Francisco, 1852–76, 1858–78

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pp. 312-313

Appendix 3: Ships Sailing from Hong Kong to San Francisco, 1852

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pp. 314-320


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pp. 321-406


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pp. 407-410


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pp. 411-434


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pp. 435-454

E-ISBN-13: 9789882208780
Print-ISBN-13: 9789888139712

Page Count: 420
Illustrations: 21 b/w
Publication Year: 2012

Edition: 1