INTRODUCTION

THIS HISTORIC EXHIBIT ON CHINESE OVERSEAS is the result of the collaboration of five libraries: The Bancroft Library, the Center for Chinese Studies Library, the East Asian Library, the Ethnic Studies Library, and the South/Southeast Asia Library. It displays the rich and rare Chinese Overseas resources at the libraries of the University of California at Berkeley. The Ethnic Studies Library contains one of the most comprehensive Asian American Studies Collections in the United States, including materials on the cultural, political, and socio-economic life of Asian Americans and the largest archival collection on Chinese Americans in the world. These resources document and reveal the challenges and the triumphs of Chinese Overseas as well as their contributions to their adopted and host countries and to their homeland. These unique research materials have proven invaluable for the research and teaching needs of faculty, students and scholars on the Berkeley campus and beyond. They also tell fascinating stories.

The Chinese have a long history of migration overseas. According to the Overseas Chinese Confederation, in May 2000 there were 34 million Chinese residing in 140 countries in the world. Asia has the largest Chinese Overseas population (28 million). The Americas are second (3.5 million), Europe third (1.6 million), Oceania fourth (571 thousand), and Africa fifth (137 thousand). Studies of this phenomenon and systematic comparisons of the experiences of the Chinese Overseas have now reached a critical stage.

Chinese emigration began in the Han Tang dynasty. War, famine, poverty and curiosity about countries outside of China caused great numbers of Chinese to leave China in search of work and business opportunities during the second half of the 19th century. After World War II the source and status of migrants changed. The change in immigration policies, the normalization of relations between China and the United States in 1979 and the return of Hong Kong to China in 1997 have led to a new wave of émigrés—those who want to study abroad and those who want to experience adventures. In 2000, the Ministry of Education in China reported there were 320,000 Chinese studying abroad and two-thirds of them continue to live and to work in their host countries after their studies are completed. Many business and professional people are seeking new challenges and new opportunities in foreign countries. These new changes and their impact on the adopted and host countries and homeland merit scholarly research. This exhibit provides only a glimpse into Berkeley's research collections and archives on Chinese Overseas.

Wei Chi Poon
 


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