Chaozhou is a region in eastern Guangdong composes of 13 counties. People in Chaozhou speak a distinctive dialect, which is different from the dominant language, Cantonese, in Guangdong and Hong Kong. The Chaozhou people have a long tradition of emigration to Southeast Asia and Hong Kong. This research focuses on a Chaozhou community in Hong Kong's Kowloon City, an old urban area situating at the southeastern part of urban Kowloon....[ Read more
Chaozhou is a region in eastern Guangdong composes of 13 counties. People in Chaozhou speak a distinctive dialect, which is different from the dominant language, Cantonese, in Guangdong and Hong Kong. The Chaozhou people have a long tradition of emigration to Southeast Asia and Hong Kong. This research focuses on a Chaozhou community in Hong Kong's Kowloon City, an old urban area situating at the southeastern part of urban Kowloon.
Kowloon City has a long history of Chaozhou settlement and is a place where Chaozhou businesses flourished. However, my research reveals that many of the Chaozhou people involved in the activities in Kowloon City living in some other parts of Hong Kong. They go to Kowloon City to run their businesses, to purchase their traditional Chaozhou items, or to participate in communal festivals. I argue that different sectors of the Chaozhou community deliberately maintain a Chaozhou environment in Kowloon City to sustain their ethnic traditions, identity, and business interest. Every year, festivals are arranged to celebrate the birthdays of the goddess Tin Hau and the Earth God, to take care of the wondering ghosts, and to worship their Chaozhou ancestors. These regular communal events, I argue, contribute significantly to the maintenance of a strong Chaozhou atmosphere in Kowloon City. In these festivals, the participants seek blessings form the deities in Kowloon City, watch the Chaozhou operas and rituals, meet their friends and former neighbours, and talk in their own dialect. For the rich ones, they can demonstrate their wealth, generosity, and social status by making contributions to the festivals. Chaozhou people residing in different parts of Hong Kong are attracted to visit Kowloon City, to enjoy their ethnic environment, at least temporarily.
Kowloon City is also a training ground for local Chaozhou leaders. The largest majority of the organizers of the communal activities are mid-aged Chaozhou businessmen. These leaders joining different associations at the same time, constituting a pattern of overlapping membership, creating a closed network among leaders of various Chaozhou associations in Kowloon City. On the other hand, these businessmen also use the communal activities to define the boundary of their business territory, to promote their ethnic businesses in Kowloon City.
Based on their social and political foundation in Kowloon City, the local elites try to extend their networks in the wider Hong Kong and the hometown Chaozhou context. Some become important members of the larger regional associations, the dominant Chamber of Commerce for all the Chaozhou businessmen, or district councilors overseeing government's regional affairs. They also try to maintain regular contacts with their hometowns in Chaozhou, utilizing their cultural resources for sustaining their ethnic environment and interests in Kowloon City.
Although many Chaozhou people have moved out of Kowloon City, a prominent Chaozhou environment has been maintained there. Kowloon City becomes a symbol of Hong Kong's Chaozhou community, a place the Chaozhou people look for their own traditions and identity. The regular annual festivals, the Chaozhou business community, the local Chaozhou leaders, and the frequently Chaozhou visitor from the other parts of Hong Kong collectively create and support the "Chaozhou community" in Kowloon City.
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