Born in New Territories, Hong Kong, 1879, how would you spend your life?

VHS

Ad Honorem
Dec 2015
4,861
Florania
Note that New Territories was still under Qing Dynasty in 1879.
As far as family background was concerned, there were only farmers or fishers.
They were mostly Tanka, Hakka, or other indigenous inhabitants of New Territories.
Historically, some of these people became officials, even though it was quite rare.
Let's assume you are a male of normal intellectual and physical functioning (in such circumstance,
even if you are as gifted as Esther Okade, it hardly mattered) born in 1879, New Territories, Hong Kong,
how would you spend your life?
Or, let's assume you are gifted in an area or two, how would you spend your life in this rather destitute time
and environment?
Forget all these "historical knowledge" cliches; it makes interesting stories while being mostly unrealistic.
 
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stevev

Ad Honorem
Apr 2017
3,734
Las Vegas, NV USA
The New Territories were leased by Britain in 1898. I would be19 at the time. There might be a. chance to take advantage of any commercial opportunities that might be available on Hong Kong island assuming this was possible for a native at that time. With a willingness to work hard and perhaps marry into a respectable family, who knows? One could become wealthy. WWI did not affect this part of the world that much, but might have increased opportunities in this British colony.
 
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Futurist

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May 2014
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As Steve said, I'd try to get into Hong Kong or even learn English in an attempt to get into Britain. I might also consider moving somewhere more hospitable such as Hawaii, Canada, or even Southeast Asia.
 

Futurist

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May 2014
23,547
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Or you could emigrate to New York, become a Tong gangster, and make a fortune:

Immigrating to the US after 1882 would actually be really hard for a Chinese person due to the Chinese Exclusion Act, no? Hawaii, of course, might be an exception since it wasn't actually a US state back then.
 
May 2019
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Immigrating to the US after 1882 would actually be really hard for a Chinese person due to the Chinese Exclusion Act, no? Hawaii, of course, might be an exception since it wasn't actually a US state back then.
Mock Duck did it, and so did other Chinese. The Act didn't put a total stop to Chinese immigration, it mostly targeted laborers and women (granted, the former were a majority of Chinese immigrants at that time, so it definitely cut the numbers down significantly). Besides, there's always illegal immigration: Paper sons - Wikipedia
 
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Futurist

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Mock Duck did it, and so did other Chinese. The Act didn't put a total stop to Chinese immigration, it mostly targeted laborers and women (granted, the former were a majority of Chinese immigrants at that time, so it definitely cut the numbers down significantly). Besides, there's always illegal immigration: Paper sons - Wikipedia
Yes, I know about the paper sons. That said, though, even for them, lying wasn't necessarily always easy:


"To truly enforce the Chinese Exclusion Act, an Immigration Station located in Angel Island in 1910, questioned and interrogated immigrants coming from 84 different countries with the majority of immigrants being Asian and Chinese, being the largest ethnic group at the time of establishment. Since official records were often non-existent, an interrogation process was created to determine if the immigrants were related as they had claimed. On average an interrogation process could take up to 2 – 3 weeks, but some immigrants were interrogated for months. Questions could include details of the immigrant's home and village as well as specific knowledge of his or her ancestors.[7] These questions had been anticipated and thus, irrespective of the true nature of the relationship to their sponsor, the applicant had prepared months in advance by committing these details to memory. Their witnesses — usually other family members living in the United States — would be called forward to corroborate these answers. Any deviation from the testimony would prolong questioning or throw the entire case into doubt and put the applicant at risk of deportation, and possibly everyone else in the family connected to the applicant as well. A detention center was in operation for thirty years; however, there were many concerns about the sanitation and safety of the immigrants at Angel Island, which proved to be true in 1940 when the administration building burned down. As a result, all the immigrants were relocated to another facility. The Chinese Exclusion Act was eventually repealed in 1943.[8]"
 
May 2019
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Yes, I know about the paper sons. That said, though, even for them, lying wasn't necessarily always easy:
You could try doing what Ho Chi Minh did: work as a sailor to Europe, and then via Europe to the American east coast. That would avoid Angel Island and the immigration officials who were more familiar with processing Asians...


Yes, I know Ho Chi Minh wasn't Chinese. I just used him as an example of an Asian immigrant who came via the Atlantic route.
 
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Futurist

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May 2014
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You could try doing what Ho Chi Minh did: work as a sailor to Europe, and then via Europe to the American east coast. That would avoid Angel Island and the immigration officials who were more familiar with processing Asians...


Yes, I know Ho Chi Minh wasn't Chinese. I just used him as an example of an Asian immigrant who came via the Atlantic route.
If you can actually get to Europe, that is. Was Europe actually willing to accept a lot of Asians back then?
 
May 2019
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If you can actually get to Europe, that is. Was Europe actually willing to accept a lot of Asians back then?
I don't know, but if you were going as a sailor you wouldn't have to worry about immigration laws, as long as you didn't try to jump ship. Chinese were used as a source of cheap labour by British and American ships around the early 20th century, so if you came from a fishing background or just found a ship that'd take you on without much experience, you could find your way over to the Atlantic.

Personally, if I was a Chinese back then and wanted to go to the US, I'd much rather go to the east coast than the west coast. The "yellow peril" racism was a bit less violent in New York than San Francisco, probably due to the fact that there were less Chinese "stealing jobs" in the former than the latter. There was also a more established Chinese community in the US than in most of Europe (wikipedia says around 7,000 in Manhattan in 1900), so I'd probably pick the US over Britain or France because there'd be more of my fellow countrymen living there to mingle with and maybe offer me a job.