1st Edition

Museum Representations of Chinese Diasporas Migration Histories and the Cultural Heritage of the Homeland

By Cangbai Wang Copyright 2021
    190 Pages 24 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    190 Pages 24 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Museum Representations of Chinese Diasporas is the first book to analyse the recent upsurge in museums on Chinese diasporas in China. Examining heritage-making beyond the nation state, the book provides a much-needed, critical examination of China’s engagement with its diasporic communities.

    Drawing on fieldwork in more than ten museums, as well as interviews with museum practitioners and archival study, Wang offers a timely analysis of the complex ways in which Chinese diasporas are represented in the museum space of China, the ancestral homeland. Arguing that diasporic heritage is highly ambivalent and introducing a diasporic perspective to the study of cultural heritage, this book opens up a new avenue of inquiry into the study and management of cultural heritage in China and beyond. Most importantly, perhaps, Wang sheds new light on the dynamic between China and Chinese diasporas through the lens of the museum.

    Museum Representations of Chinese Diasporas takes a transnational perspective that will draw attention to the under-researched connections between heritage, mobility and meaning in a global context. As such, this cross-disciplinary work will be of interest to scholars and students working in the museum and heritage studies fields, as well as those studying Asia, China, migration and diaspora, anthropology, history and culture.


    Part I: The Symbolic Museum

    Chapter 1 The birth of the Overseas Chinese History Museum of China

    Chapter 2 The representation of the Chinese diasporas as a ‘national self/other’

    Part II: The Branding Museum

    Chapter 3 Negotiating ‘hot’ and ‘cool’ authentication in diasporic heritage-making at a qiaoxiang

    Chapter 4 Repatriation of Chinese cultural relics as a site for place-making and identity construction

    Part III: The Memory Museum

    Chapter 5 The stamp of identities: negotiating diasporic Chinese subjectivity in philatelic space

    Chapter 6 How does a house remember? Materialising memories of return migration at a huaqiao farm

    Part IV: The Im/possible Museum

    Chapter 7 The im/possibility of museumifying the Chinese diasporas in South China



    Cangbai Wang is Reader in Chinese Studies, School of Humanities at the University of Westminster in the UK.

    "Museums of diaspora are increasingly present in countries of migrant settlement overseas, but also in sending or ancestral places. It is the latter sort that this excellent, deeply original, clearly written, and richly researched interdisciplinary study describes and analyses, with China and its officially sponsored and funded "Overseas Chinese museums" as its focus. Its author … brings together his research into a well organised and exhaustive volume …  As he rightly points out … it is urgently necessary to integrate museum studies and migration history, and to establish a new focus away from migrants as an abstracted category and towards the material environment in which they move and on which they act."

    Gregor Benton, The China Quarterly

    "Since the 1980s, ‘Oversea Chinese museums’ have been rapidly developing around China. Museum Representations of Chinese Diasporas is the first book dedicated to this social, political, and cultural phenomenon … Wang calls for further cross-disciplinary research on the three interrelated fields of diasporas, museums, and cultural heritage in China. The cross-fertilization between the three fields is a major contribution of the book. Wang provides a rich in-depth analysis, filling a lacuna in museum, migration, and heritage studies in China."

    Yujie Zhu, The China Journal

    "Museum Representations of Chinese Diasporas persuasively interrogates what huaqiaowenwu (overseas Chinese heritage) is and how it is understood in China … Crucially, the book complicates the static and single dimensional portrayal of museums by shedding light on the multifarious interpretations of the past that the museum founders and buildings themselves engage in … more interdisciplinary scholarship, such as Wang’s, that is mutually constitutive of the migrant and the material world of migration is needed internationally to debunk the common nationalist emphasis associated with emigration histories and migrant heritage … a useful reference that has implications both for critical heritage studies in China and countries with histories of emigration outside China." 

    Christopher Cheng, Asian and Pacific Migration Journal