South Flows the Pearl

Chinese Australian Voices

Mavis Gock Yen, edited by Siaoman Yen and Richard Horsburgh, and introduction by Sophie Loy-Wilson

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Format: paperback

ISBN: 9781743327241

Publication: 01 Feb 2022
Series: China and the West in the Modern World
Publisher: Sydney University Press

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South Flows the Pearl is a fascinating journey through the history of Chinese Australia. Taking the reader from Shanghai and the Pearl River Delta to Sydney, Perth, Cairns, Darwin, Bendigo and beyond, it explores the struggles and successes of Chinese people in Australia since the 1850s, as told in their own words.

This unique book was written by an insider. Mavis Yen was born in Perth in 1916, the daughter of a Chinese father and an Australian mother. She lived in both countries and understood what it meant to navigate two worlds, to live through war and revolution, and to experience racial discrimination. In the 1980s she began interviewing elderly Chinese Australians, recording hours of conversations. Her intimate understanding of their languages and life experiences encouraged them to share their stories. Published here for the first time, they will change how you think about Australian history.

“This is a book that offers a new way to be Australian in this country, and casts Chinese Australians as the protagonists in their own stories… When people agree to tell their stories, they speak to the future. Whether or not we listen is up to us.” — Dr Sophie Loy-Wilson, University of Sydney

Mavis Gock Yen was born in Perth in 1916. In 1925 her family moved to Shanghai and during the next twenty years she spent time in both China and Australia. In 1946 she settled in China, where she worked as a journalist and English teacher until after the Cultural Revolution. She returned to Australia with her daughter, Siaoman, in 1981, and studied professional writing at the University of Canberra.

Foreword by Professor Kam Louie
Acknowledgments by Siaoman Yen and Richard Horsburgh
Mavis Yen 1916–2008 by Richard Horsburgh and Siaoman Yen

Introduction by Sophie Loy-Wilson In a nutshell, by Leslie and Thelma Chang

Memories of Sydney’s Chinatown, by Evelyn Yin Lo
Third generation migrant, by Lee Sing
North Queensland, by Frank Lee Gee
Chung Shan County, by Frank Lee Gee
Two worlds, by Harry Gock Ming
The great adventure, by Harry Gock Ming
‘There’s no gold’, by Leung Pui
The ancestral home, by Harry Gock Ming
‘Unite to fight the Japanese’, by Frank Lee Gee
The fortune teller, by Harry Gock Ming
Return to Australia, by Frank Lee Gee
Wartime, by Evelyn Yin Lo
The lineage, by Leung Pui
Postwar, by Evelyn Yin Lo
Pioneers in Western Australia, by John Fong 
Don and the Family, by Evelyn Yin Lo
Gold rush heritage, by Hoy Lee
‘We grew up in the bush’, by Albert Lee On
From a chinese garden, by Peter Wong
The Northern Territory, by Doris Fong Lim and Norman Yeend
‘I was the lucky one’, by Elizabeth Lee

Conclusion, by Mavis Gock Yen with addendum by Richard Horsburgh

Bibliography by Mavis Gock Yen
Glossary by Siaoman Yen

"The stories emphasise themes that are important in understanding the history and experiences of Chinese Australians… We owe Mavis Gock Yen a great debt for preserving these pearls from Australia’s past."
Natalie Fong   History Australia
History Australia

"When she was 71, [Mavis] began interviewing descendants of early Chinese Australian migrant families like hers. More than a decade later, she wrote South Flows the Pearl, a book reflecting the comprehensive history of early Chinese migration in Australia ... even though it was a book about Chinese Australian history, Mavis always thought it was Australia's history. It was just told through a Chinese lens."
  ABC Online

"… South Flows the Pearl remains a valuable reference for Australian social history, with fascinating details of Australian life you might not find anywhere else".
Linda Jaivin   The Saturday Paper

"The lost manuscript, now the scholarly book South Flows the Pearl, offers a rich insight into the history of the Chinese in Australia, but it also introduces and pays homage to Mavis Gock Yen, whose life is as colourful and rich as those of her subjects."
Sue Smethurst   The Australian

"Their stories also tell of discrimination endured in the form of government restrictions and community prejudice. At a time of bellicose rhetoric in relations between Australia and China, these voices highlight the depth of the two nations' shared heritage."
Fiona Capp   Sydney Morning Herald

"The true strength and value of this book lies in the fact that it contains first hand accounts ... South Flows the Pearl is not just an important historical text, it’s also a compelling, emotional and at times surprising read."
Elizabeth Flux   Books + Publishing

Format: paperback
Size: 254 × 178 × 18 mm
Copyright: © 2022
ISBN: 9781743327241
Publication: 01 Feb 2022
Series: China and the West in the Modern World