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Encyclopedia of the Overseas Chinese

by: Pan Lynn, general editor

Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press 1999, $59.95, Hardbound
ISBN: 0-674-25210-1

Reviewed by: Jacqueline M. Newman
Winter Volume: 2000 Issue: 7(4) page(s): 19

This book looks at overseas Chinese communities and more. It is a welcome addition to the library of those interested in the people and food of this, the world’s largest population. Chinese worldwide have inherited mainland traditions and experiences and it is now possible to read about them in the diaspora. The bulk of the book discusses Chinese country by country and before it does, deals with origins, migrations, institutions, ties to the mother country, and inter-ethnic relations.

Originally published in Singapore by Landmark Books, this volume is a wonderful follow-up concentrating on one culture world-wide; with contributors from all over. In 1980, the Harvard Encyclopedia of American Ethnic Groups edited by Thernstrom was published and was a first. That bible of many ethnicities was a fine beginning; this one of only Chinese, a wonderful follow-up. Done by a different group, it is under the aegis of the Chinese Heritage Centre, an organization set up in Singapore in 1995.

The overseas communities explored include ten countries in Southeast Asia and include Brunei, Burma, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam; four in the Americas including Canada, the Caribbean, Spanish America, and the United States; three in Australia and Oceana, namely Australia, New Zealand; nine places in the South Pacific; five in Europe including Britain, France, Italy, the Netherlands, and Russia; two in East Asia, namely Japan and Korea; and five in the Indian Ocean and Africa including India, Madagascar, Mauritius, Reunion Island, and South Africa. After looking at these communities, the book provides a dated time line of historic events, acknowledgments, a Chinese character list of hundreds of people and places, pages and pages with hundreds of bibliographic sources, most by country, and an excellent cross-referenced index.

This book, truly a panoramic view of overseas Chinese, past and present, is loaded with more than seven hundred and fifty maps, graphs, tables, black and white, sepia, and color photographs. Advertisements for it say it is an unparalleled resource, and they do not say enough. This fantastic volume belongs on many a shelf, surely on those of folk who want to know more about the Chinese worldwide.

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