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Chinese in Australian Fiction, 1888–1988 By Ouyang Yu

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Chinese in Australian Fiction, 1888–1988


China and Australia differ so greatly in their culture, history, geography, and economic and political systems that one can view them almost as opposites, with nothing much in common; yet, connections, both imaginary and real established over centuries, interweave the histories of the two countries. Contrary to the Western theory of Australia’s discovery, the Chinese firmly believe they first discovered this ‘Great South Land’. One Chinese professor claimed the Chinese ‘went back and forth to Australia from time to time from 592 BC to AD 1432’.1 A Taoist figure found at Port Darwin in 1879 caused much speculation in Australia as to whether the Chinese had come to Australia long before the English and other people.2 Others speculate about possible Chinese sources of the Aboriginal language in the use of couplets, such as Wagga Wagga or Woy Woy, a common daily phenomenon in Chinese language, such as feng feng huo huo (wind wind fire fire), a Chinese expression meaning in a great hurry (I discuss this in my now published book, On the Smell of an Oily Rag: Notes in the Margins.3) China, though so different, has been part of the Australian ‘imaginative geography’, to borrow a term from Edward Said.4