When Laundrymen Returned to Visit Home Villages

When Chinese laundrymen made visits back to their home villages, there was the expectation that they had made small fortunes on Gold  Mountain when in fact most of them had lives of daily hardship with meagre income.  As noted by Leong Gor Yun in a 1936 book, Chinatown Inside Out, to save face, they would often describe their work as operating “garment stores” instead of washing dirty clothes.  “To make a good impression they collect trunks and trunks of old rags, worn-out shoes, hardware and junk.  The more trunks they take the wealthier they look.”  They would bring gifts for relatives, which they could barely afford, to fit this image.

ct inside red cover

However, Hong Kong Chinese considered them as simpletons from the Golden Mountain and victimized them with extravagant prices. “Their poor relatives, close and distant, live off them for a few months until the “wealthy” air cools off.” They were expected to provide a grand feast for the entire village and relatives from other villages. “This marks them as the local boys who made good across the ocean.” As they departed to return to their dreary lives on Gold Mountain, some left money for villagers or for building a house for relatives.

In a separate commentary I made about Chinatown Inside Out and its author Leong Gor Yun, I noted that there is some question as to who Leong Gor Yun is or if the name might be fictitious.

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