Confucian heritage, public narratives and community politics of Chinese Australians at the beginning of the 20th century

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


This chapter focuses on the meanings of Confucian heritage for the Chinese ethnic community at the time Australia became a federation. It argues that public narratives about Confucian heritage provided a new agency for mobilising urban Chinese-Australian communities. These narratives politicised culture and helped to shape Chinese ethnic identity and diasporic nationalism over time. The appearance of narratives on Confucian heritage in the late 19th century reflected the Chinese community’s attempt to differentiate and redefine itself in an increasingly inimical racist environment. The fact that Chinese intellectuals interpreted Confucian heritage as symbolic of their distinctiveness does not necessarily mean that the Chinese community as a whole aligned themselves with the Confucian revival movement. By interpreting Confucian heritage as a national symbol, Chinese-Australian public narratives reflected a national history in which the Chinese community blended Confucian heritage into a nationalist discourse. This chapter argues that this interpretation of Confucian heritage reflects the Chinese community’s attempts to redefine their relationship with the non-Chinese culture they were a part of, in ways that did not draw on colour or race.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationChinese Australians
Subtitle of host publicationpolitics, engagement and resistance
EditorsSophie Couchman, Kate Bagnall
Place of PublicationLaiden ; Boston
Number of pages37
ISBN (Electronic)9789004288553
ISBN (Print)9789004288508
Publication statusPublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

First published 2013 in Journal of China Overseas 9(2), pp. 212-244. DOI: 10.1163/17932548-12341260


  • Confucian heritage
  • ethnic identity
  • public narratives
  • Chinese-Australian history


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