Serialised 1909–10, The Poison of Polygamy is a rare gem of Australian literature.
The first novel of the Chinese Australian experience, it is a roller-coaster tale of blackmail, murder, betrayal and even thylacine attack, partly based on real people, places and events. Revealing the human face of migration between imperial China and colonial Australia, it recounts the story of a man from southern China who tries his luck on the Victorian goldfields, the wife he leaves behind, and their eventual fraught reunion.
In this bilingual edition, Australia’s and possibly the West’s earliest Chinese-language novel is presented in English translation for the first time. Illuminating introductions explore the work’s historical, cultural and linguistic context, and establish its unique significance in Australia’s literary and social history.
Dr Michael Williams is an historian of the Chinese diaspora and is a founding member of the Chinese Australian Historical Society. His current research involves a history of the dictation test, a history of Chinese opera in Australia, and a comparison of Australia’s pre-1949 Chinese-Australian history with its post-1989 history. Michael is an adjunct fellow with the Institute for Culture and Society, Western Sydney University and is the author of Returning Home with Glory (Hong Kong University Press, 2018). Michael also teaches courses in Australian history and Chinese in the world at Beijing Foreign Studies University.
Ely Finch is a consultant translator and linguist who specialises in historical documents and inscriptions written in literary (classical) Chinese, Cantonese, and other southern Chinese languages. His expertise and work on Australian Chinese-language historical material has been of assistance to historians, archaeologists, museums and other institutions, and has garnered widespread academic and community attention in recent years.
Wong Shee Ping was a writer for Melbourne’s Chinese Times, a Christian preacher, a Chinese revolutionary and a member of a prominent family in Victoria’s Chinese business community. He is reported to have spoken little English, yet he made it his mission to espouse Western-influenced values and ideas.
About the author: Wong Shee Ping
Why is polygamy poisonous? An historical context
The Poison of Polygamy
Appendix I: Character names and connotations
Appendix II: The romanisations used in the the translation and the footnotes
Appendix III: Business names
Appendix IV: The newspaper business and Chinese Australians
Appendix V: Place names
Size: 210 × 148 × 17 mm
Copyright: © 2019
Publication: 01 Jun 2019
Series: China and the West in the Modern World