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In a current pilot study with a focus on the United States, I have found that among some 150 Overseas Chinese benevolent organizations that had a connection with the TWCH in terms of the repatriation of coffins/bones during the period from 1900 to 1949, 42 were in the United States.
Only occasionally and on a small scale would clansmen's associations such as Linxihetang [phrase omitted] or shops owned by prominent merchants (e.g., Guanglihao [phrase omitted] in San Francisco) take up the job, as some cases in the TWCH archives indicate.
Besides the well-known charitable societies called shantung [phrase omitted], charitable hospitals called fangbie yiyuan [phrase omitted] (literally, "hospitals of convenience"), merchants' associations (huiguan), prominent shops, official offices at the levels of county, township, or village, bureaus of commerce, and charitable cemeteries, as well as societies of returned Overseas Chinese are all organizations that appear in the TWCH archives as contacts at the receiving points of the homebound burial network.
The correspondence in the TWCH archives also reveals that a great number of Hong Kong agencies or representative offices of overseas/mainland organizations in Hong Kong were responsible for or helped claim the remains of Overseas Chinese from the TWCH.
All the information above about charitable organizations in the sending points, receiving points, and Hong Kong can be gathered from the TWCH archives and the archives of the Tung Wah Hospital (Tung Wah Group of Hospitals as of 1931).
In comparison to the archives in Tung Wah, the jianyun documents were produced by a small number of charity societies in charge of bone collection and repatriation, especially in the early period before the TWCH was in operation.
Organizations of this kind in other American cities, according to the TWCH archives, included the Ningyang huiguan [phrase omitted] in Los Angeles; one Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association (CCBA) in Seattle; one CCBA, one funeral home, and two regional organizations in New York; one regional organization and one merchant shop in Philadelphia; one CCBA in Boston; one CCBA in Pittsburgh; one CCBA and its charity association in Chicago; one CCBA in Baltimore; one charity association in New Orleans; one CCBA and one charity association in Portland; one CCBA and one charity association in Cleveland; and one CCBA and one charity association in Honolulu.
Before the TWCH took up the pivotal role in bone repatriation, overseas huiguan and their shantang branches took charge of the jianyun job and shipped boxes of exhumed bones to the native places of the dead through their associated agents in Hong Kong.
(66) Unfortunately only when the TWCH archives are available for consultation do we come to learn that the huiguan, not funeral homes, handled most of the homebound burial cases.
While communal funds had been instituted for this purpose, as mentioned, Overseas Chinese benevolent associations usually donated burial money to the bereft families in hometowns, and the TWCH only collected minimum transportation charges.
Through this network, Chinese people not only were linked by shared customary tradition and sociocultural institutions but were also drawn to a global socioeconomic and legal system in which Hong Kong has been a key player since modern times, as vividly evidenced by the TWCH's archival records.
This modern global charity network was then further institutionalized from 1900 when the TWCH provided the all-around arrangement for the repatriation operation at the transit point of the network.
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- Twayne's United States Author Series