Sisters of silk
Drawing by Christine Thery
After a lifetime's service they would retire, using their savings to join a vegetarian hall and live out the rest of their days in peace with their sisters. This is a multi-level and multi-disciplinary exercise, with the following components: For secondary grades For all levels Silkworms in a shoebox Eng, R.Y. (1986) Economic Imperialism in China: Silk Production and Exports, 1861-1932. University of California Press, Berkeley.
This highly personable segment of Hong Kong's culture and history has vanished in the last 20 years -- now "amah" means a Filipina maid.
But there are still some old Chinese amahs left, and some may still even be working for their families, old but capable, and much-loved. Retired amahs are still to be found in vegetarian halls in the New Territories and Lantau Island. A hall attached to a Taoist temple in Mui Wo on Lantau is one of the few places where you can still hear genuine pidgin English spoken.
Chat Suk, our neighbour at the Beach House, is 85, but he still doesn't need spectacles to read his newspaper. His mother used to raise silkworms in their village in Guangdong Province to help the family income. When he was a young boy in the 1920s he helped her gather mulberry leaves to feed the worms. He still has some cocoons -- he keeps them as a good-luck charm, a memento of old times.
There is an old Buddhist shrine on a mountainside in Lantau Island with a stone shrine-keeper's cottage beside it where an old woman lives. She was sold as a child in China and taken to Singapore as a slave girl, but she escaped and returned to Hong Kong. She's lived at the shrine for the last 60 years. She has a really beautiful smile.
Subject areas covered
(1990) 'Luddism and Labor Protest among Silk Artisans and Workers in Jiangnan and Guangdong, 1860--1930'. Late Imperial China, Vol. 11, No. 2.
Howard, C.W. (1923) The Sericulture Industry of South China. Canton Christian College, Canton.
Howard, C.W. & K.P. Buswell (1925) A Study of the Silk Industry of South China. Ling Nan Agricultural College, Agricultural Bulletin No. 12. The Commercial Press, Hong Kong.
Li, L.M. (1981) China's Silk Trade: Traditional Industry in the Modern World, 1842-1937. Harvard University Press, Cambridge.
So, A.Y. (1986) The South China Silk District: Local Historical Transformation and World-System Theory. State University of New York Press, Albany.
Stockard, J. (1989) Daughters of the Canton Delta: Marriage Patterns and Economic Strategies in South China, 1860--1930. Stanford University Press, Stanford.
Watson, R.S. (1994) 'Girls' Houses and Working Women: Expressive Culture in the Pearl River Delta, 1900--41' in Women and Chinese Patriarchy -- Submission, Servitude and Escape, ed. Maria Jaschok and Suzanne Miers, Hong Kong University Press.
This is a multi-level and multi-disciplinary exercise, with the following components:
For secondary grades
For all levels
Silkworms in a shoebox
Eng, R.Y. (1986) Economic Imperialism in China: Silk Production and Exports, 1861-1932. University of California Press, Berkeley.
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