1. Cambridge University, King’s College Silk Roads Programme
Title: Aquilaria and Exotic Aromatics on the Maritime Silk Roads
Speaker: Dr. Bill Mak
Date: 19 May 2023
Time: 6:00 pm (Hong Kong Time); 11:00 am (British Standard Time)
Description: The historical importance of the overland Silk Road connecting China, India, and other Eurasian cultures has generated much scholarly interest in the past century. On the other hand, that of the maritime routes requires further exploration, especially from a longue-durée perspective. This paper examines the role of the Maritime Silk Road connecting South China, Southeast Asia, India, and beyond from the first millennium CE, focusing on the case of aromatic trade, from which Hong Kong was named after. The spread of the exotic aromatics and the cultivation of a variety of species of Aquilaria across tropical and subtropical Asia demonstrate the robust and long-lasting connectivity between a number of Asian cultures from China to the far end of the Indian Ocean.
2. 2023 Congress meeting of Canadian South Asian Studies Association (CSASA)
Title: Hindu Cemetery in Hong Kong—An Unusual History and its Post-colonial Legacy
Speaker: Dr. Bill Mak
Date: 27/28 May 2023
Time: TBC
During the nineteenth century, South Asian communities are established rapidly across Southeast and East Asia as a result of Britain’s imperial expansion. Since Hong Kong became a crown colony of the British Empire in 1842, South Asians arrived in great number both in service to the colonial government as well as to seek commercial opportunities as individuals. South Asian immigrants of different ethnic backgrounds and religious affiliations soon took root on the Chinese soil, adopted local customs and the local Cantonese language while maintaining their unique identities; some throve to become prominent members of the local elite society by triangulating as trusted agents of the colonial government. Although most of these South Asian communities in Hong Kong date back to mid- to late nineteenth century and many of their forefathers arrived in Hong Kong earlier than most of the current Cantonese population, who migrated from the neighbouring Guangdong region or other parts of southern China only later in the twentieth century shortly before or after WWII, the South Asians remain perceived as foreigners by the Chinese locals. The postcolonial government continue to address issues such as inequality, diversity, and inclusivity in their policies. This paper focuses on the history of the nineteenth-century Hindu Cemetery in Hong Kong, an unusual arrangement in orthodox Hinduism, as a case study of the diasporic vicissitude of the South Asian communities in Hong Kong from the colonial period down to the present.