The Royal Asiatic Society Hong Kong Studies Series is designed to make widely available important contributions on the history, culture and society of Hong Kong and the surrounding region. Through the history of rickshaw pullers in Hong Kong and Canton, Reluctant Heroes provides a rich portrait of the urban milieu and life in two contrasting yet interrelated cities in South China. Fung Chi Ming explains the dynamics between the rickshaw pullers' participation in collective action and the intervention of the British colonial and Chinese authorities, and traces the pullers' emergence and eclipse as a political force. Reluctant Heroes is a fascinating study of rickshaw pullers in Hong Kong and Canton. The author reconstructs the daily lives and social environments of rickshaw pullers, the majority of whom were emigrants who differed in the loyalties of dialect, place of origin and kinship. Low-skilled yet partially self-employed, rickshaw pullers relied on entrepreneurial flair, in addition to physical stamina, to tout for fares, thus bridging the culture of petty traders and physical laborers. In the volatile urban environment, they were subjected not just to patron-client problems, but also the directives and regulations of the state, and to the interventions of the police and the British colonial and Chinese authorities. Rickshaw pullers struggled with their adversities and became a political force to be reckoned with. Fung argues that they are Reluctant Heroes since their collective outbursts were authentic protests against encroachments on their livelihood.
Reluctant Heroes: Rickshaw Pullers in Hong Kong and Canton, 1874-1954
AuthorsFung, Chi Ming
PublisherHong Kong University Press