Having just written about Eurasians in Singapore during World War II, let us now take a look at how Eurasians come about – through interracial relationships.
I came across some anonymous poems that were published in the classical Chinese section of the journal Nam Phong in January of 1921 by someone who had been in London in 1919.
One of the poems is about seeing interracial couples on the streets.
The author explains that presently in Europe and America, anyone who is not white is a colored person. Colored men can not get married with white women, and in fact, this is banned in England.
However, the author continues, white women really do not like to be constrained. So there are some who sometimes still get married with colored men.
The author then notes that starting during the First World War, the British came to employ as many as two million soldiers and workers from India.
Of course some of these guys were smart and strong, so in their time off when they visited London, it was no uncommon to see a white woman and an Indian walking down the street hand in hand.
This, the author concluded, was a good strategy for “cherishing men from afar” (柔遠, nhu viễn). “Cherishing men from afar was a term” was a classical terms used in East Asia to describe the good treatment of tributary bearers to the central court of a dynasty by the emperor.
As for the poem, it roughly (or loosely) goes something like this:
London’s beauty, its free people,
The way they come together is a sight to behold.
It’s just so hard to comprehend,
That white wives now chose black husbands.
There is a book by Kimloan Vu-Hill called Coolies into Rebels: The Impact of World War I on French Indochina in which she talks about the experiences that the many Vietnamese who went to France during the war had. What Vu-Hill tries to demonstrate is that the experience of being in France probably transformed these men in many ways.
One transformation that we know took place (because the French authorities monitored it and kept records) is that Vietnamese men did not just stay content with looking at European women, but instead some dated, and some even married, European women.
So I’m not sure why this author expressed surprise at what he saw, for some of his compatriots had been doing the same thing just a year or so earlier in nearby France.