Research and Collections

Research and Collections

Folktales and Social Structure: The Case of the Chinese in Montreal – Page 4

– Page 4 –


It is clear from the above discussion that the surviving folktales in Montreal are affected by the family and community structures, which in turn are affected by the history of society. The earlier community institutions were functional in and significant to the lives of the early immigrants. The folktales served as one of the cultural forces to sustain those institutions. The maintenance of folktales was thus associated with the communal festivals and functional ethnic traditions. When the community began to disintegrate in the post-World War II years, the cultural significance and meaning of these festivals were also affected. Folktales are no longer used to reinforce group solidarity and cohesiveness. Therefore, the folktales that are embedded in these communal festivals will gradually change. Already, there are indications that the surviving folktales are lacking in descriptive details and are shorter in versions. Certainly the numbers of motifs and the styles of presentation have been affected.

Most of the earlier immigrants lived lonely lives, as they were not allowed to bring over their wives and children because of the Chinese Exclusion Law. As a consequence, there were not many family and children’s tales transmitted from parents to children. Postwar changes in the Chinese population composition and the arrival of more family members also resulted in the revival of tale-telling in the family. However, there are new social conditions. Modern societal forces and the problems of language and dialects will also impose changes on the tales. Already some of the tales are being transmitted from parents to children in English and in summarized forms. Perhaps in the future generations, the tales that are transplanted from China will adapt and transform themselves into Chinese Canadian versions.


  1. The relationship between the “Romance of the Three Kingdoms” and the Chinese restaurants has been examined in my paper on Chinese community and Cultural Traditions in Quebec City. Ottawa: Canadian Centre for Folk Culture Studies, January 18,1979.

Interviews and References

  • Chan, G., Interview, Montreal, 1976

  • Cheong, K., Interview, Montreal, 1977

  • Hoe, Ban Seng., “Field report on the Chinese in Montreal.” Ottawa: Canadian Centre for Folk Culture Studies, 1976

  • Hum, H., Interview, Montreal, 1976

  • Hsieh, C., Interview, Montreal, 1977

  • Louie A., Interview, Montreal, 1976

  • Wong, Jack, Interview, Montreal, 1976

  • Wong, T., Interview, Montreal, 1976

Montreal Gazette

  • October 29, 1894

  • December 21, 1894

  • August 23, 1896

  • April 24, 1900

  • July 4, 1900

  • January 11, 1901

  • February 24, 1902

  • March 16, 1902

  • May 21, 1902

  • February 12, 1904

  • November 25, 1904

Montreal Star

  • July 1, 1888

  • August 18, 1888

  • October 23, 1900

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