Connotations of ancestral home: An exploration of place attachment by multiple generations of Chinese diaspora

Tingting Elle LI*, Eric Tak Hin CHAN

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


This paper explores the connotations of ancestral home by investigating how multiple generations of Chinese migrants sustain their place attachment to China. Based on 50 in-depth interviews with Chinese migrants from the first to the sixth generation, we unpacked the meanings of ancestral home from the “place,” “person,” and “process” dimensions and identified 3 types of connections: personally attached to ancestral home, cognitively connected to a generic China and the Chinese culture, and spiritually connected to a symbolic China. Factors were identified in each type of place attachment in illustrating how Chinese diaspora members sustain their ancestral home connections. The personally attached group ground their attachment in strongly valued personal involvement with the physical and social ties. They are more sensitive to migration background, social relationships, and home return mobility. The cognitively connected group, in contrast, is more aware of the influence of their own families and the Chinese communities and embed their connections in understandings, knowledge, and Chinese cultural practices. The spiritually connected group maintain their connection through collective memories, sense of pride and appreciation for family ancestry, and interests in personal past. The findings suggest that the meanings of ancestral home are diverse and dynamic, reflecting both individual and family's migration history, personal experiences, cultural exposures, social relationships, and mobility. This study offers empirical insights into diaspora members' experiences of engaging with their place of origin and contributes to the understanding of place attachment by integrating a generational view.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2147
Number of pages10
JournalPopulation, Space and Place
Issue number8
Early online date15 Apr 2018
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2018
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

The authors would like to express their sincere gratefulness to the respondents who kindly participated in this research project. Sincere thanks also go to Professor Bob McKercher and Dr. Per Gustafson for their inspirations and comments, as well as to the anonymous reviewers and editor for their constructive comments.


  • ancestral home
  • migrants
  • place attachment
  • place of origin
  • subsequent generations
  • the Chinese diaspora


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