The Poison of Polygamy
The Poison of Polygamy
Wong Shee Ping and translated by Ely Finch
Sydney University Press
ISBN: 9781743326022


Serialised 1909–10, The Poison of Polygamy is a rare gem of Australian literature.

The first novel of the Chinese Australian experience, it is a roller-coaster tale of blackmail, murder, betrayal and even thylacine attack, partly based on real people, places and events. Revealing the human face of migration between imperial China and colonial Australia, it recounts the story of a man from southern China who tries his luck on the Victorian goldfields, the wife he leaves behind, and their eventual fraught reunion.

In this bilingual edition, Australia’s and possibly the West’s earliest Chinese-language novel is presented in English translation for the first time. Illuminating introductions explore the work’s historical, cultural and linguistic context, and establish its unique significance in Australia’s literary and social history.

“A shiny little nugget has been disinterred from the tailings of our literary past … The Poison of Polygamy is an exciting addition to our literary history that deserves to be widely discussed and analysed in both China and Australia.” David Walker, Emeritus Professor, Deakin University and author of Anxious Nation

“The discovery of The Poison of Polygamy and its publication in this highly informative bilingual edition is a double happiness. It gives readers a highly entertaining new novel, replete with drama, emotion and intrigue. At the same time it documents Chinese Australian life in a key period of history.” Nicholas Jose, author of Avenue of Eternal Peace

About the contributors

Wong Shee Ping was a writer for Melbourne’s Chinese Times, a Christian preacher, a Chinese revolutionary and a member of a prominent family in Victoria’s Chinese business community. He is reported to have spoken little English, yet he made it his mission to espouse Western-influenced values and ideas.

Ely Finch is a consultant translator and linguist who specialises in historical documents and inscriptions written in literary (classical) Chinese, Cantonese, and other southern Chinese languages. His expertise and work on Australian Chinese-language historical material has been of assistance to historians, archaeologists, museums and other institutions, and has garnered widespread academic and community attention in recent years.

The Poison of Polygamy is the first title in our China and the West in the Modern World series.

Permanent link to this page: