Astronauts, Lost Souls & Dragons

Diana Giese

University of Queensland Press 1997

Shown on the cover are Eddie Quong,  Moni Lai Storz,  Russell Jack, Clara Law, Gloria Lee, Annette Shun Wah, George Tung Yep, Tac Tam Lam and Warren Lee Long

See also Papers of Diana Giese at




Read extracts, Astronauts, Lost Souls & Dragons

‘This book began with questions. Who are Chinese Australians today, and what makes them different from, and similar to other Australians? What are the cultural traditions that have shaped and continue to shape them? What does "being Chinese" mean to young fourth or fifth generation Chinese Australians brought up and educated in this multicultural country, possibly losing language and traditional beliefs? What meaning does a visit to China have for them, and for their parents and grandparents? When did political and other direct affiliations between Australian and homeland communities begin to weaken? Did war and revolution in China sever the last ties and lead to greater identification with Australia? What kinds of new links with China are now being re-established? Why has the contribution of Chinese Australians to the country’s infrastructure and development been so consistently overlooked and under-reported?...

Cairns Regional Gallery
Ida Sou San, Kate Campbell and Diana Giese at the launch of Astronauts, Lost Souls and Dragons at the Cairns Regional Gallery.
(Courtesy Kerry Trapnell)

The book grew from my continuing oral history project on Chinese Australians for the National Library. The voices of oral history, re-imagining, re-creating other times and places, structure the work. The text produced from them is open to many readings, multiple interpretations, all of them provisional. Such readings may involve a decentring of conventional meaning. These people are speaking about a deeply felt sense of integrity and self-respect, but from the edge of consciousness of what has become accepted as "Australian". They both make and remake themselves in these histories, speaking powerfully from within their sense of what is true. They seek validation of their memories and stories by the very telling of them.

Using oral history as snapshot, sound bite, anecdote and case study, I slice into Chinese Australian experiences at several thematic pulse points. From the vast body of original recorded material, dozens of hours of tape, I have extracted and shaped contributions. I explore different ways of presenting the raw material of the transcript. I have sometimes used large extracts, both questions and answers, to suggest the shape and feel of particular conversations. The interchange between two or more voices can energise, add a special dynamic. It also shows how different interviews can be. Informants’ styles are distinctive, from rapid-fire exchanges to slow and thoughtful discussions. They can range from vivid story-paragraphs to great looping sweeps of words. Having chosen my informants, recorded and transcribed their words, I then stand back and listen. My voice in the book also enquires, prompts, responds, encourages. As the work developed, I elicited amplification from some informants, by phone, fax or letter. As an active "character" in the work, and also the silent maker of its narrative thread, I sometimes step forward to question, validate or dispute my earlier interviewer’s voice.

Against the displacements that have been the experience of many Chinese Australians, what my informants’ words set forth is an affirmation of the Chinese in this continent. Their voices are more than those of a single person, but rather the richly remembered fullness of a whole culture.’

George Tung Yep
George Tung Yep’s mother (far left) and his father’s first wife and her daughters (right).
(Courtesy George Tung Yep)


To see the full list of Chinese Australians interviewed, view Community history.
To read the book, go to  http://trove.nla.gov.au/version/45531920and find a list of the many libraries which hold copies.

Watch Tony Yeo's interview with Diana about the book on YouTube at www.youtube.com/watch?v=ks5bFLGzsj8

Buy at https://abebooks.com or biblio.com.au/book/astronauts-lost-souls-dragons-voices-todays/d/1506773985 

See also https://nla.gov.au/collections/guide-selected-collections/diana-giese-collection


Reviews and responses to the book

‘Answers to eternal questions like "Who am I?" and what "being Chinese" in Australia means, are elusive. Previously there were always reasons deep in the unconscious as to why I could not face these questions. When Diana started her oral history project, there was no escape. I had to move from the unconscious to confront all the issues to do with being Chinese in Australia and in the world. This book is my journey.’
Dr Moni Lai Storz, Global Business Strategies

‘Our relationship with Diana has been a powerful one of mutual benefit, and she has become a model in fostering networks right across the country so that projects on the Chinese history of Australia are given their best chances of success.’
Warren Lee Long, Director, A Man of Family video-documentary

‘Slowly the Chinese are being put back into the history they helped to create. The particular value of Astronauts, Lost Souls & Dragons is the way it permits this eclectic and idiosyncratic collection of Chinese Australians, whose voices have long been silenced, to speak for themselves at last—and with justifiable pride.’
The Canberra Times

Astronauts, Lost Souls & Dragons is an attractive volume, rich with fascinating photographs, footnoted and indexed in Giese’s meticulous style… Her authorial voice never intrudes— the real heroes are those who agreed to open their lives and hearts to her and her tape recorder.’
The South China Morning Post

‘In Astronauts, Lost Souls & Dragons, Diana Giese helps us all understand the rich heritage which is ours through the outstanding contribution which Chinese Australians have made to our society… this is a monumental work, containing enormously valuable insights into the Chinese community in Australia. It is of great interest to the casual reader, as well as being an important reference book for academic use.’
The Bendigo Advertiser

‘The informants in the book, the Dragons, are all proud Australians, all contributing in some way to the country they call home, and at the same time proud of their Chinese heritage… This book is a must-read for Australians.’
Robyn On, Darwin Chung Wah Society historical sub-committee
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