Editor's Note: This article is reprinted by permission of Stanford University Press from Dreaming of Gold, Dreaming of Home: Migration and Transnationalism between the United States and South China, 1882-1943 (2000). Until 1994, a large sign in front of Taishan City's main bus station greeted arrivals with the following words, "You Are Welcome to Tai Shan--The Home of Oversea [sic] Chinese." (1) This sign conveys an unusual message, for it implies that the people of Taishan identify their county not by those who live there, but by those who have gone away. It seems that Taishanese identity is predicated on absence, that Taishanese consider their most distinguishing characteristic to be the large numbers of people who have left Taishan. Despite initial impressions, however, the sign is not intended to be self-deprecating. Most of the visitors who actually see it are Taishanese returned from overseas. It has been erected to remind absentee sons and daughters of Taishan that their presence in that town square is much appreciated and that they can always consider Taishan their home, regardless of how long ago either they or their ancestors departed the place. In other words, the sign does not denigrate Taishan as a place worth leaving but emphasizes that it is a place worth returning to, especially for those with any sort of claim to being Taishanese.