This paper examines the politics and poetics of identity construction and articulation among guiqiao (Returned Overseas Chinese) through a case study of a postage stamp exhibition put up jointly by an ordinary guiqiao and an official huaqiao (Overseas Chinese) museum in Quanzhou, China. Two conflicting meaning systems are identified in this exhibition. On the surface and mainly through words, it promulgates a highly clichéd China-centred discourse of huaqiao as patriotic subjects, legitimated by the authority of an official museum. Simultaneously, it articulates implicitly a “trans-local diasporic subjectivity” conveyed by the imagery of stamps and constituted by constant interactions between the materiality of stamps and the bodily experience of stamp collectors beyond the museum. This study contributes to the study of guiqiao, and of Chinese diaspora in general, in two ways. First, it complicates the conventional understanding of guiqiao identity by pinpointing contested negotiations between the state from above and guiqiao from below, involving simultaneously conflicts and compromises. Secondly, it brings to light the important role of body, affect and materiality in the construction and articulation of guiqiao identities, paving the way for integrating museum and migration studies with the potential to re-conceptualize transnational mobilities in the Chinese context and beyond.