New light on Chinese history
Press release issued: 12 October 2007
A remarkable collection of photographs of China in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, brought together by researchers from the University of Bristol, will go on display at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London next week.
The exhibition, entitled Picturing China 1870-1950: Photographs in British Collections runs from Tuesday 16 October to Saturday 15 December at SOAS’s Brunei Gallery, admission free.
Alongside other documents and artefacts, the exhibition will showcase more than a hundred photographs of life in China before 1950 in the possession of families or descendants of Chinese and British men and women who lived there.
Robert Bickers, Professor of History at Bristol, who heads the project, said: “Lodged away in attics and cupboards, these images include snapshots of expatriate social life, scenes of everyday Chinese life, and records of momentous political events.
“Together, they form a unique virtual archive for China where wars and revolutions inflicted great damage on the sites and ways of life recorded, and destroyed much of the stock of historic visual and other records.”
So far, the Historical Photographs of China team at Bristol has sourced and digitised more than 8,000 images from individuals, the SOAS archive and the Swire Collection and placed them online as a public resource.
The images cover a wide range of topics including everyday life, fashion, industrialisation, crime and punishment, foreigners in China and the Chinese abroad. They provide glimpses of the lost Chinese past and telling evidence of the complex intimacy of British relations with China before 1950.
The project would be interested to hear from owners of similar photographs. Please email: hums-chinaphotos.bristol.ac.uk
The exhibition runs from Tuesday 16 October to Saturday 15 December at the Brunei Gallery, School of Oriental and African Studies, Thornhaugh Street (off Russell Square) London WC1H 0XG. Opening hours: 10.30 – 5 pm Tuesday to Saturday. Admission free.
A book Picturing China 1970 – 1950 accompanies the exhibition. Price £10 The book will be available at the SOAS bookshop 'Arthur Probsthain' from 16 October and later also via an on line order form from the University of Bristol.
Funding for the ‘Historical Photographs of China’ project has come from the AHRC, John Swire & Sons Ltd and the Centre for East Asian Studies at the University of Bristol.