“History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.”
— Mark Twain

Royal Asiatic Society in Shanghai – From Topeka to Tashkent, Langston Hughes in Eurasia – 23/5/18

Posted: May 19th, 2018 | No Comments »

In the early 1930s, Langston Hughes travelled through Soviet Central Asia, China and Japan. We are delighted to host the writer Aaliyah Bilal, who, through Hughes’ letters and autobiographical material, will give us a unique insight into this fascinating topic.

Aaliyah Bilal is a fiction/non-fiction writer and an Islamicist. Previously she was a recipient of the Shansi Memorial Fellowship at Yunnan University where for two years she conducted research among Hui Zu Muslims. A graduate of The School of Oriental and African Studies at The University of London, she is finishing a book on her experience living as a black woman in East Asia.

7pm – Garden Books, Changle Lu

R.S.V.P. to bookings@royalasiaticsociety.org.cn
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Bosshard in China: Documenting Social Change in the 1930s through historical photographs and films – Hong Kong University

Posted: May 18th, 2018 | 2 Comments »

Bosshard in China: Documenting Social Change in the 1930s
captures the tumult of the 1930s through historical photographs and films

Chiang Kai-shek, Madame and Sven Hedin talk Hedin’s exploration to Sinkiang in Feburary 1935

The University Museum and Art Gallery (UMAG) of the University of Hong Kong (HKU) will present Bosshard in China: Documenting Social Change in the 1930s from April 27 to August 5, 2018. Bosshard in China offers a comprehensive sweep of black and white photographs and documentary films produced by Swiss photo-journalist Walter Bosshard. Living and traveling extensively in China from 1933 to 1939, Bosshard was one of the earliest journalists to record this critical decade in Chinese and world history.

An opening ceremony of the exhibition was held at UMAG today (April 26). Officiating guests included Consul General of Switzerland in Hong Kong and Macau Reto Renggli, Director and Curator of the Swiss Foundation of Photography Peter Pfrunder, Vice-Chairman of the HKU Museum Society Anna Ann Yeung and UMAG Director Florian Knothe.

The exhibition is organised into thematic sections that give insight into the photographer’s mind as he traversed myriad landscapes and social conditions, from Beijing to Lake Qinghai in western China; from the bombing of Hankou to Mongolian shepherds on the steppe. Apart from filming daily life, Bosshard also photographed and interviewed key political figures, including Mao Zedong in Yan’an, Chiang Kai-shek and Soong Mei-ling, Madame Chiang Kai-shek.

Following earlier exhibitions at UMAG of Magnum photographers and their oeuvres in the West, Bosshard in China documents China’s landscape and its people during a time when China was undergoing significant sociopolitical upheaval. During this same era, photojournalism was developing into a serious mass medium of information, and Bosshard’s work in the 1930s was one of the primary means by which the Far East came to life across living rooms in Europe and America.

As Bosshard’s journeys through China are well documented, his imagery offers valuable contextual information. He provides views into a society—and now past—that benefits from the objective view of the camera lens. Bosshard’s work is of historical significance, as most Western photographers only went to China for individual assignments, but did not live there for extended periods. Many of the Chinese photographers were politically engaged or had been commissioned, which resulted in a more selective subject matter and consistent narrative.

Bosshard’s documentary photography and film are neither colonialist nor otherwise politically motivated. Though he lived alongside the Chinese people during the Japanese invasion, he did not take sides but rather let his images—both still and moving—capture the scenes unfolding around him. This phenomenon is remarkable, as traditional reports of political and military campaigns, and especially images of warfare, often aimed to communicate either nationalist or anti-nationalist sentiments. Bosshard documented urban centres and rural regions, peaceful everyday as well as wartime activities, and throughout all of these moments he strived to remain a neutral observer. His oeuvre presents a more holistic view of a country that was perceived internationally as highly important but altogether remained little known.

For more images and captions of the exhibits, please click here.

Details of the Exhibition
April 27, 2018 (Friday) to August 5, 2018 (Sunday)
Opening Hours:
09:30 – 18:00 (Monday to Saturday)
13:00 – 18:00 (Sunday)
Closed on University and Public Holidays
Venue: 1/F T.T. Tsui Building, UMAG, HKU, 90 Bonham Road, Pokfulam
Tel/Email: (852) 2241 5500 (General Enquiry) / museum@hku.hk
Admission: Free
Website: http://www.umag.hku.hk/en/

Connect with UMAG on social media:
Twitter: https://twitter.com/UMAG_HKU
Instagram: #WalterBosshard, #photographs, #documentaryfilms, #UMAG
Weibo: @香港大學美術博物館UMAG

About University Museum and Art Gallery of the University of Hong Kong (UMAG)
UMAG was founded in 1953 as the Fung Ping Shan Museum. It was originally established as the Fung Ping Shan Library in 1932 in honour of its benefactor. For more information on UMAG, please click here.

Media enquiries
UMAG Senior Communications Officer Ms Elena Cheung, Tel: (852) 2241 5512, Email: elenac@hku.hk
UMAG Programme Assistant Ms Chelsea Choi, Tel: (852) 2241 5509, Email: cchelsea@hku.hk

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Royal Asiatic Society Beijing – Walking Tour of Peking University – 20/5/18

Posted: May 17th, 2018 | No Comments »

Walking Tour of Peking University: from a former prince’s mansion to a premier university in China

WHAT: Peking University campus historical walking tour, led by Rosie Levine
WHEN: May 20, Sunday, from 10:30 a.m. to 12 noon
WHERE: Meet at the East Gate of Peking University Subway Station (Exit A) on line 4
RSVP: please email names and mobile numbers of participants by May 18 to communications.ras.bj@gmail.com, and write Beida” in the subject header
HOW MUCH: RMB 30 for RASBJ members, RMB 50 for non-members

The lush gardens and serene paths of Peking University’s campus resembles the traditional gardens of the nearby Old Summer palace; and yet the campus was originally home to a missionary college, and these “traditional gardens” were designed by an American architect, Henry Murphy. Murphy’s design blends Eastern and Western architectural features in a unique harmony of design. On this walk through the campus, we will explore the former glory of Murphy’s design of Yenching University.  After 1952, when Yenching University was shut, Peking University moved into this campus and has called it home to this day.  We’ll also discuss the history of the site, a brief overview of higher education in China, and the history of academic exchanges between East and West in China. Some of the characters in this story are:
• Henry Murphy, the Yale-trained architect who so successfully mimicked Chinese garden design.
• John Leighton Stuart, the University President turned Ambassador who was scathingly critiqued by Mao.
• Grace Morrison Boynton, an English teacher at Yenching University who witnessed first-hand the communist takeover in 1949.
• Edgar Snow, famed journalist who helped found the Yenching University Department of Journalism.
• Bing Xin, one of China’s most famous authors who not only graduated from Yenjing University, but also returned to teach.

Rosie Levine grew up in Beijing as a child and returned to America at age nine.  Striving to understand to her second home led her to specialize in History, Asian Languages & Cultures, and Museum Studies at the University of Michigan. After graduation, Rosie moved back to Beijing where she began researching the history of Beijing. She is now working for the Beijing Cultural Heritage Protection Center, a Chinese NGO that works to preserve, protect and promote the unique cultural heritage of Beijing, and pursuing an M.A. in Chinese Studies at Yenching Academy (Peking University) to deepen her knowledge of Chinese history. She regularly gives walking tours of Beijing’s hutongs and other historic sites.


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Robert Hart documentary now online – ‘For China and the World’

Posted: May 16th, 2018 | No Comments »

The documentary on the life of Sir Robert Hart commissioned by the University of Bristol, ‘For China and the World’ explores the forgotten history of Britain in China from the 1850s to the early 1900s through the life of Sir Robert Hart, head of the Chinese Maritime customs for nearly 50 years. Filmed in Shanghai and Hart’s native Northern Ireland, the 30-minute HD film charts the turbulent beginning to China’s “Century of Humiliation”.

click here

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Shanghai Harry’s from Make Mine Mink, 1960

Posted: May 14th, 2018 | No Comments »

Once more proving the power of the ‘Shanghai’ brand….

Make Mine Mink is a 1960 British comedy with a distinct Ealing feel and a great cast. When Lily (Billie Whitelaw), a maid at Dame Beatrice’s (Athene Seyler) boarding house, steals a mink coat to give to Beatrice, the other residents of the house organize to return the coat and save Lily from arrest. However, the excitement is a great change from their boring lives, and they decide to start stealing coats for charity purposes. Major Rayne (Terry-Thomas) leads the otherwise female group of unlikely thieves — Nanette (Hattie Jacques), Pinkie (Elspeth Duxbury) and Beatrice.

At one point they desperately need a fence to sell their knocked-off furs – they head to a shady east End bar – Shanghai Harry’s – sorry for the dreadful picture, the crim lurking outside lit his fag as the camera panned over the excellent signage!


Outside Shanghai Harry’s

Inside Shanghai Harry’s

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Imperial Twilight: The Opium War and the End of China’s Last Golden Age

Posted: May 11th, 2018 | No Comments »

Stephan R. Platt’s new book on the opium wars is out in the US I think and published in the UK on June 7th….

When Britain declared war on China in 1839, it sealed the fate of what had been, for centuries, the wealthiest and most powerful empire in the world.China was much weaker than was commonly understood and the war set in motion the fall of the Qing dynasty which, in turn, would lead to the rise of nationalism and communism in the twentieth century.

Beginning with the very first efforts by the British government to ‘open’ China to trade, Stephen Platt tells the epic story of the decades leading up to the war and, given the growing uncertainty in current relations between China and the West, shows how the conflict still has important implications for the world today.


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China: Art, Power and Revolutions, 1950-76 – Craig Clunas, Museum of London, 14/5/18

Posted: May 10th, 2018 | No Comments »

China: Art, Power and Revolutions, 1950-76 –

Professor Craig Clunas

Museum of London, 14/5/18, 1pm

(broadcast live here)

The establishment of the People’s Republic of China in 1949 gave Chinese artists a government that had explicit policies for the arts, seeing them as an essential part of the creation of ‘new China’. Resources were put into the support of art and artists, opening up new possibilities at the same time as other possibilities that were uncongenial to Communist Party policy were closed down. 

The consequences of fierce artistic debates could be expulsion from the visible art world and the silencing of some points of view. An increase in party control of the arts, linked with adulation of the Great Leader, led to very widely-reproduced images that played a part in the unprecedented stress and upheaval.

No reservations are required for this lecture. It will be run on a ‘first come, first served’ basis.
Doors will open 30 minutes before the start of the lecture.

Read more here

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Royal Asiatic Society Shanghai – Tushanwan Craft School in Shanghai – 9/5/18

Posted: May 5th, 2018 | No Comments »
Wednesday, 9th May 2018
7:30 pm – 9:30 pm
RAS Library

Tushanwan Craft School in Shanghai

Speaker: Julie Chun

With the exception of Shanghai history specialists and the curious wayward wanderer, even some of the city’s local residents do not know about the small building inscribed ‘T’ou-se-we Museum’ (also known as Tushanwan  土山湾Museum) on its red façade. The remnants of the former Spanish-styled compound of dormitories, classrooms, and workshops on the sprawling 5.5 hectares is now but a mere shadow which once housed, fed, and taught many destitute young Chinese boys. While rich in history, the quaint and well-kept museum unfortunately possesses only a few actual artefacts produced during the period when the orphanage was instituted in 1864 until its formal closure in 1962. The craft school, which was distinctly tied to the identity of the orphanage, served a crucial social and artistic need in Shanghai for over 90 years during times of both political turmoil and commercial prosperity. By incorporating the evidence of recent scholarship, Art Historian Julie Chun seeks to re-address and re-evaluate the legacy of Xuhui’s understudied history, which continues to remain relatively insular to the world- at-large.

About the speaker

Julie Chun is an independent art historian and lecturer based in Shanghai since 2011. She serves as the Art Convener of the Royal Asiatic Society China in Shanghai, where she delivers monthly lectures at museums and galleries to widen the public’s understanding of artistic objects, past and present. She lectures frequently on art for the various foreign Consulate General offices in Shanghai and as an adjunct professor for The Alliance for Global Education at Shanghai at the University of Finance and Economics. She is a regular contributor to Yishu Journal of Contemporary Chinese Artand is also the Honorary Editor of the Journal Royal Asiatic Society.

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