Picturing China, 1870-1950: Photographs from British Collections

With support from the University of Bristol's Centre for Public Engagement, this exhibition was on display at the Grant Bradley Gallery, Bristol, 17 January 21 February 2009 (for description see here).

It was previously on display at

- the Brunei Gallery School of Oriental and African Studies, London, 16 October – 15 December 2007 (see the Brunei Picturing China Exhibition website).

- the Museum of East Asian Art, Bath, 3 January – 13 April 2008.

- the Oriental Museum, Durham University, 25 April – 30 August 2008.

This exhibition, organised by the Chinese Maritime Customs project, and funded by the AHRC with sponsorship from John Swire & Sons Ltd., showcased photographs of life in China before 1950 in the possession of families or descendants of Chinese and British men and women who formerly lived there. 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. Altogether 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.

The ‘Historical Photographs of China team at the University of Bristol has been sourcing and digitising such archives of images, and placing them online as a public resource at the Historical Photographs of China project website. Taken together the photographs provide many glimpses of the lost Chinese past, and telling evidence of the complex intimacy of British relations with China before 1950.

A book Picturing China 1870-1950 accompanied the exhibition, but is now out of print.