Old China on display: BICC working with the British Embassy,Beijing

Press release, British Embassy Beijing

British Photographs from 1870-1950 Focus on Shared UK-China History

Beijing, 21 March 2013 – tonight British Ambassador to China Sebastian Wood CMG officially opened an exhibition of historical photos of China at the JW Marriott in Beijing. Organised by the British Embassy in Beijing, the exhibit presents China as seen through camera lenses dating back as far as 1870. This is the first time this exhibition has been displayed outside of the UK.

Picturing China 1870-1950: Photographs from British Collections’ presents a wealth of images of a country undergoing rapid change in its society, culture and heritage as well as providing snapshots of expatriate life at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries.

These images are part of a unique collection gathered from private collections of photographs taken, commissioned or purchased by the tens of thousands of Britons who lived in or visited China from the 1870s until the 1950s.

Sebastian Wood, British Ambassador to China, said: “These wonderful images from British collections provide a unique visual record of the longstanding shared history between the UK and China. They are a reminder of the strength and depth of our relationship, one which is increasingly important to both countries as China continues its development.”

Professor Robert Bickers, Director of the ‘Historical Photographs of China project at the University of Bristol, said: “Our project is sustained through the generosity of British-based families whose forebears lived and worked in China, or visited it, and who come forward with wonderfully rich historical materials. Many of these have never been seen before outside their homes, and it is wonderful to be able to share them with audiences in China through this exhibition.”

Dr Alicia Greated, Director of Research Councils UK (RCUK), China, said: “These inspiring photographs bring to life many months of research and investigation and demonstrate the long lasting friendship between the UK and China. Research Councils UK and Chinese funding agencies have made significant steps in enhancing our collaborative research programmes. We very much look forward to further progressing this partnership in the future.”

David Wilson, Managing Director of JW Marriott Hotel Beijing, said: “We are delighted to host this exhibition, ‘Picturing China 1870s-1950s: Photographs from British Collections’, with the British Embassy Beijing. It gives us the chance to share images of Chinese culture and heritage in bygone times with our guests living or travelling in Beijing, images which we are sure will leave a lasting impression.”

The Beijing exhibition, ‘Picturing China 1870-1950: Photographs from British Collections’, has been sponsored by the JW Marriott Hotel Beijing. The images on display come from the ‘Historical Photographs of China’ project at the University of Bristol, which is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council through the British Inter-university China Centre, and the British Academy.

Media Contact:

Martin Cui, Communications Officer (Prosperity)

British Embassy Beijing

T: +86 (10) 5192-4286

E: martin.cui@fco.gov.uk

Workshop: China and India in the 20th and 21st century, Where do international relations and history meet?

An international workshop supported by the British Inter-university China Centre (BICC), funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council

Speakers include: Manoranjan Mohanty (Institute for Chinese Studies, New Delhi); Alka Acharya (Institute for Chinese Studies, New Delhi); Meng Qinglong (Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Beijing); Chris Goto-Jones (University College, Leiden)

Tuesday 26 March 2013, 4 -6 pm, Wednesday 27 March, 9.30 am to 5 pm

Institute for Chinese Studies, Walton Street, Oxford

All welcome; for further details of programme please email rana.mitter@chinese.ox.ac.uk

Chinese Language Course for Researchers, 2013

Places are available for the upcoming teaching sessions in the BICC Chinese Language Course for Researchers (CLCR)

The programme is open for postgraduate research students and early career academics.

Upper-intermediate Level

The next two teaching sessions will take place from 15 to 19 April 2013 and from 9 to13 Sept 2013, and will concentrate on the language exercises of listening and reading comprehension and English into Chinese and Chinese into English translation during the online learning periods (22 April to 14 June 2013). All the weekly assignments must be completed by the participants. Two “Chat Room” lessons in each “online learning session” will be arranged by the language teacher(s).

Elementary or Intermediate Level

The BICC also offers Chinese language courses at elementary and intermediate levels for researchers. These courses consist of three week-long sessions of intensive teaching in late September, early January and late March. Each teaching session will be followed by a term of online learning with feedback from the BICC language teachers. A formal language test will take place at the end of the second intensive session.

The courses will focus on reading and speaking skills, but there will be reinforcement and enhancement of these skills through the use of aural and written tasks. Students will have to spend at least two hours a day studying new materials, and revising spoken and written texts and lexis. These courses will achieve the following encourage the development of an elementary and higher level of learner autonomy in the field of Chinese language study; enable learners to put a wide range of essential communication skills into practice; allow learners to read Chinese newspapers and relevant texts with confidence.

A limited number of partial bursaries are available for participants, to defray travel, accommodation and subsistence costs.

Applicants for the Upper Intermediate Level programme should contact the programme convenor, Mr Shio-yun Kan, by 1 April 2013, via the BICC administrator, Ms Grania Pickard, at hums-bicc@bristol.ac.uk. Please provide details of your doctoral topic and affiliation, name of your PhD supervisor, or your current position, as well as a brief description of your Chinese language learning experience, including how many Chinese characters (or words) that you have learnt, and how much time that you have spent in China.

Applicants for the Elementary or Intermediate Level programme in September are encouraged to make early contact with Mr Kan via the BICC administrator, Ms Grania Pickard, at hums-bicc@bristol.ac.uk. Please provide details of your doctoral topic and affiliation, name of your PhD supervision, or your current position, as well as a brief description of your Chinese language learning experience, including how many Chinese characters (or words) that you have learnt, and how much time that you have spent in China.

We are likely to ask shortlisted candidates to secure a statement of support from their supervisiors.

Remembering Sir Robert Hart

BICC has been collaborating with Dr Weipin Tsai at Royal Holloway University of London, on her imaginative initiative to restore to public view the achievements of Sir Robert Hart, the Ulsterman who served from 1863-1911 as Inspector-General of the Chinese Maritime Customs Service. The first stage of this programme was completed on 22 February, when sixty guests assembled at All Saint’s Church in Bisham, near Marlow in Berkshire, for a ceremony to rededicate the gravestone of Sir Robert and Lady Hester Jane Hart.


Hart tombstone before restoration

The tombstone had been in danger of being removed, as it was in a decrepit state, but the team have had it professionally restored. On a freezing cold, but sunny morning, an audience of former diplomats, business figures, Chinese studies academics, several descendents of Customs staff, including descendents of Hart himself, and visitors from China, assembled for a simple rededication ceremony. The grave is but a few yards from the Thames, and there the Reverend Sara Fitzgerald led a service which included addresses on Hart’s spiritual life and motivations from Hans van de Ven, at Cambridge University, and on Hart’s contribution to Anglo-Chinese relations from Robert Bickers.

Sir Robert and Lady Hart's tombstone after restoration, February 2013

Sir Robert and Lady Hart’s tombstone after restoration, February 2013

Wreaths were then laid by Etain Alexander, great grand-daughter of Sir Robert, Deidre Wildy on behalf of his alma mater Queens’ University Belfast, Julie Shipley, Head of the Sir Robert Hart Memorial Primary School in Portadown, Dr Mary Tiffen, in memory of the Carrall family, and Weipin Tsai on behalf of The Royal Philatelic Society London, Taiwan Chapter; Chinese Taipei Philatelic Society; The China Stamp Society, Inc. Taiwan Chapter. (Hart was appointed to manage the new Imperial Chinese Post Office when it was established in 1896).

Waltham St Lawrence Silver Band, in All Saints' Church, Bisham

Waltham St Lawrence Silver Band, in All Saints’ Church, Bisham

In recognition of Hart’s place in the history of the European classical music’s reception in China — he organised and ran the first secular brass band in the country — the local Waltham St Lawrence Silver Band played a selection of pieces. These included some that are known to have been included in the programmes played by Hart’s own band in the gardens of his residence in Peking.

The ceremony was followed by a reception and presentations about Hart and his legacies, including his archive at Queens’ University Belfast Special Collections, and discussion of how the rich private archives of the British presence in China, not least its photographic records, can help furnish unique materials for understanding China’s modern history, its heritage, and social life and customs.

Hart joined the Customs in 1859, and 2013 marks the 150th anniversary of his formal appointment to the Inspector-Generalship. He was a Chinese civil servant, and never let the foreign nationals on his own staff forget this point, and he worked consistently to try and fashion structures and practices that would reduce the potential for tension between China and the foreign powers. He did not always succeed, but he undoubtedly had a significant impact on the course of events. Hart’s reputation has varied over the years. In Anglophone historical writing in the 1950s-60s he was presented as fairly central to any understanding of China’s interaction with foreign power, but thereafter new scholarly trends explored different fields and approaches and he largely fell out of sight. In China, until relatively recently, he was viewed simply as an agent of foreign, principally British, imperialism.

Attitudes in China today are more nuanced, and there has been a revival of scholarship internationally into the rich and varied history of the activities of Hart and his service. This event was part of a wider initiative, which will include a film, which aims to place Hart back into broader debates about British-Chinese relations, their history, contemporary features and their future. In particular, those state to state relations are at heart also relations between people, British and Chinese. In Hart, and the 22,000 foreign and Chinese staff of the Customs, and in the legacies of those careersdown to today, we have a rich field in which to explore how people shaped such abstractions as ‘Anglo-Chinese relations’.

The booklet accompany this commemorative event, Between Two Worlds: Commorating Sir Robert Hart, compiled by Weipin Tsai, can be found on the History of the Chinese Maritime Customs Service project website.