SOAS University of London

Brunei Gallery, SOAS University of London

Picturing China 1870-1950

16 October – 15 December 2007

This exhibition showcases 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. They provide glimpses of the lost Chinese past, and telling evidence of the complex intimacy of British relations with China before 1950.
Further information:  Picturing China, Bristol University

A book ‘Picturing China 1870-1950’ (priced £10) accompanies the exhibition and is available from the SOAS Bookshop.

Open 10.30 – 5pm Tuesday to Saturday Closed Sundays and Mondays

The exhibition is sponsored by John Swire & Sons Ltd. and funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).

Funding for the Historical Photographs of China project has come from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), which funds the ‘History of the Chinese Maritime Customs’ project, John Swire & Sons Ltd., and the Centre for East Asian Studies at the University of Bristol. We are also extremely grateful to our collaborators at the Institut d’Asie Orientale (IAO) at Lyon, especially Christian Henriot and Gérald Foliot, to Susannah Rayner, Archivist at the SOAS Library and to all the owners of photographs who have been in touch with us. The project would be interested to hear from owners of similar photographs.


Professor Robert Bickers, Historical Photographs of China project, School of Humanities, University of Bristol, 11 Woodland Road, Bristol BS8 1TB.