SOAS University of London

Brunei Gallery reopens with new exhibition: Western Front - Eastern Promises

2 October 2020

From Thursday 1st October, the Brunei Gallery is re-opening to visitors with reduced opening times, safety measures and pre-booking in place. 

With installed sanitising stations, staff will be wearing face coverings and visitor numbers will be limited with one-way routes. In return, visitors will need to wear a face covering inside the gallery and when moving around the SOAS campus.

Like in other public spaces, visitors need to keep 2m away from other visitors and should you develop symptoms of COVID-19 after your visit to the Brunei Gallery, SOAS, please contact the gallery immediately by phone 020 7898 4915 or email

New visiting procedures 

Booking system 

  • All users wishing to visit the Brunei Gallery, SOAS will be asked to pre-book their free visit through the online booking system. A limited number of tickets will be made available each day.
  • Upon arrival please check in at the Brunei Gallery Reception Desk with your ticket (electronic or printed) to gain admission to the exhibition.

New opening times: 

  • Open: Tuesday to Saturday 11.00 – 17.00 (please note there is no longer no late-night opening on Thursday)
  • Closed: Sunday and Monday 

Book tickets to visit the Brunei Gallery. 

Exhibition: Western Front – Eastern Promises

Trench Art and the Story of the Chinese Labour Corps in the Great War
01 October – 12 December 2020
Men of 30th Company, CLC, dismantling explosives, W J Hawkings, courtesy John de Lucy

SOAS’s Brunei Gallery is pleased to host an exhibition to commemorate the remarkable but largely overlooked contribution and experiences of the Chinese Labour Corps in the First World War, in this the centenary year of their disbandment, alongside their trench art legacy, decorated shell cases with a uniquely Chinese flavour. 

140,000 Chinese men travelled 10,000 miles to war-torn Europe to assist the British and French armies after 1916. 100,000 of these volunteers formed the British Army’s Chinese Labour Corps (CLC), taking on all manner of work behind the lines and for almost two years after the war the CLC worked to clear the battlefields of debris and bodies. 

The exhibition gives a fascinating insight into the people who made up the CLC. On display is material drawn from the unique collection of photographs taken by Lt W J Hawkins during his time as an officer with the CLC in China and France from 1917 to 1919, many previously unseen, alongside a ‘never before displayed’ collection of 80 museum-quality trench art pieces, sculpted and engraved shell cases, 

hand-made by the men. The ancient symbolism and iconography applied in these distinctively Chinese trench art designs is also explored.

As part of the exhibition, visitors can view ‘Forgotten Faces of the Great War: The Chinese Labour Corps’ by Peng Wenlan, documentary filmmaker and director, a film of oral histories from descendants of Chinese labourers and their Western commanding officers.         

Find out more about the exhibition. 

Book your tickets to this exhibition. 

For further information, contact: