‘British Lion, Chinese Dragon’ – National Army Museum Collaborates With Anglo-Chinese Community To Tell Forgotten Story

During the First World War over 100,000 Chinese citizens contributed to the allied war effort by serving in the Chinese Labour Corps. British units, such as the Royal Hong Kong Regiment, had thousands of Chinese soldiers within them. To commemorate their contribution and tell their forgotten stories, the National Army Museum (NAM) has launched a new community history project working with members of the Anglo-Chinese community.

"My Companion and his charger, Feby 11th 1862' Watercolour by Lieft (later General) George ELS Sandford, Royal Engineers, 1862
“My Companion and his charger, Feb 11th 1862′ Watercolour by Lieft (later General) George ELS Sandford, Royal Engineers, 1862

‘British Lion, Chinese Dragon: 200 Years of Britain and China in Conflict and Collaboration’ will see the NAM working in partnership with the Ming-Ai (London) Institute London and Hong Kong Regiment veterans. Through a range of workshops and roadshows, attendees will be invited to explore many Chinese artefacts and images relating to Chinese soldiers and workers from the Museum’s diverse Collection.

Rob Fleming, Outreach Curator at the NAM, said: ‘Working with the Ming-Ai Institute provides a fantastic opportunity to engage with the Anglo-Chinese community, mark the contribution of Chinese soldiers and workers and exchange the stories behind these Collection items.’

Objects such as this elaborate gilt bronze dragon’s head finial that once adorned the palanquin of the Dowager Empress Tzu Hsi will act as the starting point for the interviews. They will unlock stories and spark discussions, providing the objects with a wider context within Chinese tradition and custom. The discussions will be recorded to ensure that these valuable insights are saved for future Museum visitors to explore, learn from and enjoy.

Gold Dragon's Head Staff Finial - This gilt bronze dragon's head and tail adorned the sedan chair of the Dowager Empress of China, Tzu Hui, ruler of Imperial China for 47 years from 1861 to 1908
Gold Dragon’s Head Staff Finial – This gilt bronze dragon’s head and tail adorned the sedan chair of the Dowager Empress of China, Tzu Hui, ruler of Imperial China for 47 years from 1861 to 1908

The project will run until the Hungry Ghost Festival in August and will culminate in an online exhibition ‘British Lion, Chinese Dragon’ which will feature both interviews and insights into the chosen objects and will be available in both English and Cantonese to allow for greater access and interaction.

5 Sto Pagoda, Canton, Aug 1859.  Watercolour by Lieft (later General) George ELS Sandford, Royal Engineers, 1862
5 Sto Pagoda, Canton, Aug 1859. Watercolour by Lieft (later General) George ELS Sandford, Royal Engineers, 1862

Chungwen LI, Dean of Ming-Ai (London) Institute, said: ‘The opportunity of working with the National Army Museum enriches the content of our “British Chinese Workforce Heritage” project, which aims to record the heritage of British Chinese workforce over hundreds of years.’

To find out more about ‘British Lion, Chinese Dragon’ and how you can get involved, please email [email protected]. For those who wish to learn more about the museum world there may also be volunteering and training opportunities available.

This initiative is part of the Museum’s exciting Building for the Future project which will see the radical transformation of the Museum’s building as well as an extensive programme of community projects, nationwide tours and travelling exhibitions, together with Regimental Museum collaborations, loans and expert support. The project is supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

1st Chinese Regiment Cap Badge - This cap badge features a distinctive Chinese pagoda, and was worn by the 1st Chinese Regiment who fought for Britain in the Boxer Rebellion
1st Chinese Regiment Cap Badge – This cap badge features a distinctive Chinese pagoda, and was worn by the 1st Chinese Regiment who fought for Britain in the Boxer Rebellion

About the National Army Museum:

The National Army Museum explores the impact of the British Army on the story of Britain, Europe and the world; how Britain’s past has helped to shape our present and our future and how the actions of a few can affect the futures of many.

The National Army Museum was established by Royal Charter to tell the story of the Land Forces of the Crown wherever they were raised. Opened by the Queen in 1960, it moved to its current site in Chelsea in 1971.

About the Ming-Ai Institute:

Ming-Ai (London) Institute was established in 1993 to promote social, cultural, educational and economic exchanges among the people of Hong Kong, China and Britain together with all other peoples, without distinction of colour or creed. www.ming-ai.org.uk

British Chinese Workforce Heritage Project: www.britishchineseheritagecentre.org.uk

 

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