Tracing the Chinese History of Bath

Screen Shot 2014-01-16 at 16.47.52Eastern Voices in the West Country exhibition is the result of the first oral history project by Museum of East Asian Art, which looks into the previously unexplored history of Chinese immigrants in Bath. The new exhibition opens at the Museum of East Asian Art from Sunday 18th January 2014.

The project is supported by the Bath and North East Somerset Performance Reward Grant. To strengthen Museum’s role in promoting cultural understanding within local communities, Eastern Voices in the West Country was developed to focus on the Chinese community and its social history in Bath.

The exhibition includes the above 20-minute video produced by Bath On TV, as well as portraits of interviewees with their treasured items, stories from the public that related to Chinese history in Bath, and archive material from newspaper which associated with Chinese people who lived in Bath in the early twentieth century.

Screen Shot 2014-01-16 at 16.50.15To date, there has been no research done on the subject of Chinese immigrants in Bath, and little trace of Chinese history can be found in Bath.  Although it is possible that some Chinese or South East Asian people had already lived and worked in Bath. The record of the Kingsmead Street Chinese laundry in 1916 is the oldest public example we could trace, after searching local archives all the way back to the Georgian period.  It is a solid proof that the Chinese have been members of the community for nearly a century.

There are ten interviewees who have made Bath their homes participated the project. They shared their stories and experiences from being a stranger to a member of the local community. The interviewees came from different parts of Asia and arrived in the UK at different times. Each of their story is unique, and represents different demographic examples through over the past fifty years. In particular, the portraits of interviewees with their treasured objects would give viewers an insight of what it must have feel like when one leaves home for the last time, and with only these items to unlock memories from afar.

To explore the concept of treasures further, the exhibition Treasures showcases objects that were highly regarded by ancient Chinese states and Chinese collectors as well as people outside China.  Some of these objects were valued for their symbolic and religious properties.  Others were prized for their technical virtuosity or historical references.  Their monetary value was not always high and could change through time and different geographical areas.  While rusty bronzes might not have been the most popular collectible outside China, they were highly treasured by ancient Chinese states and Confucian scholars.  Ceramics, which were sought after within and outside China, could be very different in style and often reflected each region’s own aesthetics.

The exhibitions close on 29th June. For more information, visit the Museum of East Asian Arts website at

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