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New exhibition explores British Chinese communities

A free display at Liverpool Central Library explores the history, culture, and heritage of British Chinese communities.

Running until Friday 31 March, the exhibition draws on personal stories and moments of national significance and asks what it means to be Chinese and British.

From the first recorded individuals arriving from China in the late 1600s to Liverpool becoming Europe’s first Chinatown in the 1850s – Chinese people, who trace their heritage to regions across east and southeast Asia, have played an active part in British society for over 300 years.

In partnership with the British Library Living Knowledge Network, Liverpool Libraries and Information Services have worked with curators The Sound Agents and the local Chinese community to create a physical exhibition showcasing artefacts, documents, clothing and photographs that focus on our local Chinese communities and their contribution to the economic and cultural heritage of Liverpool.

Inspired by the National exhibition, Chinese and British (18 November 2022 – 23 April 2023) which celebrates the lasting impact of Chinese communities in the UK, Liverpool’s display has been supplemented by a panel exhibition which includes content and images from The British Library.

Cabinet Member for Culture and Visitor Economy, Cllr Harry Doyle said “We’re delighted that we’ve been able to bring the Chinese and British exhibition to the city, alongside an extensive programme of events and celebrations for Lunar New Year.

“Liverpool is Europe’s oldest Chinese community and is prominently featured in The British Library display – so it feels right that the city is able celebrate the heritage and cultural significance of Chinese British communities who have been part of our rich history for hundreds of years.”

Allan Chan, founder of Liverpool Chinatown Heritage Trust said “Chinese communities have been calling the UK home for much longer than many realise – more so for the Liverpudlian Chinese, who arrived here during the 19th century.

The curators have worked with the local Chinese community to bring a local context to the exhibition, by using photographs, manuscripts and interviews – and it uncovers the challenges that British Chinese people have encountered through the centuries, and some that continue to this day.

It also celebrates the history and impact of our vibrant community and helps people to understand what it means to be both Chinese and British.”

Alongside the exhibition, there will be both in-person and streamed events taking place:

  • A Family celebration of the Lunar New Year in Liverpool Central Library on 21 January with British Chinese authors Maisie Chan and Eva Wong Nava 10.30-1.30 pm
  • Chinese Storytelling with Movema – Toxteth Library Wednesday 25 Jan 10am – 12noon and Liverpool Central Library 28 January 10-12pm .
  • The Living Knowledge Network will be streaming free events, exhibitions, and workshops from libraries across the UK through www.LKN-events.co.uk.

The Chinese and British Liverpool exhibition will be available to view in the Hornby Library, 1st floor Liverpool Central Library, William Brown Street. L3 8EW and will be available for public viewing during library opening hours until 31 March 2023.

The Chinese and British exhibition at Liverpool Central Library has been produced and curated by John Campbell and Moira Kenny from The Sound Agents in collaboration with the Liverpool Chinese Community and Liverpool Libraries and Information Services.

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