Recollecting memories of China’s first World’s Fair

Research output: Other Conference ContributionsPresentation


This paper investigates illustrated magazines and commemorative books as sites of historical narratives and collective memories of exhibiting cultures. It focuses on the 1910 Nanking Industrial Exposition ─ the first and last world's fair held by the Qing dynasty (1644-1912). This large-scale industrial fair was intended to modernize China by promoting industry and commerce, and offering international and provincial pavilions, as well as buildings for artistic, educational, and foreign exhibits. However, the fair has largely been forgotten or devalued in the history of Chinese art and exhibitions in the 20th century. The 1910 Nanking Industrial Exposition referenced the 1903 Osaka Fifth National Industrial Exhibition, but it also reflected the popularity of world's fairs beginning in the late 19th century and the establishment of modern nation-states, as well as the wider production, reproduction, and circulation of press coverage and visual culture. I argue that these visual narratives served as framing devices for recollecting shared experiences of this historic fair through photographs of people, buildings, and events. These visual narratives intervene in our knowledge of world's fairs and industrial fairs, and help to shape collective memory surrounding exhibition culture in the Chinese and Japanese contexts. Special emphasis is placed on the role of visual culture and the public sphere in unifying disparate and competing memories.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 20 May 2021
Externally publishedYes
EventThen and Now: Collecting Art and Exhibiting Cultures in Asia Conference - Lingnan University, Tuen Mun, Hong Kong
Duration: 20 May 202121 May 2021


ConferenceThen and Now: Collecting Art and Exhibiting Cultures in Asia Conference
Country/TerritoryHong Kong
CityTuen Mun
Internet address


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