On 6 and 7 December 2018, the Department of Chinese and History hosted a Symposium on the Chinese Flag Collection held by the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, in the United Kingdom, on the theme of “Symbols of Authority”.
Supported by the Guangdong Museum of Revolutionary History, the two-day Symposium consisted of six lecture sessions in which 14 historians, curators, and textile conservators from London, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Macau, and Hong Kong, shared their insights on the Chinese flag collection. Among the panel speakers were Mr Stuart BLIGH, the Head of Research and Information of the National Maritime Museum; Ms Nicola Yates, Textile Conservator of the National Maritime Museum; Mr YANG Qi, the director of the Guangdong Museum of Revolutionary History; and Professor MAO Haijian from the Department of History at the University of Macau.
Photo 2: Historians and curators from Guangzhou exchanged ideas throughout the Symposium.
Brought home during the era of British military intervention in China, this particular Chinese flag collection comprises a number of flags, pennants, and ceremonial parasols used by the Qing and Republican army and navy from the 1840s to the 1920s. Side by side with these official ensigns are three peculiar items depicting images and motifs of popular worship, of which one is believed to have been possessed by a notorious Chinese pirate who provoked both the Chinese and British authorities on the South China Sea in the 1840s.
At the Symposium, participants examined areas such as flags and symbols employed by local military organisations and sects; the British Navy and the China Station; and pirates along the South China coast. Acknowledging the fact that museums in China seldom possess genuine objects of this type in a condition decent enough for conducting proper research, the symposium participants enjoyed lively debates over the provenance of the collection and proposed various directions for future research.
Cover photo: Ms Nicola Yates, Textile Conservator of the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich of the United Kingdom, presented the conservation measures applied to the flag which is said to have belonged to a nineteenth-century Chinese pirate