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Please help us bring over descendants of the Chinese Labour Corps for the centenary of their ancestors arrival in Europe’

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Chinese Labour Corps Project Launch Event – 19th April 2017

On 19th April, 1917, after a three-month journey over land and sea, a thousand Chinese men arrived in Le Havre, France, weary and bewildered. This was the first batch of the Chinese Labour Corps, recruited by the British to provide logistical help to the Western Allies. They would be followed by several tens of thousands, mainly from Shandong Province, thus forming one of the largest labour corps involved in the Great War.

To mark this historically significant event, exactly one hundred years later on 19th April, 2017, The Meridian Society, with SOAS China Institute as host, will be holding a film screening and talks to launch our heritage project on the Chinese Labour Corps, with the support of a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The key resource is a collection of unique interviews with CLC descendants from Shandong. Their distinctive memories have been captured on camera and at this launch, guests will be able to view for the first time, a public screening of the documentary ‘Forgotten Faces of the Great War’, containing oral histories by descendants both of Chinese labourers and Western CLC officers.


Alongside the screening will be talks by eminent speakers (Chaired by Lars Laaman SCI) including:

- Frances Wood, Author of Author of ‘Betrayed Ally’, former Curator of Chinese Collections at the British Library and Research Associate at SOAS China Institute;

- Dominiek Dendooven, Curator at In Flanders Fields Museum;

- Andrew Fetherston, Archivist at Commonwealth War Graves Commission and

- Zhang Yan The Chinese University of Hong Kong.

A small display of items, including photos, documents and memorabilia, will be on show.

We will also be announcing details of the Society’s year-long series of activities to commemorate the CLC.

The event will be brought to a close by a Ceremony for the Departed conducted by Representatives of the London Fo Guang Shan Temple.

We hope you will be able to join us for this special event.

Please reserve your place no later than Monday 27th March by replying to The Meridian Society at chineselabourcorps@gmail.com

Date: Wednesday, 19th April

Time: 2.00-6.00pm

Venue: Djam Lecture Theatre (DLT)
SOAS University of London, Thornhaugh Street, Russell Square,
London WC1H 0XG

Entry: Free, but places must be booked in advance

Click here for map to SOAS

For more details on the project, please click here




The contribution of the Chinese Labour Corps (CLC) to the Allied effort during World War I is unquestionable. Yet, to date, there has been no official acknowledgement of their vital role. To honour their memory on the centenary of the arrival in Europe of the first batch of recruits, the Meridian Society will be holding two commemoration events in France and Belgium. A small group of CLC descendants will be coming over from China specially to attend these ceremonies. Let us show that their ancestors have not been forgotten by all.


The Chinese Cemetery at Noyelles-sur-Mer, France

April 13th (Thursday) - France
Visit to the Commonwealth War Graves Facility, Arras, to see CLC headstones being engraved, followed by a commemoration ceremony at the Chinese Cemetery, Noyelles-sur-Mer, where over 800 CLC members lie buried.

April 14th (Friday) - Belgium
Visit to trenches and battlefield sites along the Western Front and tour of In Flanders Fields Museum, Ypres, with curator Dominiek Dendooven, followed by laying of wreaths to the CLC at the Menin Gate Memorial at the Last Post.

The Menin Gate Memorial, Ypres

Depending on numbers, we may organise a minibus or coach to take us over from London, or we could carpool and share the cost of travel. Overnight accommodation will be required from April 12th to 14th inclusive. We will be happy to identify a range of hotels for you to choose from.

Please register your interest and indicate if you would be willing to drive your vehicle and, if so, how many passengers you can take. This will not commit you to attending, but will help us determine the feasibility of such a trip.

Please reply no later than Wednesday 15th March to: chineselabourcorps@gmail.com


Talk by Richard Kirkby - YANGGUIZI TO LAOWAI: Foreign presences in the People’s Republic of China

The Meridian Society joint meeting with the SOAS China Institute.

With brief reference to a former age, Richard Kirkby discusses his new book, Intruder in Mao’s Realm in the context of two recent works about the foreign presence in the People’s Republic of China.

Author of studies of China’s development, including the groundbreaking Urbanisation in China, Richard Kirkby’s memoir reveals how life was for the handful of foreigners in China during the dying years of the Cultural Revolution. The third generation of his family to live in China, he is kept up-to-date regarding the subject of his talk by his Sichuan-based son – who represents the fourth generation.

Pre-talk reception at Arthur Probsthain Bookshop
All are invited to a reception on the same day before the SOAS talk (Weds. 30 Nov., 5.30-6.30 pm), hosted by Arthur Probsthain Bookshop at 41 Great Russell St. WC1B 3PE (opposite the British Museum).

Contact for talk: Meridian Society at themeridiansociety@gmail.com
Contact for bookshop reception only: arthurprobstain@hotmail.com 

We hope to see you all there!

Membership for the Meridian Society is an annual fee of £35 a year (£20 for concessions). Please visit our website for more details.

Date: Wednesday, 30th November
Time: 7-9 pm
Venue: Room G3, Main Building, SOAS, Russell Square, WC1H 0XG
Entry: Free

National Ballet of China Saturday 3rd December @ 2.30

Sadlers Wells Theatre, Rosebery Avenue, London EC1R

The Meridian Society are proposing to take advantage of this rare visit by the National Ballet of China to London.to purchase a block of tickets in the stalls.

If a minimum of 8 members come, we will be able to purchase seats discounted to £36 from £45.

With most of the seats already reserved for regular patrons, we need to purchase our tickets quite soon so, if interested, please email:



YouTube Clip:

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