Hi everybody, my name is May Bo Ching and I am the Asian Gallery Fellow working principally on the Chinese collections of National Maritime Museum (NMM).
I was born and brought up in Hong Kong, and I have been teaching in Sun Yat-sen University at Guangzhou for ten years. The personal name 'Sun Yat-sen' might sound unfamiliar to you, but he earned his fame as a revolutionary hero here in England and was later regarded the founder of the Republic of China - in 1896 he fled to London after an unsuccessful revolutionary uprising in China. Legend has it that he was kidnapped by the Chinese secret service while he was staying in this city.
I am a historian by training, focusing mainly on modern Chinese social and cultural history. My current research projects include a study of the botanical and zoological drawings done by a few Cantonese craftsmen under the instruction of British naturalists in the 18th and 19th centuries; another one deals with the transformation of Cantonese opera from the mid-19th to the mid-20th centuries. A 'side-product' coming out of these two researches is a third project studying the cuisines and table services consumed by Chinese and European merchants while they were entertaining each other during the 18th and 19th centuries when Sino-foreign trade in Canton was thriving.
This is my first time conducting research by looking at artifacts right from the very beginning. Historians tend to rely too much on documents, and always overlook the fact that there were many THINGS around along with various historical episodes. Having worked at NMM for almost a month, I am no doubt excited by the objects, and am equally absorbed by the manuscripts and published materials the library possesses. How delighted I am when I extract some useful data from the log book of a particular Indiaman of which the picture is also collected at NMM!
At the moment I am sketching some themes for the Asian Gallery, identifying objects for display, and envisioning what kind of historical narratives can be presented out of such a display. My two-month experiences at NMM will certainly enrich my own understanding of modern Chinese history, and I hope my interpretation of the objects will also be helpful for designing the upcoming Asian Gallery.
May Bo Ching (Asian Gallery Fellow)
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