“Chinese workers in the First World War”
Location: Confucius Institute, 22 allée François Mitterrand, 49100 Angers
Dates: May 28 to October 30, 2015.
Opening hours: Monday from 14h to 18h, Tuesday to Friday from 10am to 12pm and 14pm to 18pm. Free entry.
Information: 02 41 95 53 52 – firstname.lastname@example.org
Opening of the exhibition by Catherine Leblanc, president of the Confucius Institute Association Pays de la Loire Angers, Wednesday, May 27 at 18:30.
When World War I broke out, China was a weak Republican regime, notably due to the presence of foreign powers on its soil. Despite declaring neutrality at the beginning of the war (until August 1917 when she joins the side of the Allies), China agrees – after complex negotiations – to sending Chinese workers to ameliorate the shortage of workers in France. After a long and exhausting journey by ship, over 130 000 volunteer civilian workers – a majority from Shandong province – landed in France to work under French or British command between 1916 and 1918.
Most of these workers were poor and illiterate peasants; they are allocated upon arrival to harsh tasks – work in factories, ports, depots or mines; digging trench, roads, railways – in many stayed in France to help in the reconstruction effort. However, in many parts of North France, ravaged by years of war, tensions develop with the locals. While the vast majority of workers returned to China in the years following the end of the war, in 1929, they were about a thousand Chinese workers who stayed to work or to start a family, they are the first big wave of Chinese immigration to France.
The exhibition includes photographs and a period frilm from the ECPAD (Establishment of communication and audiovisual production of defense, Ivry-sur-Seine) collection on this relatively unknown subject.
Alongside the exhibition, do not miss the performance of the show “A good reputation” by the Theatre of the Ordinary (France) and the Asian People’s Theater Festival Society (Hong Kong) on Monday, June 8, 2015 at 20h at the Cultural Centre of the University of Angers.
For more information on this subject: « Les travailleurs chinois en France pendant la Première Guerre mondiale », sous la direction de Li Ma, CNRS Éditions, 2012.