Tentoonstelling en boek: Vive Labeur

Our congratulations to the City of Poperinge on the Vive Labeur Exhibition.

ISBN 978 94 9267 705 1

Vive Labeur, Chinese Labour Corps in de Eerste Wereldoorlog
Sun Gan

Prijs:  € 24,50 (incl. verzendingskosten)

Sun Gan is een plattelandsonderwijzer die de kans heeft gegrepen om verre horizonten te verkennen door zich aan te melden bij het CLC. Met een opmerkelijk observatievermogen vergelijkt hij de toestand en de gebruiken in Europa met die in zijn thuisland en beschrijft hij zijn wedervaren in de oorlogsjaren.

Lees Meer Tentoonstelling en boek.

“War as seen by the Chinese”

The following articles appeared in the South China Morning Post on November 9th, 1918.

Mr Chow Chen-fu, Interpreter to the 167th Chinese Labour Co., Labour Corps, B.E.F., France, writes to a foreign friend in Shanghai: You ask me to give you a description of my life in France. I will attempt to do so without going into details. I was posted to this Company at the Base for Chinese Labour; every draft coming from China is sent to this aforesaid Base, which is just outside a small French village not so very far from the place of landing. After spending about three weeks here, the Company was transferred to work to a place about 10 miles behind where the fighting was actually going on.

The village we arrived at had been knocked about a great deal by shell fire, while I saw one or two very exciting air fights. I cannot say much about that place, or the French people as they were very few.

At present we are stationed in or just outside a lovely French village. The countryside is about the finest that one could wish to see, and to make things more pleasant we have been having splendid weather. My opinion of France is that it is about the best country for farming in the world.

The French nation can farm; every inch of land is put to use. Just at present, I would very much like you to see the different crops. I know very well you would have the same opinion as myself.


About three times a week I get permission to visit the nearest villages for the purpose of shopping. There one meets French and British soldiers mixing with each other both in the village and en route. Every estiminet is packed, singing, etc., which is the custom here. As you are aware, I dress in my own private clothes and the French people, both civilian and soldier, look at me with great curiosity, wondering who on earth I am, as being differently dressed from the coolies, who, I should have mentioned before, are dressed in uniform. When I go into a shop and air the little French language I have managed to pick up, the shop people fairly stare. I know very well that they expect me to ask for whatever I require in Chinese. I must admit that the French always treat me with kindness and respect.

The company is made up of Southern and Northern coolies, and taking things generally, I have had a very strenuous time. I am a go-between of the officers and the coolies. My duties are to go out every day with the company, translating the work at one place. Then I am called to another, and this kind of thing goes on the whole day through. I can assure you that I am jolly tired at the end of the day.


Since I have been in France, I have had the pleasure of seeing a great deal of the British soldiers, and my opinion is, they are about the finest and fairest in the world, brave men who are fighting and dying for a just cause. When you write me, please give me news of the trouble regarding the North and South of China.

I have not been here any more than nine months, but I could fill a book about the things that I have seen and gone through. Do not imagine for one moment that is has been all sunshine, because I can assure you it has been cloudy as well. There is one thing: it is an experience that could not bought or read in books.

Exhibition: Vive Labeur – Hail to the Work

1 July 2017 – 17 September 2017

The WWI Chinese story inspires contemporary artists.

Two famous Belgian photographers, Stephan Vanfleteren and Sanne De Wilde go back to the roots of the Chinese labourers. They explore the China region where they came from. This results in a fascinating photographic account.

Visit the website.

Memorial Hall built to the Chinese Labourers of the Great War in Weihai.

Authorities in China have built this enormous Memorial Hall to Chinese labourers who participated in the First World War.

New Chinese Labour Corps memorial proposed for Arras

The regional daily “La Voix du Nord” reports that a stele in memory of the Chinese workers who supported the British and French troops during the Great War will soon be inaugurated in the garden of Saint Vaast in Arras.

The original article in French can be read here.


Tricks on the Dead screened in Parliament

The docudrama, Tricks on the Dead, was screened in Parliament and followed by a Q&A session, on Wednesday 21st June. Photograph taken after the screening which was organised by the Chinese Liberal Democrats, one of our Strategic Partners.

L-R: Wenlan Peng, Merlnee Emerson, Gregory James, Simon Chu, Steve Lau, Anna Bates.

Photo courtesy of Merlen Emerson


Screening of Tricks on the Dead, Canterbury

Monday 3rd July, 29017

Westgate Hall, Westgate Hall Road, Canterbury, Kent, CT1 2BT
Doors open at 18:45. Cash Bar. Film Screening 19:30

Free of charge.
Screening Sponsored by Gateways to the First World War



The Chinese Labour Corps and why they matter.

A response to The Yorkshire Post’s, Story behind the First World War Cemetries and why they matter.


That so respected an academic can detail the establishment of First World War cemeteries in such detail and not mention the harrowing contribution of the Chinese Labour Corps is testament to just how effectively their story has been expunged from all but the most tightly focused of academic examinations.   Here we would like to tell you about the Chinese Labour Corps and why they matter.


There are various references to the role played by members of the Chinese Labour Corps in the disinterment and reburial of the fallen. Their unthinkable task must surely have contributed to what was described as an “inexplicably high” rate of insanity among the Chinese labourers.

Curiously the CWGC archives are completely silent on their contribution. In a speech on 20th October 1916, Lord Bourne, Minister for Communities, said of the Chinese labourers, ““They exhumed the dead and reburied them in the new war cemeteries. It is a great irony that those who were responsible for such iconic places of remembrance were then themselves forgotten.”

The CWGC archives are not entirely silent on the Chinese labourers. They inform us that the Graves Registration Unit, when it came to fallen members of the Chinese Labour Corps, only required two pieces of information: their roll number and date of death. Officials at the CWGC have confirmed that the Chinese were, to their knowledge, the only group for whom the names of the dead were not required.

Another interesting fact revealed in the archives is the proposal by the British government that the 2,000 or so members of the Chinese Labour Corps who died in service should be buried without headstones. A policy that was not followed through only because of the opposition of the CWGC (or IWGC as it was then).

As shocking as these two facts are, they surely are not as bewildering as the fact that of the 60,000 memorials in the UK to the Great War, not a single one is to the men of the Chinese Labour Corps.

96,000 Chinese men volunteered to work for the British in France in support of the allied war effort. Why they were subject to such sustained attempts to deny the full extent of that contribution will, perhaps, never be fully understood. But it’s time to correct the injustice of reducing them to roll numbers, and we need to make good on our nation’s promise, “We Will Remember them”. It’s time to give those men the dignity they deserve and have been denied for nigh on a century and to acknowledge what they did. If we fail to do so, we fail not just them, but ultimately we fail ourselves.


Casualties of the air raid, 18/19 May 1918

St Omer

The following men of the Chinese Labour Corps are all buried at St Omer Cemetery, having died on the 18th/19thMay.
KAI CHI AN 28095
FU K’O TSENG 27318
LI CH’ENG FU 27475

We Remember Them.


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