East Meets West: Cultural Relics from the Pearl River Delta Region
28/9/2005 – 2/1/2006
Special Exhibition Gallery,
Hong Kong Museum of History
Guangzhou, the starting point of the "Maritime Silk Route", had linked China with the West and fostered their commercial and cultural contact for some 2000 years. The trading activities of Guangzhou came into its own in the Qin and Han dynasties, grew in importance in the Jin and the Southern and Northern dynasties period and reached the peak of its development from the Tang to Qing dynasties. From 1757 to 1841, Guangzhou even served as the only port dealing with foreign trade. The extant Temple to the god of the South Sea, the Mohammedan Mosque, Hualin Temple and the western-style buildings on Shamian bear witness to the history of Guangzhou as a port serving China's foreign trade.
Hong Kong and Macau, situated strategically near the Pearl River Estuary, guarded the waterway to Guangzhou and prospered in different periods. With the permission to stay in Macau since the mid-16th century, the Portuguese turned Macau into an entrepot by establishing a worldwide network of sea transportation that straddled the continents of Europe, Africa and Asia. The British occupation of Hong Kong Island in 1841 was followed by the implementation of a free-trade policy, which attracted a roomful of foreign hongs to shift their headquarters to Hong Kong. With the destruction of the Foreign Factories in Guangzhou in 1856, Hong Kong already surpassed Macau and Guangzhou as the major south China's entrepot.
Through some 160 items of cultural relics from Guangzhou, Hong Kong and Macau, this exhibition attempts to unfold the extent of commercial and cultural contact between China and the West in different dynasties. By studying the design of export wares, the spread of religion, the introduction of scientific knowledge and the materialization of cultural ferment, visitors will learn about the specific roles that the trio of Guangzhou, Hong Kong and Macau played in the history of Sino-Western exchanges.