120 years ago, in April 1898, French naval troops occupied Canton Bay (Kwang-chow-wan or Guangzhouwan) after French diplomats had secured from China the lease of the territory for 99 years. France’s new acquisition which was only 338 kilometres south-west of Hong Kong prompted Britain’s response to seek the lease of the New Territories. The initial idea of making Kwang-chow-wan a starting-point or centre of a French sphere-of-influence in South China was not realised resulting in an appreciable but rather modest economic and social development compared to the New Territories. Nevertheless, the French permitted local self-government to a certain extent, invested in urban projects and created modern facilities which were unknown in this part of China. After its return to China (1945), the territory was renamed Zhanjiang and developed quickly. In today’s Zhanjiang (湛江), P.R.C., strong efforts are made to foster cultural conservation and also to promote international academic research into the history of Kwang-chow-wan. The talk will introduce to Zhanjiang’s history and present, with an emphasis on presenting various historical architecture and relics of the French period.
Dr Bert Becker is associate professor in modern European history at the University of Hong Kong, Department of History. His research interests include the maritime and business histories of Europe, Hong Kong, and China (19th/ 20th centuries), and modern Prussian-German History. He is currently working on the history of the French-Indochinese shipping company Marty et d’Abbadie and its transnational encounters in the Greater Gulf of Tonkin region encompassing the early phase of Kwang-chow-wan up to the end of World War One.
Born in Zhanjiang, Bowman Wu is particularly interested in the colonial past of his hometown. Being involved in cultural conservation since 2014, he became an active member of a historical society, which is dedicated to exploring the history of the “forgotten” French leased territory in South China. Now he is studying colonial and cultural history in The Chinese University of Hong Kong.
Reception opens 6:30 pm, talk starts 7:00 pm
Admission: RAS Members $100; Non-Members / Guests $150
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