Events by Other Organisations


Lecture and lunch
Saturday, 22nd September

A Faithful Record of the Lisbon Maru Incident
Speaker: Major (Ret’d) Brian Finch
Time: 2:30 p.m.
Venue: Royal Asiatic Society, 14 Stephenson Way, London NW1 2HD
Cost: £8 per member or guest, to include refreshments
Lunch: An optional self-paying lunch will be arranged at 12:30 p.m. at ‘Red and Hot’, 37 Chalton Street, NW1 1JD.
Booking:                     Please email Paul Bolding at or tel: 020 7684 5811.

The 75th Anniversary of the sinking of the Lisbon Maru fell on 2 October last year.  Ceremonies were held both in Zhoushan, China, where the Incident took place, and in London at the FEPOW Memorial in Camden.  There was a television link between the two events.

Our speaker Brian Finch also published in 2017 a translation of a Chinese book giving an account of the Incident seen through the eyes of the courageous Chinese fishermen who rescued hundreds of prisoners of war under fire from Japanese soldiers.  It was published in Hong Kong on 16 November by Proverse Hong Kong in the Royal Asiatic Society Hong Kong Studies series.  For those not familiar with the Lisbon Maru Incident, the book is said to be one of the finest examples of Chinese-British people-to-people cooperation in wartime – to the extent that Chinese President Xi Jinping referred to it during his speech at the State Banquet in Buckingham Palace during his State visit in 2015.  Here is a brief summary:

In 1942 the Japanese shipped 1,834 prisoners of war from Hong Kong to Japan to become slave labour.  The ship was not marked in any way to show it was carrying prisoners of war and was torpedoed by a US submarine off the coast of China near Zhoushan.  It took 24 hours for the ship to sink.  During that time the prisoners were confined to the holds, the hatches were battened down and it was the apparent intention of the Japanese that they should all drown when the ship finally sank.  Conditions were atrocious, quite apart from the obvious feelings of terror and impending doom.  Many were suffering from dysentery and other diseases, there was no water or food, no light, no fresh air, and of course there were no toilet facilities.  At the 11th hour, shortly before the ship went down, some prisoners managed a break-out.  As they came out of the holds and jumped into the sea to save their lives, Japanese soldiers fired at them with rifles and machine-guns.  Local Chinese fishermen saw what was happening and at great personal risk rowed out to rescue hundreds of prisoners.  In so doing they also prevented further wholesale slaughter as the Japanese then realised there were witnesses, stopped shooting and started picking up survivors. 

Brian has said: “I believe very strongly that the quite extraordinary courage shown by those Chinese fishermen should not be forgotten, and that is one of the main reasons I took the trouble to translate into English the Chinese account of the rescue and the events that followed.  My interest also stems from having served in The Middlesex Regiment with one of the survivors of the sinking and having since met several other survivors.  I am keen to spread knowledge and understanding of this terrible incident and the outstanding actions of the Zhoushan fishermen as widely as possible and I work closely with the Lisbon Maru Association of Hong Kong to this end.”

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Lecture and lunch                                                                                          
Saturday, 27th October

China and Siam through the lens of John Thomson
Speaker: Betty Yao MBE
Time: 2:30 p.m.
Venue: Royal Asiatic Society, 14 Stephenson Way, London NW1 2HD
Cost: £8 per member or guest, to include refreshments
Lunch: An optional self-paying lunch will be arranged at 12:45 p.m. at Chutneys, 124 Drummond Street, London NW1 2PA (corner of North Gower Street.)  Tel: 020 7388 0604.
Booking: Please email Paul Bolding at or tel: 020 7684 5811.

The first London exhibition devoted to the Scottish photographer John Thomson (1837-1921) and his photography in Asia was shown from 12 April-22 June 2018 at the Brunei Gallery, SOAS. Thomson’s photography of China, Siam (Thailand) and Cambodia was widely praised by his peers and continues to enthuse new audiences today. The images are from newly discovered negatives held at the Wellcome Library, London.

John Thomson (1837–1921) was a Scottish photographer and writer who set off for Asia in 1862. Over the next ten years he undertook numerous journeys photographing countries including Siam, Cambodia and various provinces of China.  Photographs from these journeys form one of the most extensive records of any region taken in the nineteenth century.  The range, depth and aesthetic quality of John Thomson’s vision mark him out as one of the most important travel photographers.

Thomson travelled East as a professional photographer only two decades after the invention of photography.  Working with the wet collodion process he travelled with cumbersome crates, glass negatives, a portable dark room, as well as highly flammable and poisonous chemicals.  It took sheer perseverance and energy, through difficult terrain, to document regions where previously unseen by westerners.  It is particularly remarkable that Thomson was able to make photographs of such beauty and sensitivity.

Thomson developed a method to photograph in tropical conditions which he subsequently taught to generations of young travel photographers at the Royal Geographical Society.  During an era when his contemporaries were taking portraits in which their subjects looked stilted and wooden, Thomson captured the individuality and humanity of the diverse people of Asia, whether royalty or street vendor.

In Siam, Thomson was able to photograph King Mongkut Rama IV, his royal family and entourage, together with royal ceremonies such as the tonsurate ceremony and the presentation of the Lenten robes.   Thomson’s panoramic views of the Chao Phraya River, temples and monks, dancers and musicians, are a unique historical treasure.  In Cambodia, Thomson was the first photographer to visit Angkor Wat to record, what is now, one of the most important sites of ancient architecture in the world.

Between 1868 and 1872, Thomson made extensive trips to Beijing, Fujian and Guangdong travelling down both the Yangtse and the Min Rivers.  In China, Thomson captured a wide variety of subjects from landscapes to people, architecture, domestic and street scenes.  As a foreigner, Thomson’s ability to gain access to photograph women was particularly remarkable.  Whether photographing the rich and famous or people in the streets going about their business, Thomson’s desire was to present a faithful account of the people of Asia.  This body of work established him as a pioneer of photojournalism and one of the most influential photographers of his time.

His collection of 700 glass plates travelled back with Thomson to Britain in 1872 and since 1921 has been housed and expertly preserved at the Wellcome Library, London.  These 150 year old glass negatives are in excellent condition allowing this exhibition to showcase very large, in some cases life-size, prints.

London Design Biennale
4 – 23 September 2018
Somerset House, London
• Theme: “Emotional States”
• 40 participating countries, cities and territories, including Hong Kong
• The Hong Kong Pavilion, which is supported by HKETO London, focuses on the exploration of how the sensorial experience of smell heightens nostalgia and memory within our everyday lives, how smells can take us back to physical places and states of being.

BFI London Film Festival 2018
10 – 21 October 2018
• May feature one or more Hong Kong films

London East Asia Film Festival 2018
25 October – 4 November 2018
• May feature a few Hong Kong films

Lord Mayor’s Show 2018
10 November 2018
• Theme: “Shaping Tomorrow’s City Today”
• Will be Hong Kong’s 14th year participation
• The Hong Kong float will promote Hong Kong as a technology innovation hub

Chinese at SOAS Language Centre

SOAS Language Centre provides short course tuition in Chinese (Mandarin) and in Cantonese on weekdays, during the evening, and on Saturday mornings. It also offers a range of intensive and semi-intensive courses during the Easter and summer periods, some of these for specific language-learning requirements (e.g. Chinese for Business; Chinese for the Martial Arts).

Studying Chinese at the SOAS Language Centre

In addition to its short courses, SOAS Language Centre also offers two full-time accredited programmes: the Certificate/Diploma in Communicative Chinese and the Certificate/Diploma in Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language.

Chinese is a vibrant section within SOAS Language Centre and the study of Chinese is a popular choice with language learners from all walks of life. Currently, there are around a dozen teachers of Chinese, all of whom have considerable expertise in the teaching of Chinese as a foreign language.

Chinese Language Courses

Certificates and Diplomas

Certificate/Diploma in Communicative Chinese (full-time)

Teacher Training in Chinese

Certificate/Diploma in Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language

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