2017 Events

Chinese Labour Corps Project – Documentary Film Screenings

On 19th April, 1917, after a three-month journey over land and sea, a thousand Chinese men arrived in Le Havre, France, weary and bewildered. This was the first batch of the Chinese Labour Corps (CLC), recruited by the British to provide logistical help to the Western Allies. They would be followed by several tens of thousands, mainly from Shandong Province, thus forming one of the largest labour corps involved in World War I. At the end of the war, many stayed on to clear the land of ordnance and restore it to agricultural fields. They dug up the dead and buried them in the cemeteries that dot the rural landscapes of northern France and Belgium. Yet their contribution to the Allied cause is little mentioned and has never been officially acknowledged.


To honour the memory of the CLC and the vital part they played in the war, The Meridian Society has made a documentary film of oral histories by descendants of Chinese labourers and their Western commanding officers describing the emotions and experiences of their ancestors. There will be several screenings of the film around the country over the next year and a half, which the general public is welcome to attend free of charge. Peng Wenlan, who is heading the society’s CLC Heritage Project, will give an introduction to the film at each screening.

Saturday 29th July, 11.00 – 12.00 am, Tuke Cinema, Regent’s University, Inner Circle, Regent’s Park. London NW1 4NS
To reserve a seat, please go to:

Tuesday 7th November, 7.00-8.30pm, House of Commons

Before the screening, Dr Frances Wood will be giving a talk on her most recent book on the CLC – Betrayed Ally: China in the Great War

Details of venue and booking to follow.

Tuesday 1st August, 7.00-9.00 pm, Tullie House Museum & Art Gallery, Castle Street, Carlisle, Cumbria CA3 8TP

Dr Craig Barclay, Head of Museums at Durham University, will also be giving a presentation on the Chinese Labour Corps exhibition currently on at the Oriental Museum of Durham University

No booking is required for this event.

We will send out notices as more screenings are arranged.

For more details on the project, please click here

‘Beyond Nothing – My Way to Utopia’
A Talk by Professor Yang Qi on his Artistic Journey from East to West

Professor Yang Qi PhD., the German-Chinese contemporary artist born in Wuhu in Anhui Province first came to Germany in 1987 through an Art Exchange Programme with Hochschule der Künste in Berlin and the College of Fine Arts, Shanghai. In 1996 he obtained his PhD on “Ancient Chinese Ideograms” at the Institute of Art History, University of Heidelberg. Since 1997 he has been Professor of Free Painting at Bochum, Germany and Visiting Professor at the Academy of Fine Arts at Xian, China since 2003.


Nominated as artist of the year 2015 with the painting “The artist as hermit” by KFK (Art supports Art) Bremen, Germany. Yang Qi was the only artist not born in Germany to be so nominated.

He will talk about his own artistic journey from East to West, his life experience as well as demonstrate how the two different cultures influence & interact with each other, leading to the rebirth of new ideas and new formats in his own art works.

Date: Thursday, 4th May
Time: 6.30 pm
Venue: Camden Chinese Community Centre, 9 Tavistock Place, WC1H 9SN
(5 minutes walk from Russell Square Tube Station. Piccadilly Line – click here)
Entry: free for Meridian Society members; £3 for SACU members and students; £5 for all others
Payment at the door.

Please reply if you are intending to attend the event by emailing us at themeridiansociety@gmail.com

We are fortunate to have as a speaker Professor Yang Qi who is exhibiting at the London Original Print Fair 2017 in the Royal Academy’s Main Galleries during 4th to 7th May 2017.

Professor Yang Qi is at ArtChina stand No. 28 on Thursday 4th May.

Tour of Shandong Province
15th to 29th October 2017

The Meridian Society is pleased to announce its plans for a tour to Shandong – in many ways the spiritual heart of China; home to Confucius and a mix of Buddhist and Taoist influence with glorious scenery, towering granite peaks and a wild yet welcoming coastline.


Click here for China Tours Page

Chinese Labour Corps Project Launch Event – 19th April 2017

On 19th April, 1917, after a three-month journey over land and sea, a thousand Chinese men arrived in Le Havre, France, weary and bewildered. This was the first batch of the Chinese Labour Corps, recruited by the British to provide logistical help to the Western Allies. They would be followed by several tens of thousands, mainly from Shandong Province, thus forming one of the largest labour corps involved in the Great War.

To mark this historically significant event, exactly one hundred years later on 19th April, 2017, The Meridian Society, with SOAS China Institute as host, will be holding a film screening and talks to launch our heritage project on the Chinese Labour Corps, with the support of a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The key resource is a collection of unique interviews with CLC descendants from Shandong. Their distinctive memories have been captured on camera and at this launch, guests will be able to view for the first time, a public screening of the documentary ‘Forgotten Faces of the Great War’, containing oral histories by descendants both of Chinese labourers and Western CLC officers.

Alongside the screening will be talks by eminent speakers
(Chaired by Lars Laaman SCI) including:

– Frances Wood, Author of Author of ‘Betrayed Ally’, former Curator of Chinese Collections at the British Library and Research Associate at SOAS China Institute;

– Dominiek Dendooven, Curator at In Flanders Fields Museum;

– Andrew Fetherston, Archivist at Commonwealth War Graves Commission and

– Zhang Yan The Chinese University of Hong Kong.

A small display of items, including photos, documents and memorabilia, will be on show.

We will also be announcing details of the Society’s year-long series of activities to commemorate the CLC.

The event will be brought to a close by a Ceremony for the Departed conducted by Representatives of the London Fo Guang Shan Temple.

We hope you will be able to join us for this special event.

Please reserve your place no later than Monday 27th March by replying to The Meridian Society at chineselabourcorps@gmail.com

Date: Wednesday, 19th April
Time: 2.00-6.00pm
Venue: Djam Lecture Theatre (DLT)
SOAS University of London, Thornhaugh Street, Russell Square,
London WC1H 0XG

Entry: Free, but places must be booked in advance

Click here for map to SOAS

For more details on the project, please click here




The contribution of the Chinese Labour Corps (CLC) to the Allied effort during World War I is unquestionable. Yet, to date, there has been no official acknowledgement of their vital role. To honour their memory on the centenary of the arrival in Europe of the first batch of recruits, the Meridian Society will be holding two commemoration events in France and Belgium. A small group of CLC descendants will be coming over from China specially to attend these ceremonies. Let us show that their ancestors have not been forgotten by all.


The Chinese Cemetery at Noyelles-sur-Mer, France

April 13th (Thursday) – France
Visit to the Commonwealth War Graves Facility, Arras, to see CLC headstones being engraved, followed by a commemoration ceremony at the Chinese Cemetery, Noyelles-sur-Mer, where over 800 CLC members lie buried.

April 14th (Friday) – Belgium
Visit to trenches and battlefield sites along the Western Front and tour of In Flanders Fields Museum, Ypres, with curator Dominiek Dendooven, followed by laying of wreaths to the CLC at the Menin Gate Memorial at the Last Post.

The Menin Gate Memorial, Ypres

Depending on numbers, we may organise a minibus or coach to take us over from London, or we could carpool and share the cost of travel. Overnight accommodation will be required from April 12th to 14th inclusive. We will be happy to identify a range of hotels for you to choose from.

Please register your interest and indicate if you would be willing to drive your vehicle and, if so, how many passengers you can take. This will not commit you to attending, but will help us determine the feasibility of such a trip.

Please reply no later than Wednesday 15th March to: chineselabourcorps@gmail.com