Until 7 October 2021 Train World in Schaarbeek / Schaerbeek hosts the ‘From Peking to Hankow: a Belgian adventure in China‘ exhibition. It tells the story of Belgian railway entrepreneurship in the Empire of China between 1898 and 1905.
Nowadays Belgium is associated with its colony in Congo. But before Leopold II had the Congo taken for his personal use, his father Leopold I was already keen on expansion. Wikipedia mentions an array of territories. But the first King of the Belgians came somewhat close to deals for Hawaii, the Philippines and the Faroe Islands.
Adventures in China are less known. To celebrate fifty years of diplomatic relationships with the People’s Republic of China, Belgian institutions and the Confucius Institute in Brussels themed up for this exhibition.
Beijing to Wuhan
Peking is now Beijing and Hankow is now Hankou. Hankou merged with Wuchang and Hanyang into the now world-famous Wuhan.
The rail line linking those two cities was a Franco-Belgian endeavour.
Starting in the main waiting room of Schaerbeek Railway Station, the exhibition sets a scene. This was China then, this is what happened, this is what you can expect from the exhibition.
Upstairs in the attic you will find the works of Li Kunwu.
Afterwards you walk to the modern shed / museum hall. There the exhibition introduces you to the key players of the adventure and to key events. Engineer Jean Jadot, viceroy and emissary Li Hongzhang, the Société d’étude de Chemins de fer en Chine, Empress Dowager Cixi, the Boxer Rebellion and more.
Posters, drawings, books, contracts, other artifacts, clothes, decorations and taling mannequins make this (his)story come to live.
The exhibition is scattered around in the museum, so you can enjoy the temporary exhibition while also discovering the permanent collections.
Thanh and I focused on the China exhibition, as we had both visited Train World earlier. We were inside some two hours. It’s well worth a visit.
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