Royal Asiatic Society Shanghai Branch

The Royal Asiatic Society in Shanghai was an association created to promote “science, literature and art” in relation to Asia and China”. Born in 1857 it grew so much that it had a building near the Bund (picture left), that hosted a museum and a library. A large part of the museum collection (mostly stuffed birds and animals) is today in the Shanghai museum of natural history and most of the library ended up in Xu Jia Hui library along with the Bibliotheca Zikawei from the Jesuits fathers… but the RAS building still stands (picture left). The society published a journal 4 times a year, publishing articles related to Asia and China. In the city of money and trade, a small group of people was working hard to develop culture and intellectual activities.
The Shanghai association was a branch of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland. Although the activity of the society stopped in Shanghai in the late 1940’s, it continued in London, HongKong, Korea, Malaysia and other locations.

A group of (mainly) British people resurrected the society in 2007 and got the accreditation from the RAS in London. Since last year, there is again a Branch of the RAS in Shanghai. Although its membership is still small, it is constantly growing. Like its ancestor, the RAS organise conferences, talks, exhibitions as well as events linked to culture in the city. With its root firmly in the old Shanghai, the city’s history and heritage conservation is high on the agenda but the society’s scope is far from limited to this topic. I had the privilege to be recently elected member of the council governing the society in Shanghai.

On 22nd November, the society will organise its annual event, the RAS “soiree” in the ballroom of the Astor House hotel. This will be an opportunity to celebrate the society’s resurrection, hearing a number of highly interesting speakers about the history of Shanghai and meet representatives of the HongKong Branch of the RAS. If you are interested in becoming a fellow of the RAS or attending the Soiree on 22nd November, please email me: hmartin@shanghailander.net

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