The First Emperor and Liverpool’s China Town​

The first Chinese immigrants to Liverpool arrived in the 1830s when the first vessel direct from China arrived in Liverpool’s docks to trade such goods as silk and cotton wool. More immigrants came in Liverpool in the late 1860s with the establishment of the Blue Funnel Shipping Line. The commercial shipping line created strong trade links between the cities of Shanghai, Hong Kong and Liverpool; mainly importing silk, cotton and tea. Liverpool is still a twinned city with Shanghai. From the 1890s onwards, small numbers of Chinese began to set up businesses catering to the Chinese sailors and some married working-class British women, resulting in many British-born Eurasian Chinese being born in Liverpool.

The Liverpool docks were initially home to the first China Town. With many ships borrowed during WWI and the Chinese seamen not working, a welfare centre opened in 1917. The Chinese community began to expand in towards Liverpool. During the 1930’s, with the decline of the shipping trades and numerous layoffs, decay spread through the area known as ‘China Town’, before the bombing destroyed most of the area around the docks. Settlers moved further inland, just west of Liverpool Cathedral. The new China town straddles Nelson Street, Duke Street and Berry Street in the heart of the city.

As part of the cities regeneration, in 2000 a new ceremonial Chinese archway was built at the top of Nelson Street. With the assistance of twin city Shanghai, the 15m arch is the largest in Europe. Over 200 dragons adorn the traditionally coloured structure. It symbolises good fortune, prosperity and good luck while ensuring evil is kept away.

As Europe’s first Chinese community, World Museums Liverpool is the current host of ‘The First Emperor’ exhibition. Since their incredible discovery in 1974, the Terracotta Warriors have amazed visitors. Regarded as one of the most important historical finds in modern times.

Emperor Qin regarded himself as the first Emperor of China. He ascended to the throne aged 13 and became Emperor of a unified China after conquering all the Warring States. Not only obsessed with power (himself coining the term Emperor), Qin was fixated on immortality and the Elixir of Life.

Ensuring that if Qin could not locate the Elixir of Life that he would be protected in the afterlife, he built himself a life-size army of more than 8000 warriors. His mausoleum also includes horses, strongmen, acrobats and officials. Each of the numerous figures has a different face, hairstyle and outfit dependent on rank. Meticulous detail was given to each character. An extensive array of weaponry dependent on the position of each warrior.

The exhibition includes many objects that have never been on show in the UK before and is the first time any warriors have been shown in the UK since British Museum in 2007. World Museums Liverpool are experiencing similar issues to that of the British Museum in 2007, with tickets selling out fast.

Throughout the exhibition are 6 entirely whole warriors, chariots and the Golden Horse of Maoling. The most significant artefact of its kind, horses were revered in ancient China as a symbol of power, wealth and status. Numerous other pieces are also on display throughout the exhibit, with over 1000 years of history covered. A fitting celebration for Liverpool’s Chinese roots.

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