American Traders in China Exhibition Opens at Hong Kong Maritime Museum

Photo Credit: Hong Kong Maritime Museum.

Arts and Culture

An exhibition exploring the origins of Sino-American trade has opened at the Hong Kong Maritime Museum. The Dragon and the Eagle: American Traders in China, A Century of Trade from 1784 to 1900, runs from 14 December 2018 to 14 April 2019.

Trade ties between the United States and China are strained at the moment, which makes an exhibition on the origins of Sino-American trade all the more timely and relevant.

Curated by the Hong Kong Maritime Museum, The Dragon and the Eagle: American Traders in China, A Century of Trade from 1784 to 1900  aims to chronicle what happened when the newly independent United States, the Eagle, started trading with the world’s oldest empire, the Dragon, for the first time in 1784, exploring the history of Sino-American trade in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

“I have always greatly admired how entrepreneurial American merchants, hardened merchant seamen and trade agents combined to create a profitable trading system on the other side of the world with the Hong merchants of Southern China, with whom they built up in many cases close personal relationships,” says Anthony Hardy, Chairman Emeritus of Hong Kong Maritime Museum.

“I am delighted the Hong Kong Maritime Museum, with which I have had a long association, has taken up the challenge with telling this important story.”

China Trade

China Trade Portrait of the American Clipper Ship Bunker Hill Entering Hong Kong Harbour.  Photo Credit: Hong Kong Maritime Museum.

Anthony has been collecting paintings depicting the China Trade for four decades and says he has never stopped being fascinated by the insight they reveal about life on the China Coast.

“The Chinese painters displayed superb craftsmanship and an eye for detail, in a medium which was initially totally foreign to them, but which they learnt to emulate in a masterful way, has added greatly to our historical understanding of the period,” Anthony says.

The exhibition features art and artifacts from the Hong Kong Maritime Museum’s own collection as well as the following prestigious institutions in the United States …

Some of the objects on display are on loan from independent collectors in both the United States and Hong Kong such as the Anthony J. Hardy Collection, the HSBC Archives, and the Swire HK Archive Service.

“We are fortunate to accomplish this four-year plan exhibition with the partnerships of the important American museums and the core lenders such as Anthony J. Hardy and the Kelton Foundation,” says Exhibition Curator and Assistant Director Dr Libby Lai-Pik Chan.

“Through re-examination of the story of the early Sino-American trade and culture, we believe that the under-researched, early Sino-US trade story demonstrates the bilateral beneficial relationship of two nations in our shared history, that will continue to inspire generations to come.”

The objects on display tell such fascinating stories as …

  • How Captain John Green sailed 18,000 miles from New York for Guangzhou on a ship about the same size of the Star Ferry;
  • Why wealthy Americans such as President George Washington wanted to import goods that were made in China;
  • How the first Chinese billionaire made his fortune in international trade.

These stories come alive in five themed exhibits …

  • “Dreaming of the East”;
  • “Treaty Ports”;
  • “Speeding up the Trade”;
  • “Exotic Tastes”;
  • “Building a Community”.

Objects include tableware from George Washington’s impressive ceramic dinner service, early nautical instruments, and rare objects from the earliest days of American trade with China, which are returning home for the first time in more than a century.

Cathay Pacific Airways is the “title sponsor” of the exhibition.

“We are delighted to be involved in this fascinating exhibition and help bring together 200 artifacts from prestigious US museums and private collections from Boston, Los Angeles, and New York,” says Rupert Hogg, Chief Executive Officer of Cathay Pacific.

“I am sure that both Hong Kong people and visitors alike will enjoy the exquisite art and relics that tell the story of the early economic, cultural and social links between China and the United States.”

Hong Kong Maritime Museum 101

Established in 2005, the Hong Kong Maritime Museum moved to its current location on the waterfront of Victoria Harbour in 2013.

The Museum displays nearly 1,000 objects in 15 galleries, attracting more than 100,000 visitors a year.

The museum houses various event spaces, a resource centre, a roof-top social enterprise café, and a gift shop. It engages in education and public programming offered for schools, adults, community groups, and families.

How Much

HK$30 for adults; HK$15 for seniors/students (above 18) and disabled (accompanied by a carer); HK$15 for children (under 18). Tickets are available at reception.


From 14 December 2018 to 14 April 2019, Monday to Friday 9.30 am to 5.30 pm; Saturday, Sunday, and public holidays 10  am to 7 pm; closed the first two days of Chinese New Year.

Discounts are available for group visits of 20 or more


Hong Kong Maritime Museum – Central Pier No. 8, Hong Kong.

  • The Dragon and the Eagle: American Traders in China, A Century of Trade from 1784 to 1900 at the Hong Kong Maritime Museum

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