Published: 13:11, April 12, 2024
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Yangtze River Delta put into focus
By Zhang Kun
The section featuring early entrepreneurs presented by Shanghai History Museum and eight of its partners in an alliance. (PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)

Three exhibitions currently ongoing at the Shanghai History Museum simultaneously stem from its alliance with eight other partner museums in the Yangtze River Delta region.

It is the first project since the founding of the alliance in 2022. Jointly initiated by the Shanghai History Museum, and the museums of Wuxi, Changzhou, Suzhou and Nantong in Jiangsu province, as well as of Ningbo, Huzhou, Jiaxing and Zhoushan in Zhejiang province, the alliance is a pledge to collaborate on exhibitions, training, resource sharing and other aspects.

The first of the three exhibitions jointly presented by the nine museums, Modern Patriotic Industrialist in the Shanghai Metropolitan, is dedicated to the stories of entrepreneurs from the mid-1800s to the early 20th century, who played important roles in public welfare and cultural establishments in Shanghai and the Delta region.

Since the mid-1800s, when Shanghai was the first city to industrialize in China, it has exerted a strong impact on nearby regions, as cities in Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces also underwent rapid economic development and drastic social changes.

"Cities in the Yangtze River Delta region share much of the same cultural roots," says Zhou Qunhua, director of the Shanghai History Museum. "A lot of entrepreneurs and important people in Shanghai in the early 20th century came from the Delta region, and their legacy is part of the city's landscape, with landmark buildings on the Bund and schools established through their donations still in operation."

The exhibition presents their achievements through vintage advertisements, original trading notes, stocks, gold medals won by Chinese products at international expos, as well as photographs of fighter planes donated to the Chinese army by patriotic entrepreneurs.

Another of the three exhibitions planned by the alliance casts light on the life and art of women. (PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)

The second exhibition highlights the life of Zhang Jian (1853-1926), an entrepreneur, politician and educator from the Haimen district in Nantong in Jiangsu province. He was founder of the Dasheng Cotton Mill, and served as the minister of agriculture and commerce in the new government after the fall of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).

"Throughout his life, he never sought wealth, but used it as a means to contribute to the nation and society," says Du Jiale, director of Nantong Museum, which was founded by Zhang in 1905, and is recognized as the first modern museum in China founded by Chinese people.

"Nantong has a lot of 'first of its kind in China' references thanks to Zhang Jian," Du says. Zhang opened China's first theater school, first school for the visually and hearing impaired children, and many of the engineering institutions in Shanghai, Nanjing and Nantong all had his name as main founder.

"Lots of successful businesspeople in the Delta region shared the same patriotic passion and strong belief in national solidarity, and we hope by telling the stories of pioneering entrepreneurs, we can inspire the same passion in today's business people," says Zhou.

The third exhibition is Life and Art of Jiangnan Women in the Qing Dynasty. Curated by the Huzhou Museum, it presents paintings and calligraphy by female artists, as well as jewelry, garments, cosmetics and other objects that reflect the lifestyle of women during the period, as they began to break away from traditional roles, to pursue equality and develop their personalities.

All three exhibitions run until May 26 and are expected to tour the other eight museums in the Delta region afterward.