As part of our 2023 celebrations the Society is inviting its sister Societies from around the world to give presentations at the RAS. In June we welcomed Julie Chun from the Shanghai Royal Asiatic Society of China who gave a presentation entitled: RAS China: Shifts and Transformations of the past decade, 2013-2023. In her talk Julie draws from her experience as a RAS China Council Member (2013 – present, Vice President (2016 – 2019) and Journal Editor (2018).
The origins of the RAS in China trace back to 1857 when a small group of British and Americans seeking intellectual engagement in a city dedicated to commerce established the Shanghai Literary and Scientific Society. Within a year the organisation was granted affiliation with the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland, and the North China Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society (NCBRAS) was born.
The Society fell into decline following the death of the Society’s first inspirational American president, the Rev. Elijah C. Bridgman in 1861. However Sir Harry Parkes, British Consul, successfully resurrected it in 1864. The Society’s intent was to investigate subjects connected with China and surrounding nations, to publish papers in a Journal and to establish a library and a museum. The Society’s first journal, which was to have a life span of 90 years, appeared in 1858.
The RAS returned to China in 2006 when a branch was established in Hangzhou. Its activities were transferred to Shanghai in early 2007 and in September that year under the name of The RAS China in Shanghai it formally reconvened the activities of the North China Branch of the RAS. The Society is very aware of the need to build upon its tradition and to embrace the challenges and opportunities to develop its activities and interests for a wide audience today.
Apart from offering a broad range of talks and events the Society has resurrected its journal and has established a new library for the benefit of its members, scholars and the public.