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This web exhibition “The Sino-Japanese War of 1894-1895 : as seen in prints and archives” has been produced as a collaboration between the Japan Center for Asian Historical Records (JACAR) and the British Library. Its aim is to bring together the collection of prints of the Sino-Japanese War held by the British Library and documents made public by JACAR to show how the events of the Sino-Japanese War were depicted and recorded by the people of the time.

History of the collaborative project

This first collaboration between JACAR and the British Library developed out of contacts between the two organisations during conferences of the European Association of Japanese Resource Specialists. A recent exhibition at the British Library included one print of the Sino-Japanese War and this prompted the cataloguing of its whole collection of 235 prints relating to the conflict. In the course of this process, British Library staff contacted their counterparts at JACAR asking for information and this led to a broader exchange of ideas. Both organisations recognised the importance of the collection as historical material and decided to make their existence known to a wider public.

About the materials in the exhibition

The British Library has in its collection a total of 235 prints relating to the Sino-Japanese War, of which 179 are woodblock prints or lithographs produced in Japan while 56 are prints and leaflets made in China. A great many prints depicting the Sino-Japanese War were produced at the time and examples survive in many locations in Japan today but a collection of this size is very rare. Above all it is the presence of such a large number of Chinese prints which is the most significant characteristic of this collection. Indeed the British Library is probably unique in this respect. More information about the scope and history of the collection can be found in the “Gallery”.

The material relating to the Sino-Japanese War being made public by JACAR in this exhibition includes naval records from the National Institute for Defense Studies and documents from the Diplomatic Archives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In all cases the original documents held by the respective institutions have been digitised and made available by JACAR.

Division of responsibilities between the two institutions

In creating this web exhibition JACAR and the British Library shared responsibilities as follows

【Japan Center for Asian Historical Records (JACAR)】

  • - Creation of Japanese texts and provision of them to BL
  • - Creation and publishing of the Website

【The British Library (BL)】

  • - Creation of English texts based on the Japanese texts provided by JACAR and provision of them to JACAR
  • - Creation of digital images of woodblock prints and lithographs held by BL and arranging related information including catalogue data
  • - Provision of digital images of the woodblock prints and lithographs as well as related information including catalogue data to JACAR

Both the Japanese and the Chinese prints included in this special web exhibition were produced at the time of the Sino-Japanese War to show the people of their respective countries what the war was like, a role played nowadays by news photographs.

Therefore each country had a tendency to portray its own soldiers as strong and brave, but those of the opposing country as weak and small. Moreover many of the depictions seem to be based not on actual observation of the locations or events but on hearsay. Indeed some of them show scenes which could not have happened. From this it is clearly evident that these works were intended as propaganda at the time.

This web exhibition presents these prints, just as they are, as historical resources to show the viewpoints and ways of thinking of the people of the time. This in no way indicates that the Japan Center for Asian Historical Records or the British Library support or criticise what is depicted or recorded in the prints. Nor do the commentaries indicate any interpretation or image of the material or events.