2016 New History
P. O. Box 1-44, Nankang, Taipei 11529, Taiwan, R. O. C.
02-2782-9555 # 226

Connecting to the World:
Yen Zhiyi and the Birth of the Tianjin Museum

Hui-chun Yu

Department of Arts and Creative Industries, National Dong Hwa University

This paper examines Yan Zhiyi’s curatorship during the “museum movement” in the newly developed Beiyang downtown area (北洋新區) in early twentieth century Tianjin. Under the national campaigns of “revitalizing China through industry”(實業救國) and “guarding our national culture” (文化救國), Yan Zhiyi (嚴智怡, 1882-1935), the Chair of the Industrial Commerce Section of Industry Department of Zhili Province (直隸省實業廳工商科), had directed Zhili Commercial Museum since 1912. He then founded and had curated Tianjin Museum since 1918, as well as laid the foundation for the Tianjin Museum of Fine Arts in 1930. In 1915, Yan led a team to San Francisco for the Panama-Pacific International Exposition. After this major event, Yan and his team traveled to several major cities in the U.S. They visited museums, had conversations with curators, and brought many museum materials and new ideas back to Tianjin. Then, Yan and his colleagues organized a new museum, the Tianjin Museum, based on what they had learned in the U.S. In 1923, the Tianjin Museum was officially opened to the public. All its objects were collected or donated from all over the province. In order to fulfill the objectives of national modernization and sustainable development, Yan curated not only objects exhibited in museums, but also the social connections as well as cultural productions related to these museums.


Keywords: Yan Zhiyi, Panama-Pacific International Exposition, Tianjin Museum