The Chungking Legation

Australia’s Diplomatic Mission in Wartime China

During 2015 I worked with Sophie Couchman, the Chinese Museum in Melbourne, and the Australian Consulate-General in Chengdu, China, to develop a bilingual exhibition and its accompanying book titled The Chungking Legation: Australia’s Diplomatic Mission in Wartime China. They tell the story of Australia’s third overseas legation, which operated in Chungking (Chongqing) between 1941 and 1946.

Cover of 'The Chungking Legation' book

The Australian version of the exhibition and the book were launched at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Canberra on 7 December 2015.

The exhibition and book are based on research using the Chungking Legation records held by the National Archives of Australia, oral history recordings and personal papers held by the National Library of Australia, historical newspapers and other accounts of life in wartime Chungking.

We initially developed the exhibition for display in China and it was launched there in March 2015 by Australia’s Governor-General, Sir Peter Cosgrove. After first being displayed in the Old Australian Legation Building in Chongqing, the exhibition has since been on show at the Chongqing Intercontinental Hotel, the Chongqing Municipal Library and the Three Gorges Museum in Chongqing.

Returning to Australia, the exhibition was displayed at:

  • Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Canberra (December 2015 to December 2016)
  • The Good Room, Brunswick, as part of ‘From Glory Boxes to Grindr and other assorted tales of the everyday Oral History Victoria Inaugural group showcase’ (23 November to 21 December 2016)
  • Chinese Museum, Melbourne (August 2016 to Nov 2016).

Our ‘Chungking Legation’ exhibition was Highly Commended in Oral History Victoria’s Innovation Awards 2016.

On the 80th anniversay of the Legation’s opening, Sophie Couchman and I published an article in The Conversation: The Chungking Legation: Australia’s first diplomatic mission to China, 80 years ago, The Conversation, 28 October 2021.

The exhibition / book have been written about online:

And finally, electronic copies of the book are available to buy from the Chinese Museum in Melbourne.