Online Lecture with David Bellis: Old Hong Photos and the Tales They Tell – Wednesday 16th December 2020

Time: 12 noon UK time / 8pm HK time

While 2020 may be a year many would like to forget, we thought we would invite you to take a nostalgic trip down memory lane with David Bellis to remember that life is a sine wave of good and bad times. David is the curator of the website, which has over 25,000 photos of old Hong Kong and is described as ‘a friendly place where people can share what they know about Old Hong Kong’.

Many members will remember that David gave a lecture for the Society back in 2014 and we are delighted that he has agreed to do an online lecture for us where he will talk about ‘Old Hong Kong photos and the tales they tell’. Most of the photos were taken in the early years of the twentieth century and show a Hong Kong which has long since disappeared. They have been scanned at high resolution and digitally restored, allowing him to zoom in to show hidden depths.

David has released 4 books and his latest book can now be ordered on his website:

From the back cover:

Old Hong Kong Photos and The Tales They Tell – Volume 4: Revisit old Hong Kong through this book’s collection of rare photos, many of them over 100 years old. Then join David to explore the photos’ details, and so discover their hidden stories: the women who toiled up the Peak’s slopes each day, carrying heavy loads of bricks and coal on their shoulders (p. 27), buried treasure still waiting to be found (p. 25), Kowloon’s vanishing hills (p.106), and many more.

After three great strolls down memory lane, this fourth volume provides not only a superb telescope into yesteryear, but through David’s commentary, allows the images to jump off the page and really come to life. A must read for anyone who is interested in the storied history of Hong Kong and the people that helped shape it. – Helen Tinsley, Royal Asiatic Society Hong Kong.

Ever wondered why a photographer took a picture of some building or landscape when it looks so dull? Then you need David Bellis to weave his magic and pull out the photo’s stories of lost times, long-gone people and half-forgotten events. Join David on a fascinating journey that links Hong Kong’s past with its present. Patricia O’Sullivan, Author of Women, Crime and the Courts: Hong Kong 1841-1941.

The first 3 volumes can be purchased either directly from gwulo: or online from Amazon:

Pub Quiz Night – Wednesday 18th November 2020

Time: 6.30pm

This is an online quiz night for members and their family and friends.

Webinar: Gurkha Odyssey: Online Lecture by Sir Peter Duffell KCB CBE MC, former Commander of the British Forces in Hong Kong – Wednesday 21st October 2020

Time: 6.30pm (UK time)

Gurkha Odyssey records the Gurkhas’ 200 years of loyal and gallant service to the British Crown.

Sir Peter Duffell is one of the most senior and respected British Gurkha officers and his talk combines his unique personal record with the wider history of this most famous and respected regiment.

Lieutenant General Sir Peter Duffell KCB CBE MC was commissioned into the 2nd Gurkha Rifles in 1960. As a young company commander, he was awarded the Military Cross leading his Gurkhas in clandestine operations against Indonesia in the 60s. As the General Commanding British Forces in Hong Kong between 1989 and 1992 he served there during a challenging period for the Territory, before becoming the British Army’s Inspector General.

On retirement he worked for 20 years for an American company in London, New York, Beijing and Moscow. He is a Fellow of the Royal Geographic Society and a Trustee of the Foyle Foundation, which supports the Arts. For several years he was a member of the Advisory Board of the School of Oriental and African Studies. He has lectured widely on the Gurkha soldier and Hong Kong.

Webinar: Prof Robert Bickers ‘China Bound: John Swire & Sons and its World, 1816-1980’ – Thursday 9th July 2020

We are delighted that Prof Robert Bickers has agreed to do the next HK Society webinar when he will talk about his new book: China Bound: John Swire & Sons and Its World, 1816 – 1980

Time: 6pm (UK time)

Robert Bickers was born in Wiltshire, and lived on Royal Air Force bases across England, in Germany and in Hong Kong. He studied in London, and held fellowships in Oxford and Cambridge before taking up a post at the University of Bristol in 1997, where he is now a Professor of History. His books include the prize-winning Empire Made Me: An Englishman Adrift in Shanghai, The Scramble for China: Foreign Devils in the Qing Empire, 1832-1914, and Out of China: How the Chinese Ended the Era of Foreign Domination, which was shortlisted for the 2018 Wolfson Prize for History.

China Bound: John Swire & Sons and Its World, 1816 – 1980

From its origins in Liverpool in 1816, one unusual British firm has threaded a way through two centuries that have seen tumultuous events and epochal transformations in technologies and societies. John Swire & Sons, a small trading company that began by importing dyes, cotton and apples from the Americas, now directs a highly diversified group of interests operating across the globe but with a core focus on Asia. From 1866 its fate was intertwined with developments in China, with the story of steam, and later of flight, and with the movements of people and of goods that made the modern world. China Bound charts the story of the firm, its family owners and staff, its operations, its successes and its disasters, as it endured wars, uprisings and revolutions, the rise and fall of empires – China’s, Britain’s, Japan’s and the twists and turns of the global economy. This is the story of a business that reshaped Hong Kong, developed Cathay Pacific Airways, dominated China’s pre-Second World War shipping industry, and helped pioneer containerization. Robert Bickers remarkable new book is the history of a business, and of its worlds, of modern China, Britain, and of the globalization that entangled them, of compradors, ship-owners, and seamen, sugar travellers, tea-tasters, and stuff merchants, revolutionaries, pirates and Taipans. Essential reading for anyone with an interest in global commerce, China Bound provides an intimate history that helps explain the shape of Asia today.

Webinar: The Collector’s Eye: Imperial Chinese Porcelain in the Sir Percival David Foundation – Thursday 25th June 2020

Time: 5pm (UK time)

We are delighted that our next online lecture will be given by Colin Sheaf, Chairman of the Sir Percival David Foundation and Group Head of Asian Art at Bonhams.


During the first half of the 20th century, European scholars and collectors discovered many unfamiliar historical cultures of Imperial China. Traditional Palace life in Beijing’s ‘Forbidden City’ had disintegrated after 1911, under the Republican Government, and for the first time, Imperial art masterpieces began to be offered to overseas private collectors. An English lawyer Sir Percival David, born into Asia’s famous Sassoon trading family, was one of the great Western scholar/collectors who responded in a unique manner to the unprecedented opportunities, both by studying and publishing classical Chinese texts, and by collecting the finest artefacts. Focussing almost entirely on (non-archaeological) Imperial ceramics made between c.1000-1850, Sir Percival assembled what is by unanimous agreement the world’s pre-eminent private collection of Chinese porcelain, currently displayed at the British Museum in a dedicated Gallery.

In this lecture, Colin will illustrate many of the finest pieces in this unparalleled Collection and discuss the evolution of Imperial taste as revealed in these ceramics which were often commissioned by the Emperors themselves.      

Webinar: Wildlife Trafficking in China & HK – Wednesday 20th May 2020

Time: 5.30pm

We are all familiar with the concerns around the wet markets in China and their probable role as the source of a number of dangerous new viruses, but what exactly are they? How are they used in wildlife trafficking? What steps is China taking to control the sale of ‘exotic’ meats? How significant is the role of Chinese medicine in wildlife trafficking? What is being done globally to tackle the problem? 

To better understand the whole issue, we have invited a panel of experts from the Environmental Investigation Agency and a leading professor in Chinese Medicine to answer these questions and give us a more informed perspective.


Dr Lao Lixing, Professor in Integrative Medicine, Director of the School of Chinese Medicine, The University of Hong Kong

Julian Newman, Campaigns Director, Environmental Investigation Agency

Aron White, China Specialist, Environmental Investigation Agency


Dr Jonathan Eyal, Associate Director, Strategic Research Partnerships, and International Director, at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI)

Webinar: Chris Ruffle – A Decent Bottle of Wine – Thursday 7th May 2020

Date: Thursday 7th May at 6pm – 7.15pm


Webinar 6-6.45pm: details to follow ahead of the webinar – it will be an easy link to a webpage


Wine-tasting 6.45-7.15pm: please feel free to stay on for the wine-tasting, but it is not obligatory. A case of 6 for £72.50 of Chris’s wines can be bought at a discount at We will select three for the tasting, so make sure you have vacuum pumps ready! 


You are cordially invited to hear long term China investor, former Hong Kong resident, and now wine-maker, Chris Ruffle, giving an often hilarious account of the challenges of doing business in China, from villagers pillaging your water supply to Central Government deciding to build a motorway to nowhere through your vines.


While running a successful fund management firm which invests in SMEs in China, Chris had an epiphany while drinking local wines in the early 2000s – it had to be possible to make a better wine in China than the one he was drinking! And ever the optimist, with the determination to follow his twin passions of China and wine, he decided to develop land on which to grow vines and make his own wine.


And so, Treaty Port Vineyard came into fruition in Shandong Province. Vines were planted in 2005, and construction began on a Scottish castle (why not?) to frame the vineyard. Chateau Lafite fortuitously bought the plot next door.


Despite speaking fluent Mandarin, a Taiwanese wife and 25+ years of investing in small businesses, it was not all smooth sailing and the tale of setting up this business in China is both entertaining and instructive. His book “A decent bottle of wine in China” is a must read for anyone contemplating doing business in the country.

Hong Kong Society Chinese New Year Dinner – Wednesday 5th February 2020

Venue: Central London location

Time: 6:30pm Cash Bar, 7.00pm Dinner

Chinese New Year 2020, which falls on the 25th January, is the start of the year of the Golden Rat. As the Rat is the first sign from the 12 animals cycle of the Chinese Zodiac, this time period is considered a year of new beginnings and renewals.

Come and celebrate Chinese New Year with the HK Society at its annual Chinese New Year dinner. This year, we are trying out the Chinese Cricket Club, where we have booked the entire restaurant. The HK-born & raised chef was originally the head chef at the iconic New World restaurant in Chinatown before the last change of management. He has organised a very special Chinese banquet for us.

The price includes all food and Chinese tea. Other drinks will be available for purchase from the cash bar. Our CNY Dinner is very popular and places tend to sell out quite early on, so do register as soon as possible to confirm your place.

Family-oriented Chinese New Year Lunch – Sunday 2nd February 2020

Venue: Central London location

Time: 12:30pm

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is CNY-family.jpgThis year, the Hong Kong Society will also organise a family Chinese New Year dim sum lunch for Society families in addition to our annual traditional Chinese New Year Dinner. Whether you have younger or older children, please join us.

The price includes food. Drinks will be available for purchase from the cash bar.


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