Joint laboratory for World War I studies

Start - End 
2019 - 2024 (ongoing)
Department of Languages and Cultures
Other institution(s) 
-> Shanghai University
-> In Flanders Fields Museum



Joint Lab for World War I Studies

A project by Ghent University, Shanghai University, In Flanders Fields Museum Ieper

Even before the former warlord and commander of the so-called Beiyang Army (the Western-style Imperial Army that had been established in the late nineteenth century) and then Chinese Premier Duan Qirui (1865–1936) decided that China had to join France and Great Britain against Germany in World War I and the Chinese government had declared war with Germany on 14 August 1917, some 140,000 Chinese labourers, mainly from Shandong Province, came to the Western front and were active in the logistical support of the French (40,000 men) and British (95,000 men) armies. Until recently, research into the motives why the Chinese government decided to join the ‘European War’ (as it is referred to in China), as well as into the reasons why these Chinese workers of the ‘Chinese labour corps’ came to Europe, their travel experiences to Europe, their living and working conditions at the front in Flanders and in Northern France, and the importance their contributions had for the further course of the war and for political developments in China upon their return to their home country, was virtually non-existent. In recent years, however, both in China and in Belgium, research into this common chapter of world history has gained attention.



(Chinese memorial site ‘Busseboom’, Sint-Jansstraat, Poperinge, where thirteen Chinese workers died in a bombing of their camp on November 15, 1917. Photo: B. Dessein).


This is why the Research Group ‘East Asian Culture in Perspective: Identity, Historical Consciousness, Modernity’ of the Department of Languages and Cultures of Ghent University and the Centre for Modern Humanities Studies of the College of Liberal Arts of Shanghai University, in further collaboration with the Departments of History and Archaeology of Ghent University and the In Flanders Fields Museum Ieper, joined forces and established the ‘Joint Lab for World War I Studies’. The Joint Lab was officially founded in Shanghai on 14 November 2019 during the Belgian mission to China headed by HRH Princess Astrid.

The establishment of this Joint Lab builds on a longer collaboration between Ghent University, Shanghai University and the In Flanders Fields Museum. Prior to the establishment, joint summer schools (2018) and joint workshops (2018, 2019) had already been organized. The collaboration had also already resulted in the joint publication of a special issue of the journal Critical Theory (Vol.3, No.1, June 2019). Also in the domain of education, a collaboration between the two involved universities exists in the form of a ‘3+1+1’-programme.

News & Events

-> 'World War I cemeteries and memorials recognised as UNESCO World Heritage' <>

  • The Relationship between the first World War and China’s New Cultural Movement”, Shanghai University - Ghent University Joint Workshop, Shanghai University, 18-22 October 2018
  •  “Tracing the Chinese Labour Corps in Flanders”, Universiteit Gent, 15 July – 12 August 2019
  • 'International Narratives on CLC from WW I in Perspective of the Transformation of Civilization', Shanghai-Ghent Joint Workshop, 2-3 October 2022 (online)


Our partner institutions

For more information about our partner institutions, see links below: 

Shanghai University

In Flanders Fields Museum