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Tae-Ming Theatre, Shanghae (sic)

  • Object:

    Silk programme

  • Place of origin:

    Shanghai (The location of the printing is not noted on the programme but it was probably Shanghai, printed)

  • Date:

    1854 (printed)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown (printer)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Dark blue and red printing ink on cream silk

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Mrs. M.R.T. Momber

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

Silk and satin theatre programmes were frequently produced in the 18th and 19th centuries to commemorate special theatrical and musical events, the less expensive ones with integral fringing made from fraying cut edges, and the more expensive with separately applied silk or metallic fringes. This programme is not fringed but was printed with an intricate Chinese decorative border, for the opening of a season on 8th March 1854 at the Tae-Ming Theatre, Shanghai, under the management of Horatio Buskin.

The plays that opened the season on 8th March 1854 - A Fast Train-High Pressure-Express and The Practical Man were performed by British actors, some extremely well-known in London, including the comic actors John Pritt Harley (1786-1858), Paul Bedford (1792-1871), and the singer and actress Priscilla Horton (1818-1895). The scenery was designed by the eminent painter and Royal Academician Clarkson Frederick Stanfield (1793-1867). The description of the opening production as a 'Bradshawian Transatlantic Farce' refers to the popular series of Bradshaw's railway timetables and travel guides published in Britain from 1838 by George Bradshaw. A tour to China in 1854 would have taken months and would not have been undertaken lightly by British actors, who nevertheless travelled the globe astonishingly frequently in the 19th century, given the vicissitudes of transport by sea and land.

We know from a similar silk playbill for the Tae-Ming Theatre, 5th April 1854, sold at auction in November 2015 in Hong Kong by Charlotte du Rietz Rare Books, but not in our collection, that there were more productions that season, probably by the same company. The programme that evening comprised A Race for a Dinner, Anything for a Change, and Box and Cox, with scenery by the famous British scene painters Thomas Grieve (1799-1882) and William Telbin (1813-1872). Both playbills noted that the theatre was under the patronage of Tae-Ping Wang, also known as Hong Xiuquan (1814–64) leader of the Taiping Rebellion between 1850 and 1864.

Physical description

Cream silk programme printed with a decorative red border and dark blue lettering giving details of the productions on 8th March 1854 and of Horatio Buskin's tenancy of the theatre.

Place of Origin

Shanghai (The location of the printing is not noted on the programme but it was probably Shanghai, printed)


1854 (printed)


Unknown (printer)

Materials and Techniques

Dark blue and red printing ink on cream silk


Height: 38.8 cm, Width: 24.0 cm

Object history note

The playbill was printed for the opening of a season at the Tae-Ming Theatre, Shanghai, on 8th March 1854, under the management of Horatio Buskin, and would have been commissioned by him. The two plays performed that evening by the British company were A Fast Train-High Pressure-Express performed by Horatio Buskin, John Pritt Harley and Mr. Tupman, and The Practical Man by Mr. Tupman, Frank Matthews, Horatio Buskin, Mr. Poster, Paul Bedford, Julia Bennett, and Priscilla Horton. The orchestra was conducted by Messrs Thalberg and Konig; the scenery was by Clarkson Stanfield, and dresses and properties by Mlle Rigolette Bellefille. The programme announced ths forthcoming productions Diamond Cut Diamond and I've Eaten My Friend. The programme was given to the museum in December 1961 by Mrs. M.R.T. Momber

Descriptive line

Silk programme for the opening of a season at the Tae-Ming Theatre, Shanghai, Wednesday 8th March 1854


Silk; Printing ink




Entertainment & Leisure; Theatre


Theatre and Performance Collection

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