Objects from the 1933-4 Chicago World Fair

The Chinese Exhibits at Chicago’s Century of Progress Exposition, 1933-34

The most publicized Chinese exhibit was a replica of an 18th century Buddhist building in the Potala temple at Chengde or Jehol (now Rehe), north of Beijing. Billed as the Lama Temple of Jehol, it was brought to Chicago by the famed Swedish explorer Sven Hedin, with the financial support of the Swedish-American industrialist Vincent Bendix. The remains of the replica, now called the Golden Pavilion, are now in Stockholm, Sweden, but the furnishings — altar objects, statues, paintings, hangings, rugs, etc. — have disappeared. If you have any information about them, please let us know.

The Chinese nationalist government, in the person of its young Vice-Consul, G. H. Wang (later a leading developer of Chicago’s Chinatown), took a strong interest in the temple. China declined to participate officially in the Exposition, however. All Chinese attractions there  – the Lama Temple, the China Pavilion exhibits, and the entertainments and shops of the Asian Village (in 1933) and the Streets of Shanghai (in 1934) — were privately funded.

For the Exposition, the Field Museum commissioned a series of bronze portrait statues, “The Races of Mankind,” by noted sculptor Malvina Hoffman. Several of her statues were of Chinese individuals, including this wonderful rickshaw puller.