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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

The Gallery’s Acknowledgement of Country, and information on culturally sensitive and restricted content and the use of historic language in the collection can be found here.

Chang the Chinese giant with his manager cowering on the floor

c. 1871
an unknown artist

carte de visite photograph (support: 10.2 cm x 6.2 cm, image: 9.2 cm x 5.5 cm)

Chang Woo Gow (1840s-1893), known as Chang the Chinese Giant, made the first of his public appearances in London in the mid 1860s. Thousands of people lined up to see his eight foot tall frame and witness his displays of linguistics (he was reportedly able to speak ten languages) and he was soon touring Europe and America. Accompanied by his wife, Kin Foo, he arrived in Australia from the United States in 1870 and toured the country over the next several years. While in Australia, after the death of his first wife, Chang met and married Catherine Santley and returned with her to China. They had two sons before moving to England. He attracted the attention of American showman and entrepreneur P.T Barnum who, in 1880, contracted Chang to join his so-called 'Greatest Show On Earth', a travelling circus, menagerie and museum of freakish human 'specimens'. Returning to England, Chang retired from the stage and, to help cure his suspected tuberculosis, moved with his family to Bournemouth. Here, he opened a tearooms and 'Oriental Bazaar' selling Chinese curios and fabrics. He died, reportedly of a broken heart, four months after the death of his wife in 1893

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Purchased 2010

The National Portrait Gallery respects the artistic and intellectual property rights of others. Works of art from the collection are reproduced as per the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). The use of images of works from the collection may be restricted under the Act. Requests for a reproduction of a work of art can be made through a Reproduction request. For further information please contact NPG Copyright.

Artist and subject

Chang Woo Gow (age 31 in 1871)

Subject professions

Performing arts

Related information

The Companion

Permanent collection catalogue

Café and shop

On one level The Companion talks about the most famous and frontline Australians, but on another it tells us about ourselves: who we read, who we watch, who we listen to, who we cheer for, who we aspire to be, and who we'll never forget. The Companion is available to buy online and in the Portrait Gallery Store.

Chang the Chinese giant and party
Chang the Chinese giant and party
Chang the Chinese giant and party
Chang the Chinese giant and party

The portrait writ large

Magazine article by Karen Vickery, 2015

Karen Vickery on Chang the Chinese giant in Australia.

Ned Kelly death mask
Ned Kelly death mask
Ned Kelly death mask
Ned Kelly death mask

Sideshow Alley

Infamy, the macabre & the portrait

Previous exhibition, 2015

Death masks, post-mortem drawings and other spooky and disquieting portraits... Come and see how portraits of infamous Australians were used in the 19th century.

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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders past and present. We respectfully advise that this site includes works by, images of, names of, voices of and references to deceased people.

This website comprises and contains copyrighted materials and works. Copyright in all materials and/or works comprising or contained within this website remains with the National Portrait Gallery and other copyright owners as specified.

The National Portrait Gallery respects the artistic and intellectual property rights of others. The use of images of works of art reproduced on this website and all other content may be restricted under the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). Requests for a reproduction of a work of art or other content can be made through a Reproduction request. For further information please contact NPG Copyright.

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