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Chang the Chinese giant with his wife Kin Foo, c. 1871

an unknown artist

carte de visite photograph (support: 10.0 cm x 6.3 cm, image: 9.3 cm x 5.4 cm)

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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

Accession number: 2010.32

Currently not on display

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Artist and subject

Chang Woo Gow (age 31 in 1871)

Kin Foo

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