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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.

Chang Woo Gow

2017
Pamela See

from the series ‘Making Chinese Shadows’
papercut silhouette drawing (frame: 48.5 cm x 38.5 cm, support: 42.0 cm x 32.0 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 2019
© Pamela See

Artist and subject

Pamela See (age 38 in 2017)

Chang Woo Gow

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.

Marilyn Ball, Albatross, 2018 (detail) by Linde Ivimey
Marilyn Ball, Albatross, 2018 (detail) by Linde Ivimey
Marilyn Ball, Albatross, 2018 (detail) by Linde Ivimey
Marilyn Ball, Albatross, 2018 (detail) by Linde Ivimey

So Fine

Contemporary women artists make Australian history

Previous exhibition, 2018

This exhibition features new works from ten women artists reinterpreting and reimagining elements of Australian history, enriching the contemporary narrative around Australia’s history and biography, reflecting the tradition of storytelling in our country.

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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 National Portrait Gallery is an Australian Government Agency