In February 1926, Chinese art collector John Hilditch opened the Hilditch–McGill Chinese Palace Temple in Manchester. Filling a garage with Chinese objects and performing what he claimed to be Buddhist rituals, Hilditch insisted the temple offered visitors a chance to see Chinese art in ‘actual Chinese fashion and atmosphere’. This article analyses Hilditch’s attempts to construct an authentic temple and visitor accounts of its realism to analyse the relationship between high and low culture, and how China was understood and imagined in the 1920s. It shows how Hilditch’s combination of sensory effects adopted from mass culture and claims to museum notions of scientific verification, in addition to the projection of well-established stereotypes of China, skewed understandings of authenticity and invited faith—albeit most likely ‘ironic’ faith—in the temple’s legitimacy. Scholars have argued that the rise of mass culture prompted art museums to restructure on high cultural values but interpretation of the temple as a museum shows that the lines between mass culture and museums were blurred. The temple thereby encourages a broader definition of museums and complicates our understanding of interwar culture more generally by showing how the categories of high and low culture were less stable than some scholars have presumed.
|Number of pages||25|
|Journal||Twentieth Century British History|
|Publication status||Published - 14 Dec 2021|