During the trip Chinese from all sectors of the population came into close contact with one another. The long journey and appalling conditions that they endured together created a strong bond between the workers. After arriving in Europe they were initially accommodated in a large camp, where they were assigned to join various labour companies. The sick were detained for medical treatment; the remainder travelled to designated camps, situated in the war zone. They surfaced in different camps in Belgian Flanders, in Pas-de-Calais and in the Somme, but also throughout France.

Some would die; others would survive; some would continue to live in Europe but the majority would return to China. For the most part they would never meet again. Life in Europe proved to be quite difficult for these Chinese workers.

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  • Article in "L’Excelsior", 22 August 1916, newspaper, © Bibliothèque nationale de France, Paris

    Once they arrived in Europe, the Chinese workers were sent to different camps.

  • Vonges, a celebration in the Chinese camp, first quarter of the 20th century, postcard, collection of Jean-François Thomassin, Vonges

    During their stay in France or in Belgium the Chinese workers did meet civilians. “They are odd fellows (…). One of their favourite pastimes is to gape at shop windows, preferably those of candy or fruit shops (…).” Achiel Van Walleghem, parish priest of Dickebusch, August 1917.

  • Portrait of Gu Xingqing, Poperinge, 1917, photo taken from his "Memoirs of my Work during the War in Europe", published in Changsha, 1937-38

    This photo shows Gu Xingqing, an interpreter of the Chinese Labour Corps. The CLC employed several interpreters. They played an important role bridging the gap between the French and British officers and the Chinese workers’ corps. Their uniforms and insignia were different from those of the workers so that they could be distinguished more easily.

Article in « L’Excelsior »Vonges – Une fête aux baraquements chinois – les échassesportrait of Gu Xingqing