The Adoption—and Adaptation—of the International Exposition Form by Japan and China in the Long Nineteenth Century

Jeffer Daykin

This paper examines the transference of the “international exposition” form from Europe, where it is commonly understood as emerging with the 1851 London ‘Crystal Palace’ Exhibition, and the United States to Japan and China.   Like all transferred technologies, its reception and domestication is of particular interest for what it reveals about the practical value of the technology and its component parts, the specificity of the transferring and receiving cultures, and the wider context of international cooperation and competition.  Through tracing the evolution of international exposition configuration, a clear trend is identified and found reflected in Japan’s and China’s national expositions.  By further examining components of the exposition form that directly relate to the exhibition of technology such as the structure and organization of exhibition halls, rules and regulations governing exhibitors, and jury award systems, we can see how the tension between educative and commercial functions of expositions were ultimately resolved in favor of the host-locale’s primary interest.  More developed nations in the West came to arrange such features primarily toward commercial concerns while late-developing nations such as Japan and China capitalized on the exhibition of technology to promote domestic innovation and technology transfer.