Saturday, 26 June 1999
‘The great Chinese giant, like all other great celebrities, must needs sit for his carte de visite, as one of the penalties of greatness, and Chang Woo Gow therefore has just sat to the artists of the London Stereoscopic Company, of 110, Regent-street, for his portrait, in order to gratify his numerous friends. The great difficulty which a figure in a carte de visite, with due respect to ordinary proportions, and this could only be accomplished by lengthening the picture. Chung Mow, the funny little dwarf, and King Fow, the giant’s wife, were also taken with his Highness.’
Chang in retirement
‘Chang, the "Chinese Giant," first came to England in 1864, being at that time nineteen years old and 7ft. 9in. high. He was presented to the Prince and Princess of Wales, and, at their Royal Highnesses’ request, wrote his name (Chang Wow [sic] Gow) in Chinese characters on the wall of the room at a height of ten feet from the ground. It was said that he had, at this time, a sister 8ft. 4in. in height. Chang remained in this country a year or two on exhibition, growing slightly during that time - not merely on the showman’s bills, but in actual fact. As well as at other places, he was exhibited at the Egyptian Hall, in company with half-a-dozen other Celestials of ordinary stature, who had all brought their coffins with them. Chang returned to his native Pekin until 1878, when he went to Paris for the Exhibition. By this time he ad grown both taller and stouter, and his height was a trifle over 8ft., while he weighed 26st. After Paris he visited Vienna, Berlin, St. Petersburg, and other European cities, turning up again in London in 1880, and being shown, in company with Henrik Berstad, a Norwegian giant, a little shorter than himself, and 2st. lighter, at the Westminster Aquarium. After his retirement into private life Chang resided at Bournemouth, where he died only last November at the age of forty-eight. He was an extremely intelligent giant, and spoke English, French, German, Spanish, and Japanese, in addition of course to his own language… [His] memory for faces was wonderful. In 1880, at the Aquarium, he recognised several of the visitors who had made his acquaintance at his previous visit, sixteen years before.’
For further information, see Ray and Julie Bright's The Gentle Giant.
© John Culme, 2000