Animals in action

What can the Adelaide Corridor wallpaper tell us about animals in China? And how the wallpaper has been treated over the years?

Find out with an interactive slideshow or read the longer stories below.


The Hunt Scene


If you stop and take a closer look at the Adelaide Corridor — either online or when you visit — you might spot some surprising details.

Someone has added some spectacular glasses to this monkey in the tree.

monkey with glasses

Although we very much do not encourage graffiti of any sort in the Pavilion these days, this wallpaper has been in place for over 200 years and lots of residents have passed by.

So who added this? We know that a former director of the Pavilion lived here with his children between the 1920s and 1960s and it became family accommodation. It is recorded that his children would ride bicycles up and down the corridor. We wonder if they got up to other kinds of mischief here too!

Look closer as you wander down the corridor and you might spot a few more strange additions.

Dragon Procession

We were puzzled when we spotted two beautiful and surprising images of marine animals on the wallpaper. Once Dr Jospeha Richards (associate lecturer, the Courtauld) explained that they were part of the Lantern Festival it all made a lot more sense.

The Lantern festival, is celebrated in China on the 15th day of the first month of the lunar calendar and at the end of the Chinese New Year. During the festival houses are decorated with colourful lanterns. The lanterns could be simple designs or complicated and decorative.

These images of a shark and a shrimp (or is it a lobster?) are actually lanterns. Can you see the pole that is holding them up? Festival celebrations also include lion and dragon dances, parades, and fireworks. Can you see the musicians next to the large dragon? It is being animated by the men supporting it on long poles.

Dragon Boat Racing

Also on the wallpaper are scenes inspired by a mythical animal: dragon boat racing.

This traditional Chinese water sport is held during the Tuen Ng Festival, occurring annually around May or June. A dragon boat is long and narrow with a decorative Chinese dragon head, tail and scales.

During the races, teams of paddlers race to the beat of a drum. Spectators line the river banks with family and friends to enjoy the race. 


We’re grateful for contributions to research on the Adelaide Corridor from:

Supported by the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art.