At their birth in Siam (now Thailand) in 1811, a four-inch band of flesh connected Chun and In at the chest. Chang and Eng, as they came to be known in the western world, left Siam as teenagers to begin a career exhibiting their physical abnormality. The brothers quickly became objects of curiosity and their private lives a topic of speculation. For over a decade, the "Siamese Twins" appeared before royalty, elite medical specialists, and public audiences in Europe and the Americas. By the 1830s Chang and Eng were household names, becoming so notorious that future conjoined twins would also be known as "Siamese Twins."
The twins' story continues to fascinate people today, and the brothers remain among the most famous North Carolinians. For centuries they have inspired poems, plays, novels, and biographies. As Asian immigrants to the southern United States, enslavers, showmen, and human curiosities, they are relevant in current discussions of the nineteenth-century South, race, popular culture, Asian studies, and disability studies.
This exhibit features highlights of items related to Chang and Eng Bunker in the Wilson Special Collections Library. This exhibit was created by Linda Jacobson and Bob Schreiner of the North Carolina Collection. Nora Burmeister served as technical consultant, and John Blythe provided editorial assistance. A generous grant for the UNC Library has allowed us to offer Chinese, Thai, and English versions of the exhibit. Special thanks to our translators Luoyi Cai, Lini Ge Polin, Yi Zhou, and Rungsima Kullapat.
Date of last update: 8/4/2022