Liu Yuanyuan on Fu Bingchang and Beibei Northern Springs

In the second of our blogs from participants in the ‘Snapshots in Time’ summer school we hear from Liu Yuanyuan, a second-year PhD student in Landscape Architecture at the University of Edinburgh (Email: s1366067@sms.ed.ac.uk). Her research interests lie in the fields of landscape history and theory, visual art and urban studies.

Fig. 1 View of Northern Hot Springs Park from Jinyun Hill. Sources: Historical Photographs of China project, Fu Bingchang Collection, Fu-n186 © 2007 C. H. Foo and Y. W. Foo

Fig. 1 View of Northern Hot Springs Park from Jinyun Hill. Fu Bingchang Collection, Fu-n186 © 2007 C. H. Foo and Y. W. Foo

It was a great experience to participate in the workshop ‘Snapshots in Time: Photography and History in Modern China’ at the University of Bristol. The design of gardens and parks in China from 1840s to 1949 is a topic I have been interested in since my Master’s degree. I have previously used photographs and maps on the websites of ‘Virtual Shanghai/Tianjin’ to support the exploration of foreigners’ park design in the concessions. During my Ph.D. program, my interest shifted into the origin and transformation of parks operated by Chinese communities over the first half of the twentieth century. A considerable number of my resources are photographs published in newspapers, periodicals, local gazetteers etc. Therefore, it was beneficial for me to learn from different scholars’ research on photographs at the workshop. Meanwhile, after having a close look of the Historical Photographs of China project, I also found some useful resources for my research from the Fu Bingchang Collection.

As an official of the Nationalist party and an amateur photographer, Fu Bingchang has taken a number of photographs of political figures and events. His collection, however, also contains a series of photographs dated in 1940, which related to his travelling activities with colleagues and female friends to several scenic spots surrounding Chongqing. Northern Hot Springs Park in Beibei, a new town located over 30km northwest of Chongqing, was one of those destinations. Visiting the park from Chongqing usually would take more than one day. Hence, it could count as an excursion instead of a daily activity (Fig. 1).

Northern Hot Springs was a typical example of park design in Republican China. Transformed from an ancient temple, the park was a part of modernisation experiments in Beibei launched by Lu Zuofu since 1927. With attached guesthouses and public educational facilities such as library and mass education museum, it was mostly well-known for hot springs swimming pools and becoming a popular recreational place with splendid natural resources along Jialing River particularly during the Second Sino-Japanese War.

Fig. 2 View of Northern Hot Springs Park from Jialing River. Source: Lang Jingshan.,Chuan zhongming sheng xuanji: Beiwenquan [Selections of Scenic spots in the middle of Sichuan Province]. Xingguang (Singapore), no.1 (1939): 36

Fig. 2 View of Northern Hot Springs Park from Jialing River. Source: Lang Jingshan, Chuanzhong mingsheng xuanji: Beiwenquan [Selections of Scenic spots in the middle of Sichuan Province]. Xingguang (Singapore), no.1 (1939): 36

Along with the purchase of more and more imported cameras by individuals in the Republican Era, taking photographs in/of the parks was not only a business opportunity for studios but also a practise exercise and a recreational activity for professional photographers and amateurs. As for Northern Hot Springs Park, while a photograph of Lang Jingshan’s landscape series represented the pictorial atmosphere of its riverside environment (Fig. 2), Fu Bingchang, mostly, took spontaneous and candid portrait photographs during his multiple travels together with colleagues and friends. One of those visits was dated Monday, 12 February, 1940, during which Fu Bingchang took many photographs of his female companions playing and posing in and around the park, including ‘Min Chin with a camera’ (Fig. 3).

Fig. 3 Min Chin with a camera. Source: Fu Bingchang Collection, fu01-025 © 2007 C. H. Foo and Y. W. Foo

Fig. 3 Min Chin with a camera. Source: Fu Bingchang Collection, fu01-025 © 2007 C. H. Foo and Y. W. Foo

On another trip, probably in the summer of 1940, he shot the photograph of ‘Jiang Fangling and Zhang Yukun at the swimming pool’ (Fig.4).

Fig. 4 Jiang Fangling and Zhang Yukun at the swimming pool. Source: Fu Bingchang Collection Fu02-063 © 2007 C. H. Foo and Y. W. Foo

Fig. 4 Jiang Fangling and Zhang Yukun at the swimming pool. Source: Fu Bingchang Collection, Fu02-063 © 2007 C. H. Foo and Y. W. Foo

A little more information always generates new research questions upon these photographs with rich personal stories and memories behind. Representing the landscape and people’s daily life in the parks on one aspect, the activity of taking photographs itself also formed a significant part of park culture in modern China. I sincerely look forward to further interaction with the Historical Photographs of China project, scholars, and colleagues, to support my future work.

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Josepha Richard on Documenting gardens of China through early photographs

Josepha Richard is a PhD candidate at the University of Sheffield, specialised in Modern China and the gardens of 19th century Guangzhou. She holds an MA in Chinese studies  (Leeds University) and Art History (Sorbonne Paris IV) and was recently a Summer fellow at Dumbarton Oaks, Washington D.C.. She regularly tweets about historical pictorial sources of China at @GardensOfChina.

Photo 1 caption: Photograph 486, Joseph Rock Collection, Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh. Photo: J. Richard

Photograph 1: Photograph 486, Joseph Rock Collection, Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh. Photo: J. Richard

As any person who ever had a garden knows, it takes constant care and careful know-how to prevent greenery from returning to a state best described as ‘Sleeping Beauty’s castle thorns’. By essence, gardens are ephemeral, thus difficult to document consistently and systematically. The gardens of China are no exception to this rule: as a result, it can be difficult to study any specimen built earlier than the late Qing dynasty. To research the gardens of China, the specialist needs to collect a combination of sources such as written descriptions, paintings and photographs.

One of the most revealing types of primary sources is that of early photographs of China. These are typically scattered across a number of private and public collections, as well as auction houses: obtaining good quality items with reliable captions, attributions and dates is an arduous task. One example I have come across during my research is that of Austrian-American explorer Joseph Rock, who travelled to the Black Dragon Pool in Lijiang, Yunnan, and took at least two photographs of the garden there. Those two shots are kept in two different institutions across the globe: the Arnold Arboretum image provides us with the date of 1922, while the photograph kept in the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh in Edinburgh (Photograph 1) is accompanied by matching diaries written by Rock during that year and kept in the same archive.

This ideal case of matching collections is rare, and individual, incompletely documented photographs are much more common. Indeed, the number of 19th century Chinese gardens ever visited by a photographer represent a small minority, and therefore, it is crucial that museums, archives and private collectors continue to make their collections available online. Furthermore, initiatives such as the ‘Historical Photographs of China’ project are much needed to uncover precious private collections that are the hardest for researchers, collectors and amateurs to reach.

To further complicate matters, coincidence played a primary role in the making of early photographs of gardens in China. The first cameras were taken to China at the end of the First Opium War (1838-42) at a time when Guangzhou was still the primary harbour for Western visitors, and therefore, many photographs of Cantonese gardens have survived while the original gardens have not. This precious evidence would not have existed if the camera had been invented a few decades later, when the consequences of the Second Opium War meant that Westerners progressively lost interest in Guangzhou (Canton) in favour of other Treaty Ports that had opened across the country.

Photo 3 caption : Howqua’s gardens, Canton. Albumen print, 1860, by Felice Beato (1832-1909). Digital image courtesy of the Getty's Open Content Program.

Photograph 2: Howqua’s gardens, Canton. Albumen print, 1860, by Felice Beato (1832-1909). Digital image courtesy of the Getty’s Open Content Program.

During the Canton Trade or System period (1757-1842), in which all trade was confined to Guangzhou, construction of gardens around the city intensified due to the flow of wealth originating from the China Trade. Throughout the Canton Trade period, merchants wanting to do business with China were obliged to use specific intermediaries during their transactions: the Co-Hong or Hong, who profited immensely as a result (although many eventually became bankrupt). Until the 1st Opium War, Hong residences were among the only locations that Western visitors could visit in China, and apparently remained attractive for sightseeing well after the end of the Canton System. The most notable examples are residences with gardens built by Pan 潘 and Wu 伍 families, both linked with Hong merchants.

As a consequence of the Western presence in Guangzhou during the Canton System period and beyond, sources documenting Hong gardens are exceptionally abundant, especially when it comes to the amount of pictorial evidence available. The comparison of traditional and export Chinese paintings as well as photographs allows for deeper analysis of those gardens than is usually possible for such an ephemeral subject. It is, for example, very fortunate that the Frenchman Jules Itier took the earliest extant photographs in China in 1844 while visiting Macau and Guangzhou. Three of his daguerreotypes depict a garden of the Pan family, the Haishan xianguan 海山仙官. In my doctoral thesis, I compare these images with other sources – for example, the Caleb Cushing papers kept in the Library of Congress.

Photo 4 caption: Canton, Part of Chinese garden. Postcard produced by M.Sternberg & Co. in Hong Kong, around 1909, from earlier photograph of unknown date. Scan: J. Richard.

Photograph 3: Canton, Part of Chinese garden. Postcard produced by M.Sternberg & Co. in Hong Kong, around 1909, from earlier photograph of unknown date. Scan: J. Richard.

The gardens of Howqua – of the Wu family – are similarly documented : different views are available in several formats, for example the stereoscopic card taken by the Swiss Pierre Joseph Rossier in 1855-62 and held at the Rijksmuseum. This view, focused on one feature of the garden – a water-based kiosk – can be contrasted with a 1870s albumen of the same pond available on the Bonhams website from past sale lot 173. Interestingly, the same kiosk is found on the painted background of a series of portraits such as the “Actors in Canton” shot taken by C. R. Hager around 1896-1905 and found on the Basel Mission website. Felice Beato took a wider view of Howqua’s garden in 1860, just before the photographer accompanied Franco-British troops to Beijing (Photograph 2). An undated postcard bought online represents the garden from yet another viewpoint and gives a better insight into the layout (Photograph 3).

By cumulating these different photographs, a vivid representation of the Hong gardens can be obtained, allowing us to catch a glimpse of the colourful background of some 19th century East-West encounters.

PS: I welcome any suggestions or tips about photographs of gardens that could have been taken in 19th and early 20th century Guangzhou and the surrounding areas.

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Our China spies

We have been attempting to persuade a friend of the project, author Adam Brookes, former BBC Beijing correspondent, to pen a note to mark the paperback publication of his second novel, Spy Games. If you have not read it, you should, but make sure to start with Night Heron. Brookes is too busy penning the final volume in this trilogy, so here instead is a little introduction to our spies: or at least those we know of.

Hu Jibang (胡济邦), war correspondent and attaché to Fu Bingchang in Moscow, c.1943 - 1949, photograph by Fu Bingchang, 21 October 1945.  Fu-n670 © 2007 C. H. Foo and Y. W. Foo.

Hu Jibang (胡济邦), war correspondent and attaché to Fu Bingchang in Moscow, c.1943 – 1949, photograph by Fu Bingchang, 21 October 1945. Fu-n670 © 2007 C. H. Foo and Y. W. Foo.

Most obviously we have photographs of Hu Jibang 胡济邦 (1911-1995). Hu was a pioneering Chinese war correspondent, who spent 13 years in the USSR from 1936 onwards. She was already by then a veteran underground agent of the China Communist Party, and during her sojourn in the USSR got just about as close to the heart of the Chinese Nationalist government’s embassy in Moscow as was possible: she became the ambassador’s lover. The envoy was Fu Bingchang (subject of a recent BBC Radio 4 programme), who took a series of affectionate and intimate portraits of Hu, some of which we have placed online. Her own private photograph album was auctioned in 2013, and this included copies of some of these that had evidently been given to Hu by Fu Bingchang. If Fu was not aware of her dual role, he will have realised when she opted in 1949 to leave Europe to join the Foreign Ministry apparatus of the new communist state. In later life she served in Hungary for People’s Daily, reporting on the Hungarian revolution, and in 1972 went to New York with her husband who headed the Chinese permanent mission to the United Nations when it was established in 1972.

George Findlay Andrew and others, Swatow, April 1934, photograph by G. Warren Swire.  Sw29-175 © 2008 John Swire & Sons Ltd.

George Findlay Andrew and others, Swatow (Shantou), April 1934, photograph by G. Warren Swire. Sw29-175 © 2008 John Swire & Sons Ltd.

A very different agent was Briton George Findlay Andrew (1887-1971). Born in China, Findlay Andrew was a man of many careers and interests: missionary (China Inland Mission), famine relief organiser, collector of neolithic antiquities, scholar of China’s Muslim communities, head of Butterfield & Swire’s Department of Chinese Affairs, and a Special Operations Executive (SOE) agent during the Pacific War. In that last guise he was a conduit for intelligence from SOE’s Chinese partners to MI6, Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service. Here he is above in 1934, standing on the right, photographed in Swatow (Shantou), by Swire director Warren Swire on one of his regular trips to China.

Mikhail Borodin and Morris 'Two-gun' Cohen, Guangzhou, photograph by Fu Bingchang.  Fu-n157 © 2007 C. H. Foo and Y. W. Foo.

Mikhail Borodin and Morris ‘Two-gun’ Cohen, Guangzhou, photograph by Fu Bingchang. Fu-n157 © 2007 C. H. Foo and Y. W. Foo.

But the most famous of our agents is Mikhail Borodin, the Comintern representative who led its mission to support the Guomindang in the period of its first alliance with the newly-established Chinese Communist Party in 1923-27. Of course, Borodin was ultimately working in plain sight, and was not averse to giving newspaper interviews. But when he first arrived in the capital of what would become the Nationalist Revolution he did so in a Soviet freighter, shipping south from Shanghai with its cargo of sheep. Here is Borodin, sometime inmate of a Glasgow jail, photographed by Fu Bingchang, with another former jailbird watching. That man is Morris ‘Two-Gun’ Cohen. Cohen, sometime gangster, gun-runner and fixer, who was born in Poland, grew up in Stepney, East London, and had migrated to Canada when he first encountered Sun Yat-sen, whose bodyguard he became. Both men would experience captivity again: Cohen in a Japanese internment camp in Hong Kong, and Borodin in Moscow’s Lefortovo prison, where he died in 1951.

So there you have it: two photographers, three photographs, four agents, several jails, and a tangle of stories.

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Fu Bingchang’s Diaries

One of our star photographers is Chinese diplomat Fu Bingchang (1895-1965), who pursued with fairly equal vigour all his life his activities as a diplomat, photographer, diarist, and lover. Excepting the diaries these facets of his life are fairly well represented in the 550 photographs that we have on the site. It was delightful, then, for the project to be able to help Fu’s granddaughter Dr Yee Wah Foo, and the BBC Radio 4 ‘Document’ team with their programme on Ambassador Fu’s diaries. You can listen to it here on the BBC Radio 4 site. It is an atmospheric introduction to the man and his activities — including his photography (and his clever diplomatic use of Mongolian Hot Pot) — and is deftly narrated by Yee Wah, with contributions from Johnny Foo (his son), Harvard’s Arne Westad and myself. There’s a slideshow of images online here,

And just for good measure, here is one of my Fu Bingchang favourites, his self-portrait with Sun Yat-sen’s son, Sun Fo: two elegant revolutionaries.

Fu Bingchang and Sun Fo (Sun Ke), 1920s, Fu Bingchang collection Fu-n128 © 2007 C. H. Foo and Y. W. Foo

Fu Bingchang and Sun Fo (Sun Ke), 1920s, Fu Bingchang collection Fu-n128 © 2007 C. H. Foo and Y. W. Foo

 

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Report on ‘Snapshots in Time: Photography and History in Modern China’

Dr Sabrina Fairchild, who composed this blog, and who organised this workshop, completed her PhD at the University of Bristol in Spring 2016 with a thesis on ‘Fuzhou and Global Empires: Understanding the Treaty Ports of Modern China, 1850-1937.’

On 23-25 July, the History Department at the University of Bristol in association with the Historical Photographs of China (HPC) project ran a successful three-day postgraduate workshop on the uses of photography in modern Chinese History. For the HPC project this was a sort of tenth anniversary party celebrating a decade of finding, cataloguing and publishing valuable photographic resources that might otherwise have been lost in someone’s attic. For the 13 postgraduate researchers – from the UK, Europe, US and Asia – this represented a change to come to grips with visual records that often seems more tantalizing than understandable. These students brought their combined experience and knowledge from history, art history and historical archaeology to bear on discussions ranging from the photograph as a historical document to the technicalities of late-nineteenth and early-twentieth-century camera technology.

When we organized the workshop we had two main questions in mind: why were students interested in using historical photographs of China in their research and what did they expected to get out of the workshop. Unsurprisingly, most responded to the first that photographs enriched their research in ways they felt went beyond textual material. There was something about the visual material that deepened their understanding of their research topics, or even revealed issues previously hidden by other sources. What was more surprising was their answer to our second question. Almost every single student wanted to know more about the methodology around visual material; how do we use photographs seemed to be the central issue of the workshop. From their related questions on finding material, interrogating its content, and tracing its publication and circulation became obvious points of discussion.

Professor Jay Carter, Saint Joseph’s University, introducing students to the issues of racing and photography in the history of modern China.

Professor Jay Carter, Saint Joseph’s University, introducing participants to the issues of racing and photography in the history of modern China.

When it came to addressing these questions, Professor Jay Carter’s keynote talk ‘A Day at the Races: Shanghai, 1941’ gave us a place to start. Using photographs of the Shanghai Race Club’s last Champion’s Day race in 12 November 1941, Dr. Carter demonstrated how photographs provide a unique window into the makeup of Shanghai’s society. Although newspaper articles focussed on the ponies and their owners, photographers pointed their lenses towards both the races and the audiences providing a much more varied picture of those attending. By placing both the coverage and photographs of the Champion’s Day race in its wider context, Dr. Carter also demonstrated how it represented one event in a day beset by at least two other significant events – Silas Hardoon’s funeral and Sun Yat Sen’s birthday – for Shanghai’s Western and Chinese society. That the Champion’s Day race continued to dominate media coverage tells us much about the types of activities that were deemed important.

On the second day, a series of hands-on master-classes followed up these themes. University of Bristol staff members, Professor Robert Bickers, Dr. Josie McLellan, Dr. Erika Hanna and Dr. John Lyons generously lent us their time to explain how they had previously used photographs in their research. Very purposefully, the breadth of the research interests – from China, to the German Democratic Republic, to Ireland – demonstrated the wider similarities in this form of research. Obviously, content was important. Many of the photographs offered counter-narratives to broader, entrenched historical certainties. But methodological questions also dominated. The materiality of the photograph was important. Patricipants agreed that historians needed to think more about how these photographs were collected, preserved and circulated. Both the photograph album and the scrapbook deserve to be treated as historical objects in their own right. Similarly, all present felt that the practices around taking photographs deserved greater attention. For example, how did these photographs fit into practices of work, leisure, policing, ethnography, and others? Clearly, people are trying to document their lives but these photographs suggest that practices stretched well beyond issues of self-fashioning and domesticity.

This photograph drives my own research into the global connections of nineteenth-century China. John Charles Oswald (third from left) in tea-tasting room, Oswald Collection, os05-164,  2008 SOAS.

This photograph drives my own research into the global connections of nineteenth-century China. John Charles Oswald (third from left) in tea-tasting room, Foochow, 1890s. Oswald Collection, Os05-164, © 2008 SOAS.

I was particularly struck by one comment made by Erika Hanna on the dialogue between image, text and methods. Often historians are accused of poorly using photographs as ‘pretty pictures’ to liven up their text. The assumption seems to be that historians are not rigorous when interrogating the material and its place within their research. This has always puzzled me considering the wealth of approaches and methodologies historians employ when dealing with textual material. This probably also explains, unfortunately, the general sense of unease among postgraduate when dealing with visual resources. To counter this, Dr. Hanna argues that the photographs need to come first. That is, the visual sources need to drive the research question rather than supplement the text. This seems to me a fruitful way to avoid such accusation of analytical sloppiness and begin building a historical methodology that forefronts the photograph.

The third-day of the workshop offered patricipants a chance to reflect on how the previous discussions shaped, or will shape, their research. More time could have been devoted to this as the research emerging from the mix of MA students and PhD candidates seems set to make visual sources an indispensable resource in many fields. To continue these discussions we are looking at putting together a postgraduate and early career network that brings together the new research on photography and modern China. Discussions are already underway on how to follow up this workshop with another in 2017. In the meantime, you can also view a Storify account of these three stimulating days in June.

‘Snapshots in Time: Photography and History in Modern China’ was funded by a HEFCE Postgraduate Student Support award to the School of Oriental and African Studies for ‘Sustainable Funding for Language-based Area Studies’ which provided support for training and outreach events.

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Talk: A Day at the Races: Shanghai, 1941

Please join us for Professor James Carter’s discussion of photograph and its uses in studying modern Chinese history. Professor Carter will provide the keynote address of our postgraduate workshop, ‘Snapshots in Time: Photography and History in Modern China’, which is co-organised by the University of Bristol History Department and the Historical Photographs of China Project. A wine reception will follow the talk.

Cover of Shanghai by Ellen Thornbeck, illustrated by Friedrich Schiff (Shanghai, 1940)

Cover of Shanghai by Ellen Thorbeck, illustrated by Friedrich Schiff (Shanghai, 1940)

In the autumn of 1941, the Shanghai Race Club hosted what would be the last Champions’ Day before Japanese armies occupied the International Settlement. The scene was a study in contradiction: the Race Club limited membership to ‘whites only’, yet welcomed Chinese owners who had been displaced by the war; the race track was a potent symbol of European power, yet most of those in attendance were Chinese; the races were at the peak of their popularity just as the curtain was about to ring down. Using photographs of that day enables historians to piece together an understanding of the unique society that always existed on the edges of empires, never more precariously than during the Lonely Island period of 1937-1941.

James Carter is a professor of history at Saint Joseph’s University, where he works on the interactions between China and the West during the modern period. His research moves away from state-to- state relations to focus on the everyday actions of individuals. His most recent monograph, Heart of Buddha, Heart of China, investigates the life Tanxu, a Buddhist monk, to explore some of the most turbulent periods of twentieth-century China. Professor Carter is currently working on a history of Shanghai on the eve of the Second World War as seen through the last Champion’s race (12 November 1941) at the Shanghai Race Club.

Time: Thursday, 23 June, 4PM – 5.30PM

Location: University of Bristol, 43 Woodland Rd, Reception Room

For more details contact the workshop organiser: Dr Sabrina Fairchild sabrina.fairchild@bristol.ac.uk

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‘So this is fame’! Margot Fonteyn in China

Today sees the unveiling by the blog’s colleague Ronald Hutton of an English Heritage Blue Plaque at the flat in London’s Covent Garden where Margot Fonteyn lived when Prima Ballerina of Sadler’s Wells Ballet.

The blog knows her better as Peggy Hookham, who lived in Tianjin, and then Shanghai, between 1927 and 1933. Peggy was 8 when she arrived in China when her father began working there for British American Tobacco, and she was 14 when her mother brought her back to Britain to help her pursue a career in ballet.

Peggy Hookham in Romer-Peeler School performance, The China Press, 31 May 1931

Peggy Hookham in Romer-Peeler School performance, The China Press, 31 May 1931

In Shanghai she studied at the Romer-Peeler School, and with Carol Bateman, whose career later included an unexpected stint teaching dance in a Japanese internment camp in Hong Kong. The Russian refugee community at Shanghai included dancers and musicians as well. Amongst these was, former Bolshoi performer George Goncharov, with whom Peggy and another young Shanghai dancer, June Bear, later better known as June Brae, also took lessons.

If you nose through the newspapers, you can spot Peggy Hookham in action in various amateur shows in Shanghai in the early 1930s. Here she is in February 1931 in a low-quality scan from The China Press.

We were delighted to be able to copy a set of family photographs which included Peggy and her family in Tianjin, Shanghai and in Hong Kong, where her father’s work took him for several months at one time. But as well as images like these below of Peggy with an unidentified Chinese girl, or with her parents, including this nice portrait of mother and daughter, we also seem to have what is surely one of her earliest reviews.

Peggy Hookham, with an unidentified Chinese girl, Tientsin, c.1928. Hh-s010.

Peggy Hookham, with an unidentified Chinese girl, Tientsin, c.1928. Hh-s010.

Hilda and Peggy Hookham, Shanghai, July 1931

Hilda and Peggy Hookham, Shanghai, July 1931, Hh-s175

This comes in the form of a name card, from a Mrs W.T.L. Way, which indicates that they are ‘At Home’ — receiving guests — weekly at 5 o’clock on Thursdays:

Dear Mrs Hookham / Do bring Peggy along on Monday next at 4.30 as I am asking other children if she could do her pretty dance  I should be glad. I’ve a gramophone – if you can bring Records / Kind regards Lily Way

Invitation from Mr & Mrs W.T.L. Way

Invitation from Mr & Mrs W.T.L. Way, Tianjin, Hh-s261

William T.L. Way was a local British businessman, stalwart several-times Chairman of the Tientsin Club, member of the Country and Race Club, and freemason. He had arrived in the city in 1887, and like his wife, Elizabeth Alice, known as Lily, was the child of a Master Mariner. Off Peggy went, it seems, for in pencil on the card her mother (we assume) then wrote: ‘So this is fame!!!  The Ways are an one of the oldest families in Tientsin, their house backs onto the Astor House, & faces the Bund.  It is one of the first houses built in Tientsin.’, and then there follows the review: ‘Peg went & did her dance very nicely.’ And that of course is precisely what she carried on doing.

Invitation from Mr and Mrs W.T.L. Way, Tientsin. Hh-s260.

Invitation from Mr and Mrs W.T.L. Way, Tianjin. Hh-s260.

 

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Jon Chappell on burning opium in Nanning

A guest blog from Jon Chappell, who recently secured his PhD at the University of Bristol, on ‘Foreign Intervention In China: Empires And International Law In The Taiping Civil War, 1853-64′. Jon is currently working on a British Inter-university China Centre Cultural Exchange Partnership with the Transform Drug Policy Foundation, and from August will be teaching for a year at NYU Shanghai.

Burning opium at Nanning in 1920, Hedgeland collection, he03-076, © 2007 SOAS

Burning opium at Nanning in 1919, Hedgeland collection, he03-076 © 2007 SOAS

Sometimes the revolution is a tea party. This seemingly festive photograph represents the culmination of a radical campaign to rid China of opium. In 1906 the Qing dynasty and Britain agreed on a deal to enforce full prohibition of the drug’s use within ten years. The British would end imports of opium from British India if the Qing state could end the harvesting of opium poppies in China. Although the Qing fell in 1911, the agreement was maintained. By 1919, the last warehoused stocks of opium were being destroyed in Shanghai. This photograph, taken at the Nanning customs house, possibly records a similar event, or it may record the destruction of opium confiscated by the customs service as it was smuggled around the country. Either way, the destruction of opium was an event to be recorded, as the rows of onlookers, seated in front of the confiscated cache, suggest. In fact, the picture is a more sedate version of the opium burning celebrations held at the start of the suppression campaign.

The popular and government support for the suppression of opium was not just linked to the drug’s troubled history within the Qing empire. Although the Qing had initially resisted foreign opium imports, sparking an ‘opium’ war between Britain and China, by the early twentieth century it had become a dependable source of revenue for an otherwise faltering state. Between 1900 and 1906, when the suppression campaign began, duties on opium imports accounted for between 40-45% of customs revenues at Fujianese ports. The decision to prohibit the drug was, therefore, not an easy one. China’s problem with opium was partly an image problem. The Shanghai newspaper Shenbao proclaimed in 1906 ‘Since most of our countrymen wreck themselves by smoking opium, they represent our nation – a listless nation.’ Educated, mobile and nationalistic Chinese elites were only too aware that for many abroad, this image was China.

Opium smotking, H.E. Peck collection, pe01-068, © 2008 Dr. Elizabeth Hensel

Opium smoking, H.E. Peck collection, pe01-068, © 2008 Dr. Elizabeth Hensel

The image above, a posed photograph of an imagined typical scene in an opium den where men lay down to enjoy their pipes with prostitutes represented for many abroad why China was weak and could not be taken seriously internationally. Chinese nationalists internalised this message. The result was the prohibition campaign, launched despite the revenue derived from opium. The reality of opium smoking in China may, however, have been far more prosaic. The below image of scholars at their pipes contravenes many of the myths that circulated about opium addiction. The man in the front left is hardly a starved addict, while the scrolls on the back wall suggest that these men were part of an educated elite which took to the pipe as much as the poor. Recent scholarship has, in fact, suggested that the majority of opium smokers were harmless recreational users of the drug, particularly as smoking is a far less potent way to consume opiates than the pills or syringes now in use.

Smoking opium, from an album in University of Bristol Library Special Collections, UB01-04, UB01-04

Smoking opium, from an album in University of Bristol Library Special Collections, UB01-04, UB01-04

The Nanning opium burning marked a watershed. By 1920 central government authority had already splintered and within 10 years local warlords were deriving as much as 25% of their income from opium taxes. This income both attracted warlords to power and sustained their internecine conflict. Similarly, the prohibition of opium led to high prices and, this led to increasingly organised criminal networks with the power, and revenue, to corrupt governments. It is just possible that the effects of the cure were worse than the disease.

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David Woodbridge on Gulangyu and Xiamen

Our latest guest blog comes from David Woodbridge, who received his PhD from the University of Manchester. He was subsequently a postdoctoral fellow at Xiamen University, where he worked with the Gulangyu International Research Centre. He is currently working at the John Rylands Research Institute, at the University of Manchester, where, supported by a British Inter-university China Centre Cultural Engagement Fellowship, he is looking at the Chinese collections in the John Rylands Library.

Sw07-102

Reclamation works at Amoy, c.1921, by Warren Swire: G.W. Swire collection, sw07-102 © 2007 John Swire & Sons Ltd

This photograph, taken in 1920, provides an interesting insight into Xiamen’s distinctive semi-colonial arrangements. As one of the original five treaty ports, Xiamen (Amoy) acquired a British Concession in 1852. This consisted of a stretch of foreshore about 200 metres long and 70 metres wide, running along the harbour front, and housing the offices and warehouses of the foreign businesses that operated in the city. The photo is taken looking out from this Concession, across the old harbour. In the distance can be seen the island of Gulangyu (Kulangsu). Covering an area of around 2km², this small island became the preferred place of residence for Xiamen’s modestly-sized foreign community. Xiamen itself, and particularly its walled city, had quickly gained a reputation among foreigners for being dirty and disease-ridden. Therefore, Gulangyu, being in close proximity to the harbour but separate from it, became the favoured site for foreigners to make their home.

In the years that followed, Gulangyu’s foreign community increasingly sought powers to shape the development of the island in a manner more to their liking. Finally, in 1903, the Qing agreed to reconstitute Gulangyu as an international settlement. This was modelled on the international settlement in Shanghai, with the governance to be in the hands of a municipal council elected by local ratepayers. Unlike in Shanghai, however, provision was made for Chinese representation, with one Chinese councillor to sit alongside the five to six foreign councillors. This new arrangement was viewed by many as embodying a more progressive model for the ordering of Sino-foreign relations.

Amoy in the late 'eighties, J.O. Oswald Collection Os01-021. Photo from an album kept in the School of Oriental and African Studies Archives, London (SOAS reference MS 380 876/1) © 2008 SOAS

Gulangyu in the late 1880s, J.O. Oswald Collection Os01-021. Photo from an album kept in the School of Oriental and African Studies Archives, London (SOAS reference MS 380 876/1) © 2008 SOAS

Under this new regime Gulangyu’s development proceeded apace, with modern infrastructure and facilities being put in place. In addition, the island’s status kept it outside of the fierce feuding that afflicted southern Fujian during the warlord era. Consequently, Gulangyu’s population grew, and the new arrivals included many Chinese businessmen returning from Southeast Asia, whose wealth became embodied in large and elaborate residences on the island.

Meanwhile, the British Concession was increasingly becoming a site of contention. Beginning in the 1870s, attempts were made at land reclamation immediately in front of the Concession, something captured in the first photograph, above. The legal status of the reclaimed land was ambiguous, and in 1921 it became the source of a dispute that led to a boycott of Butterfield & Swire, who had sought to construct a pier connecting their lot in the Concession directly to the harbour. The boycott spread to Shanghai and Shantou, and resulted in an embarrassing climb-down by the British authorities, who had to retreat from their original, hard-line opposition to the protesters.

Gulangyu also became targeted by anti-imperialist protests. Chinese representation on the municipal council, while originally intended as a progressive measure, became a source of grievance, as protesters campaigned for a balance of representation on the council that better reflected the larger Chinese population on the island. The number of Chinese councillors was increased to three in 1927, but tensions remained in the international settlement’s administration.

Amoy new bund, 1933, by Warren Swire, G.W. Swire collection sw08-089 © 2007 John Swire & Sons Ltd.

Amoy new bund in front of the former British Concession, following completion of reclamation work, 1933, by Warren Swire, G.W. Swire collection sw08-089 © 2007 John Swire & Sons Ltd.

The British Concession in Xiamen was returned to Chinese rule in 1930, one of a number of concessions given up as the British sought to reduce its colonial presence in China in the wake of the Nationalist Revolution. Gulangyu, however, remained an international settlement until 1941. Its population of Americans, Europeans and Japanese, as well as local and overseas Chinese, produced a unique political and cultural character that made it one of the more eclectic of China’s colonial spaces during the Republican period.

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David Bellis on Warren Swire’s second visit to Hong Kong, 1911-12

In this, the second of a series of blogs, David Bellis explores the photographs taken by G. Warren Swire on his trip to Hong Kong in 1911-12. Because John Swire & Sons was headquartered in London, each year one of the Swires directors made a trip ‘Out East’ (in company parlance).

The highlight of Warren Swire’s first visit to Hong Kong was the construction of the new Taikoo dockyard at Quarry Bay. On his visit four years later, he could show it as a going concern. He took several photos of ships under repair, both up on the slips and down in the dry dock:

Repairing a ship's stern, Taikoo Dockyard, Hong Kong, 1911-12.  Sw07-149.

Repairing a ship’s stern, Taikoo Dockyard, Hong Kong, 1911-12. Sw07-149.

Steamship in dry dock at Taikoo Dockyard, Hong Kong. 1911-12. Sw07-142.

Steamship in dry dock at Taikoo Dockyard, Hong Kong. 1911-12. Sw07-142.

 He also visited the ship-building yard to watch a new ship being launched:

Ship being launched, Taikoo Dockyard, Hong Kong, 1911-12.  Sw07-151.

Ship being launched, Taikoo Dockyard, Hong Kong, 1911-12. Sw07-151.

Launching a ship, Taikoo Dockyard, Hong Kong, 1911-12.  Sw07-152.

Launching a ship, Taikoo Dockyard, Hong Kong, 1911-12. Sw07-152.

 He didn’t note the name of the ship, but the title of the photo below says they’re gathered at the launch of the “Circe”:

Launch of the ship 'Circe', Hong Kong, 1911-12.  Sw17-001.

Launch of the ship ‘Circe’, Hong Kong, 1911-12. Sw17-001.

Here’s how the newspaper reported it:

LAUNCH AT TAIKOO DOCKYARD.

Yesterday the Taikoo Dockyard and Engineering Company launched a handsomely modelled steel screw steamer for Messrs. Alfred Holt & Company’s Singapore and Delhi trade. The vessel is of the awning deck type, the principal dimensions being 200 feet long overall, 31’-6” beam, and 21’-6” deep to the awning deck. Accommodation for a number of passengers is fitted up amidships, with dining saloon. The officers’ and engineers’ rooms are situated aft in a steel house on the awning deck; the crew being berthed forward, and the petty officers aft. The ‘tween decks are arranged for carrying steerage passengers, and open spaces are fitted up for the carriage of cattle. Triple-expansion engines of the builders’ own make will be installed, steam being supplied from a large single-ended boiler, capable of driving the vessel at a speed of 12 knots. Electric light is fitted throughout. The gross tonnage of the vessel is about 800. As the vessel left the ways she was gracefully christened ‘Circe’ by Mrs. Swire.

The Hong Kong Telegraph, 6 March 1912, page 4.

If any maritime experts are reading, does the description of the ‘Circe’ match the ship shown being launched?

[UPDATE, 1 June 2016: The ship being launched has now been identified as the Tencho Maru.  See http://gwulo.com/node/32554#comment-36392]

‘Circe’ was built for Alfred Holt & Co., a company that worked closely with Swire’s. Other photos from this visit show their Holt’s Wharf, across the harbour in Tsim Sha Tsui:

Holts Wharf godowns, Hong Kong, 1911-12.  Sw07-116.

Holts Wharf godowns, Hong Kong, 1911-12. Sw07-116.

Back to the Taikoo dockyard, and my favourite photo from this visit:

Hong Kong from Mount Parker, with cable car, 1911-12.  Sw17-023.

Hong Kong from Mount Parker, with cable car, 1911-12. Sw17-023.

It’s a rare view of the cable car that ran up here to Quarry Gap, the pass between Mount Parker and Mount Butler. Old maps show the pass named Sanatorium Gap, which explains the need for a cable car: up at the Gap, situated to catch the cool breeze in summer, stood the Taikoo Sanatorium. Warren shows us the Sanatorium building, and its view out over the Tai Tam reservoir:

Taikoo Sanatorium, Mount Parker, Hong Kong, 1911-12.  Sw07-124.

Taikoo Sanatorium, Mount Parker, Hong Kong, 1911-12. Sw07-124.

View from Mount Parker, Hong Kong, 1911-12.  Sw17-024.

View from Mount Parker, Hong Kong, 1911-12. Sw17-024.

He took several other photos looking out from a high vantage point:

View westwards (2) from Taikoo, Hong Kong, 1911-12.  Sw17-013.

View westwards (2) from Taikoo, Hong Kong, 1911-12. Sw17-013.

View eastwards from Taikoo, Hong Kong, 1911-12.  Sw17-014.

View eastwards from Taikoo, Hong Kong, 1911-12. Sw17-014.

They’re titled ‘View westwards from Taikoo’ and ‘View eastwards from Taikoo’, which doesn’t make sense at first. Then the penny drops, and we realise that Taikoo doesn’t mean the dockyard, but the house named ‘Taikoo’, up on the Peak!

Taikoo building in Hong Kong, 1911-12.  Sw07-108.

Taikoo building in Hong Kong, 1911-12. Sw07-108.

 We’ll finish this visit with a couple of his photos of an even grander building:

Hong Kong University under construction, c.1912-16.  Sw18-104.

Hong Kong University under construction, c.1912-16. Sw18-104.

Hong Kong University under construction, c.1912-16.  Sw18-105.

Hong Kong University under construction, c.1912-16. Sw18-105.

They show construction work at the new Hong Kong University, partly funded by a donation from Swire’s.

Photos from Warren Swire’s first visit to Hong Kong can be seen at:

http://gwulo.com/node/31140 

as well as at:

http://visualisingchina.net/blog/2016/03/17/bellis-swire-hong-kong/

The full Warren Swire Collection covers the first four decades of the twentieth century, and can be viewed online at:

http://hpc.vcea.net/Collection/Warren_Swire_Images

David Bellis runs Gwulo.com, an online community for anyone interested in Hong Kong’s history. It hosts over 20,000 pages of information, including over 10,000 photographs.

http://gwulo.com/

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