David Bellis on Warren Swire’s third visit to Hong Kong, 1919-1920

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. This is his third exploration of Warren Swire’s photographs of his periodic visits to Hong Kong. You can follow these links to catch up with the first and the second.

Warren Swire’s third visit was delayed by the First World War. He had joined a territorial army unit in 1907 (the Royal Buckinghamshire Hussars), and so was mobilized with them in 1914. He served in Egypt until 1916, then returned to the UK to work in control of shipping, a fitting use for his skills. By 1919 Swire returned to the commercial world, and was back in Hong Kong to check on the company’s operations. It is worth taking a step back to see the company’s place in Hong Kong, and the 1920 Juror’s list gives us an idea of its significance. Of the 1,546 jurors listed, 132 or roughly 1 in 12 worked for either Taikoo Dockyard & Engineering (TD&E) or the Taikoo Sugar Refinery (TSR).

Taikoo Sugar Refinery

We have seen the Dockyard in photographs from his earlier visits, but this time he also includes photos of the Sugar Refinery. The first image is titled “H.K. TSR Village”, and shows some of the workers’ housing.

Taikoo Sugar Refinery Village, Hong Kong, 1919-1920.  Photograph by G. Warren Swire.  HPC ref: Sw04-028.  © 2007 John Swire & Sons Ltd.

Taikoo Sugar Refinery Village, Hong Kong, 1919-1920. Photograph by G. Warren Swire. HPC ref: Sw04-028. © 2007 John Swire & Sons Ltd.

You should be able to see the tram tracks running along King’s Road at the left. If you look closely, you’ll see that Quarry Bay only had a single track service at this time. Just where the tram lines disappear from view there’s a junction and road running off to the left. That is Mount Parker Road.

Swire also took photos of the Sugar Refinery’s recreation club, and the houses for its European staff:

Taikoo Sugar Refinery Recreation Club, Hong Kong, 1919-1920.  Photograph by G. Warren Swire.  HPC ref: Sw04-029.  © 2007 John Swire & Sons Ltd.

Taikoo Sugar Refinery Recreation Club, Hong Kong, 1919-1920. Photograph by G. Warren Swire. HPC ref: Sw04-029. © 2007 John Swire & Sons Ltd.

Taikoo Sugar Refinery Foreign Houses, Hong Kong, 1919-1920.  Photograph by G. Warren Swire.  HPC ref: Sw04-023.  © 2007 John Swire & Sons Ltd.

Taikoo Sugar Refinery Foreign Houses, Hong Kong, 1919-1920. Photograph by G. Warren Swire. HPC ref: Sw04-023. © 2007 John Swire & Sons Ltd.

A look down the list of Taikoo Sugar Refinery men on the jurors’ list gives an idea of who lived there. It includes 10 assistants, 3 chemists, a chief engineer, 2 clerks, a draughtsman, 5 engineers, 4 foremen, a manager, 3 pansmen, a storekeeper, 7 sugar boilers, 3 timekeepers and a wharfinger. Most of the titles are self-explanatory, but the “pansman” was a new one to me. It is a skilled job, specific to the sugar refining industry. The pansman operates the vacuum pans that form the sugar crystals from the sugar liquor.

The list also shows three timekeepers from the Sugar Refinery. The Dockyard had seven! In this photo, titled “TD& E. Co Watchmen & Gatehouse”, I think we get a glimpse of the timekeeper’s domain. The row of gates on the right look like the passages where the workers entered and exited the site, clocking in and out each time.

Taikoo Dockyard and Engineering Company Gatehouse, Hong Kong, 1919-1920.  Photograph by G. Warren Swire.  HPC ref: Sw04-041.  © 2007 John Swire & Sons Ltd.

Taikoo Dockyard and Engineering Company Gatehouse, Hong Kong, 1919-1920. Photograph by G. Warren Swire. HPC ref: Sw04-041. © 2007 John Swire & Sons Ltd.

North Point Store

Another building we see for the first time is the company’s North Point Store:

North Point Store, Hong Kong, 1919-1920.  Photograph by G. Warren Swire.  HPC ref: Sw04-017.  © 2007 John Swire & Sons Ltd.

North Point Store, Hong Kong, 1919-1920. Photograph by G. Warren Swire. HPC ref: Sw04-017. © 2007 John Swire & Sons Ltd.

Inside everything looks very clean and tidy:

North Point Store, Hong Kong, 1919-1920.  Photograph by G. Warren Swire.  HPC ref: Sw04-019.  © 2007 John Swire & Sons Ltd.

North Point Store, Hong Kong, 1919-1920. Photograph by G. Warren Swire. HPC ref: Sw04-019. © 2007 John Swire & Sons Ltd.

Not so clean and tidy outside though, as it was where they kept the company’s coal:

Coal heap, North Point Store, Hong Kong, 1919-1920.  Photograph by G. Warren Swire.  HPC ref: Sw04-015.  © 2007 John Swire & Sons Ltd.

Coal heap, North Point Store, Hong Kong, 1919-1920. Photograph by G. Warren Swire. HPC ref: Sw04-015. © 2007 John Swire & Sons Ltd.

At least some of that coal would end up here at the “TD& E. Co Gas Plant & Power House”:

Taikoo Dockyard and Engineering Company Gas Plant and Power House, Hong Kong, 1919-1920.  Photograph by G. Warren Swire.  HPC ref: Sw04-043.  © 2007 John Swire & Sons Ltd.

Taikoo Dockyard and Engineering Company Gas Plant and Power House, Hong Kong, 1919-1920. Photograph by G. Warren Swire. HPC ref: Sw04-043. © 2007 John Swire & Sons Ltd.

We take the supply of electricity for granted now, but in 1920 you would find major operations like Taikoo, the Tramways, or the Naval Dockyard each ran their own power station. The Taikoo companies also had to maintain their own water supplies, and built several dams around the area. Most were in the valley behind Quarry Bay but there was also Braemar Reservoir, further west on the hillside above North Point. Here’s Warren looking out across Braemar Reservoir towards Kowloon.

Braemar Reservoir and Kowloon, Hong Kong, 1919-1920.  Photograph by G. Warren Swire.  HPC ref: Sw18-108.  © 2007 John Swire & Sons Ltd.

Braemar Reservoir and Kowloon, Hong Kong, 1919-1920. Photograph by G. Warren Swire. HPC ref: Sw18-108. © 2007 John Swire & Sons Ltd.

Holts Wharf

The southern tip of Kowloon, just out of sight on the left of the previous photo, was a regular destination for Swire. He was heading to Holt’s Wharf:

Holts Wharf back, Hong Kong, 1919-1920.  Photograph by G. Warren Swire.  HPC ref: Sw04-067.  © 2007 John Swire & Sons Ltd.

Holts Wharf back, Hong Kong, 1919-1920. Photograph by G. Warren Swire. HPC ref: Sw04-067. © 2007 John Swire & Sons Ltd.

In the view above Swire is looking south towards the Holt’s Wharf buildings. The steep hill on the right is still there today, with Chatham Road running round its base. On the left, behind the fence, is the Kowloon-Canton Railway, heading towards its terminus at Tsim Sha Tsui. The railway is clearer to see in the view below, facing the opposite direction, and taken from a rooftop at the Wharf.

Holts Wharf No. 6, Hong Kong, 1919-1920.  Photograph by G. Warren Swire.  HPC ref: Sw04-068.  © 2007 John Swire & Sons Ltd.

Holts Wharf No. 6, Hong Kong, 1919-1920. Photograph by G. Warren Swire. HPC ref: Sw04-068. © 2007 John Swire & Sons Ltd.

Swire also took a photo that he titled “Holts Wharf Foreign Quarters”.

Foreigners' houses and rickshaws, Holts Wharf, Hong Kong, 1919-1920.  Photograph by G. Warren Swire.  HPC ref: Sw04-073.  © 2007 John Swire & Sons Ltd.

Foreigners’ houses and rickshaws, Holts Wharf, Hong Kong, 1919-1920. Photograph by G. Warren Swire. HPC ref: Sw04-073. © 2007 John Swire & Sons Ltd.

I do not recognize this building, but the Juror’s List gives one possibility. It notes the Wharf Manager was a Mr Charles Butler Riggs, living at Glenthoral on Kimberley Road in Tsim Sha Tsui.

The University of Hong Kong

Returning to the island, Warren checked how the finished University of Hong Kong  looked. Swires were one of the donors that helped fund the construction, but when he had taken photographs on his previous visit the Main Building was still under construction. By 1920 it was all finished. Well, almost – it would be another ten years before a clock was finally installed in that clocktower!

University of Hong Kong, 1919-1920.  Photograph by G. Warren Swire.  HPC ref: Sw18-107.  © 2007 John Swire & Sons Ltd.

University of Hong Kong, 1919-1920. Photograph by G. Warren Swire. HPC ref: Sw18-107. © 2007 John Swire & Sons Ltd.

Halls of Residence, University of Hong Kong, 1919-1920.  Photograph by G. Warren Swire.  HPC ref: Sw18-106.  © 2007 John Swire & Sons Ltd.

Halls of Residence, University of Hong Kong, 1919-1920. Photograph by G. Warren Swire. HPC ref: Sw18-106. © 2007 John Swire & Sons Ltd.

All those students need somewhere to live. This photo shows the three halls of residence, Lugard, Eliot, and May Halls, on the eastern slopes of the campus. Only May and Eliot are still standing today.

Leisure

Finally, it wasn’t all work. Swire’s last photograph shows a visit to the race track in Happy Valley. His visits were timed to catch the winter months, and from the way people were wrapped up this must have been the coldest day of the year!

Hong Kong Race-course, Happy Valley, Hong Kong, 1919-1920.  Photograph by G. Warren Swire.  HPC ref: Sw26-077.  © 2007 John Swire & Sons Ltd.

Hong Kong Race-course, Happy Valley, Hong Kong, 1919-1920. Photograph by G. Warren Swire. HPC ref: Sw26-077. © 2007 John Swire & Sons Ltd.

 

Photographs from Warren Swire’s earlier visits to Hong Kong can be seen at: http://gwulo.com/node/31140 and http://gwulo.com/node/32554

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

Posted in Collections, Guest blogs | Tagged , , , , | Comments Off

Andrew Hillier reflects on Three Brothers in China: Visualising Family in Empire

Having just completed his PhD at Bristol, ‘Three Brothers in China: A Study of Family in Empire’, Andrew Hillier is now working on developing it  into a book.

On 12 May 1846, Eliza Medhurst set off by boat from her family home in Shanghai. The daughter of missionaries, Walter and Betty Medhurst, she was on her way to Hong Kong to meet her fiancé, Charles Batten Hillier, the fledgling colony’s Assistant Chief Magistrate. They were married two weeks later. Over the next nine years, she gave birth to four surviving children. When Charles was appointed as Britain’s first Consul to Siam in 1856, he and Eliza moved to Bangkok. Within four months of their arrival, he had succumbed to fever and died. Eliza, pregnant once again, made her way back to England where she gave birth to Guy. Educated in England, three of the Hillier boys – Walter, Harry and Guy – returned to China in their early twenties, pursuing careers in three key institutions of Britain’s informal empire: the Consular Service, the Chinese Maritime Customs (CMC) and the Hongkong and Shanghai Bank, as it was then called.

Their lives, and those of their forbears are recorded, in a collection of photographs, which will soon be accessible on the Visualising China web-site. A rich mixture of official pictures, studio portraits and informal snaps of family, friends and local scenery, they tell us much about the lives of Britons in China during the treaty port period, the importance of family as part of that presence and the connections it forged and cemented both with those in England and further afield. In the following selection, we can see how they illustrate the relationships between British and Chinese officials, formal and informal, the character of young men careering in China, the intimacy of their family life and, finally, their memorialisation.

1. ‘Student Interpreters, Peking, 1869’. Walter, aged 18, is at the front on the LHS, beardless.

Walter Hillier arrived in Peking as a student interpreter in 1868 and quickly proved himself a competent linguist on the Legation staff. In Plate 1, we see him with his colleagues shortly after his arrival. The photograph conveys a relaxed mood; it could have been taken in an English garden, with languid poses and dogs nestling on the rugs.

The next brother to arrive was Harry Hillier. Having passed the exams for the Customs Service, he arrived in China in 1871, aged 20. He spent the next forty years there, rising to the post of Commissioner, which he held in a range of treaty ports. Also fluent in Chinese, he established good relations with his Chinese counterparts on both a formal and informal level. The photograph at plate 2, taken when he was Commissioner in Nanking, shows a formal lunch-party held to celebrate the Emperor’s birthday in 1903. Harry is eighth from the right, with wing collar and beard, and is flanked by three Chinese officials on his right – the Superintendent of Customs, the Provincial Treasurer and the Viceroy. Unlike them, the Japanese officials to his left are in Western suits.

2. Lunch-party given by the Viceroy of the Two Kiangs, Wei Guangdao, on the birthday of the Emperor of China, 18 August 1903.

2. Lunch-party given by the Viceroy of the Two Kiangs, Wei Guangdao, on the birthday of the Emperor of China, 18 August 1903.

The picture was widely circulated (one copy is in the Sir Robert Hart Collection at Queen’s University, Belfast). With the Chinese officials in the foreground, the image is one of comity and there is no sense of subservience or condescension. A more informal photograph (Plate 3), taken when Harry was Commissioner in Kiukiang (Jiujiang) in 1904, shows him with three Chinese officials sitting outside in their winter coats; the mood seems relaxed, as if they were in casual conversation.

3. Harry with Chinese officials: the Daotai, Yung Ling on his left, the Magistrate, Tsung, on his far left and the Foreign Affairs Deputy, Li on Harry’s right. Kiukiang, 18 December 1904.

3. Harry with Chinese officials: the Daotai, Yung Ling on his left, the Magistrate, Tsung, on his far left and the Foreign Affairs Deputy, Li on Harry’s right. Kiukiang, 18 December 1904.

Ceremony, however, was an important element of official life and Harry would send home to the family in England photographs with captions describing the elaborate rituals, as we see in Plate 4.

4. Kiukiang, 1904. ‘My official chair and bearers with official servants waiting in the garden for me to go on a round of official calls. The building at the back is the Chinese Post Office of which I am Postmaster’.

4. Kiukiang, 1904. ‘My official chair and bearers with official servants waiting in the garden for me to go on a round of official calls. The building at the back is the Chinese Post Office of which I am Postmaster’.

A keen photographer, Harry may well have taken this picture himself and, if so, his ‘official servants’ will have been asked to pose for the Commissioner.

Guy Hillier followed his two brothers to China and, after various false starts, was taken on by the Hongkong Bank in 1883, largely because of his ability to speak Chinese. Eight years later, he was appointed the Bank’s first Agent of its Peking branch. The picture at plate 5 must have been taken at this time. With his floppy cap, one hand holding a cigarette and the other in his pocket, he exudes a certain nonchalance tinged with an impatience to get going.

5. Guy Hillier with Bank staff, c. 1891.

5. Guy Hillier with Bank staff, c. 1891.

A few years later (Plate 6), with the success of the Peking agency, the setting is more formal.

6. Guy Hillier, centre, with Bank staff, c. 1896.

6. Guy Hillier, centre, with Bank staff, c. 1896.

The three Hillier brothers were extremely close but only once worked in the same city when all three were in Peking in 1908, when Walter was a Political Adviser to China (plate 7).

7. Pali-chuang Temple, c. 1908, where Guy had his own ‘suite’ of rooms provided by the Buddhist monks for his week-end retreat. From left, Harry, Guy, Walter.

7. Pali-chuang Temple, c. 1908, where Guy had his own ‘suite’ of rooms provided by the Buddhist monks for his week-end retreat. From left, Harry, Guy, Walter.

The three brothers experienced very different marriages. Having lost his first wife, Lydie, Walter re-married. In Plate 8, we see his second wife, Clare, and Harry’s first wife, Annie. The picture was taken in England when Harry was assigned to the London office and Walter was on long leave. In due course, Hart would take a shine to Clare, and, as his diary shows, enjoy a modestly flirtatious relationship with her. Her marriage to Walter ended in divorce and Harry’s wife died from typhoid, her health badly affected following the birth of their only child, Eddie.

9. Walter and Clare, Harry and Annie, c. September 1882, London.

9. Walter and Clare, Harry and Annie, c. September 1882, London.

Harry’s second wife, Maggie, was the daughter of the well-known Shanghai barrister, William Venn Drummond. As we see in Plate 10, the family was presided over by his wife, Christian Forbes Drummond (née Macpherson). Guy also features in the picture as he was often a guest, both at this time, 1890, and later, when Drummond built one of Shanghai’s most sumptuous mansions, Dennartt (Plate 11). Drummond’s practice was based on a substantial Chinese clientele, official and mercantile, many of whom he entertained in his home. Shorn of its sumptuous grounds, it can still be found down an alley-way leading off the Huashuan Road (formerly the Siccawei Road). Since it is now a government building, I had to evade the vigilant security guards to take the photograph at plate 12.

10. Drummond Family Portrait, 1 January 1890.

10. Drummond Family Portrait, 1 January 1890.

11. Tea on the Lawn, Dennartt, Shanghai, c.1906.

11. Tea on the Lawn, Dennartt, Shanghai, c.1906.

12. Dennartt, 2014. Author’s photograph.

12. Dennartt, 2014. Author’s photograph.

Guy Hillier married Ada Everett in 1894 but, shortly after the birth of their fourth child, Tristram, in 1905, she and the children returned to England and seldom saw Guy again, a typical example of a distant empire marriage. Only one faded photograph remains of Guy and Ada together (Plate 13).

13. Guy and Ada Hillier, c. 1894.

13. Guy and Ada Hillier, c. 1894.

By contrast, Harry’s family always remained closely-knit, despite lengthy painful separations. During his appointment as Commissioner of Kowloon (1895-1899), they lived on the Peak in Hong Kong. The studio portrait, taken shortly before their departure, conveys a sense of family unity and an intimacy which they knew was soon to end (plate 14).

14. Harry and family: children from left: Geoff, Eddie, Harry and Dorothy. Hong Kong, c. 1898.

14. Harry and family: children from left: Geoff, Eddie, Harry and Dorothy.
Hong Kong, c. 1898.

After Harry’s retirement in 1910, the children would visit their home in the Sussex countryside. The picture at plate 15 was taken shortly before the outbreak of the First World War in which both Harold and Geoff fought.

15. Burnt Oak, Waldron, Sussex, c. 1913. Harold, Geoff, Dorothy, Maggie, Harry and Bertie, Dorothy’s son, in pram.

15. Burnt Oak, Waldron, Sussex, c. 1913. Harold, Geoff, Dorothy, Maggie, Harry and Bertie, Dorothy’s son, in pram.

On 30 March 1918, Geoff was posted as missing in action. Harry died six years later and the simple gravestone in the churchyard of St Mary’s, Wimbledon, bears both his name and that of Geoff, but there is no reference to his service in the CMC. By contrast, two memorial plaques, one in Holy Trinity, Bracknell and one in the grounds of the Peking Legation, record Walter’s service in China (plate 16).

16. Walter Hillier, memorial plaque, British Legation, Peking.

16. Walter Hillier, memorial plaque, British Legation, Peking.

Unlike Walter and Harry, Guy continued working until his death in 1924. And, unlike them, his funeral was a lavish affair attended by the entire officialdom of Peking, Chinese and European, along with his many friends. Initially buried in the French Jesuit cemetery at Peitang, his and all the other graves were later exhumed and the remains reinterred in Waiquiao Cemetery on the outskirts of Beijing. Whilst almost all the gravestones were then destroyed during the Cultural Revolution, including the cross surmounting Guy’s grave, the substantial granite slab survived, together with its inscription, Sans Peur et Sans Reproche (plate 17). Subject to permission, it can still be visited, surrounded by rows of uniform Chinese tombstones. His is one of a number of family graves, in both China and England, whose inscriptions memorialised and consolidated the British presence in China.

17. Gravestone of Guy Hillier, Waiqiao Cemetery, Beijing, 2014. Author’s photograph.

17. Gravestone of Guy Hillier, Waiqiao Cemetery, Beijing, 2014. Author’s photograph.

This collection shows how family formed an important mechanism for forging and consolidating the links that helped bind together the British world in east and south-east Asia across four generations, from the time of Walter and Betty Medhurst’s arrival in Malacca in 1817 to the departure of the last members of the family in the 1930s.

Posted in Collections, Family photography, Guest blogs, Photograph of the day | Tagged , , , , , , , | Comments Off

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.

Posted in Collections, Guest blogs, History of photography in China, Photographers | Tagged , | Comments Off

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.

Posted in Guest blogs, Heritage, History of photography in China | Tagged , , , | Comments Off

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.

Posted in Photograph of the day, Photographers | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off

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

 

Posted in Collections, Elsewhere on the net, Photograph of the day, Photographers | Tagged , | Comments Off

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.

Posted in About us, History of photography in China, Photographers | Tagged , , , | Comments Off

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

Posted in Talk | Tagged , , | Comments Off

‘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.

 

Posted in Heritage, Photograph of the day | Tagged , , | Comments Off

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.

Posted in Guest blogs, Photograph of the day | Tagged , , , , | Comments Off