Chess in Canton

Buddhist monks playing Chinese chess, Temple of the Five Hundred Gods, Canton (Guangzhou), c.1869.  Photograph by John Thomson.  Wellcome Images (L0055983).

Buddhist monks playing Chinese chess, Temple of the Five Hundred Gods, Canton (Guangzhou), c.1869. Photograph by John Thomson. Wellcome Images (L0055983).

The Wellcome Institute announced recently that all historical images that are out of copyright and held by Wellcome Images are being made freely available under the Creative Commons Attribution licence.  Search for, download and study images by, for example, John Thomson or Patrick Manson, at http://wellcomeimages.org/.

Page from an album at the Royal Society for Asian Affairs, London (RSAA reference RSAA/SC/BOW/1).

Page from an album at the Royal Society for Asian Affairs, London (RSAA reference RSAA/SC/BOW/1).

As it happens, an image by Thomson (Buddhist monks playing Chinese chess, Temple of the Five Hundred Gods, Canton (Guangzhou), c.1869) is to be exhibited this weekend (1st and 2nd February) at the Bristol Museum and Art Gallery, as part of Bristol’s Chinese New Year celebrations.  The nineteen images in the pop up Canton Camera exhibition are from Historical Photographs of China collections and each decade is represented, from the 1860s to the 1940s.

Wood engraving from ‘In the Valley of the Yangtse’ by Mrs Arnold Foster.

Wood engraving from ‘In the Valley of the Yangtse’ by Mrs Arnold Foster.

It is interesting to compare the Wellcome’s scan of Thomson’s negative with the RSAA print.  The wood engraving appears in Mrs Arnold Foster’s children’s book ‘In the Valley of the Yangtse’ (1899), in which she describes Chinese chess:  “Across the middle of the board is a river, guarding which on each side stand five soldiers.  Besides these there are a general, two secretaries, two elephants, two horses, two chariots, and two guns”.  This 32-piece game, said to have been invented c.1120 BC, is similar to the Western game – an even older Chinese version had 300 pieces!

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Making popcorn

The Historical Photographs of China project team were delighted to see in a recently digitised album a sequence of three photographs showing popcorn being made the Chinese way, c.1938:

Making popcorn, Peitaiho (Beidaihe), c.1938, Morrison collection, Mo04-121.

Making popcorn, Peitaiho (Beidaihe), c.1938, Morrison collection, Mo04-121.

 

Making popcorn, Peitaiho (Beidaihe), c.1938, Morrison collection, Mo04-122.

Making popcorn, Peitaiho (Beidaihe), c.1938, Morrison collection, Mo04-122.

Making popcorn, Peitaiho (Beidaihe), c.1938, Morrison collection, Mo04-123.

Making popcorn, Peitaiho (Beidaihe), c.1938, Morrison collection, Mo04-123.

When this blogger was in Shanghai in 2011, I photographed popcorn being made in the same way (see below) – a method believed to have developed during the Song dynasty (AD 960-1279), originally for puffing rice (source: Wikipedia article http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Popcorn), which describes the process as follows:  The un-popped corn kernels are poured into a large cast-iron canister — sometimes called a ‘popcorn hammer’ — which is then sealed with a heavy lid and slowly turned over a curbside fire in rotisserie fashion. When a pressure guage on the canister reaches a certain level, the canister is removed from the fire, a large canvas sack is put over the lid and the seal is released. With a huge boom, all of the popcorn explodes at once and is poured into the sack.  See also videos on YouTube, for example: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ta5jh9VglDw

I can vouch for the huge boom – the people waiting for their corn to pop kindly warned me about it, by miming ‘block your ears’!  Popcorn is recommended this Blue Monday – and indeed any day.

Making popcorn, Old City, Shanghai, May 2011.  Photograph by Jamie Carstairs.

Making popcorn, Old City, Shanghai, May 2011. Photograph by Jamie Carstairs.

Making popcorn, Old City, Shanghai, May 2011.  Photograph by Jamie Carstairs.

Making popcorn, Old City, Shanghai, May 2011. Photograph by Jamie Carstairs.

Making popcorn, Old City, Shanghai, May 2011.  Photograph by Jamie Carstairs.

Making popcorn, Old City, Shanghai, May 2011. Photograph by Jamie Carstairs.

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Burning bright in the forests of the night

Tiger, Aw Boon Haw Gardens, Hong Kong, c.1952, Love collection, BL05-32.

Tiger, Aw Boon Haw Gardens, Hong Kong, c.1952, Love collection, BL05-32.

This tiger sculpture was in the Aw Boon Haw Gardens amusement park (Tiger Balm Gardens) in Happy Valley, Hong Kong. The Tiger Balm Gardens were a sort of Chinese Disneyland theme park, but somehow even more gaudy, ostentatious, sometimes bizarre, and even psychedelic.  This however is a sober black and white photograph (complete with a reality check of barbed wire), taken by an unidentified photographer about 1952, in an album, entitled ‘In and Around Hong Kong – with my Rollei’.

The Aw Boon Haw Gardens have since been demolished and the site redeveloped, although the nearby Haw Par Mansion, which was also built with the Tiger Balm fortune, survives today – see Wikipedia article. This blogger well remembers the comforting whiff of camphor, when rubbing the balm on his temples to relieve headaches, his vintage Tiger Balm tins below.

Tiger Balm.  Photograph by Jamie Carstairs.

Tiger Balm. Photograph by Jamie Carstairs.

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Isabella Lucy Bird – photographer and traveller

Isabella Lucy Bird, Carstairs collection, JC-s091.

Isabella Lucy Bird, Carstairs collection, JC-s091.

Mrs Isabella Lucy Bishop (née Bird), FRGS (1831-1904), was a remarkable traveller, writer, photographer, horsewoman and natural historian.  In 1892, she became the first woman inducted into the Royal Geographical Society and she was elected to membership of the Royal Photographic Society in 1897.  Travelling in China in 1897, she visited the China Inland Mission centre at Paoning-fu (Langzhong) and met Dr W.W. Cassels (later Bishop of Western China).  Afterwards she sent him a cheque for £100 towards founding the Isabella Bird Hospital, pictured below.

Isabella Bird Hospital, Paoning (Langzhong), 1917, Elliott collection, El01-59.

Isabella Bird Hospital, Paoning (Langzhong), 1917, Elliott collection, El01-59.

Among other travel books, Bird is the author of ‘The Yangtze Valley and Beyond’ (1899) and Chinese Pictures: Notes On Photographs Made in China’ (1900), both containing many of her photographs – some of these can be viewed on the Royal Geographical Society Picture Library site.  More of her photographs and papers are held at the National Library of Scotland, Edinburgh – a city she made her home when not on the road.  Isabella Bird was fascinated by China and, when she died in Edinburgh, aged 72, her bags were packed for a return trip.

Interest in Isabella Bird was revived when some of her travel books were republished by Virago Press in the 1980s.  She is the subject of the BBC radio programme Great Lives – Meg Rosoff on Isabella Bird.

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Christmas card

Road after snowfall, with rickshaw, Hulme collection, OH03-007.

Road after snowfall, with rickshaw, Hulme collection, OH03-007.

Compliments of the season to all friends of ‘Visualising China’ – and all best wishes for the road ahead.

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Location Location Location

First World War memorial, Weihaiwei.  Ruxton collection, Ru-s087.

First World War memorial, Weihaiwei. Ruxton collection, Ru-s087.

As we digitise more material, more connections are elicited.  For example, a photograph (BL04-71) in the recently copied Love collection was captioned in the album ‘Great War Memorial Wei-Hai-Wei’.  Seeing this photograph brought to mind a photograph in the Ruxton collection (Ru-s087) – which shows a detail of the very same memorial.  However, the Ruxton photograph came to us without any captioning; thanks to the Love collection photograph we now know that this is a First World War memorial, in Weihaiwei (Weihai).

First World War memorial, Weihaiwei.  Love collection, BL04-71.

First World War memorial, Weihaiwei. Love collection, BL04-71.

Many thanks to Terry Bennett for locating Wi02-04 and Ta01-14 (as blogged).

Also to Special Collections at SOAS for information including the location of OH03-010.

Another useful recent discovery is the location of the pagoda in OH02-27 (as blogged).

The revised location information on the Historical Photographs of China database will soon appear in the relevant entries on Visualising China too.

A big thank you to everyone who has helped with various known unknowns.

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Lucky Eights: 8888 photographs now online

The project just posted its 8,888th photograph. 8 is an auspicious number in Chinese culture because of its closeness in sound to the word for wealth/fortune across a number of dialects. Companies compete for telephone numbers with multiple eights, and the 2008 Olympics in Beijing opened at 8.08 pm, 8 August 2018, not forgetting the 8 seconds.

To mark the occasion here’s a colourful favourite of ours, snapped in glorious Kodachrome colour on 29 November 1945 — 68 years ago today in fact (8 again!) by British Air Vice-Marshal Arthur Fiddament on a street in Kunming.

Bo-t887

‘Kunming. V. small child in highly coloured frock. 29 November 1945′, Booker collection, RB-t887, © 2010 Rosemary Booker.

 

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Darwent Revisited: Shanghai now and then

Photography is the context, subtext and pretext for an exhibition that opens today.  The exhibition includes new photographs by Jamie Carstairs inspired by the text of Shanghai: A Handbook for Travellers and Residents, a guidebook to the city by Revd. Charles Darwent, first published in 1904.

Darwent was a Minister at the Union Church in Shanghai, and a founder member and first chairman of the Shanghai Amateur Photographic Society (S.A.P.S.).  His guidebook includes useful phrases in ‘Pidgin English’, including some for use ‘At a Photographer’s’ which hint at the guide book’s particular flavour, for this book was very much a photographer’s companion. ‘Twelve pieces wanchee wallop’, it begins: ‘I want these twelve plates developing’.

Serendipity brought a carefully annotated album of Darwent’s original photographs to the ‘Historical Photographs of China’ team in 2009, and many of the prints were originals of those reproduced in his guide. In 2011, inspired by the album, photographer Jamie Carstairs set off to revisit Darwent’s Shanghai, following Darwent’s guidebook instructions, and seeking to recapture the spirit of the book.

Like the Brazilian photographer Sebastiao Salgado, the words of the Bible must have been the ‘soundtrack of Darwent’s life’ – it is marvellous that some of his original photographs have survived, for time is not kind to pieces of photographic paper “As the chaff which the wind driveth away” (Psalms 1:4, King James Bible ‘Authorised version’. In his album, Darwent captioned his photograph of a woman winnowing wheat with this biblical quotation – see below).

Darwent Revisited: Shanghai now and then is part of the University of Bristol’s InsideArts festival and was funded by the AHRC and the British Academy.  The exhibition features photographs by Jamie Carstairs, Charles Darwent and other images from the Historical Photographs of China collections.  It is on at The Island, Bridewell Street, Bristol BS1 2LE, until Friday 22nd November, 10am to 6pm.

A visitor at Darwent Revisited: Shanghai now and then. Photograph by Jamie Carstairs.

A visitor at Darwent Revisited: Shanghai now and then. Photograph by Jamie Carstairs.

Da01-p22

A page from an album of photographs given by Revd. Charles Darwent to H. Wilcockson.
‘Where did you get that hat?’ Photographs by Charles Darwent. © 2009 Jane Hayward.

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Art imitates art

he01-077

Programme for a Customs musical evening, Nanking, 1902, Hedgeland collection, He01-077, © SOAS

One of the images (on the right) in Historical Photographs of China, features the same compositional idea as Angus McBean’s photograph (below) of the theatre designer and producer William Chappell (1907-1994) – juggling heads.  This brought to mind Geoff Dyer’s The Ongoing Moment in which Dyer ducks and dives, dodges and burns, through the history of photography: the book is structured around the observation that the great (mostly American) photographers that he discusses, often photographed the same things (Barber shops, benches, hands, roads and signs, for example).   It is an entertaining conceit, but flawed of course in that he selects the few images that fit this thematic approach – images that are of the same things – and ignores the hundreds and thousands that are not.

The Angus McBean photograph is held in the Theatre Collection, University of Bristol, and is reproduced here with the kind permission of the Harvard Theatre Collection, Harvard University.  Other fine McBean (and John Vickers) portraits from the John Vickers Collection are due to be exhibited in Faces of Theatre, as part of University of Bristol’s InsideArts festival.

SC003486

William Chappell juggling actors. Publicity photograph for ‘The Globe Review’, Lyric Hammersmith, London, 1952. Photograph by Angus McBean. Theatre Collection, University of Bristol. © Harvard Theatre Collection, Harvard University.

 

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Peking Picnics

Feo, Stancioff and Sir Miles Lampson, Ann Phipps Collection, © 2008 Charlotte Thomas

A figure who looms large in Sino-British diplomatic relations in the late 1920s — literally because he was well over six foot tall, and hefty with it — was Sir Miles Wedderburn Lampson, later 1st Baron Killearn. Uncle Miles is how we know him in the office, though, for we have now digitised several albums of photographs taken or owned by his niece, Ann Phipps. Phipps twice visited the Peking Legation for extended periods between 1926-33 when Lampson was British Minister to China (the position was not upgraded to Ambassador until the 1930s).

Some 230 of these photographs have now gone live on the site. This is real Peking Picnic territory, the world sketched quite wonderfully in Ann Bridge’s novel of that name, first published in 1932. Bridge knew her territory, for she was married to Sir Owen O’Malley, who was Acting Counsellor of the British Legation from December 1925 until, embroiled in an insider trading scandal in 1927, he was ‘Permitted to Resign’ from the diplomatic service. (He was subsequently exonerated, and resumed his diplomatic career). There are picnics galore in Ann Phipps’s albums, and days at the Peking races, and holidays in the Western hills. We only lack some of Bridge’s bandits.

Lampson is generally most closely associated with Egypt, where he served as High Commissioner from 1933-46, but his contribution to the improvement in British relations with the Guomindang, and its National Government of China after 1927 was substantial. So, what do our photographs tell us about Sir Miles that has previously been little noted? Well, one thing to us is quite obvious: he liked his hats.

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