A Banker and his Amanuensis

Andrew Hillier draws on the Richard Family Collection in Historical Photographs of China to evoke the moving relationship between Guy Hillier and his young amanuensis, Ella Richard. Andrew’s book, Mediating Empire: An English Family in China, 1817-1927, is published this month by Renaissance Books.

We last encountered Guy Hillier diving for cover, as he came under fire during the short-lived restoration of the emperor Puyi in the stifling heat of July 1917. The events were described by Ella Richard, Guy’s confidential secretary and amanuensis, who had joined him the previous year. Guy’s wife, Ada, was living in England with their four children but, already seriously ill, she would die later that summer. However close Guy and Ella then became, it would be over two years before they married. With twenty-two years between them, there may have been a paternal element in the relationship but it was one in which the famously austere banker found solace and amusement in his final years.

By the time he was appointed manager of the Hongkong and Shanghai Bank’s Peking office in 1891, Hillier was already losing his sight through glaucoma and, by the early 1900s, it had completely gone. Rejecting his offer to resign, the Bank provided him with an amanuensis. When he returned from visiting his wife in 1916, the position had once again become vacant and the Bank asked Ella if she would be interested. Born on 7 September 1879, she was the eldest daughter of the famous missionary, Timothy Richard, and for some years had been looking after her widowed father. However, he had recently re-married and, with her new-found freedom, she jumped at the opportunity. A keen, if somewhat scatty, writer, she recorded their life together in a  diary and various other accounts, along with a cache of photographs, pasted into albums.[1]

Ella Richard (1879-1963). This photograph is undated, but was probably taken when she was about eighteen. HPC ref Hi-s343.

Ella Richard (1879-1963). This photograph is undated, but was probably taken when she was about eighteen. HPC ref Hi-s343.

Ella Richard had first met Guy in Shanghai 1902, when this ‘desperately shy young woman’ was giving a ‘finishing course’ to Morna, the youngest daughter of the well-known barrister, William Venn Drummond. Guy’s brother, the Customs Commissioner, Harry Hillier, was Drummond’s son-in-law and Guy was staying with the family during the Boxer Indemnity Protocol negotiations.[2]  ‘Listening to the blind banker playing the piano’, Ella later wrote, ‘little did I dream what Fortune was to bring us both.’

She arrived in Peking on 9 September 1916, a day earlier than expected. But far from causing embarrassment, there was a flutter of excitement as she entered this intensely masculine world. It soon became clear that, sharing her love of literature and sense of humour, Guy  was captivated. Ella would be there to comfort him when news arrived that his son, Maurice, had been killed in action. So also, when his wife died. Although conducted at a distance for over ten years, his was a not untypical empire marriage, and he and Ada had remained fond of each other. Unusually, given Ella’s non-conformist background, Guy was a devout Roman Catholic and a two year delay before re-marriage was customary. The wedding eventually took place on 20 December 1919 in Hong Kong. [3] Although there were few guests, it was celebrated in style, with Guy, as his son, Tristram observed, dressing as though he was still living in the 1890s.

Guy and Ella’s wedding, St Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church, Garden Road, Hong Kong. On Guy’s right is, most probably, his mafoo (groom), ‘the stout and doughty’ Hooray. HPC ref: Hi-s344.

Although still manager of the Peking agency, Guy left the routine work to his deputy and  he and Ella spent much of their time in a set of rooms, he had long occupied at Pa-li-chuang (Balizhuang), a Buddhist monastery in the western hills. Whilst there were only the most limited sanitary facilities, including a large earthenware flower-pot for basic needs, it provided a tranquil haven from the bustle of Peking.

Here in spacious courts under beautiful old trees and sophora, we would sit, I reading out aloud to him while he knitted (he knitted very well)… In the trees overhead, we would hear the blue jays or the drumming of woodpeckers or the song of orioles, and outside in the high road would pass a string of camels with clanging bells.

Guy, knitting at Balizhuang, late autumn 1921. Books are on the table and Ella is holding their cat Carpentier. HPC ref: EH01-343.

Guy, knitting at Balizhuang, late autumn 1921. Books are on the table and Ella is holding their cat Carpentier. HPC ref: EH01-343.

‘Sitting out in sun in time of snow’ at Balizhuang. From left, Guy, Hatty B., Flo (Florence Harding, Ella’s sister) and Ella. HPC ref: EH01-289.

‘Sitting out in sun in time of snow’ at Balizhuang. From left, Guy, Hatty B., Flo (Florence Harding, Ella’s sister) and Ella. HPC ref: EH01-289.

Gladys Denham and Eleanor Hillier sketching maidenhair (Ginkgo biloba) trees near the pagoda at Balizhuang, Beijing. HPC ref: EH01-313.

Gladys Denham and Eleanor Hillier sketching maidenhair (Ginkgo biloba) trees near the pagoda at Balizhuang, Beijing. HPC ref: EH01-313.

In late 1921, Guy’s daughter, Madeleine, came out to join them and almost immediately became  engaged. Her fiancé, Charles Todd, was a dynamic and colourful personality, who had fought in the First World War and was now working for the Eastern Trading Company. [4]  Guy’s son, Tristram, also arrived from England and the wedding, which took place on 25 February 1922, was a large- scale family affair. [5]

The wedding of Madeleine Hillier and Charles Todd at St Michael’s Roman Catholic Church, Beijing. To their left, Guy and Ella, to their right, Kathleen Watson and Captain Stileman, Best man; in front, Eileen Hutchins and David Brown. HPC ref: EH01-349.

The wedding of Madeleine Hillier and Charles Todd at St Michael’s Roman Catholic Church, Beijing. To their left, Guy and Ella, to their right, Kathleen Watson and Captain Stileman, Best man; in front, Eileen Hutchins and David Brown. HPC ref: EH01-349.

Having lived in the city for over thirty years, Guy had suffered from Peking’s harsh climate and was in failing health by the early 1920s. After a short illness, he died on 12 April 1924 in the presence of Ella, Madeleine and a Jesuit priest, Father Mullins. A lavish funeral was attended by large numbers of Chinese and Westerners and concluded with a long procession to the French cemetery at Beitang,  the flowers being carried in a separate carriage. [6]

The original head-stone on Guy’s grave at Beitang cemetery, later destroyed during the Cultural Revolution after its removal to Waiqiao Cemetery. HPC ref: Hi-s347.

The original head-stone on Guy’s grave at Beitang cemetery, later destroyed during the Cultural Revolution after its removal to Waiqiao Cemetery. HPC ref: Hi-s347.

The large granite slab marking Guy’s grave at Waiqiao Cemetery, Beijing, inscribed ‘sans peur et sans reproche’, which survived intact. Author’s photograph, 2017.

The large granite slab marking Guy’s grave at Waiqiao Cemetery, Beijing, inscribed ‘sans peur et sans reproche’, which survived intact. Author’s photograph, 2017.

Several days later, Ella returned alone to Balizhuang and, passing through ‘the little green gate into [their] own courtyard’, she was ‘enveloped by a sense of peace’.

The plum-trees were a mass of snowy blossom and the pear tree was in its exquisite livery of tender green and cool clusters of white bloom. I went to his room and knelt by his bed and felt at last I had come home and that he was near me, watching me … and looking upon all the beauty of our loved home.  [7]

————

[1] A selection from the Richard Family Collection can be viewed on Historical Photographs of China.  I am grateful to two of Ella’s great nieces, Fiona Dunlop and Jennifer Peles, for allowing me access to Ella’s writings and providing me with much fascinating information about her.  Save where otherwise stated, all quotations are from Ella’s papers.

[2] Drummond owned a sumptuous mansion, Dennartt,  just off Bubbling Well Road.

[3] North China Herald, 3 January 1920, p. 48.

[4] See generally, Sue Osman, ‘Charles Todd and his family, 1893-2008’ (unpublished, Private Collection).

[5] Tristram Hillier, Leda and the Goose (London: Longmans, 1954), pp. 42-61.

[6] China Illustrated Review, 19 April 1924. For Guy’s last days and a moving description of the funeral, see Frank King, The Hongkong Bank Between the Wars and the Bank Interned, 1919-1945: Return from Grandeur, Vol. 3 of The History of the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988), pp. 146-147.

[7] Ella survived well into her eighties, a somewhat daunting presence for her great-nieces, when they visited her in her South Kensington flat. She died on 14 October 1963.

Posted in Collections, Family photography, Guest blogs | Tagged , , , | Comments Off on A Banker and his Amanuensis

The John Gurney Fry Collection: tea, silver and chocolates

Jamie Carstairs, who manages the Historical Photographs of China Project, writes about a collection just added to the HPC site.

Last year, an album of 124 photographs  was generously donated by Richard Ambrose to the Historical Photographs of China project, care of Special Collections, University of Bristol (DM2887).

Many of the photographs in the album are by either Lai Fong (Afong Studio) or John Thomson, and were taken in Fuzhou (Foochow) or elsewhere in Fujian Province. Most probably the album was put together in China, for or by, John Gurney Fry.

John Gurney Fry is depicted, somewhat idiosyncratically, with bowler and umbrella, in a sedan chair parked in the garden of ‘The Old Bungalow’, with his gardener, chair bearer and a house servant, Fuzhou, c1869-1870. HPC ref: Fr01-014.

John Gurney Fry is depicted, somewhat idiosyncratically, with bowler and umbrella, in a sedan chair parked in the garden of ‘The Old Bungalow’, with his gardener, chair bearer and a house servant, Fuzhou, c1869-1870. HPC ref: Fr01-014.

J.G. Fry (1838-1877) was born in Essex, England, where he died, aged just 39. In Fuzhou he had been resident partner in the firm of John Silverlock & Company, merchants. His brother, Frederick William Fry also worked for the company, as a clerk. On Fry’s ‘premature death’, a notice reproduced from the Foochow Herald records that ‘The Foochow community are indebted to the deceased gentleman for his hearty assistance in several public undertakings, notably the Club, of which he was the principal promoter’.(1) Indeed, early on in the album are photographs of the club’s opening in 1870 – Fr01-007 and Fr01-005.

Fujian Province is tea country and Silverlocks (known as Zhonghe in Chinese) was principally a tea firm. In the album, there’s a straight-on Chinese style portrait of a ‘Tea man’ (merchant) who worked at the firm, named as Hopchun. He is posed with a bowl of tea, a tobacco pipe and fan, beside a tea plant (Camellia sinensis), the plant as if on an altar.

A portrait of Hopchun, c.1869, in which a tea plant is central in a symmetric composition. Photograph attributed to Lai Fong (Afong Studio), as suggested by the number written in pencil on the album page (30). See the Lai Fong (Afong Studio) number lists in ‘History of Photography in China, Chinese Photographers 1844-1879’ by Terry Bennett (Quaritch 2013), page 312. HPC ref: Fr01-046.

A portrait of Hopchun, c.1869, in which a tea plant is central in a symmetric composition. Photograph attributed to Lai Fong (Afong Studio), as suggested by the number written in pencil on the album page (30). See the Lai Fong (Afong Studio) number lists in Terry Bennett, History of Photography in China: Chinese Photographers 1844-1879 (London: Quaritch 2013), p. 312. HPC ref: Fr01-046.

Captioned in the album ‘Village up country’ (i.e. northern Fujian, a principal tea district). This old tree is thought to be a tea tree. Beside it, there appears to be a hooped tool on poles, perhaps netted, for harvesting the leaves? The photograph may be by John Thomson, c1870? HPC ref: Fr01-093.

Captioned in the album ‘Village up country’ (i.e. northern Fujian, a principal tea region). This old tree is thought to be a tea tree. Beside it, there appears to be a hooped tool on poles, perhaps netted, for harvesting the leaves? The photograph may be by John Thomson, c1870? HPC ref: Fr01-093.

Drum Peak and other Wuyishan peaks, near Xingcun, Fujian, c1869. This is a fine photograph of groves of ancient tea trees in their natural mountain setting, one of several accomplished landscape photographs of dramatic Fujian scenery by Lai Fong. HPC ref: Fr01-090.

Drum Peak and other Wuyishan peaks, near Xingcun, Fujian, c1869. This is a fine photograph of groves of ancient tea trees in their natural mountain setting, one of several accomplished landscape photographs of dramatic Fujian scenery by Lai Fong. HPC ref: Fr01-090.

Lai Fong used the tiresome wet collodian process which required the glass plate negative to be processed immediately before the chemicals dried. Terry Bennett notes (2) that Lai Fong’s makeshift portable dark-tent (i.e. darkroom) can be seen on a boat in Fr01-071, as shown below. One has great admiration for the early photographers, lugging around their kit (bulky camera paraphernalia, as well as flasks of chemicals and fragile glass negatives) in wheelbarrows, on porters or pack horses ‘their fingers and linen stained with nitrate of silver and odoriferous chemicals’ (3) – and for their ingenuity as regards darkrooms. C. F. Moore, for example, converted a Chinese sedan chair into his portable darkroom.

Gollen Valley cave near Xingcun, Fujian, c1869. Photograph by Lai Fong (Afong Studio). HPC ref: Fr01-071.

Gollen Valley cave near Xingcun, Fujian, c1869. Photograph by Lai Fong (Afong Studio). HPC ref: Fr01-071.

Lai Fong's makeshift dark-tent (i.e. darkroom) on a boat, at Gollen Valley cave near Xingcun, Fujian, c.1869. On the one hand, Lai Fong had a ready access to plentiful fresh water; on the other, perhaps greater care had to be taken when pouring chemicals etc. Photograph by Lai Fong (Afong Studio), being a detail from Fr01-071. HPC ref: Fr01-176.

Lai Fong’s makeshift dark-tent (i.e. darkroom) on a boat, at Gollen Valley cave near Xingcun, Fujian, c.1869. On the one hand, Lai Fong had ready access to plentiful fresh water; on the other, perhaps greater care had to be taken when pouring chemicals etc. Photograph by Lai Fong (Afong Studio), being a detail from Fr01-071. HPC ref: Fr01-176.

The large chocolate-hued albumen prints that Lai Fong made are textbook examples of Frederick Scott Archer’s game-changing collodian technique, i.e. ‘highly satisfactory from the artistic point of view; the image produced was perfect in definition, subtle in detail, and well balanced in tone values.’ (4)

Jade Girl's Mirror-stand Peak on the Nine-bend river, Wuyi Mountains, near Xingcun, Fujian, c1869. Captioned in another album: ‘94. Gemmy Damsel's Mirror-stand Peak near Sing Chang Tea mart'. Photograph by Lai Fong (Afong Studio). HPC ref: Fr01-079.

Jade Girl’s Mirror-stand Peak on the Nine-bend river, Wuyi Mountains, near Xingcun, Fujian, c1869. Captioned in another album: ‘94. Gemmy Damsel’s Mirror-stand Peak near Sing Chang Tea mart’. Photograph by Lai Fong (Afong Studio). HPC ref: Fr01-079.

Photographs by John Thomson in the album, include the following:

Rapids at Nanping, Fujian, c1870. ‘Freezing’ rapidly flowing water in a photograph was not possible with the slow shutter speeds available at the time. This could make for dreamy waterscapes. See Fr01-098. Photograph by John Thomson. HPC ref: Fr01-p078.

Rapids at Nanping, Fujian, c1870. ‘Freezing’ rapidly flowing water in a photograph was not possible with the slow shutter speeds available at the time. This could make for dreamy waterscapes. See Fr01-098. Photograph by John Thomson. HPC ref: Fr01-p078.

These square prints were made off one of a pair on stereoview negatives. Interestingly, Deborah Ireland points out that all four of these photographs were later reproduced in John Thomson’s books, ‘Foochow and the River Min’ or ‘China and Its People’. See Fr01-109, Fr01-110, Fr01-111 and Fr01-112. HPC ref: Fr01-p083.

These square prints were made off one of a pair on stereoview negatives. Interestingly, Deborah Ireland points out that all four of these photographs were later reproduced in John Thomson’s books, Foochow and the River Min or China and Its People. See Fr01-109, Fr01-110, Fr01-111 and Fr01-112. HPC ref: Fr01-p083.

Thomson occasionally photographed at the same location as others. Compare Thomson’s well known photograph of picturesque ‘Little’ Jinshan temple (金山塔寺), Wulong River, near Fuzhou, with Fr01-002 (below) and with Hv36-47.

'Little' Jinshan temple (金山塔寺), Wulong River, Fuzhou, c1869. The 'Little Jin Shan' is a pagoda and temple on a small island located in the middle of the Wulong River, which is a branch of the Min River, near the village of Hongtong in the western suburb of the city of Fuzhou in Fujian Province. It resembles the famous Jin Shan (Gold Mountain or Golden Hill) Temple (金山寺) in in Jiangsu Province. Unidentified photographer - perhaps Lai Fong (Afong Studio)? HPC ref: Fr01-002.

‘Little’ Jinshan temple (金山塔寺), Wulong River, Fuzhou, c1869. The ‘Little Jin Shan’ is a pagoda and temple on a small island located in the middle of the Wulong River, which is a branch of the Min River, near the village of Hongtong in the western suburb of the city of Fuzhou in Fujian Province. It resembles the famous Jin Shan (Gold Mountain or Golden Hill) Temple (金山寺) in in Jiangsu Province. Unidentified photographer – perhaps Lai Fong (Afong Studio)? HPC ref: Fr01-002.

Who, I wonder, is sitting with Charles Sinclair and his wife in Fr01-081, which is a detail of Lai Fong’s photograph Fr01-080 (Touring party in Bankers’ Glen, on the Yuen Foo branch of the Min River, near Fuzhou, c1869.)?

The album contains seven, multiple part, panoramic views. Towards the end are 28 photographs taken in Shanghai, Singapore and Penang, perhaps serving as souvenir remembrances of Fry’s sea journey home to Essex? An irresistible  pièce de résistance treat in this box-of-chocolates album, is a striking interior photograph of Holy Trinity Cathedral in Shanghai, taken with great skill soon after the building was completed. The depth of focus is remarkable, the lighting expertly balanced, the composition radical.

Interior of Holy Trinity Cathedral, Shanghai, c1870. The ‘British Church’ or Holy Trinity Church (later Holy Trinity Cathedral) was consecrated in 1869. Unidentified photographer. HPC ref: Fr01-128.

Interior of Holy Trinity Cathedral, Shanghai, c1870. The ‘British Church’ or Holy Trinity Church (later Holy Trinity Cathedral) was consecrated in 1869. Unidentified photographer. HPC ref: Fr01-128.

John Gurney Fry’s album was subsequently owned by both his sister Jane Augusta Fry and his brother Frederick William Fry. Later, it apparently came into the possession of R. Tanner-Smith of the tea importers and blenders Twinings, before being passed on to Richard Ambrose’s family. The album was saved from disposal after Richard Ambrose’s great grandmother’s death in 1946, by his father, who appreciated the beauty and technical skill evident in the photographs.

It is fitting that the John Gurney Fry Collection is in Bristol, a city with strong Fry family connections. Frys invented the chocolate bar in Bristol. Lewis Fry and his sister Mary Fry (Mrs Napier Abbott) helped mobilise support in the city for the creation of University College Bristol and later the University of Bristol. The Fry Tower still exists in University Road. The Norah Fry Centre for Disability Studies thrives. The Fry Portrait Collection is a much used resource in Special Collections. Property, money, books and other mss were donated to the university by the family. The generosity of the Fry family, and of Richard Ambrose, is a credit to the city.

(1) The London & China Telegraph, 29 October 1877, p. 925.

(2) Terry Bennett, History of Photography in China, Chinese Photographers 1844-1879 (London: Quaritch, 2013), p. 191.

(3) Lucia Moholy, A Hundred Years of Photography 1839-1939, (Harmondsworth: Pelican Books, 1939), p. 72.

(4) Moholy, A Hundred Years of Photography, p. 72.

Posted in Collections, History of photography in China, New Collections, Photographers | Tagged , , , , , , | Comments Off on The John Gurney Fry Collection: tea, silver and chocolates

Chris Courtney on Wuhan in the Time of Cholera

Our new blog is from Chris Courtney, Assistant Professor of Chinese History at the University of Durham. His research focusses on the city of Wuhan and its rural hinterland. He is the author of The Nature of Disaster in China: The 1931 Yangzi River Flood, a study of one of the deadliest disasters in human history. He is currently writing a history of heat in modern China, examining how ordinary people coped with the challenge of living in extreme temperatures over the course of the twentieth century.  

Two centuries before the COVID-19 outbreak thrust Wuhan into the global media spotlight, the city was in the grip of another deadly pandemic. The disease described by the British as Asiatic cholera swept across the globe in seven waves in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. It left millions of people dead in its wake. Imaged from the Historical Photographs of China collection offer a fascinating insight into how Wuhan experienced this disease, and how people joined the global effort to overcome it. Pandemics are not simplistic morality tales with culprits and victims. Yet they do require human agency, as people build the systems that nurture and disseminate pathogens. In this respect, cholera was, in its first flourish, a disease of empire, transported unwittingly by merchants and soldiers exploiting new transportation links. Later it became a disease of modernity, hitching a lift in the bodies of sailors, statesmen, and pilgrims as they used steamboats, railways, and automobiles to traverse vast distances at hitherto unimaginable speeds.

Much like with COVID-19, in the nineteenth century China there was considerable debate as to how and where cholera originated. Some argued that the disease had long been endemic to China, while others suggested it had been imported more recently. Much of the confusion stemmed from the fact that a new disease was given an old name. The Chinese called cholera huoluan 霍亂, which was a term that had been used for three millennia, used to describe diseases that caused a “sudden disturbance” of the bowels. Despite these pretentions of antiquity, however, cholera in its modern form seems to have only arrived in China the nineteenth century. In 1817 it spread out from the Ganges Delta, where it had long been an endemic condition, first throughout India and then to East Asia, the Middle East and Africa. Over the subsequent decades, it would reach all populated continents. It arrived in China in the 1820s, during the first pandemic wave, having most likely stowed away aboard a British merchant ship.

Water carrier, Early Twentieth Century, Banister Collection Ba04-35, © 2008 Peter Lockhart Smith

It is difficult to say when cholera – as opposed to huoluan – first arrived in Wuhan. It has been spreading along the Yangzi River trading route in the 1820s, and there were epidemics during the Taiping Civil War, yet the first outbreak in Wuhan to be confirmed by biomedical testing seems to have occurred in 1895, having been recorded by physicians in the Catholic Hospital. This was the same institution, today under somewhat different management, where the COVID-19 whistle-blower Li Wenliang 李文亮 worked before his tragic death. While we cannot say for certain when cholera arrived in Wuhan, we can certainly see why the city was so susceptible to the condition. It had long been a commercial centre and transportation hub, where merchants exchanged diseases as well as produce. It was also one of the most densely populated areas in all of China, which suffered from poor sanitation and regular summer floods. Even in the absence of a crisis, a shortage of sources of fresh drinking water meant that many people had to rely on polluted rivers, buying bucketloads from carriers such as the one pictured above. Although drinking water was filtered with alum and boiled, the same precautions were often ignored for cooking and washing. All these factors allowed cholera and other waterborne infections to thrive.

The Water Tower and Ma Lu, Hankow (Wuhan), Stanfield Family Collection, js02-130 © 2015 John Stanfield

A key development in the fight against cholera occurred when an industrialist called Song Weichen 宋衛臣 commissioned a large water tower in 1906. Though this hardly stands out on the vertiginous skyline of Wuhan today, for much of the twentieth century it was the tallest building in the city. It formed the centrepiece of a new Waterworks and Electrical Company, which was supplying around fifteen thousand people with clean drinking water by the mid-1920s. While this went a long way to tackling the problem of water-borne diseases, many of the poorer residents remained beyond the reach of the new urban sanitary regime. The same was true for medical interventions. The first vaccines for cholera were developed in the late nineteenth century, yet only foreign settlers and local elites were able to take advantage of them. As a result of these uneven developments, susceptibility to infectious diseases came to correlate increasingly with economic status. This was true also true in the world beyond Wuhan – as richer communities improved their defences, conditions such as cholera increasingly became a disease of the poor. Until conditions could be improved for every citizens, however cholera would remain a threat.

British Universities and Schools Luncheon Club garden party, Ruxton Collection, Ru-s177 © 2008 Penelope Fowler

During the early twentieth century numerous organisations were involved in efforts to eradicate cholera. These included local benevolent halls, foreign missionaries, and organisations such as the Red Cross and Red Swastika. Few figures did more to improve public health in cities such as Wuhan than Wu Liande 伍連德, a Malayan-Chinese epidemiologist who had made his name fighting plague in northern China in the 1910s. In the 1930s, Wu set up one of the branches of his new Quarantine Service in Wuhan. Unfortunately, this new institution could not prevent an outbreak of cholera in 1932. This occurred partly a result of disastrous flooding that had struck much of China the previous year. The 1932 epidemic was the deadliest of the twentieth century, spreading to three hundred cities, infecting one hundred thousand people and killing thirty thousand. It highlighted the continual vulnerability to the China suffered, its public health problems being a symptom of chronic poverty, environmental instability, and political chaos.

Anti-Japanese public hygiene banner, Wuhan, 1938 Miscellaneous Collection Bi-s165

Having witnessed the terrible devastation wrought by the 1932 epidemic, it is not surprising that the Nationalist Government was extremely alarmed when millions of refugees took to the roads to escape oncoming Japanese invasion in 1937. With Wuhan serving as the temporary capital of Nationalist China following the fall of Nanjing, many of these refugees soon began to arrive in the city. Lacking adequate accommodation and suffering aerial bombardments, Wuhan struggled to cope. Soon propagandists began to promote anti-epidemic measures as part of the broader war effort. Flies often serve as a vector for cholera infection. These insects were now portrayed as the equivalent of the invading Japanese army, and vice versa. The Nationalists were hardly unique in drawing such comparisons. As Edmund Russel has noted, throughout the modern era people have sought to anthropomorphize insects, turning them into conscious adversaries with wicked plans, whilst they have also sought to dehumanize enemy soldiers, suggesting that they need to be eradicated like insects. In 1938, the Nationalists claimed that the common fly and the Japanese army both posed an existential threat to China, proclaiming that ‘If you don’t kill it, it’s going to kill you.’

Woman inoculated in the street, Shanghai Malcolm Rosholt Collection, Ro-n0779
© 2012 Mei-Fei Elrick and Tess Johnston

Wuhan eventually fell to the Japanese, meaning that Nationalist anti-epidemic measures were relocated to Chongqing. Tackling cholera remained a major task for the government during the war, particularly when a deadly epidemic struck Yunnan. In her recent book, Mary Brazelton demonstrates that while efforts to implement mass vaccination during the war were severely constrained, the expertise developed during this period would form a vital blueprint for the health campaigns implemented by the Chinese Communist Party after 1949. These campaigns would eventually vastly diminish the impact that cholera, in Wuhan as elsewhere in the People’s Republic. While the Chinese government was happy to take the credit for this, in reality cholera prevention was the culmination of decades of effort, conducted by numerous different organizations, both domestic and international. Despite these efforts, cholera remains a threat in the world today, as is most tragically demonstrated by the ongoing outbreak in Yemen. The strain of cholera has changed, yet the context for its transmission – poverty, sanitary collapse, and warfare – is strikingly similar to that found in early twentieth century China. Thus, as we enter the age of COVID-19 it is worth reflecting on the fact that we have not escaped the time of cholera.

Some Further Reading

  • Brazelton, Mary Augusta, Mass Vaccination Citizens’ Bodies and State Power in Modern China, Ithaca, Cornell University Press, 2019
  • MacPherson, Kerrie, “Cholera in China, 1820–1930: An Aspect of the Internationalization of Infectious Disease,” in Mark Elvin and Ts’ui-jung Liu (eds.), Sediments of Time: Environment and Society in Chinese History, 487–519. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998.
  • Peckham, Robert, Epidemics in Modern Asia. New Approaches to Asian History, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2016.
  • Poon, Shuk-wah, “Cholera, Public Health, and the Politics of Water in Republican Guangzhou,” Modern Asian Studies, 47(2), 2013. 436-466
  • Russell, Edmund. War and Nature : Fighting Humans and Insects with Chemicals from World War I to Silent Spring. Studies in Environment and History.  Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001.
Posted in Guest blogs | Tagged , , , , | Comments Off on Chris Courtney on Wuhan in the Time of Cholera

Commemorating John Thomson: Edinburgh to install a Bronze Plaque

Jamie Carstairs, who manages the Historical Photographs of China Project, nominated John Thomson for a plaque in Edinburgh.

The independent plaques panel at Heritage Environment Scotland (HES) announced yesterday that a plaque to commemorate the Scottish photographer John Thomson (1837-1921), is to be installed in Edinburgh. This will be one of seventeen to be installed ‘celebrating noteworthy individuals from Scottish public life’. HES describe John Thomson as a ‘towering figure in nineteenth century century photography, acclaimed for his photography in China’. This is a welcome accolade for him, also celebrating the capital’s significant contribution to Scottish photographic history.

The cast bronze plaque is to go up outside 6 Brighton Street, Old Town, Edinburgh, the tenement building where the Thomson family moved to live in an apartment in 1841, when John Thomson was four years of age. He lived there until he left for Singapore in 1861.

The wording on the plaque is to be:

JOHN THOMSON FRGS
1837-1921
PHOTOGRAPHER, WRITER
AND TRAVELLER
LIVED HERE 1841-1861.

Many thanks to Deborah Ireland, Terry Bennett, Richard Ovenden and Michael Pritchard for advice and help with factual information, and to Roberta McGrath for help liaising with the residents at 6 Brighton Street, who are also to be thanked for the granting of their permission for a plaque to be affixed to the building. Messages of support for the nomination (which formed a part of the nomination) were received from the above, and also from Betty Yao, Nick Pearce and Roddy Simpson.

The messages of support included:

John Thomson’s photographs provide a rich and lasting visual record of the Far East. They are loved, admired and appreciated by people of all ages and from diverse backgrounds.’ Betty Yao MBE

John Thomson was a master of the art. The photos he took in the Far East set standards of excellence against which other practitioners are judged. He is particularly revered in China, where he is considered to be China’s most important nineteenth-century Western photographer. When he returned to the UK in 1872, after a ten-year tour of the East, his fame earned him the moniker of ‘China Thomson’.’  Terry Bennett

It is very fitting that the house where John Thomson lived in Edinburgh, whilst studying at the Watt Institute and School of Arts, is to be marked. He gained a life diploma there in 1858 which enabled him to attend Chemistry classes (today this institute is part of the Heriot-Watt University) and it was the knowledge he gained during this period which propelled him forth into the world to become the leading travel photographer of the Victorian age.’ Deborah Ireland

‘John Thomson is internationally important and the pioneering images he created in the Far East, especially China, England and Cyprus continue to be widely exhibited and the focus of admiration, interest and study.’ Roddy Simpson

Manchu lady and child. Photograph by John Thomson (negative number 701). Credit: Wellcome Collection. Public Domain

Manchu lady and child. Photograph by John Thomson (negative number 701). Credit: Wellcome Collection. Public Domain

The idea to nominate the great Scottish photographer John Thomson for a plaque originated during research to restore his grave in south London, in which it became apparent that he was not publicly commemorated in Edinburgh. HES described the nomination application as ‘exemplary’ and concluded that a plaque ‘might raise the profile of John Thomson and interest in documentary photography as a whole’.

Thomson is often on display in other ways. An exhibition Siam through the lens of John Thomson 1865-66 runs on until 17 May 2020 at Chester Beatty, Dublin. These marvellous large reproductions, made from scans of Thomson’s superb negatives held at the Wellcome Collection, epitomise the ‘power of picturing’. There are hopes for a similar exhibition in Edinburgh next year.

Thomson is generally considered to be the best of the nineteenth century foreign photographers in China. His magnum opus, Illustrations of China and Its People, was published in four large volumes in 1873-4, and featured 200 of his photographs along with his droll, perceptive contextualisation. Thomson is also well-remembered for his photographs in Street Life in London, a ground-breaking and influential publication that arose from a collaboration with journalist Adolphe Smith in 1877. Thomson was a member of the Royal Photographic Society from 1879 and gained the Royal Warrant (‘By Appointment to…’) in 1881. It is fitting that a heritage plaque is to be installed in Edinburgh just before ‘China’ Thomson’s centenary year in 2021.

A portrait of John Thomson FRGS FRPS, aged about 60, reproduced in 'The Wide World Magazine' in 1898, in an article about him by Arthur E. Swinton, entitled 'Queer Sights in China'.

A portrait of John Thomson FRGS, FRPS, aged about 60, reproduced in ‘The Wide World Magazine’ in 1898, in an article about him by Arthur E. Swinton, entitled ‘Queer Sights in China’.

For a brief outline of John Thomson’s photographic career, useful links, and some of his photographs, see https://www.hpcbristol.net/photographer/thomson-john.

See also the blog on the British Photographic History site.

Posted in Heritage, History of photography in China, Photographers | Tagged , , | Comments Off on Commemorating John Thomson: Edinburgh to install a Bronze Plaque

Happy birthday to us!

Our copystand in action: this is where it happens

It’s our birthday! Fourteen years ago today, Historical Photographs of China welcomed its first and longest-standing employee, Project Manager Jamie Carstairs. A professional photographer, sometime cheerful bookshop assistant (so he told us), TEFL teacher and graduate of the postgraduate Photojournalism programme at the University of Wales, Jamie also had experience of working with collections of historic photographs.

Since then, we – he, largely – have digitized some 50,000 different prints, negatives, and album pages, drawn from 154 collections, most of them lent to us by families with historic ties to China. They have come from Bristol, from across the British Isles, continental Europe, Canada, Australia, India, the United States, and of course China.

A collection in the raw: the Banister family’s, Bishop and all.

We now have 21,304 images online (and on the third iteration of our platform), most recently the first samples of an album largely focusing on Fuzhou in the late 1860s and 1870s, which we will tell you all about soon. We have organised exhibitions in Bristol, Bath, Durham, and London, Nanjing, Hong Kong, Chongqing, Beijing, and in Spain. We can be found on BBC Sounds, and on film.

The project has always run on a shoestring. Sometimes we have had two of them, once, you could say, we had four shoestrings, but mostly we shuffle along with the one. Support has come from the British Academy, Swire Charitable Trusts, AHRC, the University of Bristol, Chiang Ching-Kuo Foundation, and the Worldwide University Network. Do feel free to add your name to this list and don’t forget to send us a cheque: we won’t be offended, no really, we won’t be.

It is roughly 30 years since I got the first glimpse of what became the project, on a trip to talk to a British man who had worked in inter-war China. In an apartment in Bourne End, gorgeously decorated with items he had brought back from China, he reminisced and, from time to time, to reinforce a point, reached over to a bookshelf and pulled out an album of photographs. These he showed me and so here we are, thirty years on from that, and 14 years on from Jamie’s arrival in 13 Woodland Road.

So thank you for your support, for using the platform and all the words of encouragement we have received over the years, and thanks especially to: Shannon Smith, Alejandro Acin, Rosanne Jacks, Grania Pickard, Helena Lopes, and the Research IT team at Bristol, who have all worked on the project, not forgetting Andrew Hillier, Yuqun Gao, Emily Griffin, Monika Lucas; to Christian Henriot and Gérald Foliot, who provided our first platform and long-term support; Chang Chih-yun, and the team supporting our Shanghai Jiaotong University-hosted mirror site; to the University of Bristol’s Special Collections team and Public Engagement squad, and to librarians, deans, fellow-historians and many others — Deidre Wildy! Caroline Kimbell! — who have supported us in different ways over the years.

Jamie in Suzhou in 2011

Ready for action at an outreach event at Bristol City Museum

The green boxes shown here in the University of Bristol Library Special Collections contain materials donated permanently for archiving.

We used to work in one of these, but are now housed in the University’s Arts & Social Sciences Library

Posted in About us, Digitisation, Update | Tagged , , , , | Comments Off on Happy birthday to us!

Wuhan’s Yellow Crane Tower: Resistance and Resilience

Our latest blog comes from Dr Yang Chan, Shanghai Jiaotong University. A graduate of Hunan University, Dr Yang was awarded her PhD at the University of Bristol in 2014, and then worked at Wuhan University, before moving in 2017 to Shanghai Jiaotong University where she is now Associate Professorship in the Department of History in 2017. A historian of wartime and post China, her first book, World War Two Legacies in East Asia, China Remembers the War, was published by Routledge in 2017.

The Yellow Crane Tower (Huanghelou 黄鹤楼) is probably the most famous landmark in Wuhan. Located at the confluence of Yangzi and Han rivers, it was built originally as a military watch tower during the Three Kingdoms period in 223 AD. In the course of history, it gradually became a well-known scenic spot. The Yellow Crane Tower has been destroyed many times and rebuilt, repeatedly, across the centuries. The present version is based on a Qing Dynasty reconstruction, which was destroyed by fire in 1884. The photograph below was taken by a studio owner in Wuhan, just before this 1884 disaster).

The Yellow Crane Tower (黄鹤楼), Wuchang (Wuhan). Photograph by Pow Kee, whose studio was to the right of the pagoda. A scan of a magic lantern slide © 2019 Royal Asiatic Society. Historical Photographs of China ref: RA-m122.

The Yellow Crane Tower (黄鹤楼), Wuchang (Wuhan). Photograph by Pow Kee, whose studio was to the right of the pagoda. A scan of a magic lantern slide © 2019 Royal Asiatic Society. Historical Photographs of China ref: RA-m122.

Numerous men of letters visited the Yellow Crane Tower, and composed poems which are still on everybody’s lips today. The verse of Tang Dynasty poet Cui Hao 崔颢  provides one example (translated by Peter Harris) :

Long ago someone rode away on a yellow crane;
All that’s left here, pointlessly, is Yellow Crane Tower.
Once a yellow crane has gone it won’t come back again –
The white clouds will be empty, endless, for a thousand year.
Across the river in the sun are the trees of Hanyang in rows,
And scented grass on Parrot Island growing thick and lush.
But whereabout is my home village, in the evening light?
Seeing the misty waves on the river I grow disconsolate.

Other renowned authors include Cui Hao’s contemporary, the poet Li Bai, the national hero General Yue Fei from Song Dynasty, and Chairman Mao Zedong. These literary and artistic works had transformed the Yellow Crane Tower into a cultural symbol of Wuhan and even China as a whole.

During the second Sino-Japanese War, Wuhan became the centre of Chinese resistance between 1937 and 1938, as the Nationalist government and people from the Japanese occupied areas took refugee there. In these days, the Yellow Crane Tower was the centre of China’s war mobilization effort. In front of it, politician’s speeches were given, demonstrators were assembled, battlefield news was broadcast, and ‘anti-Japanese’ murals were painted on the walls.

An anti-Japanese banner, Wuhan, 1938, during the Sino-Japanese War. Historical Photographs of China ref: Bi-s162.

An anti-Japanese banner, Wuhan, 1938, during the Sino-Japanese War. Historical Photographs of China ref: Bi-s162.

After the fall of Wuhan, peculiarly, the Yellow Crane Tower was protected by the Japanese Imperial Army and its puppet Wuhan municipal government. It was lauded as the symbol of the shared culture of China and Japan, and the ‘Greater East Asian Prosperity Sphere’. As Tang Dynasty poems were beloved by the Japanese for centuries, the Yellow Crane Tower was well-known in Japan; and thanks to the travel notes of Wuhan written by Japanese writers from the Meiji Restoration onwards, Japanese people were further fascinated by it. Nevertheless, for the war-torn Chinese people who never yield to neither the cultural hegemony nor the military strength of imperial Japan, the Yellow Crane Tower had nothing to do with Japan at all. Imperial Japan’s plan of changing the symbolic meaning of the tower eventually failed.

Due to the coronavirus outbreak, Wuhan is suffering a different, but equally serious war at the moment. We despair at hearing bad news and tragedies daily, but at the same time, we are also touched by many other stories showing the glory of human nature. For instance, a Tang Dynasty verse was written on parcels of medical supplies donated by Japan: ⼭川异域 风⽉同天 (Although the mountains and rivers are different, we share the same wind and moon). Most Chinese people are moved by the beauty of the language and the heart of their neighbours in the East. This kind of human nature – compassion and selfless assistance to those in need – can definitely serve the Sino-Japanese friendship much better than the ‘constructed’ Yellow Crane Tower.

Finally, the Yellow Crane Tower has experienced and overcome countless difficulties in its history. Just as with this long-surviving landmark, we’re sure that, with the resilience of Wuhan people and the assistance from their compatriots and the international society, Wuhan will resist the virus heroically and recover from this disaster soon.

Reference: Zhao Huang, ‘Reconstruction of Power Around Yellow Crane Tower during the War of Resistance Against Japan’, Urban History Research 2017 (2) 赵煌 : ‘抗战时期中⽇围绕黄鹤楼的 记忆之争与权⼒重构’, <城市史研究>2017 (2).

Posted in Guest blogs | Tagged , , | Comments Off on Wuhan’s Yellow Crane Tower: Resistance and Resilience

Wuhan photographed

Over the past month Wuhan has been much-discussed, but its history is still largely misunderstood. I wrote about its long and intimate relationship with world markets in this blog post. It was of course, like most of the Chinese treaty ports, opened up as a consequence of conflict, and the exercise of foreign might.

The fact that it was a site of foreign residence and trade, means that it often crops up in photographs in our collections. You can find about 460 searching for Wuhan in our advanced search, including probably the earliest photograph taken in the city, this portrait of the Manchu Governor-General Guanwen 官文 taken in December 1858.

This collection continues to grow, and last week we received an unexpected donation of a small album from the granddaughter of a couple working with the China Inland Mission from 1923-1926. While the bulk of the collection consists of photographs taken in the hill-top summer resort of Guling (Kuling), there are a number from Wuhan showing (we think, but we may well be wrong) the floods of late August 1926. Wuhan was repeatedly afflicted by flooding, and the devastatingly destructive floods of 1931 form the subject of Chris Courtney’s 2018 book The Nature of Disaster in China: The 1931 Yangzi River Flood (Cambridge University Press). Sometimes the echoes from history sound familiar. Flooding in Wuchang in 1924, one Shanghai headline pronounced ‘A Flood caused by “bad government”‘. Here are three of the images, the first and second forming a before and during of the scene.

We will be copying all these photographs and adding them to the website, but for now these pages of this small album, until last week in the hands of the family, show yet again how globally interconnected Wuhan has long been.

Posted in Collections | Tagged , , , , , | Comments Off on Wuhan photographed

Chang Ning on Cultural translation: Gambling Cultures

Dr. Ning Jennifer Chang is an Associate Research Fellow at the Institute of Modern History, Academia Sinica, Taiwan. She has just published her first book, Cultural Translation: Horse Racing, Greyhound Racing and Jai Alai in Modern Shanghai (異國事物的轉譯:近代上海的跑馬、跑狗與回力球賽). Here she introduces the book and its main arguments.

Cultural Translation explores how culture was ‘translated’ through a study of three imported Western sports/gambling in the colonial setting of Shanghai. They were, namely, horse racing, greyhound racing and jai alai (also known as Basque Tennis). The book shows these sports all experienced deviation and re-interpretation in China in very different ways.

A man leading a horse past the ‘CASH SWEEP’ betting booth, Peking races, Beijing, c.1925-26. Oliver Hulme Collection, OH02-62.

Historical Photographs of China contains a great many photographs of racing life, with images of racing and race days at Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Xiamen, Fuzhou, Tianjin, Qingdao and Hankou. Racing was a leisure activity, but it was also about display and it was a business. As the photograph above of a horse being led by its owner at Beijing’s race course in about 1925 indicates, it was also about gambling: the windows in which racegoers could enter the Cash Sweep can be seen in the background.

Tiffin on the re-opening of the Chinese Jockey Club in Oct. 1935. (Quan Guo Bao Kan Suo Yin (Source: cnbsky.cn))

We know that racing clubs played a prominent role in the colonial world but less well-known is the fact that not only the Chinese elite, but underworld figures such as the leaders of the Green Gang saw such clubs as tools for social navigation. After the establishing in Shanghai of first an International Racing Club, at Jiangwan, and later a Chinese Jockey Club, they became proud club members. When joint meetings between the clubs were held, British gentlemen had to rub shoulders with Chinese gangsters. The class identities of the British club were thus redefined to an unknown degree.

Famous gangster, Du Yuesheng, leads in Merry Memories, winner of the Ladies Purse at the Chinese Jockey Club meeting on 6 June 1935. (cnbsky.cn)

Madame Du presents the Ladies’ Purse to Charlie Encarnacao, the winning jockey. (cnbsky.cn)

No doubt quite a few of the Chinese elite and even gangsters embraced British racing culture. Not only did they follow British rules strictly, they registered their clubs at Newmarket in England to prove their authenticity. When examining spectator behaviour in these sports, however, my work has revealed a gradual development in spectator behaviour from watching to betting. When jai alai was staged, spectators even found a way to Sinicize it. They managed to establish a forecast theory by borrowing from traditional Chinese betting knowledge, leaving Western theory of probability no room to act.

Afternoon greyhound racing in Shanghai. (cnbsky.cn)

Betters watch jai alai attentively from behind the wire netting. (cnbsky.cn)

By demonstrating this deviation and re-interpretation, this book argues cultural translation was not a simple phenomenon of localization. Instead, it was a result of a complex seesaw battle between cultures. The direction and degree of its deviation depended on how powerful the cultures were. For example, China had a longer and stronger tradition in gambling, so the spectators managed to re-interpret these sports in the Chinese way. On the other hand, the British empire no doubt played a more important role in the colonial setting in Shanghai. The British way of racing captured the attention of the Chinese elite and even gangsters.

Posted in Guest blogs | Tagged , , , , , | Comments Off on Chang Ning on Cultural translation: Gambling Cultures

Charles Frederick Moore (1837-1916), a photographer in China

Jamie Carstairs, who manages the Historical Photographs of China Project, follows up  serendipitous events, leading to a rabbit hole, in which a ‘new’ nineteenth century China photographer was found.

‘Mr. C. F. Moore, in the service of the Customs at Ningpo, has been staying here in the same temple with us. He seems an enthusiastic photographer, and spends most of his time in taking views of the surrounding country. He has a sedan chair ingeniously contrived for his operations, which his coolies (sic) carry about the country wherever he goes. I hope to induce him to spare me a few views.’ So wrote Thomas Hanbury in a letter to his father when staying at the “Temple of Shih Douzar, about 40 miles from Ningpo” in October 1870. [1]

Following on from this intriguing snippet, I started working with the Royal BC Museum in Canada, identifying buildings and locations depicted in ninety-nine glass plate negatives by Charles Frederick Moore (Royal BC Museum ref: MS-3171) that they hold.  I was pleasantly surprised to see among them, three negatives which brought to mind prints made from them, being photographs taken in Zhapu (Chapu), a coastal town half way between Shanghai and Hangzhou. These prints are in an album in the Edward Bowra Collection: Bo01-044 (below) is off the negative with the Royal BC Museum reference J-00445. Bo01-045 is from negative J-00452. Bo01-046 is from J-00458.

Fort Chapu, Zhapu, north Zhejiang, c.1870. Photograph by Charles Frederick Moore. HPC ref: Bo01-044.

Fort Chapu, Zhapu, north Zhejiang, c.1870. Photograph by Charles Frederick Moore. HPC ref: Bo01-044.

Another Moore negative (Royal BC Museum ref: J-00444) is of a pagoda at the Changchun yuan (长春园; 長春園), the Garden of Everlasting Spring, at the Yuanming Yuan, the Old Summer Palace, Beijing – discussed and reproduced in Nick Pearce’s Photographs of Peking, China 1861-1908 (Edward Mellon Press, 2005), plate 31 and page 119. This rarely photographed and distinctive pagoda with a round top, stood until 1900. The photograph can be considered to be by C.F. Moore, rather than ‘possibly’ by Dr John Dudgeon.

The Royal BC Museum also have an album (ref: MS-3171.1) of 155 prints among their Moore material. The album, not in the best condition, probably contains many photographs by Moore. There are therein some photographs of the ruins of the European palaces at the Yuanming Yuan (圆明园), including the following panoramic view of the burnt out shell of the Palace of the Delights of Harmony (Xieqiqu):

Two-part panorama of the ruins of the Palace of the Delights of Harmony (Xieqiqu), Yuanmingyuan (Old Summer Palace), Beijing. Photograph attributed to Charles Moore, c.1875. Image by Sally Butterfield (Archivist, Royal BC Museum) taken under a fume hood due to old mould.

Two-part panorama of the ruins of the Palace of the Delights of Harmony (Xieqiqu), Yuanmingyuan (Old Summer Palace), Beijing. Photograph attributed to Charles Moore, c.1875. Image by Sally Butterfield (Archivist, Royal BC Museum) taken under a fume hood due to old mould.

In Barbarian Lens, Western Photographers of the Qianlong Emperor’s European Palaces (Gordon and Breach, 1998), Régine Thiriez speculates about a mystery/unidentified photographer and is tentative about attributions to Théophile Piry. Indeed, two images of the ruins reproduced in Barbarian Lens, which are attributed to anon, turn out to be by Moore: J-00442 at the Royal BC Museum is the negative for Fig 35 on page 58. J-00463 is the negative for Fig 47 on page 88.

Furthermore, at least four images reproduced in Terry Bennett’s book History of Photography in China Western Photographers 1861-1879 (Quaritch, 2010) are also, most probably, by Moore rather than Piry, including:

J-00413 (fig. 5.35, page 299)

J-00443 (fig. 5.36, page 300)

J-00479 (fig. 5.29, page 298)

J-00508 (fig. 5.33, page 299).

Contemporaries in the Imperial Maritime Customs, Ernst Ohlmer, Charles Moore and Thomas Child (followed by later photographers, but interestingly, not John Thomson, apparently) photographed the melancholy and evocative ruins of the ‘ravishing’ ‘fairy palaces’ and gardens [2] which had been looted and torched by Franco-British forces in 1860 at the end of the Second Opium War. Their photographic records of the devastation as it degraded can be dated: Ohlmer (c.1873), Moore (c.1875) and Child (c.1877).

Bibianne Yii (1848/49-1914) married Charles Moore at the British Legation in Beijing on 23 March 1868 and the couple went on to have eleven children. In this photograph, presumably by Charles Moore, Bibianne is said to be sitting next to her wedding headdress (Source: DeeDeeEmme, via Ancestry.com).

Bibianne Yii (1848/49-1914) married Charles Moore at the British Legation in Beijing on 23 March 1868 and the couple went on to have eleven children. In this photograph, presumably by Charles Moore, Bibianne is said to be sitting next to her wedding headdress (Source: DeeDeeEmme, via Ancestry.com).

More attributions to Moore could surely be ascertained in archives and collections that have emerged recently. For example, an album sold at Bonham’s Knightsbridge on 27 March 2019, is promising. This album includes an inscription by Bibianne Moore, Charles Moore’s wife, who had presented it to Hester Hart, Sir Robert Hart’s wife.  The album contains at least sixteen duplicates of prints also found in an album in the Edward Bowra Collection (HPC ref: Bo01), and nine photographs usually attributed to Dr John Dudgeon. However, given the provenance of the album, the chances are that some of the photographs in it would have been taken by Bibianne’s husband Charles. Indeed, two photographs in the Bonham’s album are almost certainly by Moore: a wooden cabinet carved by Sung Sing Cung and a carved bedstead – these photographs are listed in Moore’s 1873 ‘Catalogue of Pictures’, see below, respectively Y3 and Y2. This furniture was exhibited in Vienna in 1873; the Chinese contribution to the exhibition was organised by Edward Bowra.

The Bonham’s album also contains several photographs of Jiujiang (Kiukiang), where the Moore family were living at the time. The Jiujiang photographs may well be by Moore, including one entitled ‘Kiukiang – Bungalow’ of a modest residence (and a possible outhouse darkroom, with a useful fresh water stream nearby?), which was likely their home. It is also noted that oval shaped masks on prints (or prints then cut to an oval shape) could be a characteristic of Moore’s, although other photographers of course also made oval shaped prints.

Moore lists for sale, forty-one views of Hangzhou, Ningbo and vicinity. Some of the more specific descriptions may help identify these photographs, if they still exist, as by Moore. (The ‘Catalogue of Pictures by C.F. Moore’ is in the Royal BC Museum ref: MS-3172).

Moore lists for sale, forty-one views of Hangzhou, Ningbo and vicinity. Some of the more specific descriptions may help identify these photographs, if they still exist, as by Moore. The ‘Catalogue of Pictures by C.F. Moore’ is in the Royal BC Museum ref: MS-3172.

The photograph X1 (‘Ch’a P’u. – Promontory showing Section of Circular Fort’) listed in Moore’s 1873 catalogue is most probably Bo01-042. X2 (‘Ch’a P’u. – City Wall’) is most probably Bo01-047.  X3 (‘Ch’a P’u. – City Gate’) is probably another atmospheric Moore photograph: Bo01-048. Bo01-043 can also be attributed to Moore. These four Zhapu photographs are in addition to the three Zhapu photographs by Moore, noted at the beginning of this blog. X15 (‘Custom’s Station, Chên Hai’) could well be Bo02-044.

There is a further album, which will surely add to our knowledge of Charles Moore when it has been digitised and studied. The Irish Jesuit Archives (IJA) in Dublin hold an album of approximately 186 prints, housed in a wooden box inscribed with the name ‘C. F. Moore’ and ‘Pekin’. It could be the photographer’s working portfolio. The IJA archivist has pointed out that there are scribbled pencil marks beside some photographs – ‘Bad copy’, ‘Negative sold for £12.10’ (!) [3], and some shorthand notes (not unusual for Moore. His notebook for his lectures on China, see poster below, contains much shorthand). At least two of the photographs which appear in the IJA album have been reproduced and attributed to Dudgeon – attributions, which, given the context, could be revisited. [4]

A portrait in the IJA album is captioned in the same distinctive handwriting (thought to be Charles Moore’s ‘presentation/calligraphic style’ hand) as in the Bonhams album, as follows: “Our photographic friend the Major” – i.e. Major James Crombie Watson, superintendent of police at Ningbo. Terry Bennett has noted that it seems that there was a group of photography enthusiasts in Ningbo – residents and passers through. Very likely they would often team up for outings, and take more than one camera. This would explain variants that crop up so often (a scenario possibly exemplified by Bo02-086, Bo02-087, Bo02-088 and negatives J-00460, J-00471 and J-00453 – all taken at the same place, recorded in the Bowra album as an ancient tomb near ‘Wang Chă’.

Photomontage double portrait of Major James Crombie Watson, c.1870 (See <a href="https://www.hpcbristol.net/visual/bo02-001">Bo02-001</a>), holding a second portrait of himself and with someone/something in his pocket, pasted in to the album at the IJA. Image courtesy of the Irish Jesuit Archive, Dublin.

Photomontage double portrait of Major James Crombie Watson, c.1870 (See Bo02-001), holding a second portrait of himself and with someone/something in his pocket, pasted in to the album at the IJA. Image courtesy of the Irish Jesuit Archive, Dublin.

By 1873, Moore was a member of the London Amateur Photographic Association. A moot question is: had he been an active photographer earlier, when he served as paymaster with General Charles Gordon’s ‘Ever Victorious Army’? In any case, in 1907, Moore gave lectures in Canada, on ‘China in the time of General Gordon’, illustrated by ‘Stereopticon Views’ (i.e. magic lantern slides). The Moores had emigrated to British Columbia, Canada in 1885, and Charles worked there as a notary public. The Royal BC Museum also hold Moore’s lecture notebook, listing, I gather, the lantern slides projected, including the remarkable image below (negative ref no: J-00496), a set up action shot/narrative photograph, ambitious for the period, which is also a valuable historical document (Visitors to the temple nowadays are apparently asked not to spit at replicas of the figures of the murderers).

Poster for ‘China in the time of General Gordon. (Royal BC Museum ref: MS-3172).

Poster for ‘China in the time of General Gordon. (Royal BC Museum ref: MS-3172).

Photograph by C.F. Moore. Two men posed, seemingly throwing stones at iron figures, at Yue Fei Temple (Yuewang Temple 岳王廟), West Lake, Hangzhou. This photograph (negative ref no: J-00496) is listed in Moore’s ‘China in the Time of General Gordon’ lecture notebook: “13. Iron figures in stone cages, being the conspirators who compassed the death of Yoh Fei, his son and family.” See Ar01-016 (note the sculpture on a column in both images).

Photograph by C.F. Moore. Two men posed, seemingly throwing stones at iron figures, at Yue Fei Temple (Yuewang Temple 岳王廟), West Lake, Hangzhou, c.1870. This photograph (negative ref no: J-00496) is listed in Moore’s ‘China in the Time of General Gordon’ lecture notebook: “13. Iron figures in stone cages, being the conspirators who compassed the death of Yoh Fei, his son and family.” See Ar01-016 (note the sculpture on a column in both images).

There is a brief biography of Charles Frederick Moore here , based on a longer one here.

C.F. Moore was evidently an accomplished and significant photographer, active over diverse parts of China, for several years. It is marvellous to think of Moore’s ‘ingeniously contrived’ sedan chair darkroom, carried hither and thither by patient porters – the Chinese equivalent of Roger Fenton’s ‘Photographic Van’ in the Crimea. Further research, including into the albums, negatives and associated papers mentioned above, and into Moore’s career in China, will cast more light on his importance as a photographer in China, hitherto underappreciated.

This is thought to be a portrait of Charles Frederick Moore, taken in British Columbia, Canada (Source: DeeDeeEmme, via Ancestry.com).

This is thought to be a portrait of Charles Frederick Moore, taken in British Columbia, Canada, c.1910 (Source: DeeDeeEmme, via Ancestry.com).

Footnotes

[1] Quoted in The Letters of Charles Hanbury (1913), page 218. Letter dated 31 October 1870. Dr Andrew Hillier kindly sent me this extract, for interest.

[2]Barbarian Lens, Western Photographers of the Qianlong Emperor’s European Palaces by Régine Thiriez (Gordon and Breach, 1998), page 92.

[3] Attributing nineteenth century photographs taken in China is notoriously difficult, complicated by the selling of negatives (cf. ‘The Firm’). Prints circulated between friends, and among photographers. Prints shared with the recipient’s name written on the back can be a red herring.

[4] The photograph in the IJA album captioned “161. The Bell Tower French Legation – Montbelle, Rochechouart, Champes” is surely Fig. 2.11 on page 44 of Terry Bennett’s History of Photography in China Western Photographers 1861-1879 (Quaritch, 2010). Another photograph in the same album which is captioned “176. Students British Legation, Pekin – Bristow, Andrews, Ford, Hillier[s], Scott, Baber, Margary, McKean, Carles” must be Fig. 2.23 on page 55, ibid.  Both of these photographs are currently attributed to Dr John Dudgeon.

Posted in Collections, cross-searching, Digitisation, Heritage, History of photography in China | Tagged , , , , , , | Comments Off on Charles Frederick Moore (1837-1916), a photographer in China

Statue and symbol: Queen Victoria in Hong Kong

Dr Helena F. S. Lopes is Senior Research Associate in the History of Hong Kong and a Lecturer in Modern Chinese History at the University of Bristol. She holds a DPhil in History from the University of Oxford.

Wikipedia’s ‘List of statues of Queen Victoria’ includes more than a hundred such monuments scattered around the world, many of them in former British colonies. One remains in Hong Kong, having endured more than a century of tribulations.

Commissioned by the Hong Kong Jubilee Committee to mark the fiftieth anniversary in 1887 of Queen Victoria’s accession, the statue was funded by public subscription and designed by the Italian sculptor Mario Raggi (1879-1907), who lived and worked in London. Amongst his notable works were other memorial statues, including one of Benjamin Disraeli in Parliament Square (1883) and one of William Gladstone in Albert Square, Manchester (1901). Raggi’s statue of Queen Victoria was cast by H. Young and Co., bronze statue founders in Pimlico, a company which had been responsible for other prominent sculptures in the capital such as the monument to the Duke of Wellington in St Paul’s Cathedral.

Statue of Queen Victoria, designed by Mario Raggi, for Hong Kong. 'The Illustrated London News', 28 January 1893. HPC ref: Bk13-04.

Statue of Queen Victoria, designed by Mario Raggi, for Hong Kong. ‘The Illustrated London News’, 28 January 1893. HPC ref: Bk13-04.

In 1893, before being shipped to Hong Kong, Queen Victoria’s statue was exhibited in London. The Illustrated London News reported on the viewing and included a photograph of the sculpture without the canopy that would be attached to it in Hong Kong. In the article, the vision of the statue’s commissioners is described as one of British colonial loyalty. The ‘artistic memorial’ was to be ‘fixed upon a prominent site in Hong-Kong, as a mark of the loyalty of that colony to the Queen and of their attachment to the mother country’.[i]

The ‘prominent site’ selected was on Wardley Street, in the heart of what was then known as the city of Victoria, on a site on the newly-reclaimed waterfront. Still, it would be almost ten years until the statue was finally unveiled on 28 May 1896, on the occasion of celebrations for the Queen’s 77th birthday. A few weeks before the event, the North-China Herald reported on a committee meeting debating the unveiling ceremony to be presided by the Governor, Sir William Robinson. It stipulated that ‘it should be made as public as possible, all foreign Consuls, all officers of the Army and Navy, and all subscribers of the Fund being invited, as well as all the ladies.’ Efforts would also be made for ‘having as grand a military display as possible.’[ii] This performance of colonial might was projected as an elite affair, even though afterwards the statue was on full display for anyone passing through the square.

Even in its early days, the statue caused some controversy. Shortly after the unveiling ceremony, the Hong Kong Daily Press lamented that the ‘predominant feeling with reference to the Queen’s statue is one of disappointment’. This was due to the materials used: ‘Bronze under a canopy is an anomaly and is repulsive alike to common sense and artistic feeling’. Citing a 1890 letter from James Johnstone Keswick, the Scottish businessman who had been the Chairman of the Queen’s Jubilee Memorial Committee in Hong Kong, the article noted that there had been a misunderstanding with the sculptor regarding which material to use and a decision in favour of marble had been lost in communication. The idea of requesting a marble replacement was considered but it did not occur.[iii] In her study of Sir Catchick Paul Chater and Statue Square, Liz Chater mentions that a small marble statue of Queen Victoria was also cast in the same period, most likely for a private client (her book includes a rare photograph of it).[iv]

The Supreme Court and Queen Victoria’s Statue, Hong Kong, c.1923-29. HPC ref: JC01-01.

The Supreme Court and Queen Victoria’s Statue, Hong Kong, c.1923-29. HPC ref: JC01-01.

Queen Victoria's Statue, The Cenotaph and the Hong Kong Club, Statue Square, Hong Kong, c.1924. HPC ref: Bk09-11.

Queen Victoria’s Statue, The Cenotaph and the Hong Kong Club, Statue Square, Hong Kong, c.1924. HPC ref: Bk09-11.

The Historical Photographs of China website has some images of what is now known as Statue Square, where Queen Victoria’s monument first stood. A few, likely taken in the 1920s, are in an album (ref: JC01) in the Jamie Carstairs Collection. The statues are not the main focus of the unknown photographer, whose views over the square tend to privilege iconic buildings such as the Supreme Court (which later housed the Legislative Council and now the Court of Final Appeal). Queen Victoria can be glimpsed in some of these. A slightly closer look at the sculpture can be found in the photographs by Denis H. Hazell published in his Picturesque Hongkong.

R. C. Hurley 'Tourist’s Guide to Hong Kong and Mainland' (1897). Source: Wikimedia Commons.

R. C. Hurley ‘Tourist’s Guide to Hong Kong and Mainland’ (1897). Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Despite its controversial bronze-marble combination, the statue of Queen Victoria became a major landmark in the city. It was regularly featured in photographic albums such as  JC01, illustrated books such as Hazell’s and tourist guidebooks such as that written by R. C. Hurley and published in 1897 – only one year after its unveiling. In June 1911, to celebrate the coronation of George V and his wife Mary, the statue was decorated with dozens of Chinese lanterns on wires – a nocturnal spectacle captured with stunning results by the Lai Afong (賴阿芳) Studio, ran by one of Hong Kong’s most distinguished first professional photographers.

Queen Victoria’s statue, Hong Kong, lit up with lanterns for the coronation of King George V and Queen Mary, June 1911. Photograph by Afong Studio (Lai Fong). HPC ref: Bi-s184.

Queen Victoria’s statue, Hong Kong, lit up with lanterns for the coronation of King George V and Queen Mary, June 1911. Photograph by Afong Studio (Lai Fong). HPC ref: Bi-s184.

Victoria’s image in Hong Kong was not just that of a visual symbol of colonial prestige. Its materiality as a valuable bronze statue was to be of no small importance. During the Pacific War, when Hong Kong fell under Japanese occupation, the statue was taken to Japan to be melted down and the metal recycled for the Japanese effort. The wartime dismantling of the statue mirrors what happened elsewhere, notably in Shanghai where memorials erected by foreign communities, such as the statue of Sir Robert Hart or the Allied War Memorial, were taken down. In Shanghai, and despite attempts to the contrary, these statues were not reinstated after the war, their absence a signifier of de facto decolonisation.[v] In Hong Kong, colonial rule returned and so did Queen Victoria.

The statue of Queen Victoria, damaged during the war. Source: Bill Hillman "Hillman WWII Scrapbook, HMCS Prince Robert Tribute Site".

The statue of Queen Victoria, damaged during the war. Source: Bill Hillman “Hillman WWII Scrapbook, HMCS Prince Robert Tribute Site”.

Some of the other monuments in Statue Square did not escape their intended wartime fate. But Victoria survived the ordeal, despite some damage, and was returned to Hong Kong after the war. The restored version – without the canopy – was unveiled in 1952 in Victoria Park, where it continues to stand today.

Statue of Queen Victoria in Victoria Park, facing south in the tradition of all Chinese Imperial figures, November 2008. Photograph by Minghong. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Statue of Queen Victoria in Victoria Park, facing south in the tradition of all Chinese Imperial figures, November 2008. Photograph by Minghong. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

The statue’s association with the British empire – a considerable expansion of which happened under Victoria’s long reign – has become for some a contested symbol in late- and post-colonial Hong Kong. In 1996, about a year before the Hong Kong’s handover, Pun Sing Lui (Pan Xing Lei 潘星磊), a twenty-something artist, defaced the statue with red pain and broke its nose, protesting against ‘dull, colonial culture’.[vi] Pun was arrested and the statue fixed. For some, it remains an uncomfortable monument, as news of a possible ‘cover up’ in the running up to a visit by President Xi Jinping in 2017 suggest.[vii] However, its public display at Victoria Park has seen other types of protest, too. Over the past months, it has been a site where pro-democracy protesters gathered, their numbers and movement dwarfing the static Victoria.[viii] Some also chose to make her a vehicle for their message.

The many lives of Queen Victoria’s statue and its multiple meanings have recently inspired a solo exhibition by the Hong Kong artist Lee Kai Chung (李繼忠). Entitled ‘I could not recall how I got here’ (「無法憶起我怎樣到達這裏」), and awarded the WYNG Media Award in 2018, the show was based on archival research about the history of the statues seized by Japanese forces. The artist uses photography, film, bronze sculpture, 3D modelling, and 3D printing to investigate ‘the transition of meanings of a “memorial bronze statue” brought about by the passing of time’.[ix] As this latest artistic reinvention of the statue shows, both its symbolism and the material aspects of its production and reconstruction continue to invite multiple interpretations.

Notes:

[i] ‘Signor Raggi’s Statue of the Queen’, The Illustrated London News, 28 January 1893, p. 118.

[ii] ‘The Queen’s Statue in Hongkong’, The North-China Herald, 8 May 1896.

[iii] ‘The Queen’s Statue: Why is it in Bronze instead of Marble’, The Hong Kong Daily Press, 30 May 1896.

[iv] Liz Chater, The Statues of Statue Square, Hong Kong (Chater Genealogy Publishing, 2009), pp. 15-16.

[v] On these, see Robert Bickers, ‘Moving Stories: Memorialisation and its Legacies in Treaty Port China’, The Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History 42/5 (2014), pp. 826-856, Robert Bickers, ‘Lost monuments and memorials of the Shanghai Bund 1: The War Memorial (1924)’ and ‘Lost monuments and memorials of the Shanghai Bund 2: Statue of Sir Robert Hart, 1914’.

[vi] The episode is analysed in Elizabeth Ho, Neo-Victorianism and the Memory of Empire (London: Continuum, 2012), pp. 1-6.

[vii] Danny Mok and Tony Cheung, ‘Out of sight, out of mind? Queen Victoria statue obscured by boards and banner ahead of Xi visit’, South China Morning Post, 28 June 2017.

[viii] E.g. ‘Hong Kong: 1.7m people defy police to march in pouring rain’, The Guardian, 18 August, 2019; ‘China condemns U.S. lawmakers’ support for Hong Kong protests’, The Asahi Shimbun, 18 August, 2019.

[ix] ‘LEE Kai Chung Solo Exhibition, ‘I could not recall how I got here’, WMA Commission.

Posted in Heritage, Hong Kong | Tagged , , , , | Comments Off on Statue and symbol: Queen Victoria in Hong Kong