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) 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 (likely to be Bibianne Moore’s 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.

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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 Victory 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.

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Work and movement in the Hong Kong photographs of Dr Eleanor Whitworth Mitchell

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.

Dr Eleanor Whitworth Mitchell, née Perkins (1882-1974), a London-born and trained medical doctor, arrived in Hong Kong in 1913 and lived there for nine years. Both she and her husband, Dr Isaiah Edward Mitchell (1869-1935), worked for the London Missionary Society (LMS). The photographic collection that survives from the years she lived in the British colony includes a rich array of images of working lives and spaces.

There are several photographs of hospital buildings which later came to form the Alice Memorial & Affiliated Hospitals. These, together with the other LMS buildings, were the spaces which framed her life and work in the British colony. As observed by Moira M. W. Chan-Yeung in A Medical History of Hong Kong, 1842-1941 (Hong Kong: CUHK Press, 2018), the LMS ‘played a major role in popularising Western medicine among the Chinese in Hong Kong’ and its hospitals were central to this. It is likely that Dr E.W. Mitchell followed in the pioneering footsteps of Dr Alice Sibree, who popularised Western maternal health in Hong Kong. The LMS also employed Chinese doctors and nurses and amongst the individual and group portraits in the Mitchell collection there are, for example, two of Chinese midwives with newly born babies (Mi01-009, Mi01-016). Indeed, Eleanor Mitchell’s photographs are evidence of the intense participation of Chinese women in medical care.

Dr Eleanor Whitworth Mitchell with nurses and newly born babies, outside a maternity hospital, Hong Kong. Historical Photographs of China ref: Mi01-016.

Dr Eleanor Whitworth Mitchell with nurses and newly born babies, outside a maternity hospital, Hong Kong. Historical Photographs of China ref: Mi01-016.

The portraits of Eleanor Mitchell and the people around her in her professional life – as a doctor and as a missionary – are mostly arranged and set up group portraits where everyone sits or stands still for the camera. However, the collection also includes a large number of urban outdoor scenes where her lens – for she is believed to have taken most of the photographs – captured people going about their daily lives. These include rickshaw pullers and sedan chair bearers, construction workers, and street hawkers, amongst others. Given the many photographs taken of porters, it seems that she had a particular interest in them. Perhaps the physical strain caused by heavy portering work caught her attention, and professional eye.

Porters carrying wood, and women with umbrellas, Hong Kong. Historical Photographs of China ref: Mi01-033.

Porters carrying wood, and women with umbrellas, Hong Kong. Historical Photographs of China ref: Mi01-033.

These photographs (most of which were not captioned in the album), offer a glimpse into the lives of the anonymous people whose labour literally created the built environment around them, and those – like the rickshaw men – whose bodily strength forged links between local places by moving people around it. In several of these photographs, those captured in the frame seem oblivious to Mitchell’s camera. They went on walking, carrying, holding, selling, chatting. This banal activity is now frozen in time, the camera allowing us to appreciate apparently spontaneous gestures and street scenes. In Mi01-041, a person covers their forehead – perhaps to see better ahead on a sunny day while a man stands with a walking stick and a woman glances at a nearby shop. In Mi01-042, women and children stand outside a stall while porters toil on with their heavy loads. In Mi01-047 rickshaws compete with motor vehicles for road space while the occasional pedestrian is also present. Elsewhere, umbrella-holding women pass by scantily dressed workers, each rushing about their everyday activities (Mi01-033, Mi01-050). Visions of labour share the frame with some of momentary rest: in Mi01-049 and Mi01-050, sedan chair bearers lie down or sit by the side of the street while others continue to work next to them. These snapshots also suggest other changes in the making, for example, in repairs and additions to the urban landscape and the evolution of clothing styles during the first years of the Republic of China.

Images of diverse childhood experiences can also be found in the collection’s holdings. In Mi01-044, almost imperceptibly, a group of young girls in Western style dresses get a taste of the buzz of a street market. Elsewhere, injured children convalesce in the hospital accompanied by Dr Mitchell and nursing staff (Mi01-007; Mi01-017). We encounter the reality of child labour, with children carrying different materials and products, possibly for construction or for sale (Mi01-052, Mi01-094). There is also evidence of the role youngsters played in childcare in the image of a girl with a baby on her back (Mi01-063), below.

Four children on the waterfront, Hong Kong. Historical Photographs of China ref: Mi01-063.

Four children on the waterfront, Hong Kong. Historical Photographs of China ref: Mi01-063.

The Mitchell collection provides material for those interested in the social history of early twentieth-century Hong Kong and South China in general (there are also images of Guangzhou and Lushan). In particular, it serves as an illustration of, and invites further research into, the sometimes-intersecting experiences of women, missionary activities, medical practices, travel, work, and everyday urban culture.

NOTE: If you recognise some of the people, streets, or buildings that remain unnamed in these photographs, we would be grateful for information that would allow us to identify them more thoroughly.

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Weihaiwei and the 1st Chinese Regiment – 2. Peking and After

In the second of his two posts, Dr Andrew Hillier traces the history of the 1st Chinese Regiment, from its performance in the relief of Tianjin to its disbandment six years later.

Despite its record at Tianjin, to the dismay of both officers and men, the 1st Chinese Regiment was not actively engaged in the relief of Peking by the China Expeditionary Force that took place in August 1900. Instead, it was assigned to civilian tasks, mainly tending to the wounded and clearing the dead from the streets. Whilst this was partly because reinforcements had arrived from India, it was, its commanding officer, Major Barnes believed, mainly because westerners could not accept that any Chinese could be trusted to serve the allied cause.

Rolling bandages for the wounded, Weihaiwei, 1900. Since some of the wounded were from the 1st Chinese Regiment, this was, albeit no doubt unintentionally, a moment of common cause between the two communities. Historical Photographs of China ref: Ca01-056.

Rolling bandages for the wounded, Weihaiwei, 1900. Since some of the wounded were from the 1st Chinese Regiment, this was, albeit no doubt unintentionally, a moment of common cause between the two communities. Historical Photographs of China ref: Ca01-056.

This ignominy was all the more bitter given the Regiment’s casualty rate. In total, it lost two officers and twenty-one men, although nine of these, including Captain Hill, died as a result of an accidental explosion, that occurred on 15 September 1900, when they were disposing of gunpowder seized from the Boxers.

The regimental memorial on the road leading to the regimental barracks at Matou, Weihaiwei, commemorating both British officers and Chinese rank and file. Historical Photographs of China ref: BL04-73.

The regimental memorial on the road leading to the regimental barracks at Matou, Weihaiwei, commemorating both British officers and Chinese rank and file. Historical Photographs of China ref: BL04-73.

Barnes names all twenty-one of the Chinese casualties in his account of the conflict and the circumstances in which each of them lost their lives, beginning with No. 593, Private Yu yung-hua, who ‘died of wounds received in action at Tientsin railway station, 4th July 1900’, an attention to detail which reflected the good relationships and respect that had built up in the Regiment.[1]    Although there were interpreters on hand, a number of the officers had learnt to speak Chinese, including one NCO, Sergeant Purdon, who became particularly proficient. This goodwill translated into the peace-keeping work that the Regiment carried out along the Peiho river in the aftermath of the Uprising.

However, there continued to be an ambiguous relationship between the rank and file and the local Chinese people. Reluctantly or not, ten Chinese members of the regiment took part in the triumphal procession that marched through the Forbidden City on 28 August 1900. Recorded in photographs distributed across the world, they were complicit in a display designed to inflict maximum humiliation on the Chinese. [2] And, although, according to Barnes,  the Regiment had taken no part in the mass looting of Tianjin, Peking was a different story and  ‘the unavoidable necessity being recognised, organised parties were, for a time, sent out to collect stuff from unoccupied houses, which was sold at auctions under the supervision of a prize committee’.[3] This provided a handsome dividend and many of the Chinese were able to leave the Regiment on the strength of the proceeds shortly afterwards.

Members of the 1st Chinese Regiment attending the Coronation of King Edward VII, Illustrated London News, 16 August 1902, p.10.

Members of the 1st Chinese Regiment attending the Coronation of King Edward VII, Illustrated London News, 16 August 1902, p.10.

However, it continued to attract recruits. By September 1901, numbering over 1300 men, it  had become emblematic of the British presence in Weihai, sending a deputation to Edward VII’s coronation and frequently required to parade on ceremonial occasions attended by the Civil Commissioner, Sir James Stewart Lockhart (1902-1920).

Review of 1st Chinese Regiment on Coronation Day, Weihaiwei, 9 August 1902. This photograph formed part of the Settlement’s annual report to the Colonial Office for 1903 (CO 1069/431. CHINA 11. Weihaiwei). Image © The National Archives, London, England. Historical Photographs of China ref: NA08-092.

Review of 1st Chinese Regiment on Coronation Day, Weihaiwei, 9 August 1902. This photograph formed part of the Settlement’s annual report to the Colonial Office for 1903 (CO 1069/431. CHINA 11. Weihaiwei). Image © The National Archives, London, England. Historical Photographs of China ref: NA08-092.

Company of 1st British Chinese Regiment. The photograph formed part of the Settlement’s annual report to the Colonial Office for 1903, CO 1069/431. CHINA 11. Image © The National Archives, London, England. Historical Photographs of China ref: NA08-104.

Company of 1st British Chinese Regiment. The photograph formed part of the Settlement’s annual report to the Colonial Office for 1903, CO 1069/431. CHINA 11. Image © The National Archives, London, England. Historical Photographs of China ref: NA08-104.

With Chinese photographers also setting up in business in the Settlement, a wealth of images of the regiment and its interaction with the local people were sent home to England and became part of family and military memory. [4]

‘Harvesting’, from an album of fifty-two photographs taken and compiled by Captain C. D. Bruce (West Riding Regiment). According to the caption, the photograph was taken just outside Bruce’s house, Weihaiwei. NAM 1983-05-42-30. Image © National Army Museum.

‘Harvesting’, from an album of fifty-two photographs taken and compiled by Captain C. D. Bruce (West Riding Regiment). According to the caption, the photograph was taken just outside Bruce’s house, Weihaiwei. NAM 1983-05-42-30. Image © National Army Museum.

‘Instruction of Recruits’, 1st Chinese Regiment, Weihaiwei. An example of an image that might have been sent home. Historical Photographs of China ref: Ru01-013.

‘Instruction of Recruits’, 1st Chinese Regiment, Weihaiwei. An example of an image that might have been sent home. Historical Photographs of China ref: Ru01-013.

‘Feats of Strength by Soldiers’, 1st Chinese Regiment, Weihaiwei. Another example of an image that might have been sent home. Historical Photographs of China ref: Ru01-017.

‘Feats of Strength by Soldiers’, 1st Chinese Regiment, Weihaiwei. Another example of an image that might have been sent home. Historical Photographs of China ref: Ru01-017.

This was encouraged by Lockhart, himself, who took a keen interest in photography. Establishing a good rapport with local officials, he believed that sending photographs home to England would evoke ‘a better understanding and sympathy for China’.[5]

Left to right: Captain Barnes, Sir James Lockhart, and the Governor of Shandong, Tsi Nan Fu. From an album, CO 1069/432, CHINA 12. Shantung and Kiaochou: photographs of a tour in 1903. Image © The National Archives, London, England. Historical Photographs of China ref: NA07-047. See also NA07-050.

Left to right: Captain Barnes, Sir James Lockhart, and the Governor of Shandong, Tsi Nan Fu. From an album, CO 1069/432, CHINA 12. Shantung and Kiaochou: photographs of a tour in 1903. Image © The National Archives, London, England. Historical Photographs of China ref: NA07-047. See also NA07-050.

It was becoming clear, however, that there was little justification for the naval base at Weihai, let alone for maintaining a regiment there, given the expense involved. Over the next few years, its numbers were run down, some leaving to join the Chinese army, some to join the Shanghai Municipal Police and some to return to their farms. It was finally disbanded by Order in 1906.

Most of the British officers returned to their home regiments, many later serving in the First World War. However, a number had developed a considerable interest in China, its language and culture and some of these stayed on: Colonel R.M. C. Ruxton, who had been seconded from the Essex Regiment in November 1901, went on to serve in China’s administration, Captain Barnes was appointed Commandant of the Shanghai Volunteer Corps and Major Bruce became Chief of the Shanghai Municipal Police. Perhaps, the most well-known of these was Captain G.E. Pereira, who, save for the war-time period, would spend the rest of his life in China, initially as Britain’s Military Attaché and later as an intrepid traveller. We will come to his adventurous life in the next post.

First World War memorial, Weihaiwei. The inscription on the front reads: "TO THE MEMORY OF ALL THOSE WHO FORMERLY RESIDED IN THIS TERRITORY WHETHER STATIONED OR AT SCHOOL OR OTHERWISE WHO GAVE THEIR LIVES IN THE GREAT WAR 1914-1918". Historical Photographs of China ref: BL04-71.

First World War memorial, Weihaiwei. The inscription on the front reads: “TO THE MEMORY OF ALL THOSE WHO FORMERLY RESIDED IN THIS TERRITORY WHETHER STATIONED OR AT SCHOOL OR OTHERWISE WHO GAVE THEIR LIVES IN THE GREAT WAR 1914-1918”. Historical Photographs of China ref: BL04-71.

The members of the 1st Chinese Regiment who gave their lives in the First World War are named on the side of the war memorial in Weihaiwei (see BL04-71 above). Historical Photographs of China ref: Ru-s087.

The members of the 1st Chinese Regiment who gave their lives in the First World War are named on the side of the war memorial in Weihaiwei (see BL04-71 above). Historical Photographs of China ref: Ru-s087.

[1] Arthur Alison Stuart Barnes, On active service with the Chinese Regiment: a record of the operations of the first Chinese Regiment in North China from March to October 1900  (London: Grant Richards, 1902), pp.146-149 ; for details of medals and awards, see A.J. Harfield, British and Indian Armies on the China Coast 1840 – 1985 (London: A & J Partnership, 1990), pp. 255-259.

[2] See James Hevia, English Lessons, pp.204-205. The Chinese are named by Barnes, On Active Service, pp. 146-149.

[3] Barnes, On Active Service, p.139.

[4] For photographs of Brooke, see NAM, 1983-05-42;   for Bruce, see NAM, 1983-05-42;  for Ruxton, see https://www.hpcbristol.net/collections/ruxton-family.

[5] Lockhart’s photographic collection can now be seen in the National Gallery of Scotland (George Watson’s College); see also Sara Stevenson, ‘The Empire Looks Back, Subverting the Imperial Gaze’, History of Photography, 35 (2011) pp. 142-156 and Shiona Airlie, The Thistle and Bamboo: the life and times of Sir James Stewart Lockhart (Hong Kong: Oxford University Press, 1989).

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H.G.W. Woodhead – Opinionated and Prolific

Paul French, the author of this guest blog, lived and worked in Shanghai for many years. French’s 2018 book ‘City of Devils’ was his much-anticipated second literary non-fiction book and was a Kirkus Book of the Year. Devils followed ‘Midnight in Peking’, which was a New York Times Best Seller. He recently published a collection of his writing, ‘Destination Shanghai’ – eighteen tales of old Shanghailanders, famous, infamous & previously forgotten. 

I have written about H.G.W. Woodhead a few times, most expansively in my history of foreign correspondents in China between the Opium Wars and 1949, Through the Looking Glass (Hong Kong University Press, 2009). But I’d never seen a photo of him – now I see that the Historical Photographs of China web site has at least two. So I thought it worthwhile offering up my short biography of Woodhead’s adventures in the Chinese treaty port media in the first half of the twentieth century…

George Woodhead with bicycle on Zekawei Road, Shanghai, September 1903. LD01-029.

George Woodhead with bicycle on Zekawei Road, Shanghai, September 1903. LD01-029.

Henry George Wandesforde (“H. G. W.”) Woodhead arrived in China in 1902. He obtained a position as the editor of the Peking Daily News (which included the old Chinese Public Opinion) whose header stated “Impartial But Patriotic” and always started with the latest imperial edicts. Woodhead was to rule the roost at the Peking and Tientsin Times as well as becoming the most well-known and influential foreigner in Tianjin for several decades.

Henry George Wandesworth Woodhead, journalist and author, c.1902-1907. LD01-032.

Henry George Wandesworth Woodhead, journalist and author, c.1902-1907. LD01-032.

The paper invariably reflected his strident opinions on China and the world and from the start promised to “… be essentially British”, a virtue Woodhead staunchly upheld. Much later, in 1936, Time magazine described him as “hard hitting” and “suave”, though J.B. Powell’s China Weekly Review opted for “die-hard”, which was not meant in an overly complimentary way. Woodhead was a long-time friend of former London Times war correspondent Henry Thurburn Montague Bell, who had covered the Boer War and then became a long-standing editor of the North China Herald and the North- China Daily News. He was also a prolific editorialist, was well known as a China Hand in Beijing, Shanghai and Tianjin and wrote the 1929 book Extraterritoriality In China: The Case Against Abolition, which was really just a collection of his articles expressing his trenchant views on the subject from the paper. This title also pretty much summed up Woodhead’s political attitude to both China and the Chinese which accounted for the uncomplimentary opinions of people like Powell who were anti-extraterritoriality. H. T. Montague Bell was also well connected in London due to his being the brother-in-law of the editor-in-chief of the Times.

In the 1920s Woodhead launched a campaign to try to stop Britain from spending its Boxer Indemnity monies (the reparations forcibly paid by the Chinese government to Britain and other foreign powers after the Siege of the Legations) on promoting education in China as he believed that the schools and colleges of the country were little more than breeding grounds for revolutionaries and anti-foreign, anti-extraterritoriality sentiment. When it was reported that a Chinese mob had stormed the British Concession in Hankou and that the British government had seemingly caved in and handed the territory back to China, Woodhead fumed that “The principle of extraterritoriality is at stake” and urged Britain to remember the Treaty of Tianjin that guaranteed the treaty ports system and to oppose the government. On another occasion, he declared that Britain should have conquered China rather than India in order to ensure the country was well run. He regularly fulminated against America for its “Open Door” trade policy towards China which, he believed, would undermine Britain’s “Most Favoured Nation” status — a status it has to be said which had been forced at gunpoint on the Chinese. Brian Power, a young boy in Tianjin at the time recalled in his memoir Ford of Heaven: “When Woodhead spoke Washington trembled … By the time Woodhead’s outbursts reached England, Whitehall, too, must have trembled”.

This was probably overestimating Woodhead’s influence somewhat but, on the other hand, he was equally tough in criticising many foreign businessmen, accusing them of becoming wealthy off the back of child labour and low wages. He also had a major influence on Tianjin’s civic life. He had urged the formation of the Watch Committee, an ad hoc group that sought to patrol and protect the foreign concessions, and he was a founding member of the Tientsin Club, which provided him with a lavish send-off dinner when he finally left the city.

George Woodhead (on the right), with other fire brigade volunteers, Mih Ho Loong Hook and Ladder Company Number 1, Shanghai, c.1902-1907. LD01-099.

George Woodhead (on the right), with other fire brigade volunteers, Mih Ho Loong Hook and Ladder Company Number 1, Shanghai, c.1902-1907. LD01-099.

Woodhead remained a vibrant and dedicated editorialist, moving on in the 1930s to be an editorial associate of the Shanghai Evening Post and Mercury and editor (from 1934) of the quarterly journal Oriental Affairs. Power recalled that foreigners in the city were “stunned” when Woodhead announced his departure to Shanghai. Tributes to the great editor, which resembled obituaries, poured into the paper. Power believed that, despite his “Bully Pulpit-style” of editorialising, Woodhead’s lasting impression on Tianjin was his defence of the rights of car drivers. He accused the Chinese of being “primitive” for opposing the rise of the car. It seems that an unresolved incident between Woodhead and a rickshaw puller after a collision was the cause of his repeated diatribes against Chinese car drivers.

Parked cars and rickshaws, Shanghai, c1930. BL04-83.

Parked cars and rickshaws, Shanghai, c1930. BL04-83.

Woodhead and the Times did provide work for some young reporters who would later become better known. In 1921 a young Owen Lattimore passed through. His parents were living in Tianjin but were about to move back to America. Lattimore met Woodhead who offered him a job at the paper which the young American accepted as he thought it would give him an opportunity to develop his literary interests. However, he was to be disappointed as he was given few opportunities to investigate and write stories of his own, spending most of his time proofreading. He lasted a year before returning to work for his old employers, the traders Arnhold and Company, on a larger salary and at their Tianjin branch before becoming one of America’s foremost China Hands and experts on Mongolia. After Lattimore, a young Israel “Eppie” Epstein, later to become a senior member of the Communist Party of China and remain in Beijing supporting Mao and the revolution, started his journalistic career on the paper in the 1930s when he was barely 15 years old. Epstein had been born in Poland but his family escaped from the Russian Revolution and fled to Tianjin where he attended American-run schools before becoming a cub reporter.

Woodhead appeared all-powerful in Tianjin between the world wars, though he did have some competition. The North China Commerce newspaper was established in 1920 as an English-run weekly but didn’t last long while the American-owned North China Star was also published in Tianjin. This was real competition – the American State Department estimated the paper’s daily circulation in 1921 as 2,500, more than double Woodhead’s Peking and Tientsin Times, but also noted that the Star was far less influential than Woodhead’s paper which to men like Woodhead was what really counted.

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Restored – the grave of pioneering travel photographer John Thomson

Jamie Carstairs, who manages the Historical Photographs of China Project, reports on the tribute to the photographer John Thomson FRGS, whose grave has now been restored.

John Thomson (1837-1921) is acclaimed in Martin Parr and Gerry Badger’s The Photobook: A History as ‘one of the best [foreign] photographers ever to set foot in China’. Over a ten-year period (1862 to 1872), Thomson photographed in China, Cambodia, Thailand and Malaysia. Thomson had trained in Edinburgh as an optician, and then applied his knowledge of optics and cameras, with chemistry/photographic processes. Mashing science with art, Thomson’s skill set included a grasp of the aesthetics of visualisation, linguistic, and ‘people’ skills. He had an engaging personality, which fostered quick rapport and trust to be established. In many ways, Thomson is the photographer’s photographer. He also wrote in a droll and perceptive way. Martin Parr and Gerry Badger’s accolade is all the more of note, considering briefer visits to China by photographers such as Henri Cartier-Bresson and Robert Capa for example.

John Thomson, with two soldiers, in Xiamen (Amoy), 1871. Is this the earliest selfie in China? Thomson looks towards his camera, somewhat anxiously, during the exposure. It seems likely that Thomson would have intended to crop off the left-hand side of this image, when the negative was printed or published. A scan of a glass plate negative, numbered 735 by Thomson, held by the Wellcome Collection.

John Thomson, with two soldiers, in Xiamen (Amoy), 1871. Is this the earliest selfie in China? Thomson looks towards his camera, somewhat anxiously, during the exposure. It seems likely that Thomson would have intended to crop off the left-hand side of this image, when the negative was printed or published. A scan of a glass plate negative, numbered 735 by Thomson, held by the Wellcome Collection.

The restoration and re-installation of John Thomson’s grave was completed by the stonemasons just in time for a commemorative event in Streatham Cemetery, south London, on Saturday 13 July. Betty Yao MBE led the John Thomson grave restoration committee*, as well as setting up the JustGiving crowd funding appeal and also liaising with the local council and stonemasons. The gathering was attended by 25 people – including three of Thomson’s descendants, some of the donors who had kindly contributed to the cost of the work, photo-historians, local historians, photographers, and representatives from the Wellcome Collection and Friends of Streatham Cemetery. Betty Yao introduced the speakers.

Betty Yao MBE beside John Thomson’s restored grave, Streatham Cemetery, Tooting, London, 13 July 2019. Photograph by Jamie Carstairs.

Betty Yao MBE beside John Thomson’s restored grave, Streatham Cemetery, Tooting, London, 13 July 2019. Photograph by Jamie Carstairs.

Terry Bennett gave an informative and moving appreciation, in which he described Thomson as a ‘prodigious talent’ and a ‘master of his art’, reaching this conclusion for four reasons: 1. Thomson was a prolific writer. 2. He was adept at marketing his work in numerous publications. 3. A significant number of his glass plate negatives have survived. 4. Photo-historians have now identified a sufficient body of work by other early photographers to enable comparisons to be made.

Terry Bennett describing how he found the site of John Thomson’s grave in Streatham Cemetery. Photograph by Jamie Carstairs.

Terry Bennett describing how he found the site of John Thomson’s grave in Streatham Cemetery. Photograph by Jamie Carstairs.

Terry told how he had tracked down Thomson’s lost grave, starting with his death certificate, which stated that he had died of a heart attack on a tram in Streatham Hill. Thomson’s Will and probate records gave his last address, which was in Streatham. The Streatham Historical Society kindly provided Terry with the addresses of four likely local cemeteries and one of them provided the burial block plot reference. Finding the exact spot was still not easy. Terry was helped by cemetery workers, who also provided a brush and a bucket of water to remove dirt which had accumulated over the fallen gravestone. Found at last – but the neglected state of the modest headstone suggested that the forgotten grave had not been visited for many years – “a sad sight”.

John Thomson’s headstone in August 2018, before restoration. Photograph by Jamie Carstairs.

John Thomson’s headstone in August 2018, before restoration. Photograph by Jamie Carstairs.

Michael Pritchard, CEO of Royal Photographic Society, read a message from Rose Teanby. Rose had helpfully shared with Betty her experience of restoring the grave of Robert Howlett. This endeavour was also “fraught with complexity, delicate negotiations and wrapped up in few miles of red tape!” (Howlett being famous for his portrait of I.K. Brunel, posed with the massive launching chains of the ss Great Eastern). Another helpful exemplar was the restoration of Sir Robert Hart’s grave in 2013, led by historians Robert Bickers and Weipin Tsai. A little blue bird tells me that the grave of George Ernest “Morrison of Peking”, in Sidmouth, Devon, is in need of similar TLC, a project for someone …

The restored gravestone for John Thomson, his wife Isabel and their son Arthur. Streatham Cemetery, Tooting, London. Photograph by Jamie Carstairs.

The restored gravestone for John Thomson, his wife Isabel and their son Arthur. Streatham Cemetery, Tooting, London. Photograph by Jamie Carstairs.

Caroline Thomas also spoke of her celebrated forebear. Betty Yao noted that, ‘It is fitting that we restore his grave as a renewed memorial to the man and his work’.

The restoration work by Vaughan Memorials was much admired: the rough face of the eroded headstone had been smoothed and the lettering recut and blacked in. Doris Florist made a beautiful bouquet and other flowers were added by attendees. It had taken over a year to, as Terry Bennett said, ‘effect some modest restoration and contribute a sense of respect and dignity to the final resting place of one of the greatest photographers in the nineteenth century’.

Attendees at the John Thomson commemorative event, at Streatham Cemetery, 13 July 2019. Photograph by Jamie Carstairs.

Attendees at the John Thomson commemorative event, at Streatham Cemetery, 13 July 2019. Photograph by Jamie Carstairs.

The ‘stellar efforts’ of Betty Yao are appreciated by ‘fans’ of John Thomson worldwide. The grave restoration committee* was pleased to have achieved our goal in good time for Thomson’s centenary. In 2021, the 100th anniversary of Thomson’s death, it is hoped that Betty Yao’s exhibition of Thomson’s photographs of China and Thailand, will be on show again – perhaps in Edinburgh, the city of his birth?  The very large prints, made from the Wellcome Collection’s excellent scans of Thomson’s negatives, are a joy to behold.

Photograph by John Thomson, c.1870. Captioned: “View 50 miles above Foochow. Sunset on the Min”. John Fry Collection (Fr01-096).

Photograph by John Thomson, c.1870. Captioned: “View 50 miles above Foochow. Sunset on the Min”. John Fry Collection (Fr01-096).

* The John Thomson grave restoration committee: Betty Yao MBE, Terry Bennett, Michael Pritchard, Deborah Ireland, Geoff Harris, Jamie Carstairs.

Visualising China (31 May 2018): Restoring John Thomson’s grave

British Photographic History (13 July 2019): John Thomson’s grave restored

The Scotsman (20 July 2019): The grave of a pioneering Scottish photographer who took some of the earliest pictures of China on record has been rediscovered and restored in London

Brief biography on HPC of John Thomson and links to his images at the Wellcome Collection and to his book Illustrations of China.

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Weihaiwei and the 1st Chinese Regiment – 1. Relieving Tianjin

As part of the Regimental Museums Project, Dr Andrew Hillier explores photographs reflecting the short but significant contribution of the 1st Chinese Regiment to Britain’s military presence in China.

Raised in 1898 to protect the Royal Navy’s newly-acquired deep-water base at Weihaiwei (Weihai) against foreign incursion, within two years, soldiers of the 1st Chinese Regiment were engaged against their own people in the Boxer Uprising (1900). Whilst Major Arthur Barnes (Wiltshire Regiment) would maintain that it ‘more than fulfilled the high hopes formed by its officers, and by those in high military authority’, it never saw active service again and was disbanded six years later on the grounds that it was an unnecessary extravagance.[1] Nonetheless, its history forms an important aspect of the British military presence in China, entailing, as it did, British officers and NCOs raising and commanding a regiment comprising exclusively Chinese rank and file.  Although there was a precedent in the formation of the Canton Coolie Corps during the Second Opium War and an excellent relationship would be forged between officers and men, there were inherent ambiguities in Chinese subjects serving in a British regiment. These are well-reflected in the rich collection of photographs and other material that can be found in a number of regimental museums and other public archives.

1.1st Battalion, Chinese Regiment – British and Chinese Non-Commissioned Officers of Number Eight Company in China 1898-1903, SBYRW: 40220. © The Rifles Berkshire and Wiltshire Museum. In the centre is Major (as he later became) Arthur Barnes (Duke of Edinburgh's Wiltshire Regiment).

1. 1st Battalion, Chinese Regiment – British and Chinese Non-Commissioned Officers of Number Eight Company in China 1898-1903, SBYRW: 40220. © The Rifles Berkshire and Wiltshire Museum. In the centre is Major (as he later became) Arthur Barnes (Duke of Edinburgh’s Wiltshire Regiment).

From the outset, the Chinese government objected to Chinese subjects being enlisted and, as a compromise, the British government initially agreed that they would only be deployed on defensive duties relating to the naval base.[2]   However, this seems to have been quickly forgotten, and when it came to the Boxer Uprising the following year, at least one third of the men deserted. According to British military intelligence, this was because they did not want to fight against their fellow-countrymen or there had been threats against them and their families by alleged Boxer sympathisers.[3]

2.‘Leaving Bombay’, NAM 1965-10-214-89, © National Army Museum. From an album of 203 photographs compiled by Colonel Anson Hugh McCleverty (as he became), 2nd Queen Victoria's Own Rajput Light Infantry. Assigned to the 1st Chinese Regiment, McCleverty, fourth from right, took a large number of photographs of Weihai and the surrounding area. Returning to his regiment, he was later appointed one of its official photographers.

2. ‘Leaving Bombay’, NAM 1965-10-214-89, © National Army Museum. From an album of 203 photographs compiled by Colonel Anson Hugh McCleverty (as he became), 2nd Queen Victoria’s Own Rajput Light Infantry. Assigned to the 1st Chinese Regiment, McCleverty, fourth from right, took a large number of photographs of Weihai and the surrounding area. Returning to his regiment, he was later appointed one of its official photographers.

3.Soldiers of the 1st Chinese Regiment parade in field dress, NAM 1965-10-214-89, 1900, © National Army Museum. From an album of 203 photographs compiled by Colonel A. H. McCleverty, this one possibly taken by him. Many of the recruits were farmers who were trained from scratch.

3. Soldiers of the 1st Chinese Regiment parade in field dress, NAM 1965-10-214-89, 1900, © National Army Museum. From an album of 203 photographs compiled by Colonel A. H. McCleverty, this one possibly taken by him. Many of the recruits were farmers who were trained from scratch.

It is unclear how officers were selected for assignment to the Regiment save that the War Office stipulated they should all be of high calibre. Drawn from some ten regiments in the early stages, the Duke of Wellington’s Own West Riding Regiment was particularly well- represented, providing three officers – Major C.D. Bruce, Captain W.M. Watson and Lieutenant Bray, all of whom subsequently rose to the rank of Brigadier-General- and one NCO, Sergeant Brook.

In July 1900, twenty-two British officers and 363 Chinese other ranks took part in the relief of Tianjin under the overall command of General Dorward (Royal Engineers).[4]  After eighteen days of intense fighting, it was the only British Army regiment to be engaged in the final assault, in which both officers and men distinguished themselves.

4. Members of the 3rd Battalion, 60th Royal Rifle Corps, thought to be Colour Sergeant English, Sergeant Payne, Sergeant Jacques and one other; downloaded from http://rgjmuseum.co.uk/photo-archive-item/rifle-brigade-china/ (170A12W/P/2324); see also the Hampshire Council Archives http://www3.hants.gov.uk/archives/visiting-hals.htm 170A12W/P/2321-2331. According to the Rifle Brigade Chronicle, when Payne and Jacques, and Riflemen, Hayward and Robertson, left in the summer of 1901, they were given ‘splendid reports’ and, it continued, ‘Colour Sergeant English is still out there upholding the credit of the regiment as an instructor of Chinamen. He is certain to do it well.’

4. Members of the 3rd Battalion, 60th Royal Rifle Corps, thought to be Colour Sergeant English, Sergeant Payne, Sergeant Jacques and one other; downloaded from http://rgjmuseum.co.uk/photo-archive-item/rifle-brigade-china/ (170A12W/P/2324); see also the Hampshire Council Archives http://www3.hants.gov.uk/archives/visiting-hals.htm 170A12W/P/2321-2331. According to the Rifle Brigade Chronicle, when Payne and Jacques, and Riflemen, Hayward and Robertson, left in the summer of 1901, they were given ‘splendid reports’ and, it continued, ‘Colour Sergeant English is still out there upholding the credit of the regiment as an instructor of Chinamen. He is certain to do it well.’

Of the thirteen Distinguished Conduct Medals awarded in the whole campaign, the Regiment received three of them – Colour Sergeant Purdon, Quartermaster Sergeant E. Brook, and Sergeant Gi-Dien-Kwee,  for ‘his command of a half-company without any European’ during the advance, and who may have been the first Chinese national to be so decorated and would certainly not be the last.[5] Attended by his interpreter, ‘the faithful Liu’, and his bugler, Li Ping- chen, Barnes was full of praise for the men’s ‘cold-blooded courage and stamina’, which included ‘escorting heavy guns over broken and swampy country’.

5. Captain Ollivant, Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment). Photographer, Herzog & Higgins, Mhow, India, c. 1899.

5. Captain Ollivant, Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment). Photographer, Herzog & Higgins, Mhow, India, c. 1899.

However, it was Captain Ollivant who, in Barnes’ words, performed ‘one of the bravest acts amongst many’. Instructed to take extra munitions to the U.S infantry, ‘the Fates were against him and he had only gone a few steps when he was shot through the head … We laid him quietly to rest the next day, in the little cemetery near the Recreation Ground’. ‘His loss’, continued Barnes, ‘was very keenly felt by us all, for his genial good heart and his cheery, never-failing sweetness of disposition had endeared him to us all.’[6]

6. The cap badge worn by Captain (later, Brigadier-General) W. Milward Watson (Duke of Wellington’s Own West Riding Regiment) 1900-1903 NAM. 1964-12-44-1. © NAM

6. The cap badge worn by Captain (later, Brigadier-General) W. Milward Watson (Duke of Wellington’s Own West Riding Regiment) 1900-1903 NAM. 1964-12-44-1. © NAM

Thus was the Regiment’s esprit de corps forged and, in recognition of its valour, it was authorised to wear a representation of Tianjin’s city gate as its cap badge.  Keen to repeat the performance, it prepared for the march and relief of Peking. In this, however, it would be disappointed, as we shall see in the next post.

[1] Arthur Alison Stuart Barnes, On active service with the Chinese Regiment : a record of the operations of the first Chinese Regiment in North China from March to October 1900 (London: Grant Richards, 1902), p.1. For the British occupation of Weihai, generally, see Pamela Attwell, British Mandarins and Chinese Reformers, 1898-1930 (East Asian Historical Monographs) (Oxford University Press, 1985).
[2] TNA CAB 8/2 no. 173M, Memorandum by Colonial Defence Committee, ‘Colonial Garrisons Utilisation of Native Troops’, April 1899.
[3]  Despatch from Major-General Dorward, to Secretary of State, Colonial Office, 12 December 1901, TNA CO 521/2.
[4] An anonymous account of the campaign was later published in the regimental journal, The Iron Duke: see “Onlooker”, ‘With the 1st Chinese Regiment, 1898-1902’, volumes 26 (1933), pp. 218-221 and 27 (1934), pp.65-69. Providing detail about individual contributions, it was almost certainly written by Brigadier – General Bray’s widow, based on what she had been told by him.  I am grateful to Scott Flaving, Hon. Secretary to the DWR Museum Trustees at the Regimental Archives at the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment (West Riding), Halifax, for drawing my attention to these articles and other relevant material.
[5] The DCM was awarded only to other ranks.
[6] Barnes, On Active Service, p.81.
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Guest blog: Melanie King on Harold Ivan Harding

Our latest guest appearance is from author and historian Melanie King. While researching her latest book, The Lady is a Spy: The Tangled Lives of Stan Harding and Marguerite Harrison she found H.I. Harding, the brother of one of her subjects in a handful of photographs on Historical Photographs of China. Here she introduces one of them, and tells us a little more about a consul with a singular reputation.

The year is 1922, and the British Vice-Consul to Kashgar, in Central Asia, sits proudly on a grey pony, wearing a turban and distinctive Uyghur clothing. It’s not exactly the attire in which one would expect to find a middle-aged diplomat, a longtime veteran of the Chinese Consular Service. But then Harold Ivan Harding was never one to follow convention.

Harold Harding, on the right, in Kashgar (Kashi), c.1922. Richard Family Collection, EH-s62.

Harold Harding, on the right, with Indian Political Service agent C.P. Skrine, in Kashgar (Kashi), c.1922. Richard Family Collection, EH-s62.

Born in 1883 in Toronto, Harold and his sister Constance were brought up strict Plymouth Brethren, a religion both siblings were adamantly to reject. Harold’s father, Edwin, had emigrated to Canada in 1874 and, despite being the son of a humble London tailor, married well. His wife, Grace Elizabeth Lesslie, was from a prominent family of Scots who had left Dundee in the 1820s and opened several dry-goods stores in Canada. By the time Constance was born in 1884, one year after Harold, Edwin had emphatically declared his profession on her birth certificate as ‘Gentleman’.

Edwin Harding had been converted to his religion by the founder of the Plymouth Brethren, John Nelson Darby, and the Lesslie family were also keen followers. Edwin was not an affectionate man, forever obsessed with the lurking prospect of eternal damnation. His strict views profoundly affected the Harding siblings. Only a year apart, they were very close as children, so when Constance announced at the age of 13 that she no longer believed in God, her punishment was to be separated from her beloved brother and locked in her room for a week. By this time, Harold no longer believed in God either, but he wisely kept his counsel. Meanwhile, he worked out an escape by studying to pass the British Foreign Office exams.

Harold’s first posting to China was in 1902. Harold learned Mandarin fluently, but he deliberately chose to converse in the crudest version—one of his many contrarian acts. He gained a reputation for being ‘rude, hot-headed, undisciplined and insubordinate’, and one colleague described him as an ‘eccentric crank’. These eccentricities ranged from his embrace of Buddhism and vegetarianism, to more whimsical pursuits, such as forcing his  dinner guests to race cockroaches across the dining table. These fun-filled evenings always ended abruptly when, at 10 pm, an alarm sounded and Harold trekked off to bed, leaving his guests to their own devices. Yet another of Harold’s quirks was to remove his trousers in hot weather and receive callers to his office without what he regarded as the dreary protocol of putting them back on. Any guests in 1922 were therefore no doubt relieved to find the Vice-Consul fully dressed—albeit in his Uyghur tunic and turban.

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The Banker’s Bullet-Ridden Buick

Andrew Hillier explores the story behind a pair of striking photographs in our collection, and in his family’s history.

Guy Hillier’s car parked outside the premises of the Hongkong and Shanghai Bank, Beijing, with flat tyres, broken windscreen, broken windows, and bullet holes. Richard Family Collection, Historical Photographs of China ref EH01-242.

Guy Hillier’s car parked outside the premises of the Hongkong and Shanghai Bank, Beijing, with flat tyres, broken windscreen, broken windows, and bullet holes. Richard Family Collection, Historical Photographs of China ref EH01-242.

The images of Guy Hillier’s bullet-ridden car would have been surprising to those who knew him only as the blind and austere agent of the Hongkong Bank’s Beijing office. He was not the sort of person to be caught up in a shoot-out.  In fact (spoiler alert), he was not in the car when it was shot at by Peking guards during the twelve-day Manchu restoration in July 1917. It was the Bank’s accountant, R. C. Allen, who, along with the chauffeur and a mafoo (a groom), narrowly escaped death. But Hillier was involved shortly afterwards and also came under fire.

Guy Hillier’s car parked outside the premises of the Hongkong and Shanghai Bank, Beijing, with flat tyres, broken windscreen, broken windows, and bullet holes. Richard Family Collection, Historical Photographs of China ref EH01-243.

Guy Hillier’s car parked outside the premises of the Hongkong and Shanghai Bank, Beijing, with flat tyres, broken windscreen, broken windows, and bullet holes. Richard Family Collection, Historical Photographs of China ref EH01-243.

The weather was stiflingly hot – Guy Hillier’s secretary and amanuensis, Eleanor (Ella) Richard, recalled that the temperature was over 100°F – and he was spending the week-end of 30 June at Balizhuang, a Buddhist monastery in the western hills, some four miles outside Beijing, where he had a modest set of rooms. Hearing that the former emperor, the eleven year-old Aisin-Gioro Puyi, had been brought out of retirement and placed on the throne, he hurried back to Beijing on 2 July and cabled A. G. Stephen, the Shanghai manager:

Restoration of Emperor proclaimed yesterday.  President [Li Yuanhong] so far refuses to resign and remains in his residence with 2000 men under republican flag …Peking remains quiet with troops of the new regime posted throughout the city. No opposition or disturbance expected in Peking at present, but provincial and Southern opposition probable.[i]

In fact, the calm was short-lived and, amidst much confusion, sporadic fighting began breaking out in the city between Zhang Xun (Chang Hsun), the principal militarist, who had instigated the coup, and troops loyal to the former premier, Duan Qirui (Tuan Chijui). As the events unfolded, Hillier kept Stephen up-dated with a stream of somewhat breathless telegrams. By 11 July, Puyi was still on the throne and, as the city seemed quieter and Hillier was having difficulty sleeping in the heat, he and his mafoo rode back to Balizhuang, having told Allen to meet them at the western gate at 7 a.m. the next morning.

However, waking at about 4 a.m., he heard the sound of gunfire coming from the city and he and his mafoo immediately set off back to Beijing.  Having also heard the gunfire, and realising it would be too dangerous for Hillier to return by pony, Allen decided to drive out to fetch him. According to Maurice Collis’ account, as he made his way through the city, the car was shot at ‘without warning or [anyone] calling on the car to stop’.  But, Ella recalled Allen telling her a very different story immediately afterwards:

Allen had been going at a fine pace through one of the broad streets near the Palace when an officer commanding some Chinese troops shouted an order to them holding up his hand. The chauffeur wished to stop but A. who could not understand Chinese, called to him to rush through. The chauffeur jammed his foot on the accelerator, and they tore past the officer. He was so enraged that he gave an order to fire. The car was riddled with bullets. The mafoo sitting by the chauffeur was hit in his arm and a bullet passed through the peak of the driver’s cap … They swept safely into the great broad street on the West where, to their astonishment, they found G. and his mafoo riding their ponies.

The car’s petrol tank had been holed and all six men had to make for the safety of the Anglican Mission on foot.  Hillier ‘had had to run like a lamplighter through some of the hottest firing’, as he told Ella. It was, he said, ‘an extraordinary experience for a blind man. He could hear the shots and the rattle of machine guns and the ping of bullets but he could also sense that the streets were empty and a strange silence reigned but for the terrific noise’. Even for someone who so relished brinkmanship, the incident shows how foolhardy Hillier could be but also his extraordinary reserves of courage.

Senior bank staff, including Guy Hillier and R.C. Allen, Hongkong and Shanghai Bank, Beijing, c.1923. Standing, from left to right: R.C. Allen (Accountant), Eleanor Hillier, unidentified man (but not Hubbard), D. A. Johnston, name unconfirmed (possibly J.L.T. Patch). Sitting: Guy Hillier. Guy and Ella were married in Hong Kong on 20 December 1919. Richard Family Collection, Historical Photographs of China ref EH-s63.

Senior bank staff, including Guy Hillier and R.C. Allen, Hongkong and Shanghai Bank, Beijing, c.1923. Standing, from left to right: R.C. Allen (Accountant), Eleanor Hillier, unidentified man (but not Hubbard), D. A. Johnston, name unconfirmed (possibly J.L.T. Patch). Sitting: Guy Hillier. Guy and Ella were married in Hong Kong on 20 December 1919. Richard Family Collection, Historical Photographs of China ref EH-s63.

In the event, with the help of a modest payment to Zhang’s troops, the coup ended late that evening and the emperor’s twelve-day reign was over and Duan resumed the office of premier.  The following day, according to Ella, one of his representatives called and apologised for what had occurred. ‘They refunded the loss of Allen’s burberry and one or two things stolen from the car and paid compensation to the mafoo for his wound and spoiled clothing’. Most important of all, they presented Hillier with a new car.[ii]

[i] Based on Hillier’s telegrams, the story is told by Maurice Collis in Wayfoong: The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (London: Faber, 1965), pp. 145-50, but, in 1934, when Puyi was made a puppet emperor in Manchuria, Eleanor (Ella) Isabella Hillier (née Richard) wrote her own account, ‘Pu Yi’s Twelve Day Reign or the Battle of Peking’ (Private Collection).

[ii] I am grateful to Jennifer Peles for allowing me access to Ella Hillier’s papers and to quote from them.

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Reversing Robert Capa’s gaze: Wuhan, 1938

Ooo, look: our eagle-eyed Project Manager Jamie Carstairs spotted this wonderful photograph taken in 1938 by Robert Capa in Hankou (Wuhan) and recently published in MAGNUM China (Colin Pantall and Zheng Ziyu, eds, Thames & Hudson, 2018):

Robert Capa, CHINA. Hankou. July-September, 1938. Men, seen through a window, walking through street after the air battle between Japanese and Chinese fighter planes. © Robert Capa © International Center of Photography/Magnum Photos

Robert Capa, CHINA. Hankou. July-September, 1938. Men, seen through a window, walking through street after the air battle between Japanese and Chinese fighter planes. © Robert Capa © International Center of Photography/Magnum Photos

This is one of a number of striking photographs Capa took during his two stays in the then temporary capital of Nationalist China during the Japanese invasion. But why are we excited? Because of this photograph, which we scooped up from ebay last year. Robert Capa: we now know where you were.

Banner outside the headquarters of "L’Association des Etudiants Chinois de Retour de FBS", 69 Jianghan Lu, Wuhan, 1938 (Bi-s162)

Banner outside the headquarters of “L’Association des Etudiants Chinois de Retour de FBS”, 69 Jianghan Lu, Wuhan, 1938 (Bi-s162)

Whoever the photographer was, we can tell from this that Capa’s photograph was taken from within the headquarters of L’Association des Etudiants Chinois de Retour de FBS (‘France: Belgium: Switzerland Returned Students Association’). This was on Wuhan’s Jianghan Road, at no. 69 in fact (江漢路六十九號). This was a prominent long thoroughfare stretching from the Yangzi riverside, and remains today a major pedestrianised shopping street in the city centre.

Wuhan fell to the Japanese in October 1938. The Nationalist capital was re-established at Chongqing, yet further along the Yangzi river. Capa had long since left. The Association will have relocated too. The fate of the men he caught on film as they walked along the street on this sunny day in 1938 was probably bound up with the terrible course of the capture of the city and its brittle history during the occupation.

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