Arnold Genthe is probably history's best remembered photographer of San Francisco's Chinatown. He accumulated an extensive collection of images over time that reveals his, ...what? Love, fascination, obsession perhaps? ...with his subject matter. An otherwise great photographer to the well off, the well heeled, and the well connected, Genthe certainly didn't need to traipse into the rough and tumble 'foreign' quarter of Chinatown to seek his fortune. But he did so repeatedly. It was only through his dedication that we are able to take a look back at one of America's largest concentrations of Diaspora Chinese from the early 1900's. Genthe was also a photographer to stars, celebrities, and politicians. Just a simple search in the US Library of Congress' web site got 17,000 items returned with Genthe's name on it. Genthe wasn't without controversy either. There is substantial evidence that he often manipulated his images; retouched out certain aspects and added in other things to suit his tastes, leading many photography historians to openly question Genthe's integrity. Despite his failings however, in terms of going into history as one of the masters of photography as a craft of social record, this guy was certainly one of the heaviest of hitters.
Entitled Toy Vendor, Chinatown, San Francisco [c1900s] by A.Genthe [RESTORED] The Picture had spots removed, edge uneveness repaired, tonality smoothed, and then sepia toned for warmth. The original resides at the Library of Congress and can be found under reproduction number LC-USZ62-68252, and can be seen behind spoiler.
Despite being thousands of miles away from their homeland, Chinese like other immigrants before them, congregated into neighborhoods to allow for socialization and mutual protection. Some had managed to start families. Pictured here are two Chinese children, which nowadays wouldn't seem too rare. However, in the early 1900's a Chinese man finding a wife was almost impossible. It was illegal for him to marry a white woman, and a Chinese woman was even harder to be found. This was a result of the racist Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882(and subsequent revisions). It was finally repealed with the Magnuson Act of 1943(but which only allowed a maximum of 105 Chinese per year to enter the US). The California law not allowing Chinese to marry whites wasn't lifted until 1948. Large number immigration of Chinese into the US did not resume until the Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1965. Thus, a picture of two Chinese children walking around the streets of 1900's San Francisco Chinatown (as seen here), was genuinely a precious sight to behold.
***Sidebar*** Whatever you may think of the man politically, Asians in the US owe Ted Kennedy a lot for this one. He fought tooth and nail to get this bill passed when no one else was willing to lead on what was a volatile immigration issue. Just about all Asians born or allowed into the United States after 1965 are where they are today because of the Immigration and Naturalization act of 1965. Many Chinese (especially kids) fail to appreciate that, but by the stroke of one historic legislative pen, their entire families may still be living in China.
The present day issue of Taiwan being a 'part' of China notwithstanding, the island formerly known as Formosa has had a long history before incursion by foreigners. Prior to the massive Han influx in the mid 1600's, Formosa was already peopled by a variety of Austronesian tribal entities(historically well more than 20 tribes, with half that which are currently officially recognized) that had inhabited the island for approximately 8000 years before outside influences finally arrived. Han Chinese may simply have been the beginning of a long line of invaders.
Title not known, picture of Bunun Tribesmen, Island of Formosa [c1900's] Attribution unknown [RESTORED] I did the usual spot removal, edge repair, contrast and tone adjustments, and finally added a sepia tone (Original is behind spoiler).
This was a picture taken of members of the Bunun 布農 Tribe. Historically, they are best known for their unique tribal music as well as their bloody ferocity in battle. Nearly all Formosan tribes collected heads as trophies, and the Bunun were especially good at it. The Imperial Japanese Army, during their occupation of Formosa, recognized Bunun savagery as a martial asset, and had trained and used whole Bunun units much like the British did with the Nepalese Ghurkas (also Gurkhas).
The highland tribes were renowned for their skill in headhunting, which was a symbol of bravery and valor. Almost every tribe except the Yami (Tao) practiced headhunting. Once the victims had been dispatched the heads were taken then boiled and left to dry, often hanging from trees or shelves constructed for the purpose. A party returning with a head was cause for celebration, as it would bring good luck. The Bunun people would often take prisoners and inscribe prayers or messages to their dead on arrows, then shoot their prisoner with the hope their prayers would be carried to the dead. Han settlers were often the victims of headhunting raids as they were considered by the Aborigines to be liars and enemies. A headhunting raid would often strike at workers in the fields, or employ the ruse of setting a dwelling alight and then decapitating the inhabitants as they fled the burning structure. It was also customary to later raise the victim's surviving children as full members of the tribe. Often the heads themselves were ceremonially 'invited' to join the tribe as members, where they were supposed to watch over the tribe and keep them safe. The indigenous inhabitants of Taiwan accepted the convention and practice of headhunting as one of the calculated risks of tribal life. The last groups to practice headhunting were the Paiwan, Bunun, and Atayal groups. Japanese rule ended the practice by 1930, but some elder Taiwanese can recall the practice.
This picture reveals tremendous evidence of sociological impact by outside civilizations. One cannot help but notice that two women are holding western styled umbrellas. The younger woman (front row, second from right) is also seen wearing a Chinese styled dress that was (for whatever reason) apparently put on and worn over her native tribal dress. Did she do this purposely to look special for the occasion, or was this considered normal fashion practice for Bunun women of the times; or perhaps this was just her individual idiosyncrasy? Needless to say, it provides ample evidence that the people of the island had their own cultural identity long before they were assimilated, rather forcibly, into modern society. When Chiang KaiShek and his nationalist army fled the mainland, he forced the island's inhabitants to undergo a severe program of Sinification (aka The White Terror Of Taiwan). This in effect, absorbed and rendered extinct, many of the remaining aboriginal tribes and made Formosa resemble a Chinese province for the first time.
Entitled Black, Chinese and White laborers in a gold mine in South Africa, South Africa [c1890-1923] FCarpenter [RESTORED]. The original, created from a copy negative, resides in the LOC under Reproduction Number: LC-USZ62-40653, and can also be seen behind the spoiler. I did the usual spot removal, edge repair, contrast & tone adjustments and added a sepia tone.
This picture provides evidence of the early and steady immigration of Chinese labor, often to take on the toughest and dirtiest jobs, at seemingly the most remote places of the world. By the late 1800's to early 1900's, driven outward by famine and social upheaval within China, Chinese labor was literally found on all continents except for Antarctica. Not only did this phenomenon create a huge diaspora that thrives to this day, it was also the reason for the spread of what was then Asia's longest surviving, but barely known (outside of Asia) culture to the other parts of the world.
I had previously posted a short explanation of why Chinese skin tones tended to be rendered so dark that it made them seem almost African in appearance, here's a great example of that and the historic mistakes that it can engender. It had to do with the inability of early film emulsions to fully record the reds of the spectrum. Since Asian skin tones, especially those that are tanned, have ample red hues, the early films recorded them so darkly that they often appeared to be black. If one were to closely and carefully examine each face in the above photograph for its features, it becomes readily apparent that all of the supposedly black miners are really Asians (presumably Chinese) instead. Hence, the title of Black, Chinese and White laborers... is obviously wrong.
But why would the title be mistaken? One has to ask oneself, that certainly the photographer must have known what he was photographing, right? There may be two separate explanations for this.
Possible Explanation 1. One has to remember that this was made from a copy negative. That is, there was an original print, and someone then took a picture of the original print, creating a copy negative. The original (with proper title) was lost; subsequent prints made from the copy negative without a proper title were then inappropriately given one by a busy technician. He or she probably didn't remember or did not know of the historic color sensitivity quirk of early films, and must have assumed that, surely some of those dark faces must have belonged to Africans (being that they're in Africa). Ergo, the picture gained that mistaken title.
Possible Explanation 2. Take a look at that picture and imagine oneself back in the late 1800's to early 1900's, standing in a South African mine shaft; what would the physical situation have been like? How light or dark would it have been? That black Africans were plentiful and probably constituted the bulk of the mine's work force is a historic given, being that they were in Africa after all. It would be safe to assume that Frank Carpenter (the photographer), would have probably seen and encountered many Africans within the mines. However, would he have actually seen them? The answer probably is no, not unless they were standing no more than two feet from the oil lamp that he was holding, as the mines, being underground as they were, were also nearly pitch darkness. So how then was this picture taken? That the photo was made with a single light source is apparent, as there is only a single shadow. The shadow is also indistinct, that is, it has no solid edge. This means that the light source itself was not a single pinpoint (like that of a flash bulb) but rather a broadened light source that would be more characteristic with a large board on which magnesium powder was laid. Hence, my belief is that this is probably a good example of Magnesium Flash Powder photography, in which a rapid burning combustible powder made from Magnesium filings mixed with gun powder produced a brief but extremely bright light source that aided photographers in lightless situations. Carpenter himself could have thus misnamed the picture. He had probably assumed that some of the dark skinned people were Africans, as there were many in the mine the day that he took the picture. However, he probably never actually saw the scene or the people captured in it clearly enough; at least not until he processed his plates in his darkroom. Once the developed picture revealed dark faces, he too, may have fallen into the visual trap of mistaking some of them to be African, and so mislabeled the original photograph accordingly.
When US President Richard Nixon visited China in 1972 it was heralded as the break in the bamboo curtain. Ultimately, historians believed that this was the first critical step in allowing PRC - US dialogue to reopen after nearly 20 years of being incommunicado. Through this beginning, in less than another two generations, China not just economically recovered, but positioned itself in open competition with the US.
While Nixon was in China, he attended a performance of The Red Detachment of Women紅色娘子軍 by the Peking Ballet. Life Magazine's John Dominis, covering Nixon's trip, captured the special performance.
This was a photograph taken during the actual special performance for the visiting US President, and found on Life Magazine's archives through Google Search.
Needless to say, this was not your typical production of Swan Lake. I never imagined that I'd see soldiers in PLA uniforms doing pirouettes, or ballerinas swinging a Dadao 大刀; but here it is. Exchanging tutus for rifles, this colorful production takes western classical dance and transforms it into a proletariat struggle, something that perhaps even Marx or Stalin never would have envisioned. It was one of the Cultural Revolution's Eight Model Plays(the only operas or ballets allowed by the PRC government during the Cultural Revolution; all had to be communist or revolutionary themed). It is listed on the Chinese National Ballet Company's as being a part of their permanent repertoire.
The Wiki link above provides an excellent narrative of the simple story; of good peasants being ripped off, beat up, and just all around treated most shabbily by their evil abusive rich landlords. It is just the kind of story that gets people's blood boiling and was as perfect a propaganda device that one can get. Despite, or maybe rather because of its excessive, blatant, over the top, and perfectly predictable story line, the play still enjoys a large following and in some measure, has achieved cult status. For what it is, it is nevertheless extremely well done, instantly recalling Sergei Eisenstein's 1925 The Battleship Potemkin, except this one has music to boot.
For a short glimpse into this quirky, totally political but ever so fascinating production, here is a short clip found on YouTube [Updated 15MAR12]:
Here's another video that has been edited with music added by Youtube fan, "Robot 23" The music is obviously modern techno, but the video importantly shows the variety of dance choreography which dramatically retells the party's view of proper salvation through revolution:
I can't imagine how much poorer the visual history of the world would be without the generosity of Time, Inc. Once again, here is another one from the archives of the millions of Life Magazine images that they released for private non commercial use, via their LIFE photo archive hosted by Google project.
Below is an image taken by Larry Burrows, long time contributor to Life Magazine.
Entitled Chinese refugees being taken out of Hong Kong because of overcrowding Hong Kong, China  L Burrows [RESTORED] Routine spot or defect removal, edge repair, tonal, contrast adjustments, and sepia toned (original unrestored image is behind the spoiler).
One of the most tragic human catastrophes in modern times was the induced starvation of millions of Chinese. Chairman Mao's concept of delivering China from her agrarian roots directly into an industrialized 20th century within five years was wholly unrealistic. He dubbed this as China's Great Leap Forward. However, after only several years, it was increasingly clear that the Great Helmsman steered the state onto the shoals of famine. Historians are still nit picking the numbers; was it only five million, or closer to fifty million? Suffice to say that a lot of Chinese people died from what most now agree was an unworkable pie in the sky type scheme.
In the midst of the starvation, the Beijing government, who had long closed its doors to the west, suddenly reopened its border checkpoints for a few days, most notably at Hong Kong, and allowed exit permits to anyone who wanted one. Thus, in April of 1962, many Chinese immediately tried to flee into the British controlled port. But as increasing numbers of people crossed over into Hong Kong, the British authorities predictably stated that they were unable to keep up with the steep demands of the sudden influx of massive numbers of refugees. They then did something that was roundly criticized to this day; that is, when it was clear that other countries would refused to take any of the refugees in, the Hong Kong authorities began to turn the refugees back to China. Only after extensive political maneuvering, and shameful public commentary, did some countries begrudgingly agree to accept a token number. In total approximately 15,000 were allow to stay or move on to third countries; another 60,000 were repatriated.
The picture above is of one such group of refugees. Having made it over the border and to what they had probably thought was finally freedom, they were given a loaf of bread and were photographed sitting in the back of a truck (lorry), awaiting their turn to be sent back. Their faces provides mute testament of their dejection, despair, hopelessness, and fear. The woman in the center wears a brow plainly fraught with worry. I found a very touching editorial by Eleanor Roosevelt (Wife of former US President Franklin Roosevelt), written as the events unfolded. In it, she tried to help Americans understand the depth of desperation that China's Chinese were undergoing. To do it justice, I've quoted it in its entirety:
WASHINGTON—The pictures that we have been seeing in the newspapers of the Chinese refugees making their way from Communist China through barbed wire, border guards, and all the other difficulties of a police state into Hong Kong and then being turned back are sad indeed. I am glad that our government has agreed to take some of these refugees but I must say I cringed a little at the qualifications, as reported which said we would take some of "the most desirable." People who are fleeing starvation may, I think, be slightly difficult to identify as "desirable" and "undesirable". And who knows whether a baby is going to be "desirable" when it grows up. Much depends on the circumstances in which it is allowed to grow.
From a political point of view this situation may have very serious repercussions. The Chinese people have for years been accustomed to famines, floods, and national disasters of every kind. And they have suffered these catastrophes, as a rule, with a stoic quality which gives one a feeling that there must be a very heavy fatalistic conviction among them that when one's time has come it is best to compose oneself and meet death with dignity. I cannot remember ever hearing of any very active revolt against the national disasters and the inability of their government to handle them. In European and Western countries people would be rioting and demanding of their government that they obtain food, that it be distributed to them, and that the conditions be remedied so that such disasters might be avoided in the future. But the pressure of population is so great in China that I suppose this is one of the reasons that there is no general complaint and protest.
Also, I suppose it accounts for the apparent acceptance of the conditions and indifference on the part of officials to what happens to their people. Just as one of them was able to tell Yugoslav Prime Minister Tito that Communist China was the only nation that could profit by World War III because, if 300,000 Chinese were to die, it would be a benefit and not a detriment to the population. President Kennedy said that our gesture, under emergency powers, of taking in a certain number of the refugees from Hong Kong would not really have very much effect upon the whole situation within China, and it is quite evident that he is right.
I noted that Taiwan will take a number of these refugees, and I imagine the hope is that many of them, when the stress of food shortage is over, will be able to accept allegiance to a non-Communist form of government. I have never had the feeling that among the Chinese people there was any real understanding or belief in communism as an ideology. The struggle to live has been too great in China at all times. The people always have been interested in any reform which would make this struggle easier or would give them any small benefit in their daily lives.
My husband, whose grandfather spent many years in China, had a deep and abiding admiration and faith in the Chinese people and the Chinese businessmen. I have grieved that the age-old friendship between China and the United States has deteriorated so badly in the past few years and I am curious indeed to see the reaction of even these poor Chinese refugees, whom we are agreeing to receive, when they find themselves living among the people whom they have been told have only the bitterest and most antagonistic feelings toward them. One can only hope that the Chinese communities in our country will organize immediately to greet these newcomers, house them, and start them in their new lives. Otherwise, I can well imagine that their fright might be almost as great as the terror and fear of famine which they are now going through.
Somehow we in this country who have so little experience of what it is like when there is no food available have got to try to understand this situation. For us, hunger comes to people who cannot afford to buy, but there is always the chance that some kind person will buy for one or that the government will look after one's needs. But when there just is no food, neither kindness nor the government can provide it. This is the kind of situation that calls for much imagination on our part in order to understand.
Did the people seen here in the above picture survive those times? I certainly don't know; I sincerely hope that they did. But the picture itself provides ample material for discussion in how the hubris of politicians, regardless of stripe, can wind up harming or doing injustice to an incalculable number of innocents.
Remembering China from the late Qing to its most recent rebirth as the People's Republic, one tends to focus more on the dramatic changes of leadership or governance without giving much thought to the usual daily activities of the people on the ground. However, most people of those times got on with their lives and usual pursuits regardless of who was in charge of the country. Most of the historic political changes didn't touch on one personally so to speak, not unless it was something thoroughly sweeping enough like a war right on your door step. In terms of daily living then, what mattered to most were being able to go to the market without getting accosted and to return home not to find it looted. Shanghai has always been one of China's most celebrated cities, and back in the early 1900's it was for mostly all the wrong reasons. Any vice could be had and crime was rampant; routine offenses like murder weren't even considered front page news and kidnapping was almost a sport. With the various foreign concessions administratively altering the borders of Chinese legality, thereby creating a point beyond which no chinese enforcement could reach; the setting was indeed ripe for unfettered criminality.
The infamous Green Gang 青幫 and their notorious calling card (using axes to butcher their enemies) sprang from this and they very nearly took possession of the city. As a profession, law enforcement was not only notably dangerous, but often deadly, as police themselves were regularly targeted and killed by criminals.
Entitled Shanghai Municipal Police 1890 Chief Superintendent Of Police Wears A Sword, Shanghai, China  unattributed [RESTORED] I did the usual retouching of spots, repair of assorted defects; tonal and contrast adjustments; along with moire patterning elimination from a poorly scanned image. The original is behind spoiler.
Into this raw setting steps an Englishman. A former marine infantryman, he joined the Shanghai Municipal Police in 1907, only to have his life almost ended in a brawl with one of the city's less reputable inhabitants. Upon recovery, he vowed never to be put into that position again. Learning all that he could in terms of personal martial tactics from a variety of informed sources, he cherry picked the best and most effective techniques of hand to hand and armed combat, adapting it to the cutthroat streets of Shanghai. In a system that he coined as Defendu, it was designed not for martial sport or competition, but to successfully incapacitate or kill an opponent quickly. However, no matter how well one man could handle himself in a fight, he could not realistically win a battle against multiple well armed opponents. So taking this one step further, the creator of Defundu trained his fellow police to not only be the best individual fighters that they could be, but to function as a team, using a variety of special weapons and skills, in order to take down criminal gangs and their strongholds. He developed techniques for police counter snipers and had body armored squads to do forced entries. After a bloody riot in which several Chinese protesters were unfortunately killed by police, he developed a strategy for riot control that entail the use of a specialized highly trained unit, held in reserve but ready to go at a moment's notice. This activity in the 1920's multinational force SMP is widely acknowledged to be the birth of modern day SWAT police tactics. The SMP included officers from nearly all nationals, but were chiefly British, Chinese, Indian, Japanese, and Russian.
Retiring from the SMP as an assistant police commissioner, he would later go on to join the British Secret Service and train countless numbers of allied special operatives and commandos in the finer aspects of personal close quarter lethal combat. He was awarded the US Legion of Merit at the request of Wild Bill Donovan, head of the Office of Strategic Services (forerunner of modern CIA), and has been suggested by some to be an inspiration for Ian Fleming's character of James Bond. He retired a Lieutenant Colonel and was also the co-designer of a combat knife that is still widely used by militaries around the world today.
From the Hawley C. White Company and now residing in the US Library of Congress, an image that bridges two cultures, both of which have faded into history long ago. Hawley C. White's company was one of the prolific stereoscope image companies ever. His catalog reportedly listed over 13,000 assorted images from around the world, covering the end of the 1800's through 1915. Moreover, he was able to mass produce his pictures by his invention of an automated darkroom process in which negatives were placed on photographic print paper, properly exposed, and then chemically developed, all automatically by machine. In the present day, it's not much to hoot and holler about; back in the early 1900's however, it was considered an engineering miracle. HC White Company's images were not only of higher quality, but were consistent, and produced quickly in much greater numbers vastly eclipsing both his larger rivals, Keystone or Underwood (the other stereoscope view companies) daily production. Keystone was to eventually buy out White's company when he decided to retire.
Entitled Imperial Gate of The Imperial City, Looking North, Peking China  HC White Co. [RESTORED] I did the usual spot and defects repair, adjusted for tone and contrast, rotational corrected, and added a sepia tone. The original is from a pair of stereoscope images, and can be see behind the spoiler. It can be found in the US Library Of Congress by reproduction number LC-USZ62-137033.
The southern gate to the imperial city, considered the ceremonial gateway to China, had stood since Ming times. Under Qing rule, it had been renamed as The Great Qing Gate 大清門, and also bore its public title in a rare display of both Chinese and Manchu text. Upon the fall of the Qing however, the gate was renamed once more, to be called the Gate of China 中華門. Sadly, the historic gate itself fell not to conquerors, but to urban planning. It was demolished in 1954 in order to expand Tiananmen Square, and would later become the site of Mao's mausoleum after his death in 1976.
***Sidebar*** Many historic buildings in Beijing, had their dual Chinese - Manchu signs replaced by pure Chinese ones after the fall of the Qing, though some may still have both and can be found if one is persistent enough. Sadly too, the Manchu language itself today is expected to be extinct in a just a few more years, as the last remaining native speakers die off. This presents unique problems for Qing historians as there is no longer anyone who natively understands the written text in Qing dynasty archives.
Just a comment on the retouching; while I do enjoy the repairs and making an old photo look more like what it would have without the defects, there's a difference between repair and manipulation. Already, many 'historical' images have been disputed to be outright fabrications. With today's advanced tools in digital alterations, those possessed of less than truthful intentions have a tremendously dangerous tool at their disposal. That is, digital retouching can be employed as a method to rewrite the past according to the political agendas du jour and not respect the sanctity of history de jure.
It's really a very fine line. That's the main reason why I post the title as [RESTORED] to indicate that the image had been altered, and a link to the original so that viewers can readily compare for themselves. It shows that the essential historical integrity conveyed by the photograph remains intact despite the repairs. For me, it's a simple matter of honesty.
Genuine period Dageurreotypes are exceedingly rare and often valued as collectors items. This is because the final product only allowed for one image that, for all intents, were unique unto themselves. The process (a French discovery in 1839 that bears the name of the inventor of the technique, Louis Daguerre) inherently did not lend itself to reproduction, hence many such images have already fallen into the dust bin of history, as no copies were ever made of them. In recent years advanced methods of copying have preserved the likenesses of these images. Though such copying cannot yet fully convey the subtle and exquisite tonal qualities of the original image trapped within the glass.
Lorenzo G Chase was noted to be especially active between 1844-1856. In one 1849 advertisement, he claimed to have had produced an astonishing 40,000 Dageurrean Likenesses by then¹. He was originally from the Boston area and went out west for a few years; then settling back to Boston where little is known about his activity after 1856.
Entitled Chinese woman [c1850s] LG Chase [RESTORED] The woman is identified as Miss Pwan Ye Koo. The original (seen behind the spoiler) is set in a leatherette case, and is archived in the Peabody Museum Collection at Harvard University, under item number PM 35-5-10/53057. I did some light retouching out of obvious defects, and increased the contrast.
Owing to the short life span of productivity from Daguerreotypes (soon to be replaced with easier techniques like the Ambrotype and Tintype), they are considered to be relatively rare, and most genuine ones are in museums or private collections. There are few Chinese period images captured using this process. The few Daguerreotypes that I've seen with Chinese appear to be all of immigrant or overseas Chinese. And just a few personal observations; when I first looked at this picture, I immediately thought, 'Native American' in some sort of tribal dress, and was quite surprised to see the annotation describing her as Chinese. If there was ever support for an Aleutian land bridge theory, just one look at her face says a lot. Closer inspection of her clothing confirmed that it was more Asian than American.
Another interesting notation is, I've never encounter any Chinese name romanized as Pwan; My suspicion is that her name was originally Kwan(a name certainly within the group of typical or common Chinese surnames for those that went to the US during that time period; that is, mostly Cantonese). The letters P and K are graphically close. My first supposition is that the picture was originally recorded as Kwan (somewhere on the back plate), but over the years with handling, the short lower pencil stroke of the K disappeared, and an aggressive cursive stroke was mistaken for a closed upper loop, rendering the K into a P. So a casual reader may have simply seen a smudged letter K and mistaken it for a letter P. Alternatively, the same type of mistake may have been made by a harried or careless US Immigration or Customs official. Upon presentation of her Miss Kwan's arrival documents (again, because of an elaborate upper cursive loop, and truncated or lighthanded lower stroke of the K) misread her original entry papers and recorded her name officially as Pwan. It probably didn't happen at her point of departure as most officials there (Chinese or not), were probably very familiar with a common name like Kwan, and would not have made such a silly mistake. Ergo, my second supposition is, that her name was thus 'officially' changed to Pwan. So when she had her picture taken, when asked what her name was, she knew it was Kwan in Chinese, but in English everyone knew her as Pwan Ye Koo. So that's the name she gave the photographer.
1. Pioneer photographers of the far west  PE Palmquist TR Kailbourn, Pg179
***sidebar*** Daguerreotype, as a creative technique, has enjoyed a persistent artistic following throughout the years. Modern or contemporary daguerreotypes were considered a photographic specialty even before the advent of digitization, so they're even more so now. The way that the image reflects light, even though in black and white, makes the picture seem three dimensional and alive in a way that no other image process can. Thus, a small group of creative and dedicated photographers have kept this technique alive. But on the opposite side of creativity is avarice. This has also unfortunately spawned a wide range of counterfeits; modern production daguerreotypes rendered of people dressed in period clothing. The final item is then sold by scam artists under pretense that it is a rare or valuable historic artifact from the 1800s.
I'm glad that you and others find the images here worthwhile. Again, I started this thread to generate interest in Chinese history, so if it makes people even remotely interested, I've accomplished my goal. -^_^
Further, this wasn't meant to be a personal effort of any particular person; ie this isn't my personal thread. If anyone feels that they have an image within the Chinese venue of something that is socially or historically noteworthy, then please, feel free to contribute and comment on the image. Original photographs may be personal, commercial, or celebratory, et cetera. They are all historical in the sense that they are generally snap shots in time; a slice of history, if you will. That is what makes them all the more fascinating and worthy of our interest. -detect
If Anyone has an interesting image of old China, please contribute.
The Internet Mission Photography Archive offers historical images from Protestant and Catholic missionary collections in Britain, Norway, Germany, and the United States. The photographs, which range in time from the middle of the nineteenth to the middle of the twentieth century, offer a visual record of missionary activities and experiences in Africa, China, Madagascar, India, Papua-New Guinea, and the Caribbean. The photographs reveal the physical influence of missions, visible in mission compounds, churches, and school buildings, as well as the cultural impact of mission teaching, religious practices, and Western technology and fashions. Indigenous peoples' responses to missions and the emergence of indigenous churches are represented, as are views of landscapes, cities, and towns before and in the early stages of modern development.
Entitled A Family In Lanzhou, China  Fr M Tennien [RESTORED]. I did the usual spot and defect removal, adjusted contrast, and added a sepia tone. Overall there was very little to do for this very well maintained image. The original can be seen behind the spoiler or also at this link.
Lanzhou蘭州(under a variety of names) is probably one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in China, and also was one of the key cities on the northern leg of the the famed silk road. At the crossroad of many cultues, it was the home to the Qiang people when it fell under Qin rule in the 6th Century BC. Thereafter a steady stream of invasions and dynastic shifts allowed it to be ruled by a variety of foreign cultures and nations (including Tibet, which should give those who claim that Tibet was always a part of China some more history to try to rewrite). During the volatile warlord period of the 1920-1930s, Lanzhou was an important transfer point for Soviet communist influence and support into China.
The original description from the archive's page reads as follows:
This is a photograph of a family in Lanchow. The women wear square amulets hanging from their necks. The ornaments on their dresses are of solid silver. The family is wearing hats and heavy coats.
The clothing on the family in the picture is unique but shows similarity to both that of tradition Qiang and Tibetan cultures, however there seems to be a bit of Mongolian thrown in as well. I personally am not well versed with any of the Chinese ethnic minorities (officially 56 are recognized at last count) to know the subtle nuances such as cultural difference in dress. If there is anyone out there that knows who or what ethnic group these people belong too, please speak up and educate the rest of us.
From the US Library of Congress Archives, additional example of a stereoscope image taken by an unidentified photographer, working for Underwood & Underwood Company, another of the big volume stereo image companies that brought pictures of the late 1800's early 1900's world home to Americans and Europeans. Like HC White's collection, they too would eventually be bought out by rival Keystone View Co.
Entitled View Along The Bund, From Municipal Council Building, Hankow - Interior China's Greatest Tea Port  Underwood & Co [RESTORED] This picture required very little in terms of retouching. The right half of a stereo pair, simple spotting, contrast adjust, a minor burn in of the hazed background, along with the light sepia tone. The original can be seen behind spoiler, or found at the US LOC under Reproduction Number LC-USZ62-121747.
Hankou漢口(also Hankow) and two adjoining cities Hanyang漢陽 and Wuchang武昌 eventually merged in 1927 to become Wuhan武漢, and is now capital of the Hubei Province湖北省. At the time, Hankou itself was also home to several foreign concessions (Japanese, Russian, British, French, and Germans) and sits on the confluence of the Han and Yangtze Rivers, making it one of the most important ports through Chinese history. As with any major city, leagues of the unwashed, uneducated, and otherwise unskilled could still nonetheless find a meager, if hard living, by offering brawn to any buyer on a daily basis. During that time frame in China, most short distance cargo was transported via human portage. This manual system of transport, in all probability, had lasted thousands of years; that of one man with a shouldered bamboo rod that dangled parcels fore and aft, was the way that most goods were moved. If the cargo was especially heavy, two or four men could agree to share a load between them. It was a minimalist system in which one didn't need to speak the regional dialect or know how to read or write. Just lift the packages and follow the owner to where he wanted it brought to and get paid at the end. A tough but honest living; probably millions of Chinese through history fed themselves with this time honored manual labor for hire system. In the picture above, portage laborers with tools of their trade in hand (bamboo rod and a length of rope) standing about awaiting hire.
***Sidebar*** The introduction of rail transport by the Europeans had a tremendous social impact on the manual laborer in China. What used to require gangs of sweating men marching days, and often under constant threat of banditry, were suddenly cut down to just hours without risk of theft, at a fraction of the cost. Businesses eagerly adopted rail cargo when available. However this usually meant that thousands of unskilled laborers were then left without recourse. It became one of the myriad reasons that manual laborers thus threw their lot in with the Boxers during the uprising in 1900. Thousands joined not because of their love of the Qing or China; they simply wanted to get rid of the European rail system that competed for their livelihood.
Sir Marc Aurel Stein was arguably a duality in terms of Chinese history. On the one hand, he is the Hungarian archaeologist who brought world attention to the trove of undiscovered manuscripts in the famous Buddhist caves of Dunhuang. Knighted by the British government for his work, he was also a major contributor of the many things that we know about Central Asia and the history of the famed silk road. But on the other hand, he stole a heck of a lot of the stuff that he found. The majority of the best Central Asian items held by the British Museum were probably looted by Stein.
A large portion of Stein's work and historic findings can be reviewed at the Internation Dunhuang Project and several of his rare books are available for public access via high resolution scans held by Toyo Bunko.
Entitled Masib, Ahmad, Haji, Abdullah, Kara-khoja outlaws at Panopa shelter huts, Panopa, Xinjiang, China [c1915] MA Stein [RESTORED] Usual spot and defect removal, tone and contrast adjustments, minor edge repair, with a sepia tone (original unrestored image is behind spoiler).
Masib, Ahmad*, Haji, Abdullah, Kara-khoja outlaws at Panopa shelter huts. *Skull seen in Jan. 1915.
Full-length portrait of the four men, standing in a line with rifles. 'While halting for the night I had an interesting opportunity of becoming acquainted with a small party of well-armed outlaws from Kara-khoja of whose presence on this much-frequented mountain route I had already been warned at Jimasa... They were the 'die-hard' remnant of a large party of Kara-khoja cultivators, who having had a long-standing dispute over some lands with neighbours of Astana... had about six months before attacked and killed the Muhammadan Jisa, the local revenue official, whom they believed to have brought about the defeat of their rightful claims...
They were well armed with Mauser rifles, for since the revolution of 1911-12 it had become easy to purchase arms and ammunition from the Chinese garrison at Turfan... Since removing themselves to a region outside the Turfan command, the four heroes had remained wholly unmolested. They were now maintaining themselves in comparative comfort at Pa-no-p'a by the receipt of charitable gifts from sympathizing fellow Muslims and of blackmail from other wayfarers...
Ahmad's wish to meet me again during my winter's stay in Turfan was to be realised in a fashion rather different from that he had in mind; for, on returning from Urumchi in the first days of January, I was greeted by his shrivelled black head stuck up on a high pole outside the gate of the Yang-shahr of Turfan...' (ii, 560, note). (I.A. Map 28, B1).
Xinjiang新疆 to this day remains one of China's most remote regions. The political troubles there today are probably no different from those hundreds of years ago. At the crossroads of a multitude of civilizations, it is here that various ethnic, tribal, or political groups trade, barter and attempt to hold sway over their peers, often with bloody conflict as the result. When Stein made his way through the region, he observed in his writings and the photo above, that most matters were settled by some sort of combat; the loser's countenance often gracing a village gate as a grim warning to others.
Entitled Building Kangs, Tianjin, China [1917-1919] SD Gamble [RESTORED]. I didn't do much at all to this photo except added contrast for clarity, cropped and sepia toned (original is behind the spoiler).
Aesthetically this is probably one of the ugliest pictures that I've ever seen. Historically however, it is beautiful visual evidence of perhaps thousands of years of Chinese resourcefulness and ingenuity in the face of a harsh and sometimes unforgiving land.
The picture shows a Kang炕 Bed Stove in the midst of construction, in one of several refugee camps run by either the missionaries, or relief organizations active in China at the time. The idea of a heated sleeping surface dates back to the neolithic period and archaeologists have found remains of a kang dated to the first century. The method is simple but rather elegant in its simplicity; heat from daily cooking is channeled beneath a platform that retains it, providing warmth through cold winter nights.
In the picture above, one can see that bricks or flat stones are placed at evenly spaced intervals, and then laid atop one another to rise to an even height above the floor, forming small flat topped columns. Bamboo rods or thick dried reeds are then laid across the top and held in place with damp clay or earth mixed with chopped hay. Once this dries, another layer of smaller rods or reeds are then laid crosswise on top, with more clay or damp earth hay mixture covering it. The process is repeated a few more times until the thickness of the rod and earth platform is at least a foot or so. An adjustable exiting flue is then fitted to the end opposite the stove, allowing heat to travel under the bed, heating and drying the earthen material until it becomes, over time, almost as hard as concrete. This earthen platform is able to generally retain heat for many hours overnight. Functionally, it is nothing more than a chimney laid flat down of the floor, but ingeniously put to good survivalist use. Looking closely, one can also see that besides the Kang, the simple dwelling itself was constructed of wood, reeds, and wet earth mixed with hay. Obviously this is nothing elaborate, but it provided critical shelter with the use of basic natural supplies commonly found.
This method of heating held several advantages. Namely, one didn't have to attend to a nightly fire or worry about suffocation from carbon monoxide poisoning. As there was no longer a fire burning through the night, there was no longer any need to open a vent for smoke (or precious heat) to escape. Secondly, the heated platform retained the heat from the fuel that was consumed with cooking during the day, thus requiring no additional wood at night. The platform is generally covered with a heat dissipating material (like straw) and then a quilt or blanket. Those on top would feel warmth without ever getting too hot. Typically, entire families slept together atop the Kang.
***Sidebar*** During the Great Leap Forward, the period when Mao channeled rural life into communes, all cooking was strictly mandated to be performed only in collective kitchens. In order to prevent private hoarding of food, firewood was confiscated to stop villagers from secretly cooking. But what happened as a catastrophic byproduct of this short sighted party edict was that millions literally froze to death when they weren't allowed their daily kitchen fires to warm their kangs.
In my collection of, Don't know where they came from but looks like an interesting image stack, I found this on the Personal Flickr site of someone name Okinawa Soba who seems to be a collector of old images, especially those of turn of the 20th Century Japan. Those of you that have an interest in Japanese images similar to the Chinese ones that I've posted here should visit his page. Again, it is gratifying to see other image collectors share their finds with the world on public gallery sites like Flickr, and I extend my sincerest thanks to all of them, both for their continued personal generosity and their untiring efforts.
Entitled "THE DROOLING SWORD SWALLOWER in OLD CHINA -- A Study in Faces" [RESTORED] presumably named by the poster of the image, it was supposedly "...From a group of 1895-1935 hand-colored and black & white glass lantern slides of old pre-WW2 China"...according to Mr Soba's description. There was no attribution or credit listed. The picture was remarkably free of spots. I eliminated a scratch on the right side, adjusted the tonal and contrast range for better shadow detail, and finally sepia toned the image (original is behind the spoiler).
Many unemployed people with martial training took to putting on roadside or street performances in order to earn enough for a daily meal. The things that some did in order to one up their competition sometimes meant subjecting oneself to extraordinary and often dangerous routines. The above shows one such traveling performer in the act ofSword Swallowing, a sometimes deadly performance art which originated in India from about 2000 BC and began making its way into Chinese martial acrobatic routines during the eighth century. The performer learns to suppress his or her gag reflex and slowly slides a long thin object from their mouth directly into their esophagus. This is remarkably similar to the medical procedure in which a tube (about the thickness of a finger) is inserted into a patient's esophagus in order to perform gastric lavage (ie. wash out their stomach contents, aka pumping their stomach). Obviously, an ill timed cough or slap on the back usually resulted in deadly consequences.
More from netizen contributions, another from generous Flickr member Ookami_dou. I found the first image in his Flickr collection. He has a tremendous number of Chinese and other vintage photos. Interested viewers should explore his page. Then, as I was doing the research for this photo, an interesting find on Wiki's page about the Wheelbarrow (second photo).
 Entitled heavenly wheelbarrow Presumably from the Qingdao region of China, [c1910] Attribution unknown [RESTORED]. I got rid of some spots, increased contrast a bit, and sepia toned it.
 Entitled Wheelbarrows near Xi'an [c1905] J.Shields [RESTORED] I rotational corrected, removed spots, scratches and a few stains, increased the contrast and sepia toned (original images are behind the spoiler).
The lowly wheelbarrow was certainly around for many years before the Chinese ever saw it. But once they did, not only did the labor intensive Chinese society take hold of it, Chinese ingenuity took the device and made it more effective. By relocating the single central wheel from the front of the load platform to a point midway into it, this allowed the load weight to be shifted more onto the wheel and away from the operator. Thus, significantly heavier loads could be carried and manipulated by only one man. Further, in a uniquely Chinese adaptation, sails were added to land wheel vehicles, including the wheelbarrow, allowing nature to power assist whenever possible. This meant the operator would only have to lift and not push as much.