Ian Gill on photographs and family history

While reading journalist Ian Gill’s articles in the South China Morning Post on his search into the history of his China coast family, we were struck by the place of photographs in that story and invited him to tell us more.

Search for My Genealogical Holy Grail
Family lived in treaty ports from end of the Opium Wars till Communist ascent

By Ian Gill

It was a short question, out of the blue, that led to the discovery of my genealogical Holy Grail — photographs of my English great-grandparents and grandparents who had settled in Hong Kong and China from the 1860s.
“Do you know Duncan Clark? He is the grandson of another Duncan Clark who was a tidewaiter with the Customs in Chefoo.”
The query was from Robert Nield, author of two books on China’s treaty ports, and it was as if he had doused me with a bucket of icy water. It awoke a memory of my mother saying her aunt Annie, sister of her father Frank Newman, had married a Scot named Duncan Clark.

Consular records show that, indeed, Anne Elizabeth Victoria Newman, 22, did marry Duncan Clark, 36, at St. Andrew’s Church on Chefoo’s waterfront on April 6, 1893. The couple also made the short trip up nearby Consulate Hill to sign the marriage register at the British Consulate. Annie’s two brothers, Frank and George, also signed the registry, her younger sister Ellen would surely have been maid-of-honour, and a talented singer, James Glassey, no doubt sang in church.

The Newmans in the 1890s. Frank is on far left, Duncan and Annie Clark are fourth and third from the right. Image courtesy of Graham Clark.

The Newmans in the 1890s. Frank is on the far left, Duncan and Annie Clark are fourth and third from the right. Image courtesy of Graham Clark.

Just over a year later, there were further celebrations under St. Andrew’s picturesque castle-like tower, when Ellen Eliza Maud Newman, 20, tied the knot with James Arthur MacFarlane Glassey, 26, on June 4, 1894. The two marriages cemented ties that already existed between the Newmans, Clark and Glassey. Frank Newman and his new brothers-in-law were colleagues in the Imperial Maritime Customs and the three were also on the customs rowing team. But signs were appearing that these inter-family connections might be loosening. One week after Ellen’s wedding, a notice in the North-China Herald announced that “The Family Hotel”, which had been owned by their late parents, Edward and Mary Ann Newman, was being discontinued as a family enterprise and sold off to a syndicate of buyers.

It wasn’t long after this that the Glasseys and the Clarks left the tiny treaty port of Chefoo. Duncan and Annie moved to Weihaiwei for business opportunities when it became a British territory in 1898. Annie would deliver six children before dying on November 16, 1906, at age 36 of broncho-pneumonia and nephritis, but Duncan would go on to remarry — the governess — have two more children, and make a fortune.

James and Ellen Glassey were transferred to Amoy, he became a customs assistant examiner, and they moved to glamorous Shanghai. They attended George Newman’s wedding to Dorothy Carozzi at Shanghai Cathedral in 1904 but, the following April, James was not listed among the guests at the customs fancy dress ball at which Ellen wore a “Swiss girl” costume. Perhaps he was unwell, for he took unattached leave from the customs and died of blackwater fever or malaria on September 15, 1907, a month shy of his 40th birthday.

Leaving one boy behind at school, Ellen took her younger son Jim to Japan, where she worked as a governess before resettling in America in 1911. Jim found my mother after returning to China after the war and our families have been in touch ever since.
But we lost contact with the large Clark clan — until Robert Nield asked his question while we were discussing Chefoo. The younger Duncan, it transpired, had helped Nield with his research and was living in Coventry, England.

I realized that Duncan might be able to add significantly to the story of my family’s involvement with treaty port China that began when my great-grandfather Edward Newman arrived in Hong Kong around the end of the Opium Wars and ended with my mother being evacuated from Shanghai shortly before the Communist takeover in 1949. Duncan was surprised to receive my call but was cordial and agreed to meet. By coincidence, I was headed to England with my family on a tour of universities and Coventry was on the schedule. I was thrilled at the prospect of meeting my cousin but nervous, too, as I had high hopes but little idea as to how things would turn out.

Up to that point, my conduit with my forebears had been my mother, Louise Mary “Billie” Gill, M.B.E., who died in 2006. As well as being a gifted raconteur with a phenomenal memory, Billie was a scrupulous keeper of family records and mementoes. She had become a Newman by adoption. In Changsha, a few weeks after her birth in 1916, she had been taken in by Frank Newman, Acting Commissioner with the Chinese Post Office, and his Chinese wife, Liu Mei-lan. Marylou, as she was called, joined two daughters: Jessie, 12, and Dorothy (Dolly), also adopted, from Central Asia.
My mother, who was known as Billie for most of her life, had an extraordinary background. Ethnically Chinese, she was raised as a Eurasian — and regarded herself as one – but, in speech and manners, became more British than many Britons.

My mother Billie - from abandoned Chinese baby - to M.B.E. Courtesy Gill family.

My mother Billie – from abandoned Chinese baby –
to M.B.E. Courtesy Gill family.

She loved her parents and kept their photographs in silver frames in our living room. One treasured legacy of Mama was the black-and-gold ceremonial jacket she had worn for her wedding. Mama, who in her photograph wears a dark Chinese gown and has flattened hair, was warm-hearted and expressive. She was a devoted mother who, though foot-bound, took Billie as a child to mahjong games and the Chinese opera and waited at the door at home until she returned from school.

The photograph of Billie’s father shows him in formal dress with a wingtip collar and tie, and a slightly quizzical expression under thick eyebrows. He was an unusual Englishman who was born in Hong Kong, raised in Chefoo, spent his working life around China and retired in Tsingtao. He disregarded British social norms by taking a Chinese wife and adopting two non- Caucasian daughters. This would not have had a positive impact on Frank’s career in customs and the post office, but he earned the admiration of foreign communities, judging from a laudatory letter to the newspaper, and the respect of the Chinese who gave him several awards, including a silver star, for his services. His final position was Postal Commissioner in Chungking. Along his extensive travels, he became a scholar of calligraphy and antique curios. He gave talks and wrote articles about rare coins.

Frank Newman, Shanghai studio, date unknown. Image courtesy of Duncan Clark.

Frank Newman, Shanghai studio, date unknown. Image courtesy of Duncan Clark.

Frank sent Marylou to schools like St. Joseph’s and Shanghai Public School for Girls, where she excelled at studies and played hockey. But her privileged education came to an abrupt end in 1932 after Mama told her that her father, who had been absent for long periods, would not be returning. I have written about Frank Newman’ s complicated love life, and his relationship with a Russian woman.

Becoming a breadwinner at 16, Billie started as a teletypist for Reuters and a few years later became office manager for a new magazine, T’ien Hsia (Everything Under Heaven), that acted as a cultural bridge between east and west. Financed by the Chinese government, its editorial staff included intellectuals like Wen Yuan-ning, Lin Yutang, John Wu and T.K. Chuan, who had attended graduate schools in the west. Billie also met contributors like the American journalist, Emily Hahn, with whom she became a lifelong friend. The erudite magazine reflected a unique period of intellectual openness and international exchange that was interrupted when the Sino-Japanese war reached Shanghai in 1937.

Billie would have had more souvenirs of Shanghai between the 1920s and 1940s had not her life been disrupted several times in war and peace. She was seconded by T’ien Hsia to work for Shanghai Mayor O.K. Yui and was a newscaster for the government radio station XGOY) when Shanghai fell in August, 1937. Fearing she might be on a Japanese “black list,” she joined her colleagues in fleeing for Hong Kong. She had intended to return for Mama, but her mother died a few weeks later of a heart attack. A grief-stricken Billie returned to Shanghai and was on her way to Mama’s flat in Hardoon Road when she was interrogated by Japanese soldiers on Garden Bridge. The incident traumatized her and she had her mother’s belongings auctioned off in haste before returning to Hong Kong.

Billie was working for the Chinese Government Information Office, including being seconded to W.H. Donald, the Australian journalist who became an advisor to Sun Yat-sen, Chiang Kai-shek and Madame Chiang, when the Japanese attacked Hong Kong in December, 1941. She became a prisoner of war in Stanley Internment Camp, going into camp with a baby boy and little more than she could carry. She came close to a nervous breakdown after losing her son in a drowning mishap on Stanley’s Tweed Bay beach. In the aftermath of the tragedy, her friendship deepened with an English journalist who would become my father.

Her upheavals continued after the war. She conceived me in Stanley and, after leaving the camp destitute, delivered me two months later in New Zealand. We spent a year in England with Emily Hahn and her husband Charles Boxer at their Dorset home, before Billie received a job offer from Hollington Tong to work again for the Chinese government in Nanking. We arrived during a period of hyper-inflation and hardship before she joined the United Nations Information Centre in Shanghai in early 1948. After a few more turbulent months, during which Billie nearly died from spinal meningitis, we were evacuated to Manila shortly before the Communist takeover in 1949.

Billie did walk me through her life in China. In 1975, we went to Hong Kong and Taipei to meet many of her childhood friends and ex-colleagues from Shanghai. We returned to Shanghai only in 1993 and, even then, she fretted the authorities might not allow her to leave. Shanghai had erased some of the more obvious reminders of colonial rule such as the race track but had yet to undertake large-scale redevelopment and much of Mum’s Shanghai was still there. Finding it was problematic, however, as streets and houses had aged prematurely through neglect and over-crowding and were difficult to recognize. Yuyuen Road, for example, had been a wide, leafy avenue with rickshaws, bicycles and the occasional motorcar in Mum’s memory, but was 60 years later a cacophonous mass of traffic.

Billie and her friend Edie had dinner with Pembroke Stephens (left) of The Daily Telegraph and O'Dowd Gallagher of The Daily Express.

Billie and her friend Edie had dinner with Pembroke Stephens (left) of The Daily Telegraph and O’Dowd Gallagher of The Daily Express.

Incredibly, she recognized T’ien Hsia’s railed balcony on which she stood when Daily Telegraph correspondent Pembroke Stephens shouted that Japanese troops were approaching in 1937. From there, she found her much-changed house further down Yuyuen Road. When Mum stood outside and talked animatedly, people gathered, including a tall, white-haired woman who spoke perfect, educated English. Margaret Lin was older than mother, had lived in the lane all her life and had been educated at McTyeire School for Girls. She and Mum hit it off instantly and Margaret joined our search. Without her, and amid the steady rain and the heavy traffic, we wouldn’t have found half the places that we did.

House at 3 Kiangwan Road, Shanghai, near the railway station where the Nationalists arrived in 1927.

House at 3 Kiangwan Road, Shanghai, near the railway station where the Nationalists arrived in 1927.

Each location triggered an anecdote. At 3 Kiangwan Road in Hongkew, Billie peered into the front room and described the wedding reception for her sister Jessie on June 26, 1926, and how it ended abruptly when the groom, Jimmy Jamieson-Ellis, collapsed and was taken to hospital. A few months later, Billie remembered, Nationalist troops arrived via the Shanghai- Hangchow railway station around the corner and Frank moved the family to the International Settlement for safety. At Yuyuen Road the following year, Jimmy died of scarlet fever on July 19, 1927 and, a few nights later, all the lights mysteriously came on in the house and Jessie swore that Jimmy appeared to say goodbye. We also visited the former United Nations offices in Whangpoo (Huangpu) Road where Billie had started work in 1948 in a career that lasted until 1976, and for which she received an M.B.E. in 1977.

I started to entertain wild hopes that Duncan Clark might bring pictorial as well as anecdotal depth to our family’s close association with “Britain in China” that stretched back to Edward Newman career’s with the Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Company in Hong Kong during the 1860s. I have photographs of steep, narrow Old Bailey Street, where Edward and his family lived opposite Victoria Gaol, which is still there, and I retraced his steps down the hill to where the P&O offices had been on The Praya. Among the more amazing possessions my mother retrieved through our American cousins were a Masonic apron and patent which her grandfather Edward Newman had received at the Zetland Lodge in Hong Kong in 1872. I wrote about the Newmans’ bold gamble in 1873 when Edward and Mary Ann resettled in Chefoo, where they would own and run “The Family Hotel” while raising four children, including the son who would become “Uncle Frank” to the offspring of Duncan and Annie Clark.

Over tea and sandwiches, I met grandson Duncan Clark at his home in June 2016. A thickset, dour man with a Scottish accent, Duncan was hospitable and generous in sharing his extensive family knowledge. He handed me an envelope with photographs of “Uncle Frank,” together with carefully- typed captions. They portrayed a young Frank I had not seen before. One showed a youthful, clean-shaven Frank with mustachioed Duncan Clark and James Glassey in a customs rowing team. Another depicts Frank in the attire of a gentleman jockey, complete with cap, holding the reins of a pony. This supplements an 1895 North-China Herald report on the Chefoo Races in which Frank won second place in the Duffers’ Derby on his own horse, a grey named Blossom.

Chefoo Chinese Imperial Customs rowing team. Frank Newman (far left), James Glassey (second from the left) and Duncan Clark (far right). Image courtesy of Duncan.

Chefoo Chinese Imperial Customs rowing team. Frank Newman (far left), James Glassey (second from the left) and Duncan Clark (far right). Image courtesy of Duncan Clark.

Frank Newman with a pony, Chefoo. Image courtesy of Duncan Clark.

Frank Newman won second place in the Duffers’ Derby in the 1895 Chefoo races. Image courtesy of Duncan Clark.

Duncan had no pictures of Edward and Mary, but he told me about another grandson of Annie and Duncan, Graeme Clark, who lived on the other side of the world. A burly retired Lieutenant-Colonel in the Australian army, Graeme, 73, was also keenly interested in family history. He lived in Queensland and we were soon talking enthusiastically on the phone about our family intersections. When Graeme said he had a Newman family Bible, inherited from Mary Ann through her second son George, it produced another goose bump moment. I thought it was likely to be similar to the family Bible Mum had inherited through Frank but which she had, inexplicably, given away to a friend before leaving Stanley camp.

Holding the Newman Family Bible, with birth details of my great-grandparents Edward and Mary Ann Newman.

Ian Gill holding the Newman Family Bible, with birth details of his great-grandparents Edward and Mary Ann Newman.

Graeme had Parkinson’s disease, but was managing reasonably well. A few weeks later, however, his condition took a dive. It was now or never, I thought, and I flew down to Helensvale on the Gold Coast where I was welcomed as one of the family by Graeme, his wife Frances and their daughter Victoria. As soon as I saw Graeme’s Newman family Bible, I understood why Mum could not have carried hers out of camp. It was huge and weighed 8 kilograms. I needed both hands just to hold it. Importantly, the Bible contained a dedication from Mary Ann Newman to her son in large, clear handwriting.

Though Graeme could not recall seeing photos of our great grandparents, I began browsing through his family albums Then, on a page marked “Hong Kong 1800s,” I saw, staring out at me, one photograph with the caption “Maurina Newman and her baby Annie” and another with the name Newman Edward, followed by a question mark. Since the only Newmans from our family in Hong Kong were Edward and Mary Ann, I had found what I had not dared to hope for. The image of little Annie, born in 1870, sealed the matter beyond doubt.

Mary Ann Newman, with baby Annie, Hong Kong 1870. Image courtesy of Graeme Clark.

Mary Ann Newman, with baby Annie, Hong Kong 1870. Image courtesy of Graeme Clark.

Edward Newman in Hong Kong, 1870. Image courtesy of Graeme Clark.

Edward Newman in Hong Kong, 1870. Image courtesy of Graeme Clark.

The postcard like-images, taken by a studio photographer, offer a glimpse of their characters before they made their epic move to Chefoo. Edward, with his jaunty stance, comes across as a derring-do type, while a seated Mary Ann looks calm and grounded as she holds Annie firmly on her lap.

I sent Mary Anne’s handwriting to a graphologist in Canada without giving any details of her background. The analyst deduced from Mary Ann’s script that she showed “strong thinking skills and balance.” In addition, she possessed “ability to organize. She can pull ideas, people or materials together into a functional force to get things done.” Interestingly, this jibed with Mary Ann’s experience as assistant manager at the Docks Hotel, part of the P & O complex, in Southampton. I also found two signatures of Edward Newman, one on the Masonic patent in 1872 and another when he registered his daughter Ellen’s birth in 1874 at the British Consulate. They were not a lot to work with but the graphologist noted that Edward’s signature extended significantly beyond the space allocated on the form. “It is normal for writers to respect margins. Edward does not,” she noted. “This is often an indicator of someone who may want to eliminate barriers between himself and the outside world; can be effusive in speech and obtrusive in manner; and could have a fear or a dislike of empty spaces. Edward has his own lifestyle and may be viewed by others as a bit of a non-conformist.”

Chefoo, from 'Temple Hill', 1900. Carrall Family Collection, Ca01-064, © 2008 Queen’s University Belfast.

Chefoo, from ‘Temple Hill’, 1900. Carrall Family Collection, Ca01-064, © 2008 Queen’s University Belfast.

To find other visual pieces of the jigsaw puzzle, my wife and traveled to Chefoo, today known as Yantai, on China’s Shandong peninsula. Chifu is now a seaside district of the large, sprawling city of Yantai whose population has soared to 7 million from the 10,000 inhabitants of the walled Chinese city that greeted Edward Newman on his arrival. We met local historian Victor Wei Chunyang, who is familiar with the Newman family story and spent days taking us around the old foreign area. The stench of night soil has long dissipated since the 19th century, but the customs house and quay where the Newmans disembarked, the narrow streets, post offices and trading houses are preserved or restored, as are the British, Japanese, French and Danish consulates on Consulate Hill. St. Andrew’s Church has been demolished, leaving a circle of concrete stumps to mark its location.

Chinese Post Office, Chefoo. Post card courtesy of Lin Weibin.

Chinese Post Office, Chefoo. Post card courtesy of Lin Weibin.

We took photographs but Victor Wei went one better, introducing us to his history- minded friends, including Lin Weibin, who has an extensive collection of postcards from the colonial era. Lin allowed me to photograph many of these postcards and credit them in articles, including this blog. It is thanks to Lin that I have images of “The Family Hotel”, both as a single-storey structure in its early days and later, after a second floor was added. I also have postcards of Chefoo’s East Beach where the hotel was located beside the China Inland Mission-built Chefoo School which the Newman children attended in the 1880s and 1890s.

"The Family Hotel" in Chefoo, owned by my great-grandparents. The C.I.M. Boys' School is on the right. Postcard courtesy of Lin Weibin.

“The Family Hotel” in Chefoo, owned by my great-grandparents. The C.I.M. Boys’ School is on the right. Postcard courtesy of Lin Weibin.

China Inland Mission Boy's School, Chefoo, 1898. Carrall Family Collection, Ca01-25, © 2008 Queen’s University Belfast.

China Inland Mission Boy’s School, Chefoo, 1898. Carrall Family Collection, Ca01-025, © 2008 Queen’s University Belfast.

Wei took us to Temple Hill where Edward and Mary Ann Newman were buried in 1883 and 1891, respectively. Their graves were destroyed along with others during anti-foreigner outbursts in the Korean War but Duncan Clark gave me a poignant photo of Frank Newman standing beside the tombstones of his mother and father.

Frank Newman beside the grave stones of Mary Ann Newman and Edward Newman. Image courtesy of Duncan Clark.

Frank Newman beside the grave stones of Mary Ann Newman and Edward Newman. Image courtesy of Duncan Clark.

Researching my family story turned unexpectedly into a grand adventure. It was magical to bond with long-lost cousins, and just in time, too, for Graeme Clark died not long after we met. I am indebted to my friend Victor Wei, of Yantai, who has shown great interest in my family. He unearthed much information about Frank Newman as well as interesting illustrations. One is a photograph of one of Newman’s rare coins, now housed in the National Museum of China in Beijing. Another is a picture of the citation accompanying a silver medal Frank was awarded by the Shaanxi provincial military government in 1921 for helping to bring a measure of stability during a chaotic warlord-dominated period.

Ian Gill is a Manila-based freelance journalist who began his career in the UK and has spent the past 46 years in the Asia-Pacific region working on staff for publications including the Asian Wall Street Journal in Singapore, Asiaweek and Insight in Hong Kong, the Fiji Sun in Suva and the Evening Post in Wellington, interspersed with a 20-year career at the Asian Development Bank writing on development in the region. He has a diploma in French studies from Geneva University, a BA in economics from Sussex University and an MA in educational communications and technology from the University of Hawaii. He is married with a daughter at McGill University and a son headed for Auckland University.

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‘Finding Wee Paddy’ … and finding Riflemen Mellon, Howard and Delaney

‘Finding Wee Paddy’ is a new documentary that has its first showing on 21 October at the Metropolitan Arts Centre, Belfast. It tells the story of the relocation of the grave of Rifleman Patrick McGowan, Royal Ulster Rifles, who was killed by a Japanese aircraft while on patrol in Shanghai on 24 October 1937. Some of the photographs used come from the Malcolm Rosholt Collection, and the producers have been able to provide additional details we did not previously have for one set of photographs which showed a group of five Riflemen at their sandbagged Lewis Gun post.

Royal Ulster Rifles riflemen, with Lewis Gun, Shanghai. Photograph by Malcolm Rosholt. Malcolm Rosholt Collection, Ro-n1020, © 2012 Mei-Fei Elrick and Tess Johnston.

Royal Ulster Rifles riflemen, with Lewis Gun, Shanghai. Photograph by Malcolm Rosholt. Malcolm Rosholt Collection, Ro-n1020, © 2012 Mei-Fei Elrick and Tess Johnston.

Three of these men were killed by Japanese action, when shells landed nearby. James Mellon, manning the Lewis Gun; William Christopher Howard in the front row with a stick; and shirtless Robert Delaney. All were buried in the Bubbling Well Cemetery on 1 November, alongside Rifleman Joseph O’Toole, who was killed elsewhere the same day.

North China Herald, 10 November 1937, p. 13.

The fate of British War Graves in China, and in general of cemeteries established by foreigners there, is not entirely clear. Most cemeteries after 1949 were redeveloped or turned into parks (Bubbling Well is now Jing’an Park), and some were vandalised and destroyed during the Cultural Revolution. Some inscriptions from former cemeteries were recreated on stones that now survive in the Song Qingling Memorial Garden on the site of the former New International Cemetery. Some details of this story and some lists of those interred can be found here.

Tickets for the film, made by Squeaky Pedal Productions, can be booked here.

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French Men of War at Pagoda Anchorage, Foochow, 1884

In this, the first of a series of posts by undergraduate finalists in history at the University of Bristol, Nicholas Barker reflects on a tense moment caught in a seemingly quiet image.

French Men of War at Pagoda Anchorage, Foochow, 1884 Oswald Collection Os01-116 © 2008 SOAS

French Men of War at Pagoda Anchorage, Foochow, 1884 Oswald Collection Os01-116 © 2008 SOAS

The stillness of this photograph masks a brutal reality. The anchored vessel in calm water suggests an inquisitive innocence. Yet, on closer inspection the photograph reveals a more striking image: an iron hull pierces the waterline and a French flag limps from the rear mast. This closer image is a more telling one. At 2pm on 23rd August 1884, Admiral Courbet opened fire on the Chinese Fujian fleet at Pagoda Anchorage, Foochow, marking the first engagement of the Sino-French War (August 1884 – April 1885). This relatively unknown conflict was the culmination of increasing French intervention in Indo-China driven by economic fantasies and amour propre.[1] The battle at Foochow was practically over in seven minutes as the modern French navy obliterated the Chinese. The Times correspondent called it ‘a sickening business’ and ‘a massacre’.[2] The French lost 6 men, whilst the Chinese dead numbered over 1,500.[3] The confrontation was even watched for professional reasons by British and American seamen: it was the first time that torpedo ships were used in combat.[4] Warfare had thus become a site for the display of technological innovation.

This photograph of the Duguay-Trouin epitomises the shift towards mechanized, technological destruction, with the marriage of military, industry and science. The vessel was a first-class iron cruiser, built in Cherbourg in 1879. It weighed 3,478 tons, was 294 ft long and carried five guns. This photograph was part of the collection of John Oswald, a tea trader and race horse owner based in Foochow. The positioning of the ship in the centre of the photograph emphasizes its magnitude and suggests a novelty to the vessel that was worthy of the viewers’ full attention. It was truly a symbol of European difference.

Yet, this was not simply a battle between unmatched fleets. It is not right to bracket all the Chinese vessels as ‘mere toy transports’, but instead important to appreciated that the Chinese did have some technologically advanced ships, including the corvette Yang-Wu.[5] Indeed, nine of the eleven Chinese vessels were of the ‘Foochow’ class, built by Prosper Giquel at the shipyard at Fuzhou and armed with Krupp guns.[6] Thus, whilst their armour was inferior, their artillery was supposed to be equal to the French. Technological difference was therefore not the only reason for the Chinese defeat. The disparity between the navies was also apparent in the proficiency of the seamen. Admiral Courbet received a note of congratulations from the international spectators on the bravery and professionalism of his men. It was claimed that whilst the French commander was embroiled in the thick of the fighting, his Chinese counterpart, Zhang Peilun, was seated in a sedan chair on his way to Kushan, a celebrated monastery overlooking the river.[7] Furthermore, the lack of co-ordination between the northern and southern navies disadvantaged the Qing. Li Hongzhang refused to send the Beiyang fleet to support the Fujian flotilla at Pagoda Anchorage. Thus, as Benjamin Elman has rightfully argued, the inadequacy of the late Qing Chinese navy was due to a multitude of factors, including poor armament, insufficient training, lack of leadership, vested interests and lack of funding, and low morale.[8]

This Chinese defeat has come to symbolise the failures of the ‘self-strengthening’ movement undertaken in China after the Taiping Rebellion. The ‘self-strengthening, movement’ (1865-94), backed by the statesman Li Hongzhang, was an attempt to develop China’s economic and military strength through the adoption of Western technology. An October 1884 article in The Times argued that the battle represented an ‘admirable example of the complete defencelessness of the coast of China, and this after the yearly expenditure of the fabulous sums of money for many years past’.[9] The correspondent went further, stating that ‘the country is rotten’, lacking ‘national feeling’ and steeped in ‘corruption’. Thus, the progressive reform attempts had failed to produce a military strong enough to repel Western encroachments. Indeed, the navy faced further budget cuts between 1885 and 1894, and further military defeats would ensue during the Sino-Japanese War (1895-96).

The Duguay-Trouin represents the aggressive European militarism which had come to epitomise Western interactions with the Chinese, especially in the Treaty Ports. These modern warships, efficiently crewed with good leadership, were symbols of difference and vehicles of power and influence. The warship, as both a symbol and instrument, was constantly used as a lever for trade and diplomatic prestige. Yet, the guns mounted on such vessels were not without purpose: they posed a real threat to China and were repeatedly used to inflict violence on her populace.

 

[1] Hans Van de Ven, Breaking with the Past (New York, 2014), 112.

[2] ‘France and China’, The Times, 25 Aug 1884.

[3] ‘France and China’, The Times, 25 Aug 1884.

[4] ‘The Bombardment of Pagoda Anchorage’, North China Herald, 29 Aug 1884.

[5] ‘Hostilities at Foochow’, The Times, 23 Oct 1884.

[6] ‘The Bombardment of Pagoda Anchorage’, North China Herald, 29 Aug 1884.

[7] ‘Hostilities at Foochow’, The Times, 23 Oct 1884.

[8] Benjamin Elman, ‘Naval warfare and the Refraction of China’s Self-Strengthening Reforms into Scientific and Technological Failure, 1865-1895’, Modern Asian Studies, 38, (2004), 283-326.

[9] ‘Hostilities at Foochow’, The Times, 23 Oct 1884.

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Regimental Cartes de Visite

Following the copying of the Royal Hampshire Museum’s collection of China- related photographs by the Historical Photographs of China project, Dr Andrew Hillier shows how these can reveal the personal aspects of a regiment on campaign in empire.  

First created and patented by the French photographer André Disdéri in 1854, by the 1860s, cartes de visite had become an early form of social media, connecting family and friends, as well as constituting a means of networking. Within the empire, they were particularly popular as a way of maintaining links between home and abroad and were also regularly exchanged within the sociable milieu of a regiment. As such, they provide an important source of family, imperial and military history.

The Royal Hampshire Museum is fortunate in having an album of cartes, which belonged to an officer of the 67th, who served in China between 1860 and 1864, and contains pictures of his regimental colleagues. It therefore, supplements the Museum’s China collection which I discussed in my previous blog. We are grateful to the Museum for permitting us to copy these images which can now be accessed here. See also the George Atchison Collection for further photographs relating to the regiment’s China campaign.

According to an August 1975 annotation by the museum’s archivist, C. D. Darroch, the album of cartes was owned by Lieutenant-General Sir John Wellesley Thomas, KCB (1822-1908), although on the brass cover it is stated that it was ‘presented’ by Thomas (presumably to the regiment) in January 1867. Either way, he seems to have been the originator of the album which has, apparently, remained in the regiment’s possession ever since. Thomas who had already had a distinguished military career before serving with the 67th in the North China campaign in 1860. Wounded when commanding a half-brigade in an attack on the Taku Forts, he was mentioned in dispatches and appointed Companion of the Bath.

Lieutenant-General Sir John Wellesley Thomas, KCB, 1860s. Royal Hampshire Collection (RH03-02).

Lieutenant-General Sir John Wellesley Thomas, KCB, 1860s. Royal Hampshire Collection (RH03-02).

Two years later, promoted to colonel, Thomas captured Jiading (Khading) during the Taiping rebellion and left China when his regiment sailed for India in 1864, remaining its commanding officer until 1872. He retired in 1881 and was appointed Colonel of the Hampshire Regiment in 1882. He never married.

Album cover. Royal Hampshire Regiment Museum ref: M1503.

Album cover. Royal Hampshire Regiment Museum ref: M1503.

Detail of album cover, with text: "PRESENTED BY COLONEL J.W. THOMAS. C.B. / JANUARY. 1867 / SOUTH HAMPSHIRE 67."

Detail of album cover, with text: “PRESENTED BY COLONEL J.W. THOMAS. C.B. / JANUARY. 1867 / SOUTH HAMPSHIRE 67.”

There are some seventy cartes, six on each page –some have been removed and there are blank pages which may have previously held cards. Plainly the pictures were taken over a long period, some in Britain and some in India, where the regiment was stationed from time to time. Some seem to be personally signed which suggests they may have been exchanged as tokens of friendship during Thomas’ career. There are some twenty cartes of officers who, on the basis of their service records, we can assume served in China between 1860 and 1864, when the regiment sailed back to India.

Page of cartes de visite in Royal Hampshire Regiment Museum album M1503.

Page of cartes de visite in Royal Hampshire Regiment Museum album M1503.

The album includes a picture of John Eyles Blundell who, as we saw in my previous blog, assembled his own collection of photographs relating to China

John Eyles Blundell. Royal Hampshire Collection (RH03-81).

John Eyles Blundell. Royal Hampshire Collection (RH03-81).

The images are due to be made accessible on the museum’s web-site – and it is hoped that this may trigger a response from some of their descendants.

It would be interesting to know whether other regiments have similar albums of cartes. These pictures and the other images of the China campaign which can be viewed on Historical Photographs of China, together with the accompanying journals, show how this rich resource can provide a vivid picture of a regiment in empire, both in its military and in its more personal aspect.

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No Great Wall

The latest book to use one of our photographs on its cover has just arrived in the post.

Felix Boecking teaches modern Chinese economic and political history at the University of Edinburgh, and his volume, which grew out of the ‘History of the Chinese Maritime Customs’ project — as did Historical Photographs of China — is out now from Harvard University Press.

The very striking cover is derived from a photograph of the harbour at Chefoo — Yantai — possibly taken in the winter of 1936-37.

It came with a modest set of photographs from Dr Bill Sinton, whose parents worked for the China Inland Mission in Sichuan, where he was born in 1924. Sinton boarded at the Chefoo School in 1930s, and the photograph is one of a number of ships in the harbour, all of which show them caught fast in ice.

Barges and steamships in frozen harbour, Chefoo, Sinton Collection Si-s08 © 2010 Dr William Sinton

The calligraphy on the cover is by Chiang Kai-shek. So, by way of cross-linkages, this provides an opportunity to showcase another photograph from the wonderful Fu Bingchang collection of Chiang, and his calligraphy, carved in stone on Jinmen Island. The calligraphy itself dates from 1952. We would be grateful for information about the history of the inscribing of the stone.

Chiang Kai-shek, with slogan in his hand, carved in stone on Jinmen Island, Fu Collection, Fu-s158 © 2011 C. H. Foo and Y. W. Foo

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New content: Hedda Morrison, Joseph Needham, Edward Bangs Drew and Claude L. Pickens Jr.

We are pleased to be able to announce today that we have successfully migrated the content from the Visualising China platform into our Historical Photographs of China site. In practical terms this means an almost 50 per cent increase in the number of photographs hosted in HPC and includes 6,129 images from the Hedda Morrison, Edward Bangs Drew, and Rev. Claude L. Pickens, Jr. collections. This has been accomplished with the kind consent of Harvard-Yenching Library, which contains the originals, and which placed them online within the Harvard College Library Digital Collections. We are very grateful to our colleagues at Harvard for agreeing to this, and to facilitating our access to the material. Our original plan was to host these collections within Visualising China, but technical problems mean that we will need to close down that site which, as some users may have discovered, has become unstable. As of the near future the Visualising China site will simply host this blog.

The addition of nearly 4,700 photographs from 28 albums of Hedda Morrison’s photographs of north China is tremendously exciting. Taken roughly between 1933 and 1946, they provide an astonishing record of life in north China at this time. A quite different part of that world is captured in 1079 photographs from the Rev. Claude L. Pickens, Jr. Collection of Muslim West China in the 1920s-1930s. The Edward Bangs Drew Collection complements our earlier collections, such as the Bowra albums, as it contains almost 400 photographs from the 1870s-1900s collected by Drew, a Harvard graduate who rose to a senior position in the Imperial Maritime Customs Service. In addition, we have, with permission, also incorporated almost 1,200 photographs taken or collected by Joseph Needham in China in 1943-46 during his wartime work there on behalf of the British Council. For technical reasons we were unable to migrate the photographs from the Robert Hart Collections at Queen’s University Belfast that we had hosted within Visualising China.

Although the Visualising China platform, launched in 2011, has been overtaken by new technical developments, and by digital initiatives at our partner institutions, the relaunched Historical Photographs of China platform has embedded within it the key features that made it such a powerful and attractive tool: cross collection searching, and a Creative Commons Licence framework that allows for non-commercial reuse of the low-resolution digital copies that we are able to make available.

Historical Photographs of China continues to grow as we digitalise fresh photographs, negatives and slides offered to us and add them to the site. Currently we are working through a large backlog of material, and aim to have significant new collections available before too long. Recent additions include the Peter Klein and Stanley Wyatt-Smith Collections and part of the Stanfield Family Collection. Waiting in the queue are photographs of wartime Yan’an from the Michael and Hsiao-Li Lindsay Collection, and colour slides of mid-1960s China from the Andrew Collection, and more, much more, besides.

Meanwhile, enjoy.

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New collection: Wuhan in revolution in 1911

Shopping street decorated with Republican flags, c.1911 Wyatt-Smith Collection, WS01-157 © 2017 Joanna Dunn and Philippa Lamb

Shopping street decorated with Republican flags, c.1911 Wyatt-Smith Collection, WS01-157 © 2017 Joanna Dunn and Philippa Lamb

Today we have released online a new collection of 184 photographs, the vast majority documenting events during the 1911 Xinhai Revolution in Wuhan. The album of photographs was shared with us by the family of former British consular official Stanley Wyatt-Smith (1887-1958). Some of these images will be familiar to readers of Hanchao Lu’s book The Birth of a RepublicFrancis Stafford’s Photographs of China’s 1911 Revolution and Beyond (2010), but many are certainly new to us. Wyatt-Smith, like Stafford, bought or otherwise acquired photographs, although unlike the latter, he does not seem to have taken any.

Many of the images in the Stanley Wyatt-Smith collection are quite dramatic, and some, we should warn you, also show in gory detail the aftermath of revolutionary and counter-revolutionary violence. They were all mounted in a single large-format album, somewhat the worse for wear, but here they now are, and we are grateful to the family for sharing them with us. As always, we would be pleased to hear from you if you can help us better annotate these photographs.

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Andrew Hillier on Images of War and Regimental Memory

Following a recent visit to the Royal Hampshire Regiment Museum in Winchester, Dr Andrew Hillier discusses the rich resources that are available in such museums and their importance to the study of imperial history.

There are well over one hundred small museums in Britain dedicated to displaying the history of individual army regiments. These contain rich sources of material relating to the country’s colonial past. But regimental history and how to display it can be problematic, given the tension between the mission of such institutions to uphold the honour of the regiment and critical perspectives on imperial history that contest the values it was committed to enforce.[i] The dichotomy is exemplified by the 67th (South Hants) Regiment of Foot, which spent four years in China in the early 1860s, first fighting the Qing government during the Second Opium War and then supporting it against the Taiping rebels, events which are recorded in both its excellent museum display and in Historical Photographs of China. How should these events be remembered so as to do justice to those who took part in them whilst at the same time recognising their unacceptable features? In order to answer that question, it is first necessary to explore how they were understood and recorded at the time. The purpose of this blog is to show what a rich resource such regimental archives can constitute for this purpose, and how important it is that they continue to be valued and made accessible at a time when some have already closed and others are at risk.[ii]

Despatched from India after the British had suffered ‘a stinging humiliating defeat’ at the Taku (Dagu) forts in June 1859, the 67th distinguished itself the following year, when, along with the 99th, it stormed the North Taku Fort on 21 August 1860, an engagement which quickly led to the fall of Tianjin and the end of the Second Opium War.[iii] Of the six Victoria Crosses won that day, four were awarded to the regiment – to Lieutenant Edmund Lenon, Lieutenant Nathaniel Burslem and Private Thomas Lane, who, having swum the 18 foot wide ditch, broached the walls under intense fire, and to Ensign John Chaplin who was the first to plant the colours at the top of the defences. Their heroic deeds form a major part of the museum display, being commemorated in photographs, medals and citations, together with pictures and an account of the attack (plate 1).

To give further context, the display has summaries of their subsequent careers, the misfortune, which dogged Lenon and Chaplin, being reflected in the history of their medals: both were pawned and only recovered through the goodwill of the regiment and others.[iv] Whilst the commentary is well-judged, some might question the lack of any explanation relating to items looted from the Summer Palace (Yuanming yuan) – two silver cups and, hanging nearby, a fine five-clawed imperial dragon embroidery, albeit there is a label somewhat blandly stating that it was ‘taken from the Summer Palace by Colonel Bell Kingsley’.[v]

1.Part of the Taku Fort display, Royal Hampshire Museum

1. Part of the Taku Fort display, Royal Hampshire Museum. Note the copy of one of Beato’s photographs, the history of Lenon’s VC and the two silver cups looted from the Summer Palace (author’s photograph).

The display includes copies of photographs taken by Felice Beato, the Italian war photographer, who had already made his name in the Crimea and the aftermath of the Indian Uprising. Famously insisting that the corpses not be removed until he had completed the exercise and, at times, even adjusting their position for effect, this was the first time that dead soldiers had been photographed on the battlefield. Whilst there are originals of some of Beato’s pictures in the museum archive, their provenance is uncertain. Those in HPC come from the album of Captain George Thomas Atchison of the 67th , who took part in the attack and who may well have purchased them before Beato left China in November 1861 (plates 2 and 3).[vi]

2.The Upper North Taku fort stormed by the 67th on 21 August 1860. The wooden pontoon had been laid by sappers. Ahead of it are the fixed defences of iron and wooden stakes ‘thick as the pins on a pin-cushion’ and beyond them, the 18 foot wide ditch which the first attackers had to swim before the drawbridge was lowered into position. Photograph by Felice Beato. GA01-038.

2. The Upper North Taku fort stormed by the 67th on 21 August 1860. The wooden pontoon had been laid by sappers. Ahead of it are the fixed defences of iron and wooden stakes ‘thick as the pins on a pin-cushion’ and beyond them, the 18 foot wide ditch which the first attackers had to swim before the drawbridge was lowered into position. Photograph by Felice Beato. GA01-038.

3.The interior of the upper north Taku fort shortly after the attack. This was the first time that dead bodies had been shown as part of the documentation of war. Photograph by Felice Beato, GA01-041.

3. The interior of the upper north Taku fort shortly after the attack. This was the first time that dead bodies had been shown as part of the documentation of war. Photograph by Felice Beato, GA01-041.

The display is supplemented by the regimental archives – a rich assortment of photograph albums, scrapbooks of press cuttings, which include lithographs of Beato’s pictures, and other memorabilia, journals and correspondence. The letters from Ensign Lorenzo Mosse to his mother are of particular interest as they describe the prelude to the attack – a 5-hour march, often knee-deep in mud, with corpses strewn along the way and bivouacking in the open – and then the attack itself – ‘the slaughter was tremendous, there were 29 [Chinese] dead round one gun’.

4.Ensign Chaplin planting the regimental colours on the north Taku fort. Note the ‘handkerchief’ of the tricolour below it. A copy of the painting forms part of the museum display. The artist, date, and whereabouts of the original are unknown (copyright, Hampshire Regiment).

4. Ensign Chaplin at the moment of regimental glory. Note the ‘handkerchief’ of the tricolour below it. A copy of the painting forms part of the museum display. The artist, date, and whereabouts of the original are unknown (copyright, Royal Hampshire Regiment Trust).

According to this account, Chaplin was somewhat fortunate to win his VC, as ‘this lucky youngster happened to be next to’ the ensign carrying the colours, seized them when the ensign was ‘knocked over’, and ‘with the leading men, made a rush for the top of the Cavalier [vii] and succeeded in planting the Union Jack [sic]’. For Mosse, who did not have a good word for the French, the important point was that Chaplin got there ‘before they could get up with the tricolour which is about the size of a pocket handkerchief’ and it was this that earned Chaplin his VC. However, this does him less than justice, as, according to the regimental historian, C. T. Atkinson, having planted the colours, ‘thrice-wounded, he still pressed on, men of the 67th crowding after him’.[viii] Recorded in a somewhat gaudy oil-painting (plate 4), this was a defining moment for the regiment, not only for its own history but also for a wider public, as the events were the subject of at least five published eye-witness accounts, the titles of which tell their own story.[ix]

Moving north, the regiment was stationed on the outskirts of Beijing, where it participated in the looting of the Summer Palace, and then, as the war drew to a close, it returned to Tianjin. In addition to the group photographs in plates 5 and 6, the museum also has an album containing thirteen sheets of cartes de visite portraits of members of the 67th. These will have been exchanged between officers and provide an early example of what became an extremely popular medium and a further rich source for the regiment’s history. [x] 

5. Officers of the 67th, Tientsin, 1861. By this time, the war was over and the men have a relaxed, not to say somewhat dishevelled appearance, some with straggly beards reminiscent of those who fought in the Crimea. (GA01-035).

5. Officers of the 67th, Tientsin, 1861. By this time, the war was over and the men have a relaxed, not to say somewhat dishevelled appearance, some with straggly beards reminiscent of those who fought in the Crimea. (GA01-035).

6.Officers of the 67th, Tientsin, 1861. The loucheness and swagger in their demeanour suggests a pride in the VC’s which had been announced in August 1861 (GA01-036).

6. Officers of the 67th, Tientsin, 1861. The loucheness and swagger in their demeanour suggests a pride in the VC’s which had been announced in August 1861 (GA01-036).

In April, 1862, some nine officers and 320 men from the 67th were transferred to Shanghai where they linked with other British forces, charged with enforcing a 30 mile exclusion area around the city and assisting the Qing against the Taiping rebels, alongside what became known as the Ever Victorious Army.[xi] They were joined in August the following year, by a young ensign, John Eyles Blundell, recently arrived after a four month voyage from England. He had already begun writing his journal and compiling an album of photographs, which would cover his time in China and subsequent military service in Japan, Burma and Afghanistan. Whilst the journal does not refer to the pictures, the consistency of many of the images suggests that at least some were taken by him. If this is correct, he should be seen as a significant and, hitherto unrecognised, photographer of a regiment in empire. [xii]

On arrival, as he recounts, he had difficulty locating the officers’ quarters: ‘Given a Chinese guide, set forth – a “short-cut” follows through Chinatown – stinks- almost unendurable- narrow and crowded streets – Cholera is rampant’. The headquarters turned out to be ‘a Joss House’.[xiii] Here, some distance from the foreign settlements, he and his fellow officers spent the next twelve months, stationed amongst the Chinese whom the regiment was there to protect (plates 7 and 8).[xiv]

7. 67th Regiment’s Officers’ Mess in the Confucian Temple, Shanghai, 1863. ‘All the fellows seem very agreeable’, wrote Blundell in his journal (Blundell album, copyright Hampshire Regiment).

7. 67th Regiment’s Officers’ Mess in the Confucian Temple, Shanghai, 1863. ‘All the fellows seem very agreeable’, wrote Blundell in his journal (Blundell album, copyright Royal Hampshire Regiment Trust).

8. Entrance to officers’ mess, Shanghai, 1863 (Blundell album, copyright Hampshire Regiment).

8. Entrance to officers’ mess, Shanghai, 1863 (Blundell album, copyright Royal Hampshire Regiment Trust).

Although he was not engaged in any combat, Blundell witnessed the three months’ siege of Suzhou by combined forces under the command of General Charles ‘Chinese’ Gordon. On at least two occasions Gordon came to dinner with Blundell and, at the end of the evening, ‘had out his artillery and shelled and fired rockets into the city – it looked very jolly by night’. In December, 1863, Blundell witnessed the storming of the city – ‘lost a great many officers and men … The slaughter inside the city was fearful. Two officers of the 99th went in after the place was taken – got plenty of loot and many valuable silks etc.’[xv]

Five months later, he returned to explore Suzhou, examining the walls where the final assault had been made and then climbing the nine-storied pagoda. There were ‘splendid views of the surrounding country’ but on the ground it was less savoury: the landscape ‘devastated on all sides by the Rebels – hundreds of people in a state of starvation, and dead bodies all around’.[xvi] By 1864, the rebellion was nearing its end and, in July, the regiment received orders to embark for Japan. Three companies, the Artillery and some sappers boarded an American steamer, the Takiary, – it was ‘fearfully hot’ and they were ‘packed like herrings – all the baggage, men’s packs and guns piled on deck’.[xvii]

They left behind comrades who had died both in the fighting and from cholera, but these three years of the regiment’s history have gone largely unrecorded. [xviii] Perhaps, this was because they lacked glamour but also because of a feeling that, in assisting a country which the regiment had so recently been fighting, the glory of the Taku fort engagement might be diluted. Yet, defending Shanghai and the half million Chinese who had fled to the foreign settlements in the city for shelter, was an important phase in both the regiment’s and Britain’s imperial story. As well as seeing active service, officers and men had had to contend with extremely trying conditions and to experience the strangeness of a country that they described in their journals and in their letters to their families and friends at home. It is a story worth remembering, even if there were no comparable acts of valour.[xix]

If the Taku engagement became enshrined in regimental memory, for Lieutenant-Colonel Lenon, as he became, it held little comfort. Retiring in 1869, he then suffered heavy losses from speculating on the stock exchange in the 1870s. Forced to pawn his VC and dying in penury, he was buried at Kensal Green Cemetery in an unmarked grave. However, family and regimental pride combined to ensure that the medal was recovered and that, in 2007, a suitable gravestone was laid on his burial plot (plate 10).[xx]

9.Lieut. Colonel Lenon’s new headstone, Kensal Rise Cemetery (Copyright, Hampshire Regiment).

9. Lieut. Colonel Lenon’s new headstone, Kensal Rise Cemetery (Copyright, Royal Hampshire Regiment Trust).

How this history will continue to be remembered, however, is an open question, given the fact that, in 1992, the Royal Hampshire Regiment, which included the former 67th, became part of the Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment.

10.Royal Hampshire Museum, Serle’s House, Winchester (author’s photographs).

10. Royal Hampshire Museum, Serle’s House, Winchester (author’s photographs).

Whilst those transferring from the Royal Hants’ have continued to identify themselves with the old regiment, recruits to the Princess of Wales’ have no reason to do so. Inevitably, there is a risk that interest in its distinguished history may fade. Leasing a suite of rooms in the elegant Georgian building that used to be its Lower Barracks, the museum and archive are currently in safe hands but their long-term future is not guaranteed.[xxi] They constitute an invaluable source not only for those connected with the regiment but also, more widely, for anyone interested in Britain’s imperial past, whatever their political hue. The importance of such records, some of which have already ceased to be readily available, needs to be recognised. As a move towards making them more accessible, the museum has kindly agreed to permit the Historical Photographs of China project to digitise its China campaign photographs. With these sort of collaborative initiatives, there is plenty of cause for optimism in the future of these museums.

[i] Cf. John M. Mackenzie, Museums and Empire: Natural History, Human Cultures and Colonial Identities (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2009), p. 13.

[ii] During my visit to the museum, I was greatly assisted by Lt Col. Colin Bulleid, Secretary of the Royal Hampshire Regiment Trust, who, despite a busy schedule, guided me through the archives and answered my many queries. For the museum web-site, see www.royalhampshireregiment.org.

[iii] Robert Bickers, The Scramble for China: Foreign Devils in the Qing Empire, 1832-1914 (London: Allen Lane, 2011), pp.141-150 and James Hevia, English Lessons: The Pedagogy of Imperialism in Nineteenth-century China (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2003), pp. 31-48.

[iv] The display includes Lenon’s pawn-ticket showing he received 10 shillings in return. An original Victoria Cross today fetches well over £100,000. The originals are safe under lock and key and only replicas are shown.

[v] For the looting of the Summer Palace, see Hevia, English Lessons, pp. 74-102; for similar instances of China loot being displayed in regimental museums, see P. Bruce, ‘Relics of Hong Kong and China in British Army and Regimental Museums’, Journal of the Hong Kong Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, 1 January 1983, Vol.23, pp.196-201 and Katrina Hill, ‘Collecting on Campaign: British Soldiers in China during the Opium Wars, Journal of Historical Collections (2013) 25 (2): 227-252.

[vi] For a description and the definitive catalogue of Beato’s work in China, see David Harris, Of Battle and Beauty: Felice Beato’s Photographs of China (Santa Barbara, CA: Santa Barbara Museum of Art, 1999), pp.24-34.

[vii] A military term for the top of a fortification.

[viii] Letters, Lorenzo W. Mosse to his mother, 6, 17 and 25 August 1860 (M1776); see also C.T. Atkinson, Regimental History: The Royal Hampshire Regiment (Robert Maclehose & Company Limited, University Press, Glasgow, 1950), pp.309-313 and http://www.royalhampshireregiment.org/about-the-museum/timeline/67th-regt-assault-taku-forts-china/, accessed March 2017.

[ix] J.H. Dunne, From Calcutta to Pekin: being notes taken from the journal of an officer between those places (London: S. Low, 1861), re-published by the Rifles (Berkshire and Wiltshire) Museum, Salisbury, (2002 and 2011), Robert Swinhoe, Narrative of the North China Campaign of 1860; containing personal experiences of Chinese character, and of the moral and social condition of the country etc. (London, Smith Elder and co. 1861), G.J. Wolseley, Narrative of the war with China in 1860 (London: Longman, Green and Roberts, 1862), David Field Rennie, The British Arms in North China and Japan: Peking 1860; Kagoshima 1862 (London: John Murray, 1864). They also differ as to what colurs Chaplin did plant. Captain Dunne, 99th, in his account, asserts that he, Dunne, was the first to plant the Union Jack, pp.38-39. According to the museum web-site, it was the Queen’s Colour which Chaplin planted.

[x] Wellesley Thomas album (M1503).

[xi] Bickers, Scramble for China, pp. 178-179.

[xii] For other examples of photographs taken by military personnel during the war, principally around Canton, see the National Army Museum Collection (1964-10-121).

[xiii] The term used for a Confucian temple, joss meaning a Chinese god or idol.

[xiv] Ensign John Eyles Blundell, HM’s 67th Regiment, Part 1, January 1863- July 1864, entry, 21 August 1863. This is a semi- verbatim transcript of the manuscript original (M2788).

[xv] Blundell, entries, 28 September and 9 -10 December, 1863.

[xvi] Blundell, entry, 29 May 1864.

[xvii] Blundell, entry, 22 July 1864.

[xviii] They are briefly mentioned by Atkinson in his Regimental History, pp.316-318 but not by Alan Wykes, The Royal Hampshire Regiment(37/67th Regiments of Foot) (London: Hamilton, 1968), cf. pp. 75-82.

[xix] I will discuss the memorialisation of those who died in China in a future blog.

[xx] A presentation booklet was prepared for the occasion (M3929).

[xxi] The premises are currently leased from Hampshire County Council who, I understand, are very keen to support the museum’s future.

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Gregory Scott on Chinese Religious Spaces in the Historical Photographs of China collections

Dr Gregory Adam Scott is currently a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow at the University of Edinburgh, and from September 2017 will take up the post of Lecturer in Chinese Cultural History at the University of Manchester.

For the most part, Western visitors to China in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries regarded Chinese temples, monasteries, shrines, and other religious spaces with a mix of fascination and horror. [i]

Fascination stemmed from the fact that these spaces were often ornately decorated and situated in majestic landscapes, the power of which was palpable and unmediated by barriers or language or culture. Horror was produced because the depiction of deities in a concrete form, especially when the observer was largely ignorant of their identity and symbolism, was extremely alien to the religious sensibilities of many foreign visitors. In spite of this, the photographic and textual archive that they helped create is filled with depictions of Chinese religion. Until quite recently, these types of sites were only rarely photographed, and thus any photograph of a Chinese sacred site from this period is of great value to historians interested in the layout, construction, and artistry of these spaces. Mission archives have proved to be especially rich in this regard, likely because missionaries were professionally interested in religion, and thus paid particular attention to Chinese Buddhism, Daoism, popular religions, and so on.

The Historical Photographs of China collections include images of temple grounds, religious structures, religious images, and religious professionals. The religious spaces depicted therein range from temples for Imperial sacrifice to Buddhist monasteries, from ancestral shrines to a temple converted into a church, and reflect the great range of religious diversity in China, as true today as it was in the period of the photographic record. [ii]

Of the numerous images in the collections that depict Chinese religious spaces, a few in particular stand out:

The Hall of the Four Heavenly Kings at Tien-dong (Heavenly Child Temple), near Ningpo

The Hall of the Four Heavenly Kings at Tien-dong (Heavenly Child Temple), near Ningpo, Edward Bowra collection, Bo01-012, © 2008 Royal Society for Asian Affairs

The Hall of the Four Heavenly Kings at Tien-dong (Heavenly Child Temple), near Ningpo, Edward Bowra collection, Bo01-012, © 2008 Royal Society for Asian Affairs

The founding of Tiantong Monastery 天童寺 near Ningbo 寧波 dates back to as early as the fourth century CE, but it was completely destroyed as a result of fighting during the Taiping Civil War (1850 – 1864). This photograph depicts the hall of the Four Heavenly Kings (sida tianwang 四大天王), a building normally located just inside the main gate of a Chinese Buddhist monastery, in front of the main Dharma hall. If the date range of this image is accurate (ca. 1870), it depicts the first generation of reconstruction following the Taiping war. Since the temple was again destroyed by fire and reconstructed in the early 1930s, it provides a glimpse of the monastery’s history not visible today.

Qiniandian, Temple of Heaven, Peking

Qiniandian, Temple of Heaven, Peking. Photograph by G. Warren Swire. G. Warren Swire Collection, Sw16-013, © 2007 John Swire & Sons Ltd

Qiniandian, Temple of Heaven, Peking. Photograph by G. Warren Swire. G. Warren Swire Collection, Sw16-013, © 2007 John Swire & Sons Ltd

Qiniandian, Temple of Heaven, Peking

The Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest (Qinian dian 祈年殿) is one of the most striking, and likely one of the most photographed, structures in the Temple of Heaven in Beijing. At the time of this photograph (1911-1912) the ceremonies normally conducted there by the Emperor would have been suspended due to the Republican Revolution, and the site was briefly open to the public until the short-lived attempt by Yuan Shikai to assume the imperial role. The overgrown grounds are testiment to its having been briefly abandoned as a ritual site.

Lingyin Temple, Hangchow

Lingyin Temple, Hangchow. William Armstrong Collection, Ar01-042, © 2007 Adam Scott Armstrong

Lingyin Temple, Hangchow. William Armstrong Collection, Ar01-042, © 2007 Adam Scott Armstrong

Like Tiantong Temple, Lingyin Monastery 靈隱寺 in Hangzhou 杭州 was destroyed during the Taiping Civil War. It was not rebuilt until the final decades of the Qing, and the main hall, pictured here, would have just recently been completed when this photograph was taken in 1911. The timbers used to rebuild the temple were imported from America and had originally been intended for use in repairing the Summer Palace near Beijing. These buildings were later damaged during the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945), and further reconstruction work occurred in the 1950s under the new People’s Republic of China.

Large bell on the site of a temple

Large bell on the site of a temple. Banister family Collection, Ba04-38, © 2008 Peter Lockhart Smith

Large bell on the site of a temple. Banister family Collection, Ba04-38, © 2008 Peter Lockhart Smith

While the location of this photograph is not identified, I find it striking as a depiction of the aftermath of the destruction of a sacred site. Thousands of such sites were threatened with destruction in the late Qing and early Republican eras, as a result of warfare, natural disaster, or even anti-religious campaigns. The wood and tiles of this particular religious institution have long since disappeared, leaving only this freestanding bronze bell as evidence that a sacred site used to stand here.

Monks at Silver Island Temple, Ching-Kiang

Monks at Silver Island Temple, Ching-Kiang. Edward Wilkinson Collection, Wi01-04, © 2008 Audrey Gregg

Monks at Silver Island Temple, Ching-Kiang. Edward Wilkinson Collection, Wi01-04, © 2008 Audrey Gregg

Jiaoshan 焦山 in Zhenjiang 鎮江, known as “Silver Island” in English-language sources, was one of three important Buddhist mountain sites in Zhenjiang, the others being Beigu shan 北固山 and Jinshan 金山 or “Golden Island.” While the temples on Jinshan were destroyed several times during the Opium War and the Taiping Civil War, Jiaoshan largely escaped damage. According to one account, the Buddhist monk Liaochan 了禪 and his disciple Wuchun 悟春 steadfastly refused to leave Jiaoshan even when Taiping forces approached. Their bravery so impressed the Taiping military leader that Jiaoshan was spared the destruction of its monasteries. [iii]

Pagoda, Longxing temple, near Chengdu, Sichuan

Pagoda, Longxing temple, near Chengdu, Sichuan. Oliver Hulme Collection, OH02-27, © 2012 Charles Poolton

Pagoda, Longxing temple, near Chengdu, Sichuan. Oliver Hulme Collection, OH02-27, © 2012 Charles Poolton

This temple, located in Pengzhou, Sichuan, dates back to the fourth century. The stone stupa pictured here in ca. 1905-1915 had evidently been badly damaged for some time, but present-day photographs show that it has since been repaired. The contrast between the bustling, blurry crowd of people, who seem to only be barely held back from the photographer’s line of sight, and the ancient stone structure make this image quite striking.

Group on Temple Steps

Group on Temple Steps. John Sullivan Collection, Su01-33, © 2010 John Sullivan

Group on Temple Steps. John Sullivan Collection, Su01-33, © 2010 John Sullivan

This photograph, perhaps taken around 1910, is an especially evocative depiction of one important aspect of the relationship between Western visitors and Chinese sacred spaces during this period. A group of five men, who were likely members of the Shanghai Municipal Police force based on the collection of which is image is a part, sit or lie supine on the stone steps of a temple building. A Buddhist religious image has been brought out onto the edge of the top step, and the Stetson-style hat belonging to one of the men has been placed on its head. Most of the men are smiling, and a camera and a bag can be seen.

On the face of it, this image depicts an extremely irreverent act on the part of visitors to the temple, one that the men clearly believe has made for an amusing souvenir photograph. It reflects the widespread lack of respect for local customs that caused a great deal of social friction during the Western presence in China. We do not, however, know what role the temple caretakers played in staging this photograph. Perhaps they agreed to help the tourists to set up this image in exchange for a donation, or were happy to help the odd request of visitors in order to be hospitable. Foreign groups regularly arranged with temples to hold events such as picnics or retreats there, and foreign visitors were welcomed at many temples under the same terms as lay Chinese visitors. [iv]

I do not wish to downplay the serious lack of respect for local religion evidenced in this photograph; indeed this image would be an excellent example to use in a classroom discussion about issues of power, representation, and intercultural (mis)understandings in modern China. Another photograph (HR01-069) from the early 1910s, “Idols inside temple, Canton”, depicts two ‘idols’ in a temple in Guangzhou, and the temple wall behind them is covered with Latin-character graffiti. Yet we will likely never know the whole story behind the creation of this image, and it is important to remember that Westerners were often welcomed as visitors to Chinese sacred spaces, and normally conducted themselves somewhat better than is depicted here.

[i] Gregory Adam Scott, “The Dharma Through a Glass Darkly: On the Study of Modern Chinese Buddhism through Protestant Missionary Sources 彷彿對著鏡子觀看的佛法:藉由基督教傳教士的史料研究現代中國佛教,” Shengyan yanjiu 聖嚴研究 (Sheng Yen Studies), Vol. 2 (July, 2011): 47-73.

[ii] See the 2014 Pew Research Center on religious diversity around the world: http://www.pewforum.org/2014/04/04/global-religious-diversity/

[iii] Jiang Weiqiao 蔣維喬, Zhongguo Fojiao shi 中國佛教史 (Shanghai: The Commercial Press, 1933), fasc. 4, p. 38a.

[iv] See for example the account of a visit to Tiantong Temple in the 1840s or 1850s in W. Tyrone Power, Recollections of a Three Years’ Residence in China (London: R. Bentley, 1853), chapter 25.

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The Kodak comes to Peking

Dr Andrew Hillier has been looking at the unpublished letters of a British Student Interpreter, later Consul, Walter Clennell. The correspondence highlights the importance of photography to Legation life in Beijing in the late 1880s. Andrew recently completed his PhD at the University of Bristol.

‘The photography goes on unchecked in the Legation. Mrs Wingfield, the two Walshams, Mortimore and Brady are all constantly at it, if it is not too cold, and they talk of very little else when they are indoors’. So wrote the student interpreter, Walter Clennell, in one of a number of letters sent home during his first eighteen months in Peking, in 1888-89, in which he enthused about this new hobby and enclosed copies of the photographs he had acquired. Whilst none of those pictures have been traced, the letters provide important evidence of how amateur photography became a popular pastime amongst the Legation staff in the late 1880s in a way which has been little recognised until now.[i]

Although we do not have the pictures, we do know where Clennell was able to buy many of them: in one letter, he explains how he had asked Mr Child if he could ‘look over his collection. He had about 200, all views of the city, or neighbourhood as far as the Great Wall. A good many were interesting enough.’[ii] By this time, Thomas Child had long established his reputation as more than just an amateur photographer but was about to leave his job as a gas engineer in the Chinese Maritime Customs and return to England with his family. Having made his selection, Clennell inserted them into lengths of bamboo, in order to keep them safe and dry, even if this meant they had to be unrolled and smoothed out on arrival. [iii]

1.Mule litter, Peking, estimated 1870-1890. An unusual example of Thomas Child’s Peking photographs in showing street life.  National Archives Collection, NA01-91  © Crown copyright 2011

1. Mule litter, Peking, estimated 1870-1890. An unusual example of Thomas Child’s Peking photographs in showing street life. National Archives Collection, NA01-91 © Crown copyright 2011

Whilst we cannot be sure, it is possible that that this enthusiasm had been prompted by the arrival of ‘the Kodak’, the camera which George Eastman had brought onto the market in August the previous year, accompanied by the slogan ‘You press the button, we do the rest’.[iv] Given the numbers of people taking pictures and the ease with which they were doing so, they must certainly have been using an ‘instant camera’ with film rather than glass plate negatives. Portable and easy to operate, this new device could be taken on walks through the city and expeditions further afield. As the North China Herald pointed out when suggesting it as a Christmas present the following year, ‘At this time … when so many people go up country, photographic cameras are very handy’.[v] Another of Clennell’s letters describes how ‘the three Irishmen of Peking, Messrs Jordan, Oliver and Brady, went on a trip to the Ming Tombs and ‘Brady took six photographs’.[vi] Herbert Brady, the Legation’s accountant and Chief Assistant had already amassed a considerable collection and would eventually compile two albums of pictures spanning his years in the consular service.[vii]

Clennell mentions a number of other talented amateur photographers in Peking at the time. Dr Dudgeon, whose family he came to know well, had already established himself as an expert, publishing a book in Chinese on how to take photographs. However, the letters make no reference to him taking any pictures, which is frustrating since, as Nick Pearce says, there is little evidence of Dudgeon ever actually using a camera’ although it is clear he did so. [viii]

2.  Street in Peking. Photograph by Walter Hillier. Probably taken in the late 1880s before Hillier’s appointment as Consul-General to Korea in 1890 (Royal Geographical Society, SOOO25562).

2. Street in Peking. Photograph by Walter Hillier. Probably taken in the late 1880s before Hillier’s appointment as Consul-General to Korea in 1890 (Royal Geographical Society, SOOO25562).

Walter Hillier, the Chinese Secretary, whom the spell-bound Clennell ‘supposed was probably the greatest Chinese scholar that the English race has produced’, also had a substantial collection, including ‘some grand photographs of places near Darjeeling, amongst them the only photo of Mount Everest that has ever been taken (seen from nearly a hundred miles away)’.[ix] Whilst he had obviously purchased these pictures, Hillier was also a keen photographer, later using coloured lantern slides to illustrate his talks about China and Korea, which he gave following his retirement from the Consular Service in 1896.[x]

Hillier’s brother, Guy, whom Clennell met shortly after his appointment as the Hongkong Bank’s Peking agent, took a number of photographs with an instant camera when visiting a remote monastery in the mountains of south-west Ichang – ‘the wildest and most desolate place I have ever found myself in’, as he described it in a talk read to the Manchester Geographical Society later that year (see plates 3 and 4).[xi]

3. The Mission Station at Szu ku-shan: Father Braun and some of his flock, 1890. Photograph by Guy Hillier (Author’s collection).

3. The Mission Station at Szu ku-shan: Father Braun and some of his flock, 1890. Photograph by Guy Hillier (Author’s collection).

4. Guy Hillier’s travelling companion, Gordon, warming himself at the fire. Photograph by Guy Hillier. (Author’s Collection).

4. Guy Hillier’s travelling companion, Gordon, warming himself at the fire. Photograph by Guy Hillier. (Author’s Collection).

Clennell’s letters reflect not only a general enthusiasm for photography amongst the Legation staff but also the way the hobby cemented what was obviously an easy-going atmosphere at all levels. The Minister, Sir John Walsham, and his wife seem to have had an unusually relaxed approach, there is little sense of hierarchy and family life thrived, with the Legation children being both seen and heard, and pastimes, including skating, shooting, amateur theatricals and fancy dress balls, being captured in photographs.

In one letter, by way of ‘a birthday present for Papa’, Clennell inserts ‘two photos of the Legation people’ with captions. In another, he describes having dinner at Brady’s which was ‘as nice an entertainment as could be wished’; apart from his ‘almost endless collection of photographs’, he kept ‘a very pretty “bachelor’s” house’, albeit not for much longer, as, by the end of the year, he would become engaged to Gina Hole, the half-sister of Walter Hillier, a romance which Clennell observed with interest, if not envy, describing her as ‘a very nice young lady of about twenty, of the jolly, communicative sort’. [xii]

5. The ‘jolly and communicative’ Gina Marshall Hole, photographed shortly before leaving for China in 1888. She later married Herbert Brady. Photograph by Boning and Small. Andrew Hillier Collection, Hi-s143, © 2014 Andrew Hillier.

5. The ‘jolly and communicative’ Gina Marshall Hole, photographed shortly before leaving for China in 1888. She later married Herbert Brady. Photograph by Boning and Small. Andrew Hillier Collection, Hi-s143, © 2014 Andrew Hillier.

6. Consul Clennell, 1903. (Private Collection).

6. Consul Clennell, 1903. (Private Collection).

The enthusiasm also reflects the interest being taken in Peking as a city, which, despite its drawbacks – the dirt, the smell, the dust in summer – Clennell found fascinating, describing how, in one of the photographs he sent home,

you see the Chinese city, with the Temple of Heaven right away in the distance to the left, and the top of a gate to the right. There is a rather good specimen of a wooden p’ailou, or arch, over the street. There are p’ailous in nearly all the chief streets, with inscriptions in Chinese and Manchurian. The street itself is rather characteristic too, with booths and stalls along both sides.[xiii]

In the main, however, the Chinese do not feature in these pictures. Child tended to concentrate on buildings rather than street life and the relationships which Clennell describes are cordial but remote, with even his teacher refusing to acknowledge him if they should meet in the street. Nonetheless, it was a time when Sino-British relations were slowly beginning to improve and, whilst professional photographers such as John Thomson had already published substantial collections in England, the practice of enclosing photographs in letters home, glossed with detailed narratives, was an important and novel way of visualising Britain’s presence in China on a more intimate level.[xiv]

However, this relaxed atmosphere would not last, China’s defeat by Japan in 1895 heralding a more aggressive approach by the Western powers, which ultimately led to the Boxer Uprising. Whilst those events would also be recorded in detail, the images would be of a very different character to the ones which the young and enthusiastic Walter Clennell sent to his family in his early days in Peking.

[i] Letter, Walter Clennell to his sister, Trixie (Beatrice), 21 December 1889, Walter James Clennell, ‘Destination Peking: A Young Man’s Journey into China, 1888 – 1889’, unpublished manuscript, 2008 (Private Collection), at p. 341. I am very grateful to Jonathan Clennell for allowing me to draw on these letters and to reproduce the photograph of Walter Clennell.

[ii] Letter, Clennell to Trixie, 22 February 1889, at p.186.

[iii] For details of Child’s life and work see Regine Thiriez, Barbarian Lens: Western Photographers of the Qianlong Emperor’s European Palaces (Amsterdam: Gordon and Breach Publishers, 1998), pp.75-84, Terry Bennett, History of Photography in China: Western Photographs, 1861-1879 (London: Quaritch, 2010), pp. 56-78; see also Historical Photographs of China, https://www.hpcbristol.net/photographer/child-thomas.

[iv] Helmut Gernsheim in collaboration with Alison Gernsheim, The History of Photography: from the camera obscura to the beginning of the modern era (London: Thames and Hudson, 1969), pp. 405 and 413.

[v] ‘Christmas Show at the Stores’, North China Herald, 13 December 1889, p.726 and see also 20 December 1889, p.758. I am grateful to Terry Bennett for this reference and for his comments generally.

[vi] Letter, Clennell to his brother, Harold, 12 February 1889, at p. 182; see also https://www.hpcbristol.net/visual/na01-68.

[vii] Herbert Francis Brady, Bo Ian Zhonghua tu zhi (Pictorial Journal of Viewing China), c. 1873-1906, Getty Research Institute, http://primo.getty.edu/GRI:GETTY_ALMA21127096190001551; cf. Jeffrey Cody and Frances W. Terpak, Brush & Shutter: early photography in China (Exhibition, 2011: Los Angeles, Calif., J. Paul Getty Museum (Los Angeles, Calif.: Getty Research Institute, 2011), p.40 and Plates 22 (Kiang-si Guild, Hankou) and 23 (Chinese Actors and Fire Brigade, Peking).

[viii] Touying qiguan; see Chen Shen et al., Zhongguo shying shi (A History of Chinese Photography) (Taibei: Photographer Publications, 1990), pp.65-66, Nick Pearce, ‘A Life in Peking: The Peabody Albums’, History of Photography, 31 (2007), pp. 276-293 and Bennett, History of Photography in China, pp.37-55; see also https://www.hpcbristol.net/photographer/dudgeon-dr-john and https://www.hpcbristol.net/visual/os03-056.

[ix] Letter, Clennell to his mother, 28 December, 1888, at p.143.

[x] See Collection of Sir Walter Hillier, Royal Geographical Society Picture Library.

[xi] Guy Hillier, ‘A Mountain District of Central China’, Journal of the Manchester Geographical Society 6 (1890), pp. 370 – 380. For the Hilliers in China, see Visualising China Blog, my post, 22 September 2016.

[xii] Clennell to Harold, 5 December 1888 at p.124.

[xiii] Letter, Clennell to Trixie, 26 February 1889, at p.186.

[xiv] John Thomson, Travels and adventures of a nineteenth century photographer, with an introduction and new illustration selection by Judith Balmer (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993); cf. Robert Bickers, The Scramble for China: Foreign Devils in the Qing Empire, 1832-1914 (London: Allen Lane, 2011), pp. 218-20).

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