Culture | Newly found photos of China and Indochina go on show

Newly found photos of China and Indochina go on show

Scottish photographer John Thomson was the first photographer to visit Angkor Wat

April 23, 2018 5:48 PM (UTC+8)
  • A  Bamboo  Grove  on  the  Bank  of  North  River, Guangdong, 1870. This  photograph  was  taken  during  Thomson’s  trip  on  the  North  River,  a  branch  of  the  Pearl  River.  He  was  completely  struck  by  what  he  saw:  ‘The  cultivation  hereabouts  was  of  a  kind  I  had  never  seen  before; in  the  foreground  were  a  multitude  of  fields,  banked  off  for  the  purposes  of  irrigation,  but  already  shorn  of  their  crop.    Here  and  there  were  mounds  covered  with  temples  and  trees,  and  beyond,  reaching  to  the  base  of  the  distant  mountains,  were  groves  of  green  bamboo,  rocking  their  plumage  to  and  fro  in  the  wind,  like  the  waves  of  an  emerald  sea.’ Photo: John Thomson
    A Bamboo Grove on the Bank of North River, Guangdong, 1870. This photograph was taken during Thomson’s trip on the North River, a branch of the Pearl River. He was completely struck by what he saw: ‘The cultivation hereabouts was of a kind I had never seen before; in the foreground were a multitude of fields, banked off for the purposes of irrigation, but already shorn of their crop. Here and there were mounds covered with temples and trees, and beyond, reaching to the base of the distant mountains, were groves of green bamboo, rocking their plumage to and fro in the wind, like the waves of an emerald sea.’ Photo: John Thomson
  • Many people in China sought help from untrained doctors and herbal remedies for their ailments. In this photo, an itinerant chiropodist in Beijing, 1871-72, is operating on a painful corn and dressing the toe-nails of his 'patient'. A second customer leaning out of a window awaiting his turn.
    Many people in China sought help from untrained doctors and herbal remedies for their ailments. In this photo, an itinerant chiropodist in Beijing, 1871-72, is operating on a painful corn and dressing the toe-nails of his 'patient'. A second customer leaning out of a window awaiting his turn.
  • Thomson is seen in 1871 with two Manchu soldiers in Xiamen, the southern frontier of the Qing empire. Although the Manchu finally managed to conquer the region, it continued to cause great difficulties to the imperial rulers. In 1729 the Qing court introduced its first anti-opium edict to the area as a means of social control.
    Thomson is seen in 1871 with two Manchu soldiers in Xiamen, the southern frontier of the Qing empire. Although the Manchu finally managed to conquer the region, it continued to cause great difficulties to the imperial rulers. In 1729 the Qing court introduced its first anti-opium edict to the area as a means of social control.
  • Buddhist Priests at Yongquan Monastery, Drum Mountain, Fuzhou in 1870-71. Yongquan monastery was thought to have been built in the 9th century and then rebuilt several times during the Ming and Qing. One of the most magnificent religious buildings in Fujian, it was an important centre for studying Mahayana Buddhism. At the time of Thomson’s visit about 200 monks lived there. He was intrigued by their robes which he thought resembled closely the monastic garb of medieval Europe.
    Buddhist Priests at Yongquan Monastery, Drum Mountain, Fuzhou in 1870-71. Yongquan monastery was thought to have been built in the 9th century and then rebuilt several times during the Ming and Qing. One of the most magnificent religious buildings in Fujian, it was an important centre for studying Mahayana Buddhism. At the time of Thomson’s visit about 200 monks lived there. He was intrigued by their robes which he thought resembled closely the monastic garb of medieval Europe.
  • The Face Towers of the Bayon Angkor in 1866. This dark sandstone temple stands within the walled city of Angkor Thom and was the state temple of King Jayavarman VII, the Buddhist king who expanded the borders of the empire to its greatest extent. As with Angkor Wat, it is one of the most imposing religious sites in the world. In all there were 51 face-towers, an iconographic innovation of Jayavarman VII, although today only 37 remain. When Thomson visited, he was the first person to take photographs of this magnificent edifice. The effect of neglect and the incursions of the forest created a romantic and mysterious air no longer in evidence today.
    The Face Towers of the Bayon Angkor in 1866. This dark sandstone temple stands within the walled city of Angkor Thom and was the state temple of King Jayavarman VII, the Buddhist king who expanded the borders of the empire to its greatest extent. As with Angkor Wat, it is one of the most imposing religious sites in the world. In all there were 51 face-towers, an iconographic innovation of Jayavarman VII, although today only 37 remain. When Thomson visited, he was the first person to take photographs of this magnificent edifice. The effect of neglect and the incursions of the forest created a romantic and mysterious air no longer in evidence today.
  • Thomson took many photographs of Manchu brides and their magnificent wedding costumes. In this example he adopted a style that is both discreet and intimate, showing his sensitivity towards the sitter. The glimpse of sadness in her eyes reflects a gloomy view of a Manchu bride’s prospects in marriage. For Thomson it was reckoned a life of slavery, in which the wife ‘is even liable to be beaten by her mother-in-law, and husband too, if she neglects to discharge her duties as general domestic drudge’
    Thomson took many photographs of Manchu brides and their magnificent wedding costumes. In this example he adopted a style that is both discreet and intimate, showing his sensitivity towards the sitter. The glimpse of sadness in her eyes reflects a gloomy view of a Manchu bride’s prospects in marriage. For Thomson it was reckoned a life of slavery, in which the wife ‘is even liable to be beaten by her mother-in-law, and husband too, if she neglects to discharge her duties as general domestic drudge’
  • Portrait of Thai King Mongkut, King  Rama  IV. outside the Aphinao Niwet Throne Hall within the Grand Palace in 1865. The King is shown in the uniform of a French Field Marshall and wearing the sash of the Legion d’Honneur and star First Class, a decoration presented to him on behalf of Emperor Napoleon III by Admiral Bonard, Commander of the Fleet in Indochina.
    Portrait of Thai King Mongkut, King Rama IV. outside the Aphinao Niwet Throne Hall within the Grand Palace in 1865. The King is shown in the uniform of a French Field Marshall and wearing the sash of the Legion d’Honneur and star First Class, a decoration presented to him on behalf of Emperor Napoleon III by Admiral Bonard, Commander of the Fleet in Indochina.
  • A Junk in Guangzhou harbour in 1869-71. According to Thomson the vessel shown here ‘is a fine type of its class and has in her model something of the foreign ship, though retaining quite enough of the old Chinese build to soothe the prejudices of the nation.’
    A Junk in Guangzhou harbour in 1869-71. According to Thomson the vessel shown here ‘is a fine type of its class and has in her model something of the foreign ship, though retaining quite enough of the old Chinese build to soothe the prejudices of the nation.’
  • Bangkok's Chao Phraya River and Rattanakosin island from a vantage point on the spire of Wat Arun in 1865. Traditional wooden and floating houses can be seen lining the river bank, beginning at the Grand Palace and running south as far as Pak Klong Talad. In front of what today is a land-based fruit and vegetable market are a multitude of small boats plying their trade.
    Bangkok's Chao Phraya River and Rattanakosin island from a vantage point on the spire of Wat Arun in 1865. Traditional wooden and floating houses can be seen lining the river bank, beginning at the Grand Palace and running south as far as Pak Klong Talad. In front of what today is a land-based fruit and vegetable market are a multitude of small boats plying their trade.
  • A portrait of a boat woman, in Guangzhou in 1869 with a very modern appeal. Unlike the majority of portraits made in the 19th century, the backdrop is particularly plain, setting off the simple headscarf and costume the woman is wearing. The sparkle in her eyes shows she is completely at ease. During his visit to Guangzhou and Hong Kong, Thomson had encountered a number of boat women and was greatly attracted by their natural beauty.
    A portrait of a boat woman, in Guangzhou in 1869 with a very modern appeal. Unlike the majority of portraits made in the 19th century, the backdrop is particularly plain, setting off the simple headscarf and costume the woman is wearing. The sparkle in her eyes shows she is completely at ease. During his visit to Guangzhou and Hong Kong, Thomson had encountered a number of boat women and was greatly attracted by their natural beauty.
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