picturing hong kong - HKU Libraries


picturing hong kong - HKU Libraries


Photography 1855-1910

Published in conjunction with the exhibition

Picturing Hong Kong: Photography 1855—1910

curated by Roberta Wue and co-organized by

the Asia Society Galleries, New York, and the

Hong Kong Arts Centre

Picturing Hong Kong: Photography 1855—1910

Asia Society Galleries, New York

• ii June-iy August 1997

Tacorna Public Library

Fall 1997

Hong Kong Arts Centre

Spring 1998

Picturing Hong Kong: Photography 1855—1910 has

been supported by the Bei Shan Tang Foundation,

and Shanghai Tang and The China Club.

The catalogue for Picturing Hong Kong:

Photography 1855—1910 has been supported

in part by Sing Tao Limited.


DATE REC'D j g AUG. 1997

CLASS NO. f ?v , 1


© 1997 Asia Society Galleries

Hardcover edition first published in the United States of America in 1997

by the Asia Society Galleries and George Braziller, Inc.

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced,

transmitted or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic

or mechanical, including photocopy, digital, recording, or any other

information storage or retrieval system without permission in writing

from the Asia Society Galleries.

Asia Society Galleries

725 Park Avenue

New York, New York 10021


George Braziller, Inc.

171 Madison Avenue

New York, New York 10016


Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 97-72657

ISBN 0-8076-1424-6 (hardcover)

ISBN 0-87848-085-4 (paperback)

Printed and bound in Hong Kong


Probably by JOHN THOMSON (Scottish, 1837-1921), Pay you chow-chow?,

c. 1868-71, albumen silver print with applied color, 19.5 x 14.5 cm (7 /$ x

5/4 in), Courtesy of Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Mass.


Words to address the phenomenon that is Hong Kong

often founder on the complexities, the paradoxes, the

uniqueness, and the sheer marvel of this community

just off the Asian mainland. Such an insufficiency of

words will perhaps suffice to justify the exhibition of a

group of photographs of Hong Kong, organized by the

Asia Society Galleries and the Hong Kong Arts Centre,

and the publication of this catalogue.

As we witness the historic events of i July 1997,

when the People's Republic of China resumes the

exercise of sovereignty over Hong Kong, people

around the world are focused on issues of contempo-

rary importance—social, political, economic, and per-

sonal. The photographs assembled for the exhibition

and publication Picturing Hong Kong: Photography

1855—1910 invite a historical perspective on Hong

Kong's current prominence in world view. Not only do

they provide rare insight into the early making of

Hong Kong as a city at the crossroads of world civiliza-

tion—and against that backdrop of current social, eco-

nomic, political, and personal issues—the photographs

can also illuminate the essence of what makes Hong

Kong unique as it negotiates the multiple levels of its

multicultural existence.

Photography and colonial Hong Kong are almost

the same age, and they experienced similar explosive

growth. It is not surprising that photography was used

to present the colony to itself and to the larger world.

The purpose here is not so much to provide a sweep-

ing nostalgic view of early colonial Hong Kong as to

try to understand the complex inner workings of a

dynamic city born at the height of Western colonial

power and to illuminate the crucial role of photogra-

phy in the creation and dissemination of an image of

Hong Kong to the larger world. Consequently, the

assembled photographs were selected both for aesthetic

quality and for the stories they can tell.

Apart from the newsworthy nature of the current

event—the end of the British empire in Asia and the

reversion of Hong Kong to China—the Asia Society

has several other reasons to focus on Hong Kong this

year. The Society made a serious commitment to the

future well being of Hong Kong in creating its first

Asian regional center there in 1989. Through the flour-

ishing presence of the Hong Kong Center, the Society

will continue to play an active role in furthering

understanding between Americans and the residents of

Hong Kong and develop collaborative projects with

Hong Kong institutions. This exhibition and publica-

tion are examples of that commitment. The Hong

Kong Arts Centre is a city-sponsored arts complex

whose best known exhibitions are contemporary

and/or Hong Kong based, and this exhibition of his-

torical Hong Kong photography seen with contempo-

rary eyes is well suited to the project of exploring the

art history of Hong Kong.

The Asia Society initiated and first discussed such a

project with the dynamic exhibitions director of the

Hong Kong Arts Centre, Oscar Ho, just over a year

ago. The initial idea of organizing an exhibition that

could encompass both historical and contemporary

pictures had to be adjusted owing to constraints of

time and money, but the overall goal of the project—to

assemble unusual and stunning pictures that can tell the

story of Hong Kong as both a Chinese center and a

colonial establishment—has remained at the core.

Roberta Wue, a doctoral candidate at the Institute of

Fine Arts, New York University, gave shape to the project

as a guest curator under the able supervision of

Caron Smith, associate director and curator of the

Galleries. Ms. Wue's insight as an art historian into the

visual language of photography provides a fresh contribution

to our understanding of Hong Kong. With her

specialization in cultural history, she selected images

that show us how Hong Kong was recorded, in large

part for foreign eyes. Professor Jonathan Hay, of the

Institute of Fine Arts, helped us in thinking through

the project and raised important questions about the

role of photography in nineteenth-century China.

Other colleagues and contributors—professor Joanna

Waley-Cohen of New York University, who wrote the

historical essay in the catalogue; Hong Kong University

doctoral candidate Edwin K. Lai, who contributed an

essay based on his important archival research; and

Oscar Ho, who has served as an adviser and touchstone—all

deserve our gratitude.

At the Asia Society, the project was ably master

minded by Caron Smith with outstanding assistance

from Kathryn Selig Brown, whose graduate internship

was supported by The Henry Luce Foundation. Joseph

N. Newland, first as publications manager and then as

editor of the book, has given the catalogue shape with

his usual sense of style and sensitivity to the craft of

writing. As always, Nicholas Platt, the president of the

Asia Society, has provided his enthusiastic support to the

project. Sara Robertson, Asia Society coordinator for the

Pacific Northwest, was instrumental in facilitating the

exihibition tour. Indeed, all of our exhibition and publication

projects involve efficient teamwork from a small

group of dedicated people—many of whom are

acknowledged by Roberta Wue—and I am most grateful

that we manage to develop such fine results because

of them.

Another requirement for successful projects is the

funds to pay for them. We are indebted to Dr. J. S. Lee

and the Bei Shan Tang Foundation and Shanghai Tang

and The China Club for supporting the exhibition.

Our special thanks go to Ms. Sally Aw Sian and Mr.

Terry Sellards of Sing Tao Limited, who immediately

saw the value in the project and became its ardent

supporters, arranging for the printing and binding of

the catalogue and functioning throughout as our

enthusiastic collaborators in the publishing process.

We would also like the thank all of the lenders

who made this exhibition possible. Finally, to the photographers—well

known and anonymous, Chinese and

Western—who created the nuanced, thought-provoking

pictures in the exhibition: our respect and admiration

for their part in documenting the unique

phenomenon that was the making of Hong Kong.

Vishakha N. Desai

Vice President for Cultural Programs and

Director of the Galleries

Asia Society

Preface and Acknowledgments

My interest in photography in China and Hong Kong

grows out of research on nineteenth-century Shanghai

painting and a curiosity about how Chinese visual culture

of this period interacted with and related to this

imported medium. Working in the trenches of nineteenth-century

Chinese culture and social history, one

cannot help but have a fervent interest in the complex

issues of an emerging international hybrid culture in

which photography played so emblematic a role.

The rhetoric of nineteenth-century photography in

China is of particular interest to me, and the case study

of Hong Kong seemed an ideal way to enter the discussion.

This is not only because it was through Hong

Kong that photography entered China, but there is

perhaps no other Chinese city so representative of the

East/West interface. I was especially intrigued by the

purposes, agendas, and functions of early photography

in Hong Kong, and how this visual language, which is

simultaneously document and construction, represented

Hong Kong in all its wonderful contradictions and


It has been my good fortune to have the opportunity

of guest-curating Picturing Hong Kong: Photography

1855—1910 at the Asia Society Galleries. I am very grateful

to the commitment of the Asia Society to this exhibition

and to everyone at the Asia Society Galleries for

their dedication and cooperation. I particularly want to

thank vice president for cultural programs and Galleries

director Vishakha N. Desai; Caron Smith, the Galleries'

associate director and curator, for her patience and

guidance; former managing editor and project editor

Joseph N. Newland, for his sunny pragmatism and

enthusiasm; and Kathryn Selig Brown, curatorial intern

supported by The Henry Luce Foundation, for her

common sense and masterly troubleshooting skills.

Thanks also to Susan E. Chun, current publications

manager, who ably saw the catalogue to completion,

and to registrar Amy V. McEwen, for handling loan

logistics. Galleries associate Merantine Hens-Nolan

assisted with the catalogue and coordinated the exhibition

graphics; Galleries associate Tucker Nichols and

she managed the myriad details of the installation. The

exhibition was designed with aplomb by Dan Schnur,

and Kathy Spitzhoff provided elegant exhibition graphics.

Patrick Seymour of Tsang Seymour Design gave us

a handsome book.

Also at the Asia Society Galleries, Mirza Burgos,

Alexandra Johnson, and Anna Lee worked many

administrative miracles; Nancy Blume coordinated

tours and teachers' workshops; Dawn Draayer and

Alison Yu raised the necessary funds; Tran Ky Phoung

of the Danang Museum of Champa Sculpture, whose

internship at Asia Society was supported by The Henry

Luce Foundation, pitched in; and Linden Chubin and

Anne Kirkup developed the related public programs.

Many people were helpful in my research. Among

those in the United States, I am particularly grateful to

Fong Chow, Kwan Lau, Janet Lehr, andTsim Bok-kow

for their generosity with their time and for sharing

their expertise. I would like to thank Gary Edwards in

Washington, D.C., and Virginia Dodier, Museum of

Modern Art in New York, for helpful suggestions at an

early stage of research. I also received a very warm

reception at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem,

Massachusetts, and am grateful to Kathy Flynn and the

staff of the James Duncan Phillips Library for showing

me their vast and impressive collection of nineteenth-

century photographs of Hong Kong and China. Joseph

Struble of the International Museum of Photography

and Film at George Eastman House, Rochester, New

York, was also extremely obliging in identifying and

showing me works from that enormous repository of

photographs. Tambra Johnson of the Library of

Congress, Washington, D.C., was especially helpful.

Darcy Alexander, Museum of Modern Art, and

Malcolm Daniel, Metropolitan Museum of Art, provid-

ed helpful advice.

In London, Tim Barringer's kind counsel and

research tips saved me much time before I got there,

and I am indebted to John Falconer of the Oriental

and India Office in the British Library, Violet

Hamilton, and Ken Jacobson for being so generous

with their knowledge and time. In Edinburgh, Sara

Stevenson, Scottish National Photography Collection,

and Richard Ovenden, National Library of Scotland,

went out of their way to meet with and help me at, I

might add, very short notice.

In Hong Kong, the staff at the Asia Society Hong

Kong Center, particularly Dede Huang and Richard

Mueller, were unstinting in their support. The genial

people at Honeychurch Antiques were extremely gen-

erous with suggestions and Jonathan Wattis of Wattis

Fine Art provided the map which appears in the book. I

am also very grateful to my colleague Edwin K. Lai,

Hong Kong University, for his company and knowledge

of Hong Kong photography. We are pleased that Mr. Lai

contributed an essay based on his archival research and

indebted to him for so kindly providing us with two

early articles he discovered in the course of his research

and which are reprinted in Appendix A. For his part,

Mr. Lai would like to express his warmest thanks to Dr.

David Clarke and Dr. Wan Qingli, Department of Fine

Arts, University of Hong Kong; Alan Barnes, School of

Art and Design, Derby University; Joseph Ting, Hong

Kong Museum of History; Y C.Wan, Hung On-to

Memorial Library, University of Hong Kong; K.K. Sze,

Main Library, University of Hong Kong; Yau Leung,

Photoart; Sylvia Ng, Photography Pictorial',Wu Peilie,

Photographers' Association of China, Guangdong

Branch; Carmen Shawy Lee; and Abby Robinson.

Thanks also to Joanna Waley-Cohen for her essay

on the history of Hong Kong. Professor Waley-Cohen

would like to express her thanks to Kristin Bayer, lona

Man-cheong, and Moss Roberts for their comments

on early versions of her essay.

Jonathan Hay, Institute of Fine Arts, New York

University, and John Pultz, University of Kansas, offered

good sense, invaluable advice, and unflinching patience

all down the line.

Above all, my deep gratitude and heartfelt thanks

go out to all the collectors, dealers, scholars, museums,

libraries, and institutions who received me so kindly,

shared their collections and materials, gave their enthu-

siastic support, and agreed to part with their pho-

tographs for the duration of the exhibition.

Roberta Wue

New York City

Lenders to the Exhibition at the

Asia Society Galleries

Lois Connor

Dennis G. Crow

George Eastman House

Gary Edwards Photographs, Washington, DC.

Fong Chow

Foreign and Commonwealth Office Library, London

Gilman Paper Company Collection

Robert and Paula Hershkowitz

WJohn Hoffmann

HongKongBank Archives

Charlotte Horstmann and Gerald Godfrey Limited

Ken and Jenny Jacobson

H. Kwan Lau, New York

Janet Lehr Inc., New York

Library of Congress, Washington, DC., Prints and Photographs Division

Museum of Modern Art, New York

Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Massachusetts

Private Collection

Royal Asiatic Society, London

Tsim Bok-kow

Paul F.Walter

Michael and Jane Wilson

Daniel Wolf

Note to the Reader

Chinese words and names have been transliterated in the pinyin system, with

the following exceptions: personal names in Cantonese using their original

nineteenth-century romanization and words romanized in a particular way in

historical documents. In the case of place names such as treaty ports, common

nineteenth-century transliterations are used, followed by pinyin equivalents in

parentheses on the first occurrence, as in "Foochow (Fuzhou)" or "Peking


Joanna Waley-Cohen


Hong Kong fulfilled multiple roles in the first halfcentury

or so after it became a British colony in 1842.

During that period, Hong Kong occupied the front line

in the development of Chinese nationalism; it served as

a major conduit for Chinese emigration; and it offered

many Chinese their first exposure to both good and

bad aspects of "the West."

In 1842, China ceded to Britain forever the island of

Hong Kong, located just off China's southeast coast.

This forced transfer of sovereignty was one provision of

the Treaty of Nanking (Nanjing) that followed China's

defeat in the first Anglo-Chinese Opium War

(1839—42), a treaty usually described as the first in the

series of "unequal treaties" that the Western powers and

Japan imposed upon China between 1842 and 1919.

Within twenty years, the 1860 Convention of Peking

(Beijing) that concluded the second Opium War

(1858—60) led among other things to a further permanent

cession of territory by China to Britain, this time

of the Kowloon Peninsula, on the Chinese mainland

opposite Hong Kong Island. In 1898, as the Western

nations and Japan scrambled to establish competing

spheres of influence in China in the wake of China s

defeat by Japan in 1895—a wide-ranging land grab that

prompted many Chinese to express the fear that their

country would be "carved up like a melon" by the foreign

powers—Britain insisted that the government of

the Qing dynasty (1644—1911) grant a ninety-nine-year

lease on the "New Territories," beyond Kowloon. No

rent was provided for in this second Convention of

Peking, in which Britain confined itself to taking a lease

rather than outright possession in order to discourage

competing foreign powers from seizing control over

other Chinese territory. 1 Under a Joint Declaration

made in 1984 between Britain and China, in which

Britain acknowledged Hong Kong's dependence on the

mainland for such vital resources as drinking water, the

entire colony—Hong Kong Island, Kowloon, and the

New Territories—reverts to China upon the expiration

of the lease on the New Territories at midnight on 30

June 1997.

Britain and China fought the Opium Wars over

China's right to restrict foreign trade in general and the

opium trade in particular. In the eighteenth century, the

i. For British discussions on

this topic, see documents contained

in Great Britain, Foreign

Office, Records: Confidential

Print, China, 1848-1922 (inclusive)

FO4O5, vols. 77 and 78,

passim. Britain was ready to pay

"reasonable compensation" if

China asked for it, but according

to British sources China did not

do so.

European passion for things Chinese, particularly silk,

ceramics, and tea, had led to a thriving international

commerce that was highly profitable for China.

However, the Manchu Qing dynasty restricted foreign

merchants to the southeastern city of Canton

(Guangzhou). They did not do so out of any disdain for

commerce, as is sometimes mistakenly assumed, but

because, given spreading European colonialism in Asia,

they were extremely wary about the possibly detrimental

effect on imperial control of permitting an unrestrained

foreign presence in China.

By the last quarter of the eighteenth century, the

China trade was dominated by the British East India

Company, to whom Parliament had granted a commercial

monopoly. But the Company fell into financial

difficulties because they had to pay for Chinese products

almost entirely in silver, owing to a lack of

Chinese enthusiasm for European merchandise. British

traders then hit on the idea of exchanging opium,

grown in Britain's colonial possessions in India, for

Chinese goods. In order to avoid the appearance of

direct involvement in the opium trade, the East India

Company developed an elaborate system whereby it

sold licenses to trade in Indian opium to private

Western traders. These men deposited the silver they

derived from the opium trade in China with Company

agents in Canton in return for letters of credit, and the

Company then used the silver to buy Chinese goods to

sell in England.

This strategy produced quick results. Within a few

decades the once favorable balance of trade had shifted

against China. The Qing government's imposition in

1800 of a ban on importing opium was followed by a

second in 1813 that outlawed opium use, but in vain.

By then opium was much too pervasive and the profits

from the burgeoning trade much too considerable to

be readily abandoned. A massive illicit trade sprang up

between, on the one hand, British and other Western

suppliers, who anchored outside Chinese harbors, and,

on the other, local dealers willing to incur the risks of

buying opium from the foreigners' ships and distributing

it through existing networks of interregional trade.

Opium addiction continued to spread rapidly, and silver

poured out of, instead of into, China.

This reversal was, of course, partly the consequence

of aggressive foreign trading in opium in defiance of

Chinese prohibitions, particularly after British abolition

of the East India Company's monopoly in 1834 caused

the rapid expansion of the opium trade. But there were

other reasons. One was a slump in the tea trade.

Another related to China's deteriorating domestic system

caused by the doubling of its population, which

surpassed three hundred million in the eighteenth century.

This extraordinary demographic growth had produced

unprecedented problems of overcrowding, intensifying

competition for limited resources and leading to

increased crime, which the overtaxed Qing government

was ill-equipped to combat. The consequent

social and economic dislocations created a widespread

malaise within China, which in turn disposed many

Chinese to seek new solutions, including opium. Thus

at the very moment the British began pushing opium

in China, conditions within China provided them with

a receptive market.

In 1839, after wide-ranging debate on the relative

merits of legalizing or banning opium, China launched

vigorous efforts to eradicate the opium trade. British

traders' refusal to stop trafficking in opium led to their

expulsion from first Canton and then nearby Macao

(Aomen), an island occupied as a trading base by

Portugal, with tacit Chinese consent, since the sixteenth

century. 2 For some time, British merchants had been


2. The status of Macao differed

from that of Hong Kong

because China never fully surrendered

sovereignty, notwithstanding

periodic Portuguese

claims to the contrary. Details of

the arrangements remain vague.

When Portugal first occupied

Macao, it had, by some reports,

agreed to pay China an annual

rent amounting to 515 silver tads

(Chinese ounces) payable—

though not always paid—in

pepper, rice, and water. Other

accounts refer to an annual sum

of twenty or twenty-two thousand

ounces of gold or silver

paid "to facilitate [Portugal's]

trading activities at Macau [in

the 15505]," but it is unclear

whether such amount was in

fact paid, and if so to whom and

for what purpose. It may have

been customs duties; overall

Portuguese investment in

Canton apparently was substantially

higher (see Fu Lo-shu, A

Documentary Chronicle of Sino-

Westem Relations (1644-1820)

[Tucson: University of Arizona

Press, 1966], pp. 6, 424). China

retained rights of customs collection

and law enforcement in

Macao into the nineteenth century.

When in 1844 Britain, by

then ensconced in Hong Kong,

effectively acknowledged Macao

as part of China, as did other

European nations whose envoys

resided in Macao until the 1860

treaty permitted the establishment

of embassies in Beijing,

Portugal's claim to sovereignty

over Macao was seriously weakened.

Ensuing Portuguese

attempts to compel China to

transfer sovereignty to Portugal

were unsuccessful until they

signed a treaty with China in

1887. Even this seems primarily

to have served the purpose of

saving Portuguese face with

regard to the other Western

powers, while carrying little

weight in China. In the 19608,

fallout from the Cultural

Revolution led to anti-

Portuguese riots in Macao, after

which Portugal effectively

ceased to claim sovereignty over

the island. By agreement, Macao

formally reverts to China in

1999. See Geoffrey C. Gunn,

Encountering Macau: A Portuguese

City-State on the Periphery of

China, 1557-7999 (Boulder,

Colo.:Westview, 1996).

proposing the establishment of a commercial outpost

close by the Chinese coast but out of reach of Qing

jurisdiction. Hong Kong, a small island not far from

Canton, was an ideal location for this purpose, for it

boasted a fine, well-sheltered, deepwater harbor, the

only one between Shanghai and Britain's existing colonial

possession in Singapore, and it lay right on the

main trading route to China.

In 1841 a small party of British occupied Hong

Kong Island, despite the energetic resistance of the

approximately four thousand inhabitants, who with the

encouragement of Qing authorities in Canton poisoned

wells and refused to cooperate with the British in any

way. The establishment of Hong Kong as a colony was

much desired by British China traders but it met with

considerable ambivalence in London, where policy

makers saw little advantage to taking over a "barren

island with scarcely a house on it." The governments of

both China and Britain rejected the draft treaty of

Chuenpi, drawn up that year between the Qing governor-general

based in Canton, Qishan, and British trade

superintendent Charles Elliott, which among other

things purported to cede Hong Kong to Britain. But

the traders remained on the island, proclaiming it

British territory, and since the beleaguered Qing

authorities were too weak to expel them, Hong Kong

became a de facto British possession. The formal transfer

of sovereignty under the Treaty of Nanking thus

acknowledged a preexisting reality.

Among other things, the Treaty of Nanking also provided

that, in addition to Canton, China would open

four more ports to foreign trade: Ningpo (Ningbo), in

Zhejiang province; Foochow (Fuzhou) and Amoy

(Xiamen), in Fujian province; and Shanghai, strategically

located where theYangzi river meets the sea. Shanghai

rapidly superseded antiforeign Canton and the others as


the leading center for international trade and for British

economic interests in China. But unlike Hong Kong,

Shanghai never became a British colony.

In 1858 Britain and France took advantage of a pretext

to launch a second Opium War intended to compel

treaty revision. Hong Kong was a key base of Western

operations in this war, which was disastrous for China.

The 1858 Treaty of Tientsin (Tianjin) and its immediate

successor, the 1860 Convention of Peking, contained

many unfavorable provisions in addition to the transfer

of sovereignty over Kowloon.They stipulated the opening

often new treaty ports, including four inland along

theYangzi river as far as Hankou (subject to the defeat

of the Taiping rebels still in control of some parts of the

region); the establishment of permanent Western diplomatic

missions in Peking; toleration of Christianity; permission

for foreigners, including missionaries, to travel

throughout China, by road or by steamship; the limitation

of customs and inland transit duties on foreign

goods; and another huge indemnity And although it

was still illegal under Qing law to sell or take opium,

the treaty imposed conditions on the opium trade,

including a limited import duty.

The Colonial British Administration

Britain administered Hong Kong through a governor

appointed by the Colonial Office in London. The governor

was aided by two councils, executive and legislative,

and, after 1856, a Chinese-speaking registrargeneral

with particular responsibility for liaison with

the Chinese community. Until 1880, no Chinese officially

sat on either council, although after 1850 unofficial

and hence effectively powerless Chinese members

were appointed to the legislative council. British residents

of Hong Kong resisted sharing power with

Chinese residents, partly out of a sense of manifest

superiority, and partly because of a concern that to do

so would lead to an insidious transfer of control back to

China. At first the colonial authorities mostly left the

Chinese community to its own devices, so long as it

did not pose a threat to internal order or external trade.

They endorsed the formation of elite Chinese organizations

that would serve the interests of the entire

Chinese community in Hong Kong and would represent

it in any dealings with the British. Thus their control

over the Chinese residents of Hong Kong

remained, for the time being, largely indirect. As we

will see, however, toward the latter part of the nineteenth

century British authorities began to integrate

members of the Chinese elite into the colonial government,

thereby facilitating closer control over the entire

Chinese community.

Issues concerning jurisdiction over Hong Kong

residents were a constant source of tension between

Britain and China. In the decades following the Treaty

of Nanking, Qing officials based in nearby Canton

were reluctant to recognize British jurisdiction in

Hong Kong, and Britain became increasingly impatient

with infringements on its authority in the colony.

Eventually it was agreed that a Qing official who

would have jurisdiction in cases solely involving

Chinese offenders would be stationed on Kowloon

Peninsula (which remained in Qing hands until 1860).

Yet for some time Chinese constables continued to

carry out investigations and even arrests on Hong

Kong itself, in contravention of the agreement and to

the great annoyance of the colonial authorities.

These tensions did not subside for some time, not

least because of a postwar resurgence of piracy that

very often affected both Qing and British jurisdictions.

At first such matters were dealt with case by case

through diplomatic exchange. The record shows that

efforts to cooperate in such cases were not always successful.

In 1844, for instance, the pirate Zhen A'tai was

captured by the British and then "lent" to the Qing

government to help capture his confederates, apparently

on the understanding he would be returned to

Hong Kong for trial. But he remained on the mainland,

where eventually he was executed. After a few

years, mutual extradition arrangements were made; in

1849, for example, the Qing agreed in principle to a

British request that if they captured the pirate Xu

A'bao, wanted on murder charges in Hong Kong, they

would return him for trial to Hong Kong. But if they

did catch him, they do not appear to have let the

British know. 3 Early Anglo-Chinese treaties repeatedly

sought to deal with such jurisdictional conflicts, but

intermittent disputes continued.

British resistance to the establishment of any kind

of formal Chinese presence in Hong Kong remained

strong throughout the first half-century or so of the

colony's existence. China's desire to establish a consulate

in Hong Kong to represent its substantial

Chinese population was a leading aspect of the vigorous

diplomatic activism of the late Qing. But the

British, assuming that the main function of such an

office would be espionage of one kind or another,

dragged their feet for two decades on this question.

They feared that the presence of a Chinese official in

Hong Kong, the vast majority of whose population was

Chinese, would undermine their own authority.

Chinese negotiators were at pains to point out that it

was untenable to deny the Chinese a consulate, given

the presence of Japanese and other diplomats in the

colony. A Chinese consulate eventually opened in

Hong Kong in 1891.


3. See J.Y.Wong, Anglo-Chinese

Relations 1839-1860:A Calendar of

Chinese Documents in the British

Foreign Office Records (Oxford:

Oxford University Press for the

British Academy, 1983), entries

for 1844 and 1849, passim.

4. Under-Secretary for the

Colonies James Stephen, quoted

in Gerald Graham, The China

Station: War and Diplomacy

1830-1860 (Oxford: Oxford

University Press, 1978)4-). 234.

Hong Kong as a Center oj International

Commerce and Emigration

The British established their colony in Hong Kong for

"Diplomatic, Commercial, and Military purposes" 4 and

they ran it according to the principles of "free" trade

that they wished all Asia to embrace. Hong Kong's early

growth was driven primarily by the expansion of international

commerce between the Western nations and

East Asia. As a British colony, Hong Kong's commercial

development benefited distinctly from Britain's rise to

predominance as- an- industrial an-d mercantile power.

And the maritime trading route between Europe and

East Asia was greatly shortened in 1869 with the opening

of the Suez Canal.

At first Hong Kong served primarily as a waystation

for the triangular opium trade between Britain,

India and China. But other trading areas—notably

Japan, Korea, Southeast Asia, Australia, and the United

States—and other commodities—textiles, sugar, rice,

weapons, and munitions—came to be just as important.

By 1880, approximately one-third of China's growing

foreign trade passed through Hong Kong.

The dual expansion of trading partners and trading

commodities in the second half of the nineteenth century

was in part the result of an even more important

aspect of Hong Kong's commercial expansion: its role

as one of the leading ports of embarkation for Chinese

emigrating overseas. Hong Kong served as a major conduit

for outbound Chinese. Under Qing law emigration

was still technically illegal, but it was not difficult

for Chinese to reach the nearby foreign enclaves of

British Hong Kong or Portuguese Macao. Once

would-be emigrants arrived in either place, there was

little that Qing authorities could do to prevent their

leaving for points overseas.


The reality was that they made little effort to do so.

Many Qing officials valued emigration as a safety valve

in their heavily populated provinces. From their point

of view, it was clearly preferable for impoverished people

to leave altogether than to become vagabonds, bandits,

or state dependents. Furthermore, emigrants often

sent home infusions of money that helped the overburdened

local and national economies. So the emigration

prohibitions went largely ignored. 5

Some Chinese emigrants went voluntarily, while

others were press-ganged or otherwise persuaded to

leave under false pretenses, as the following quite typical

account shows:

We were induced to proceed [to Macao] by

offers of employment abroad at high wages, and

through being told that the eight foreign years

specified in the contracts were equivalent to

only four Chinese, and that at the termination

of the latter period we would be free. We

observed also on the signboards of the foreign

buildings the words "agencies for the engagement

of labourers" and believed that they truthfully

described the nature of the establishments,

little expecting that having once entered the

latter, exit would be denied us; and when on

arrival at Havana, we were exposed for sale and

subjected to appraisement in a most ruthless

manner, it became evident that we were not to

be engaged as labourers but to be sold as slaves. 6

By the 18505, Hong Kong had become a major

center for the coolie traffic; during that decade over

eighty thousand Chinese embarked from Hong Kong

for destinations around the wo rid. The numbers of

6. Chinese Emigration: Report of

the Commission Sent by China to

Ascertain the Condition of Chinese

Coolies in Cuba (Shanghai:

Imperial Maritime Customs

Press, 1876; repr.Taipei:

Chengwen Publishing, 1970),

p. 7, quoted in Lynn Pan, Sons of

the Yellow Emperor:Tlie Story of the

Overseas Chinese (London: Seeker

& Warburg, 1990), p. 48.

y. For figures on Chinese emigration

and emigrants' reentry

through Hong Kong, see Tsai

Jung-fang, Hong Kong in Chinese

History: Community and Social

Unrest in the British Colony,

1842-1913 (New York: Columbia

University Press, 1993), p. 25, citing

Carl Smith, "The Emergence

of a Chinese Elite in Hong

Kong" Journal of the Hong Kong

Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society

(1971): 89-91.

emigrants passing through Hong Kong rose steadily,

reaching a total of almost two million in the second half

of the nineteenth century. And those who managed to

return more often than not passed through Hong Kong

on their way home. 7 The migration business provided

employment opportunities for shippers, brokers, insurers,

and labor recruiters, as well as making Hong Kong

a haven for such criminal elements as kidnappers, who

sought to turn a profit by supplying manpower for the

coolie trade or women to serve as wives or prostitutes.

Besides contributing to Hong Kong's social problems,

emigration also brought some benefits to Hong

Kong and the Canton region. Qing officials' hope that

the overseas Chinese would prove to be a source of

funding was soon realized. By as early as the i88os,

annual remittances to China from abroad amounted to

as much as $20 million. Perhaps half of this flowed to

the Canton area, from which a majority of emigrants

hailed. But actual remittances were only a part of the

story. Trade funneled to China as the result of connections

with the overseas community was estimated at

several million dollars annually. This benefit flowed in

particular to Canton and Hong Kong; although the latter

was under British rule, the livelihood of a majority

of its population depended on international trade.

Hong Kong offered great promise to commercially

inclined Chinese. Some ran their own trading or contracting

businesses, while others worked for the British

merchants, providing vital liaison between the foreigners

and their Chinese workers, whose language they

spoke and whose culture they shared. As in the treaty

ports, such Chinese middlemen were essential to the

successful development of British commercial interests

in Hong Kong. Many went on to become businessmen

on their own behalf, and derived their profits in part

from the close connections they maintained with their

native provinces, mainly Guangdong and Fujian; in

many cases they left their families on the mainland and

commuted between home and Hong Kong.

For the Qing, the prosperity that Hong Kong

derived from international commerce and from its connections

to overseas Chinese offered an important

advantage that served as something of a counterweight

to the heavy indemnities imposed by the foreign powers

under the treaty system. Chinese banks based in

Hong Kong became a crucial source of funding for the

Qing as it defended China against a succession of foreign

wars in the late nineteenth century. Thus despite

their considerable negative impact, the aftereffects of

the unwelcome treaties also played an important part in

prolonging the dynasty's life by contributing to the creation

of a community of wealthy Chinese able to supply

financial support at critical moments.

Nineteenth-Century Hong Kong Society

Hong Kong society soon formed into three distinct

groups divided along both racial and class lines. These

groups were, first, the Chinese elite, consisting primarily

of the commercially successful, not of scholars as in

China proper; second, and most numerous, the Chinese

workers, ranging from stevedores to rickshaw pullers to

domestic servants; and third, the British community, at

first composed mainly of members of the armed forces

and scions of the great merchant companies whose fortunes

were built on the opium trade. There were other

groups, including assorted Europeans and Americans,

Sikh policemen imported from British India, and Parsee

and Southeast Asian traders and seamen.

Neither the Chinese nor the British community in

Hong Kong was particularly cohesive; each was characterized

by class distinctions in the colony as in the

home society. The Chinese community was further


subdivided by dialect differences between Cantonese,

Hokkienese from Amoy, and Teochiu from Swatow

(Shantou). As for the British community in Hong

Kong, opium princes and military men were only its

most conspicuous members. A record dating from as

early as 1846 shows that among the British already in

the colony were "shipbuilders, lawyers, auctioneers,

newspaper editors, and storekeepers ."The occupations

of other known British inhabitants shows that early settlers

did not rely on the Chinese community to provide

them with essential services: the British included "bakers,

tailors, doctors, architects, civil engineers, blacks.

Chan Wai Kwan, The Making smiths, plumbers, hotel keepers, watchmakers."


8 When it

ofHonp Konv Society-.Three Studies -,- i i • • i

,^; c . .' , „ came to disputes between the two communities, howoj

Lslass rormatwn in Early Hong


Kong (Oxford: clarendon Press, ever, the British community found unity in common

national identity despite its internal stratification, just as,

in disputes with the British, the Chinese community

generally overcame its internal divisions.

Class distinctions within the British community

were formalized in such institutions as the Hong Kong

Club, the center of a lively upper-class social life that

involved sporting activities (particularly horseracing),

balls, and dinners. In Hong Kong, one's place of residence

denoted one's social position; the higher up

Victoria Peak a person lived, the more socially elevated

one could claim to be. Political differences between the

governor, as the representative of the British Crown,

and the merchants caused some social tensions within

British society in Hong Kong but, again, such internal

disagreements invariably succumbed to external threats.

Some British in Hong Kong were lowlifes from the

metropolis who viewed the colonies as their last chance

to make good. Some of these were described by an

early American visitor as "scapegoats and scoundrels

from the purlieus of London, creatures that only missed

[Britain's penal colony in] Botany Bay by good for-


tune...lording it over the natives, many of whom

were more respectable than they had ever been or ever

COuld be." 9 9. Osmond Tiffany, Jr., The

r-pi ^i - -i • r T T TV

The Chinese r population r of Hong Kong grew

° ° °

Canton Chinese, or An American's

c . . , ' . . , ^ .

Sojourn in the Celestial Empire

rapidly as a consequence of changing conditions on the (Boston:james Monroe, 1849),

. 1 , . , . i 1 r 11 i

mainland. First, the new economic order that followed

quoted in Barbara-Sue White,

ed Hong Kong. Somewhere

the first Opium War brought hardship tO many SOUth- between Heaven and Earth (Hong

Kong: Oxford University Press,

ern Chinese. Apart from sharp tax increases imposed to 1996)^.38.

help pay postwar indemnities, the introduction of competitively

priced foreign manufactures and the advent to

coastal waters of foreign vessels much fleeter than the

Chinese boats that had traditionally dominated the

seaborne trade put thousands of Chinese out of work.

Second, the prevailing antiforeignism in Canton and its

environs, and to a lesser extent in the Fujian-province

treaty ports, put a damper on commercial growth.

While some entrepreneurs and laborers flocked to the

boom town of Shanghai, others turned to the new

prospect of Hong Kong.

By 1844 the Chinese population of the colony had

already expanded to nineteen thousand. During the

18505, the extraordinary instability brought on by the

Taiping Rebellion (1851—63) drove many more Chinese

of all social classes to seek refuge in Hong Kong; the

Scottish missionary James Legge (1815—1897) regarded

this decade as the turning point in Hong Kong's spectacular

expansion. By 1861 the Chinese population had

expanded sixfold, to over one hundred sixteen thousand,

in a total population of some one hundred nineteen

thousand, and this expansion continued steadily.

Only four years later, after the end of the Taiping

Rebellion, the Chinese population of Hong Kong had

risen by another five thousand. This demographic pattern,

whereby Hong Kong's Chinese population grew

sharply whenever conditions on the Chinese mainland

deteriorated to an unbearable degree, continued

io. Maria Jaschok and Suzanne

Miers,"Women in the Chinese

Patriarchal System: Submission,

Servitude, Escape and

Collusion," in Jaschok and Miers,

eds., Women and Chinese

Patriarchy: Submission, Servitude

and Escape (Hong Kong: Hong

Kong University Press, 1994),

p. 21. See also Tsai, Hong Kong in

Chinese History, p. 22, citing

Historical and Statistical Abstract of

the Colony of Hong Kong,

1841-1930, 3rd ed. (Hong Kong:

Noronha, 1932).

throughout most of the colony's history. What changed

was that at first, as in many early overseas Chinese communities,

there was a severe gender imbalance; in the

18yos the ratio of Chinese men to women was more

than three to one. But as the migration of whole families

became more common, this problematic imbalance

gradually diminished. I0

Colonial society gave at least some of the nouveaux

riches Chinese of Hong Kong an opportunity to scale

social heights that would have remained out of reach in

China proper. This possibility arose either because dubious

or criminal connections that placed them beyond

the Qing pale passed unnoticed in colonial Hong

Kong, or because in China greater competition from

the traditional scholarly elite still made it harder to gain

social prominence purely on the basis of commercial

success than was the case in Hong Kong. Moreover,

successful Chinese based in Hong Kong often could

purchase prestigious rank and titles; when the Qing was

desperate for money it would dispatch salesmen—literally

influence peddlers—to find purchasers in the prosperous

colony. Or they sought entry into the elite by

educating their sons to sit for the civil service examinations.

In other words, upper-class Hong Kong Chinese

almost always acquired their elite status in the colony as

a result of commercial success rather than through the

channels of scholarship and examination success that

were the traditional routes to such status in imperial

China. But they went on to use their new wealth to

negotiate a position of influence in imperial society as

well. To some extent they were simply keeping open as

many options as possible, in ways that would have been

more difficult had they remained in China.

The Chinese elite in Hong Kong assumed the

responsibility of taking care of the Chinese community

by arbitrating disputes, feeding and housing the poor,

caring for the sick according to Chinese rather than

British medical practices, and repatriating the destitute

both alive and dead. In short, although they had arrived

at elite status by a different method, in some respects as

community leaders they behaved in much the same

way as members of the "gentry" on the mainland.

The Chinese organization that came to represent

the general interests of the Chinese community in

Hong Kong was the Tung Wah Hospital, founded in

1869 by a group of wealthy Chinese merchants. Much

more than just a medical institution, it performed

social welfare and other charitable functions and also

served as a chamber of Chinese commerce. Its significance

lay in the fact that not only did it regulate and

aid the Chinese community, but it also became a powerful

advocate for that community in its relations with

the British colonial authorities. In time, the effectiveness

of the Tung Wah Hospital drew suspicion that it

was an agent of the Qing. The British solution was to

coopt its most influential Chinese directors and trustees

into the colonial government, a move that ultimately

undermined the Tung Wah's independence. By the end

of the nineteenth century this development had

changed the face of Hong Kong society by drawing

together the British and Chinese elites while underscoring

the separation of Chinese workers from their

own upper classes.

Ordinary Chinese who flocked to Hong Kong

came primarily from the margins of Chinese society

and hence had little to lose by leaving. Some found

work on the docks, in construction, as domestic servants,

or as rickshaw pullers, while others established

their own small businesses servicing the emigration

business or the local and foreign communities. The perception

developed among British residents that the

lower classes among the Hong Kong Chinese were


dominated by criminals who came to the colony

expressly to ply their nefarious trades. Certainly there

were opium dealers and those who ran opium dens;

there were secret society members; there were pimps

and brothel keepers; gamblers; and those who trafficked

in human beings. But, despite the perception, of course

not all Chinese in Hong Kong were criminals, nor were

all criminals in Hong Kong Chinese.

Nonetheless, the dearth of Chinese women in the

early days of the colony made kidnapping a commonplace

event. In the iSyos many girls disguised themselves

as boys to protect themselves in public places.

Offers of rewards for missing young women were

ubiquitous; the unlucky ones who disappeared into the

arms of kidnappers often were enslaved or forced into

prostitution. Leading members of the Chinese community

created the Po Leung Kuk (Society for the

Protection of Women and Children) to protect women

and children from being kidnapped and sold, at least by

those with no familial rights of control over them. That

is, they sought to prevent abuses by kidnappers and

slave-traders but they apparently did not regard the sale

of women and children as something wrong in itself.

Some Chinese women, called "protected women,"

became the mistresses of Europeans, especially in the

early days when European women were few and far

between in the colony. These protected women occupied

a special position in Hong Kong society, integrated

in neither the European nor Chinese community and

living in a particular quarter of the colony. The story of

Ng Akew shows how it was sometimes possible for such

women to accumulate capital and lead a relatively independent

existence, unlike most other Chinese women

in the colony:

Ng Akew was a Chinese woman trading in opium

herself and living under the protection of James


Bridges Endicott, master of an opium receiving

ship at the Cumsingmoon anchorage in the Pearl

River....After he brought out an English bride

Endicott and Ng Akew reached a separation settlement,

dividing their children between them....In

1848 she bought eight chests of opium which

Endicott and another captain of an opium hulk

had recovered from a vessel sunk in a typhoon. In

April 1849 her cargo was seized by pirates. A

determined woman and, as a [Tanka] boat woman

acquainted with the haunts and methods of the

pirates, Akew visited them and threatened them

with the vengeance of her foreign friends.The

pirates gave her a quantity of betel nuts, which did

not cover her loss. Against Endicott s advice, and in

his absence, she went again to the pirates' den to

demand compensation. 11

Ng Akew was a colorful representative of a not

inconsiderable class of women in Hong Kong, who

sometimes formed mutual support associations whose

members bought property jointly or acted as executrix

of one another's wills. Their Eurasian children came to

form a distinct class in Hong Kong society, but they

occupied a somewhat uncertain position. Both Chinese

and Europeans tended to regard them as marginal

members of their highly stratified societies. Some

Eurasians took advantage of their ambiguous status to

be European among Europeans and Chinese among

Chinese, as the need arose.

Collaboration and Resistance

Particularly in the early days of the colony, some members

of the Hong Kong/Canton Chinese elite found

that their close connections with British interests led to

divided loyalties in times of crisis. For example, in the

11. Carl T. Smith,"Protected

Women in Nineteenth-Century

Hong Kong," in Jaschok and

Miers, Women and Chinese

Patriarchy, pp. 223, 229.

12. The China Mail, 23 July

1891; quoted inTsai, Hong Kong

in Chinese History, p. 56.

second Opium War of 1858-60, some Chinese entrepreneurs

from both Canton and Hong Kong identified

their interests with the foreigners rather than with the

Qing.Thus, for example, the Li brothers, whose interests

ranged from shipbuilding to the opium and coolie

tacfe, were sairf to have contributed large sums of

money to the Anglo-French campaign and twice, in

1857 and again in 1860, to have recruited a labor force

among Hakka minorities (supporters, perhaps, of the

Hakka-led Taiping rebels) to fetch and carry for the

foreigners. According to an 1891 British report (whose

remoteness from the events raises a question about its

reliability),"when peace was declared they shared in the

War indemnity as well as in the Imperial effects and

curios of the Yuan Ming Yuan [the Summer Palace

sacked by Anglo-French forces in 1860] ." I2

Ordinary Chinese in Hong Kong seem to have had

a clear sense that their numerical superiority gave them

a degree of political power—thereby belying the traditional

view of the common people as politically inert

and passive victims of imperialism. As early as 1844, f° r

instance, when the British imposed a regulation requiring

Chinese to register and pay a poll tax, Chinese

laborers went on strike, while some businessmen joined

the protest by threatening to leave Hong Kong, thereby

jeopardizing the smooth operation of British trade.

Three thousand Chinese—a sizable proportion of the

entire population—actually did leave the colony, effectively

halting business. The colonial administration was

forced to abolish the tax and limit the registration

requirement. In the meantime it had rashly helped a

Chinese community somewhat divided by dialect and

class differences to develop a sense of solidarity in the

face of adversity.

Although the close links many Hong Kong Chinese

maintained with the mainland often worked to their

advantage, they also had their drawbacks. The Canton

authorities never hesitated, for example, to press prominent

Hong Kong Chinese for contributions to patriotic

causes. A refusal could bring trouble to a family member

still in China. Chinese demands of Hong Kong

Chinese came to a head in 1884 when war broke out

between China and France. The French destroyed most

of the newly constructed Chinese fleet, the pride of the

reformist party, in a brief but deadly bombardment at

Foochow.They then proceeded to Hong Kong to

repair and refurbish their ships. But officials and gentry

in Canton issued proclamations in Hong Kong exhorting

patriotic Chinese to resist the French with all

means available. They offered rewards and titles to any

who would seize French munitions or murder a French

commander, as well as promising forgiveness of past

offenses, including the antidynastic activity that had

made refugees of many secret society members; by thus

excusing them, the Canton authorities hoped to channel

their energies into the service of their own cause. In

addition, conscious that some Chinese had secretly

been supplying the French with food and even working

for them as spies (as had happened during the second

Opium War), placards threatened death to traitors and

dire punishment to their families. The placards hit

home, reinforced by French threats to attack the

Canton area where the families of many Hong Kong

workers still lived, as well as by the warships' interference

with trade and hence the people's livelihood.

Dockworkers in Hong Kong refused to have anything

to do with the French ships. For some time they

stopped work altogether, much to the chagrin of the

British authorities, who found they were powerless to

force the workers into action.

This was the first of a number of significant antiforeign

actions undertaken by workers in Hong Kong,


often in solidarity with compatriots on the mainland. In

1905 Hong Kong took part in a widespread boycott of

American goods. American treatment of Chinese in the

United States had been steadily worsening. Chinese

emigrants sent home a stream of tales of the mistreatment

and even massacre of Chinese in America. The

U.S. Exclusion Acts of 1882—94 prohibited Chinese

workers from entering the United States, and after

Hawaii and the Philippines fell under American control

in 1898 and 1900 respectively, these prohibitions

extended to them. Aroused by the accumulation of outrages,

the Qing government came under considerable

pressure not to renew the treaty limiting the number of

Chinese immigrants, and finally declined to do so. In

order to back the government's stand with the force of

popular sentiment, merchants and others called a total

boycott of American goods. Workers and merchants in

Hong Kong joined their fellows in half a dozen treaty

ports in refusing to deal with American interests. All

kinds of people unexpectedly found themselves the

object of the boycott. A Chinese dentist in Hong Kong,

for instance, lost many patients because of his American

education. Yet Chinese solidarity was incomplete. Some

declined to participate because they were reluctant to

jeopardize their business interests for the sake of patriotism.

But the boycott continued for several months and

served notice that, regardless of their governments

weakness, Chinese resented American behavior. Like

the anti-French strikes of 1884, it underscored the fact

that the special position of Hong Kong residents as

colonial subjects placed them in the front line of the

development of Chinese nationalism.

Yet, on the mainland, patriotic Chinese reformers

struggling to resist foreign pressure were at best equivocal

about nationalist activities in Hong Kong. In a startling

foretaste of Beijing's ambivalence in the 19905


about the anti-Japanese activism of Chinese from Hong

Kong and Taiwan over the disputed Diaoyu Islands, they

feared the spread of antiforeign activism to the mainland

via Canton that, should it get out of control, might turn

against the rulers of China themselves. Moreover, having

secured a measure of British cooperation in their quest

to revitalize China, the Qing reformers were highly

reluctant to risk letting nationalist fervor in Hong Kong

provoke British hostility, for fear that China could find

itself once more internationally isolated.

Hong Kong as a Refuge for Reformers and


The network of connections between Hong Kong and

Canton ensured that Hong Kong occupied a special

position in the unfolding events of late-nineteenth-century

Chinese history. Of special significance was the fact

that a number of important Chinese intellectuals and

statesmen, including some future leaders, had their first

direct encounter with Western society in the colony. In

Hong Kong, for instance, the future Taiping rebel leader

Hong Ren'gan (1822—1864) was baptized into the

Christian faith. As a relative of the original Taiping

leader, Hong Xiuquan, Hong had been captured by

Qing officials, but he managed to escape and flee to

Hong Kong in 1853.There he studied Christian doctrine

with a missionary to whom he recounted some of

the details of Taiping ideology, which had a strong

Christian element drawn from Hong Xiuquan's visions

of God and Jesus. Hong Ren'gan's account was a principal

source of Western knowledge of theTaipings.

Over the next few years Hong went back and forth

between China and Hong Kong. In the colony he

worked for some time as a catechist and preacher for

the London Missionary Society, where employers and

Chinese colleagues alike formed a high opinion of his

abilities. When eventually Hong reached theTaiping

capital at Nanking, he became the rebels' prime minister

and foreign minister. He employed one of his former

missionary teachers as an interpreter in diplomatic

negotiations with Westerners who came down from

Shanghai to see how Christian the rebels really were.

Eventually he was captured and executed.

The influential reformer Wang Tao (b.i828) lived in

Hong Kong for most of a decade while he helped

James Legge translate the Chinese classics. Wang fled

there in 1862 after he was identified as the author of a

strategic document recommending a plan of action to

theTaiping leaders. From 1867 to 1869 Wang traveled

to Scotland at Legge s invitation, visiting Legge's family.

He lectured at Oxford and crossed to Paris to meet

French sinologists. After his return to China he published

one of the first politically aware newspapers that

formed part of a general movement toward modernization.

One of the founders of modern journalism in

China, Wang was an extremely influential advocate of

reform, bringing to bear his experiences in Hong

Kong and overseas.

Many other Chinese gained their first exposure to

Western society and culture in Hong Kong. In the

atmosphere of rising revolutionary activity around the

turn of the century, it offered some a safer haven from

the long arm of Qing law than did the foreign concessions

of Shanghai and other treaty ports. Thus, for

example, the leading reformer KangYouwei

(1858—1927) escaped by way of Hong Kong to Japan

after the failure of the Hundred Days' Reform movement

in 1898. Most famous among Chinese leaders

whose sojourns in Hong Kong had some impact on

their future career was SunYatsen (1866—1925), the

"father of the Chinese revolution." Sun, a Cantonese,

grew up in Hawaii, became a Christian, and graduated

from the Hong Kong College of Medicine in 1892.

He then went to London to continue his studies, but

Qing agents, alerted to his revolutionary aspirations,

arranged for him to be kidnapped and held in the

Chinese embassy. It was in part through the good

offices of his former British teacher at medical school

in Hong Kong that Sun was able to effect his release.

But the British government agreed to Qing requests to

exclude Sun from Hong Kong, where his presence was

thought too dangerous and the likelihood he could

illegally reenter China too strong. Banned from the

colony more than once, Sun went to Japan, from where

he organized a series of uprisings against the dynasty.

His direct experience on the colonial authorities' list of

proscribed persons added fuel to the fire of anti-imperialism.

In sum, Hong Kong's significance between 1842

and 1910 lay, on the one hand, in its own evolving

identity as a developing colony, with all the complex

social and political arrangements that involved, and, on

the other, in its relationship to the progress of revolution

in China.


Roberta Wue


Photography through Practice and Function

i. Bruce Shepherd, A Hand-book

to Hongkong, Being a Popular

Guide to the Various Places of

Interest in the Colony, for the Use

of Tourists (i893;repr. The Hong

Kong Guide 1897, Hong Kong:

Oxford University Press, 1982),


In 1893, one Bruce Shepherd, author of A Hand-book to

Hongkong, declared: "For ages prior to the year 1841,

[Hongkong] existed only as a plutonic island of

uninviting sterility, apparently capable only of supporting

the lowest forms of organism. To-day, it stands forth

before the world with its City of Victoria and a permanent

population of more than two hundred thousand

souls—a noble monument to British pluck and enterprise.'"

This proudly pithy and unashamedly biased

encapsulation of Hong Kong's first fifty years under

British rule describes an unswerving trajectory from

barren rock to booming colonial metropolis.

In the 18405, a description of their home as a "plutonic"

rock would doubtless have come as a surprise to

the several thousand Chinese residents of Hong Kong

Island, which was settled as early as the twelfth century

by the Chinese. It was early European inhabitants of

Hong Kong and its British-built settlement,Victoria,

who frequently portrayed the new colony as inhospitable

and insalubrious; for them Hong Kong doubtless

seemed closer to a rough-and-ready frontier town than

the colonial jewel described by Shepherd fifty years

later. Nevertheless, the creation of a new mercantile

center of foreign merchants, traders, and military men

was enough to draw itinerant commercial photographers

to the new outpost by the early 18405. Through

the second half of the nineteenth century, photographers,

both Western and Chinese, would continue to set

up shop in Hong Kong.

Getting There: Early Photography in Hong Kong

Little is known about the early years of photography in

Hong Kong. Although contemporary advertisements

from local newspapers give some indication of photographers

active in Hong Kong from the 18405 on (see

Edwin K. Lai's essay in this volume), almost no photographs

are known to have survived from the first two

decades of photography in Hong Kong. One of the earliest

recorded photographers is the Scotsman Hugh

Mackay, who took over a daguerreotype and lithographic

printing business on Wellington Terrace in

i846. 2 (The daguerreotype process, invented by Louis

Daguerre in 1839, fixes a unique positive image on a

copper plate.) Doubtless other daguerreotypists joined

2. Clark Worswick (with an essay

by Jonathan Spence), Imperial

C7//;/rt; Photographs 1850—1912

(New York: Pennwick/Crown,

1978), p. 134. It should be noted

that the Frenchman Jules Itier

was actively daguerreotyping in

nearby Macao as early as 1844;

Itier also records taking

daguerreotypes in and near

Canton in the same year, which

may make him the earliest photographer

in China. One of his

views of Canton is reproduced

in lithograph form as the frontispiece

of the second volume of

his memoirs. See Jules Itier,

Journal d'un voyage en Chine,

1843, 1844, !$45> 1 $46< 3 v °l s -

(Paris: Dauvin & Fontaine,

1848). See also Gilbert Gimon,

"Jules Itier, Daguerreotypist,"

History of Photography 5, no. 3

(July 1981): 225-244.

3d. John Thomson, "Hong-kong

Photographers" (part 2), British

Journal of Photography 19, no. 658

(13 December 1872): 591.

31. John Thomson scornfully

described the photographer

Ating's street display of "a glass

case containing a score of the

most hideous caricatures of the

human face" (John Thomson,

The Straits of Malacca, Indo-China

and China; or 10 Years'Travels,

Adventures and Residence Abroad

[NewYork: Harper & Bros.,

1875], p. 189).

photography), translated by the same John Fryer men-

tioned above. Zhaoxiangqi tushuo (The photographic

apparatus) and Zhaoxiang ganpian fa (Dryplate photogra-

phy) followed in the early 18905. These pamphlets were

available in all the Chinese treaty ports, and doubtless

were sold also in Hong Kong. By 1900, a more special-

ized book, a Chinese translation of an American book

written by "Ju-lie-ni," Zhaoxiang loubanyin tufa (An

illustrated guide to printing photographs), had also been

published. However, the relatively late date of these

publications is more an indication of, than an explana-

tion for, the spread of photography Their significance is

in the presentation of photography as an important

Western scientific technique and as a technical process

rather than as the highly commodified practice it had

become in Hong Kong and many of the Chinese treaty

ports by the later nineteenth century.

It is likely that many China export artisans did not

give up their copying and painting businesses to turn

solely to photography; they probably merely augmented

their skills to include photography among the services

offered. John Thomson's account of a Chinese photog-

rapher's studio does not fail to describe a group of

painters copying photographs in oil and as miniatures

on ivory in the front of the shop. 30 Their manner of

business doubtless also remained the same: it was not

uncommon for Chinese artisans to draw in business by

sending a tout to meet incoming ships with samples of

the shop's work; this practice seems to have remained

unchanged when their services included photography.

Another method of drawing in customers was advertis-

ing samples of their work downstairs from the studio, at

street level. 31 Their clientele and manner of working

may explain why the output of these painters-cum-

photographers remain today almost completely

unknown. If their business was largely executing

portraits of transient sailors and soldiers, their work

must be lost among the thousands of anonymous,

unsigned photographic portraits that survive from the

nineteenth century. This may also signal the presence of

an essentially bilevel market, with foreign photogra-

phers providing a greater range of goods for a wealthier

class of foreign tourist and expatriate customers, and

Chinese photographers selling primarily to sailors and

soldiers only briefly in port and with more specific and

more modest needs. D. K. Griffith (plate 24), a photog-

rapher first active in Shanghai, disparagingly comment-

ed on Chinese photographers in Shanghai that "their

studios are little encouraged by resident foreigners, their

only patrons being sailors from foreign ships in harbor,"

adding, "Many of them do a very good business...imi-

tating their more able and better-supplied foreign

brothers in every little novelty that may appear." 32 It is

ironic that Griffith would later move to Hong Kong

and work with Lai Afong.

The Chronicle and Directory for China, Japan, and the

Philippines for 1870 lists six Chinese photographers:

Hing Cheong, Mun Hing, Nam Ching, Pun Lun,Yat

Sing, andYee Cheong, almost all located on Victoria's

main street, Queen's Road Central. The same publica-

tion for 1875 lists ten Chinese photographers: Lai

Afong, Lai Sang, Nam Ching, Pun Lun, SiTai,To Shing,

Wing Cheong,Ya Chan,Yau Shing, andYuet Chong. 33

Though the number of photographers had increased,

there is a considerable turnover in names, with only

Pun Lun (plates 51-55) and Nam Ching still listed five

years later. Almost nothing is known of the majority of

these photographers. Of particular note is the photogra-

pher Si Tai, better known as See Tay or Liang Shitai

(active 18705-18805), who was working in Hong Kong

by i87i 34 (plate 48). Like several other Chinese photog-

raphers, See Tay eventually left Hong Kong to open a


32. D. K. Griffith,"A Celestial

Studio," Photographic News 19, no.

873 (28 May 1875)1260.

33. Chronicle and Directory for

China, Japan, and the Philippines

for 1870 (Hong Kong: "Daily

Press" Office, 1870), p. 184;

Chronicle and Directory for China,

Japan, and the Philippines for 1875

(Hong Kong: "Daily Press"

Office, 1875), p. 176. Between

these two dates, we also find

mention of the photography studio

Toong Shing, in the Daily

Advertiser of u September 1872

under police reports: "The master

of the Toong Shing photographer's

shop, No. 197, Queen's

Road Central, was summoned

by P. C. Bond for having exposed

indecent pictures for sale. His

Worship fined the defendant

$50: the pictures seized, 50 in

number, were destroyed."

34. See his advertisement in the

Daily Advertiser, 2 October 1871,

stating: "See-Tay, Photographer

and Painter, 26 Queen's Road,

Hong Kong, opposite Messrs.

Lane, Crawford & Co.

Photographs taken on Ivory and

Porcelain at lowest rates."

48. John Thomson,

"Introduction," Illustrations of

China and Its People: A Series of

200 Photographs with Letterpress

Description of the Places and People

Represented (London: Sampson,

Low, Marston, Low and Searle,

1873-74), vol. i,n.p.;repr. as

China and Its People in Early

Photographs (New York: Dover,


49. Afong in Hurley, Tourists'

Guide, p. xxxiv.

Britain's presence. From the i86os onward, photographers

would return again and again to the same views

of the Western city. These views include the Praya or

waterfront, crowded with piers and warehouses (plate

5); government buildings; the Botanic Garden and other

local landmarks such as the Clock Tower (plate 3), City

Hall, and St. John's Cathedral (plate 9). As John

Thomson grandly stated: "Hong Kong...[was] once said

to be the grave of Europeans, but...now, with its city of

Victoria, its splendid public buildings, parks and gardens,

its docks, factories, telegraphs and fleets of steamers,

[it] may be fairly considered the birthplace of a new

era in eastern civilization." 48 The identity of Hong

Kong as a colonial city is more forcefully brought out

when compared with that of China's capital, Peking,

which was regarded as an authentically Chinese city. As

late as 1897, Lai Afong's views of Peking were still

described in an advertisement as being of "the Oriental

city of Peking"; 49 indeed, the capital's large foreign

presence is barely detectable in the majority of tourist

views of Peking.

The composition and style of photographs of

Victoria are crisp and rational. Buildings are frequently

shown whole, uncropped, and often in isolation—figures

or street traffic rarely appear, though a posed figure

is occasionally included to give an indication of scale

(plates i, 3). As a result, there is a sense of stillness and

permanence, though this is partly owing to the

demands of early photography (long exposure times did

not permit the photographing of crowds and figures in

motion). The possession of Hong Kong and the concept

of its foreign ownership are most concretely

depicted in the sweeping horizontal format of the

panorama. The dramatic Hong Kong waterfront was

repeatedly depicted in this form (plate 5).The panorama

also had prephotographic antecedents in the early-


nineteenth-century large-scale painted panoramas of

cities or famous sites, often circular in format, which

enabled viewers to imagine themselves in a distant

place. Hong Kong, as well as Canton, had earlier been

represented in such a painted form at the Panorama in

London. 50 The grand and commanding vista of the

panorama offered a completeness of view that duplicated

the "monarch of all I survey" rhetoric found in written

descriptions of colonial discovery, where the

relationship between the seer and the object of his gaze

was one of master and possession. 51 In the case of the

foreign-built city of Victoria, it was the colonizer's hand

that had shaped and ordered the city into being; similarly,

in the photographic panorama, it is the privileged

foreign eye that views and makes sense of colonial territory.


The strength of Hong Kong's identity as a colonial

and urban center meant that, despite its dramatic setting,

it was only infrequently depicted as a natural site.

However, Hong Kong did not have a solely European

face. Instead, as A. B. Freeman-Mitford observed in

1866, "Hong-kong presents one of the oddest jumbles

in the whole world. It is neither fish, flesh, fowl, nor

good red-herring. The Government and principal people

are English—the population Chinese—the police

are Indians—the language is bastard English mixed with

Cantonese—the currency is the Mexican dollar, and

the elements no more amalgamate than the oil and

vinegar in a salad." 53 This awkward and unamalgamated

hybridity also stamped itself on photography in the distinct

bifurcation between views of the Western city and

views of Chinese areas of Hong Kong. If the Western

city was represented by grandly European architecture

and institutions, the Chinese parts of town were depicted

in terms of a quaint and colorful "Chineseness" that

lies in strong contrast to the foreign Victoria and is

50. Robert Burford, Description of

a View of the Island and Bay of

Hong Kong; Now Exhibiting at the

Panorama, Leicester Square

(London:]. Mitchell, 1844).

Burford, the owner of the

Panorama, painted the

panorama, with figures added by

H. C. Selous, based on 1843

drawings by Lt. F.J. White of the

Royal Marines. In 1838, Burford

had also exhibited a view of


51. Mary Louise Pratt, Imperial

Eyes-.Travel Writing and

Transculturation (London:

Routledge, 1992), pp. 201-208.

52. David Spurr, The Rhetoric of

Empire: Colonial Discourse in

Journalism, Travel Writing and

Imperial Administration (Durham,

N.C.: Duke University Press,

1993), P-15-

53. A. B. Freeman-Mitford, The

Attache at Peking (London:

Macmillan, 1900), quoted in

Barbara-Sue White, Hong Kong:

Somewhere between Heaven and

Earth (Hong Kong: Oxford

University Press, 1996), p. 65.

64. Christoper J. Lucas, ed.,James

Ricalton's Photographs of China

during the Boxer Rebellion: His

Illustrated Travelogue of igoo (New

York: Edwin Mellen Press, 1990)

reprints China Through the

Stereoscope together with information

on Ricalton and on his


alburns documenting daily life and local scenes. In some

of these turn-of-the-century albums, an interest in aes-

thetic effects is discernible, and it is possible that

Western amateur photography is one route by which

art photography entered Chinese society in the early

decades of the twentieth century. Amateur and com-

mercial photography were not strictly segregated; an

example of amateur photography's crossover into a

business arena can be found in an article in the 17 June

1890 Hong Kong Telegraph.The article graphically

describes a photograph taken by W. E. Sharpe, chief

engineer of the steamer Fatshan, of the results of the

torture and execution of a criminal in Canton, and

concludes by mentioning the availability of copies at

the studio of D. K. Griffith.

In the late nineteenth century, stereoscopic pho-

tographs experienced a revival among Western middle-

class audiences and were a popular means for them to

learn about Hong Kong and China (plates 57-61).James

Ricalton (1844—1929), staff photographer for the

American stereo-view company of Underwood and

Underwood, photographed Hong Kong in January

1900, before proceeding on to China and recording

scenes of the Boxer Rebellion. The resulting one hun-

dred views of China, China Through the Stereoscope, was

sold in 1901 together with a booklet and maps for the

buyers' edification. 64 A smaller set of Hong Kong and

Canton stereo-views was sold with a booklet with

instructions on the proper use and appreciation of

stereo-views as well as descriptions of all the images and

maps to show their locations. These stereo-views are

presented as an instructive and educational simulation

of a trip to Hong Kong and Canton; a tour "personally

conducted" by the photographer. Despite the animated

snapshot compositions and resulting expansion of sub-

jects, Ricalton continued to cling to the basic conven-

tional categories of Hong Kong photography.

Although the tourist trade in Hong Kong pho-

tographs continued into the early decades of the twen-

tieth century, an essential change occurred with

photography's entrance into the mass Chinese media.

The first decade of the new century witnessed Chinese

newspapers and magazines beginning to use photogra-

phy in an increasing capacity; by the 19105 and 19205,

Chinese art photography also began to find forums in

photography magazines and exhibitions.

It is still possible to appreciate nineteenth-century

Hong Kong photography as recording Hong Kong's

earlier identity in Western eyes, as British colony and

mysterious East. As documents, however, their true

value lies in their chronicling of the difficult and hybrid

area between the Chinese and the Western, and as a

central facet of the composite culture created by the

encounter of these two societies.


Edwin K. Lai


i. See its advertisement in The

China Mail on and after 22

October 1846.

2."Of every one hundred

daguerreotypes made," wrote

John Szarkowski, "ninety-nine

were portraits" (Photography Until

Now [New York: Museum of

Modern Art, 1989]^. 37).

The first reliable date for the advent of photography in

Hong Kong is 1846. On 8 October of that year, an

advertisement of photographic services appeared in a

local English-language newspaper, The China Mail:




DRAWINGS of all Descriptions, Engraved and




Daguerreotype Room open from

9 A.M., until 3 P.M.

Victoria, yxn October, 1846.

The identity of the owner(s) of this establishment

cannot be traced. Given the state of photographic tech-

nology at that time, the views of "Hongkong or China

scenery" were more likely drawings or engravings than

photographs. Although the advertisement does not

make it explicit, it is reasonably safe to infer from the

phrase "daguerreotype room" and its opening hours

that the only photographic service this establishment—

which shortly afterward changed its name to

Daguerreotype Gallery and Lithographic Printing

Establishment 1 —would have provided was making por-

traits in a sunlit studio (located on the top floor of a

building and with a glass roof) . 2

Unfortunately, neither the Daguerreotype Gallery

and Lithographic Printing Establishment nor its succes-

sor, Mackay & Co., which took over the business by the

end of 1846, achieved much commercial success in this

pioneering venture. 3 When Mackay & Co. offered the

"daguerreotype instrument" for resale on i July 1847, it

still held a large stock of unused plates and chemicals,

sufficient to make several hundred pictures. 4 No subse-

quent notice of transfer of ownership or new offers of

photographic services have been found.

Scattered evidence indicates that there was a limited

number of photographers working briefly in Hong

Kong in the 18505. During March and April of 1852, the

photographer Herman Husband advertised in The

Friend of China and Hongkong Gazette, another English-


3. Messrs. Mackay & Co.'s two

advertisements in The China

Mail, 10 December 1846, read,

"Mackay & Co. respectfully intimates

that they have added to

their Establishment a lithographic

press, and are prepared to

print, upon the shortest Notice,

any Orders they may be favoured

with. Hongkong, yth December,

1846" and "Daguerreotype portraits

accurately taken in a few

Minutes, at Mackay & Co.'s.

Hongkong, yth December,

1846." According to The

Hongkong Almanack and Directory

for 1846 (Hong Kong: Office of

"The China Mail," 1846), n.p.,

Mackay & Co. was a trading firm

owned by two storekeepers,

Hugh Mackay and Andrew

Dixson.They had an employee

named Frederick Cooper. The

company was dissolved on 14

March 1849 (see advertisement

in The Friend oj China and

Hongkong Gazette of the

same date).

4. See advertisement in The

China Mail, i July 1847.

5.The earliest date I have found

for Husband's advertisement is

24 March 1852. However,

Husband dated the advertisement

itself 28 February.

6. See Duben s advertisement in

The China Mail, 24 May 1853.





RAWINOfiS of all -Descriptions, Engraved ana

Litfyrograplred ; COLOURKI) or .OUTLINED

VIEWS modi* of llpNGKGrNo or CHINA SCENERY ;

TRAN\sFEit^K^PER--furi)wJipd to parties fishing to

write their owri CiRCVLAKS^javid printed offlat'a feW

•Hours' Notice ; RI LRS W LADJ i\fc, Bl Jfel N*ESS

•CARDS, an|d H/INDINGS re-printed withrneatneM

and despatch.

5 DiiguerredJtvpe Room open from 9 A.a M.; until

Victoria, -%th Octobj^ TR4G.

Advertisement published in The China Mail, 8 October 1846

This 1846 advertisement documents the earliest known daguerreotype service in Hong Kong. The name

of the operator is not stated, but it was common to print the hours of the "daguerreotype room," as the

taking of such images required long exposures under strong daylight. The "Daguerreotype and

Lithrographic [sic] Printing Establishment" also offers more traditional services, including drawings,

engravings and lithographs, as well as the printing of circulars, bills, and business cards.

7. Albert Smith, To China and

Back: Being a Diary Kept Out and

Home (1859; repr. Hong Kong:

Hong Kong University Press,

1974), p. 32.

language newspaper published in Hong Kong, that he

was "prepared to take Daguerreotype Likeness,

coloured, and also to take Delineations of Houses,

Views, &c., correctly." 5 The following year, C. Duben,

possibly of Portuguese origin, after travels in Manila,

Shanghai, and Macao, engaged in commercial portraiture

at the City Hotel for three weeks. 6

During his visit in Hong Kong in 1858, the English

actor Albert Smith met a photographer, M. Rossier. In

Smith's published diary is this entry:

[Hongkong, Wednesday, 25 August 1858] Paid a

visit to Messrs. Negretti and Zambra's photographer,

M. Rossier, who lived at the Commercial

Hotel, belonging, I believe, to Messrs. Lane and

Crawford. He complained much of the effect of

the climate on his chemicals. 7

According to Clark Worswick in "Photography in

Imperial China," Rossier was an itinerant photographer

who stayed in China for only a short while. He went to

Canton (Guangzhou) in 1858, just after the city had fallen

into the hands of an allied Anglo-French force. "Rossier

photographed the scenes of the conflict with great diligence:

a breach in the city wall, a small pagoda occupied

by British troops,Treasury Street, a joss house and numerous

other city views." 8 The next year stereographic views

that Rossier had taken in Canton, Macao, and Hong

Kong were published by Negretti and Zambra.

It was only at the beginning of the i86os, after

China's door was forced further open after the conclusion

of the Anglo-French expedition of 1856—58, that

photography began to become more common in Hong

Kong. The impetus possibly came from a clause in the

postwar treaty, the Convention of Peking of 1860, which

newly granted foreign visitors the right to reside in

Chinese communities beyond the treaty ports and to

travel freely in all parts of the celestial empire. For the

first time in history, Cathay, the ancient Eastern kingdom

of great material prosperity and wonder, was fully

exposed to investigation by curious Western eyes. At a

time when there was a great demand in Europe for

exotic views of remote places, and photographs of

Egypt and the Holy Land by early traveling photographers

such as Francis Frith (British, 1822-1899) had

gradually become commonplace in the market, the

opening of China provided an attraction highly tempting

to those intrepid photographers who dared to

extend their expeditions further east for new vistas as

yet unseen by the European public. 9

From about 1860 onward, many Western photographers,

mostly British, American, and French, took this

new opportunity to explore China. They roamed all

over the lands and rivers, the ancient cities, the coastal

regions, and the distant frontiers of the great hidden

country, ravenously photographing views and scenarios

that they found revealing or considered informative.

Inspired by nineteenth-century ideals of positivism,


8. Clark Worswick (with an essay

by Jonathan Spence), Imperial

China: Photographs 1850-1912

(New York: Pennwick/Crown,

1978), pp. 136-137.

9. Negretti and Zambra, a leading

publisher and purveyor of travel

photographs, noted in 1859 that

"as the camera became more

common in Egypt and the Holy

Land, the more adventurous photographers

turned their steps to

more distant and less known

countries" (Negretti and

Zambra,"Photographs from the

Philippines Islands," Photographic

News 3,no.61 [November 1859]:

99-100).The geographic extensions

of travel photographs from

the Middle East to the Indian

subcontinent and the Far East can

be seen in pictures taken by W. B.

Woodbury in Southeast Asia,

Samuel Bourne in India and

Nepal, Felice Beato in Japan, and

John Thomson first in Southeast

Asia and then in China.

31. Deng Zhaochu,"Guangzhou

sheyingjie de caishanzu"

(Pioneers of the photographic

trade in Guangzhou), Sheying

zazhi (Photography magazine),

no. 2 (June 1922), quoted in Cai

Jifu et al., History of Photography

in Shanghai (Shanghai: Shanghai

renmin chubanshe, 1992), p. 2.

Emphasis added.

32. Existing documents show

that only three expatriate photographic

firms practiced their

trade at the Parade Ground:

Weed and Howard, Milton

Miller, and C. Parker, but all

started during or after the year

1860. It is very likely that the

owners of Yee Cheong learned

the necessary techniques from

one of them, and hence the

actual starting date of their photographic

services would more

likely have been between 1860

and 1866. Moreover, even in

1867 there were only two

Chinese photographic studios in

Hong Kong listed (The China

Directory for 1867 [Hong Kong: A.

Shortrede, 1867], p. 41).

Therefore, if the Yee Cheong

partners were then making huge

profits and decided to go their

separate ways so that each could

start a business on his own, they

still could have established new

studios in the colony rather than

going elsewhere. The most likely

explanation for two of them

moving north, I think, would

have been the growing competition

in Hong Kong evident in

the early i87Os, making it advantageous

for two of them to try

their luck in other trading ports

where the markets were still


33. Chen et al., History of

Photography in China, p. 69.

had made a profit of more than nine thousand

yuan.They therefore decided to end their partnership

so that they could make further

progress. Zhou stayed in Hong Kong, Xie went

to Foochow, and Zhang went back to the

Province [Canton]. Zhang opened a studio on

the southern bank of the river at the Province,

which he named Yee Cheong. The studio operated

from the first year of Tongzhi [1862] to the

final years of the Qing dynasty. 31

Although the dates given in this passage should be

corrected to about ten years later, 32 some important

points regarding early Chinese photographers in Hong

Kong can be discerned or verified from it. First, many

early Chinese photographers were originally painters

from Canton. Second, probably because of keen competition,

the lesser-known painting studios were not

doing very well. Third, the trend of shifting from painting

to photography started quite early, possibly at the

less profitable painting studios first. Fourth, many early

Chinese professional photographers learned their trade

from photographers visiting from overseas. Fifth, after

acquiring the craft of photography, some practitioners

moved inland to the other trading ports to continue

their business. Hong Kong became the training center

for many Chinese photographers who later worked in

Shanghai,Tientsin (Tianjin), and other major cities in

China. The authors of History of Photography in China

1840—1937 note: "The photographic business in early

Hong Kong trained a significant number of professionals

for our country. During this period [the late nineteenth

and early twentieth century], many people who

opened photographic studios in various parts of the

country had originally learned the techniques of photography

in Hong Kong." 33


Almost all the Chinese-owned photographic studios

in Hong Kong were situated at Queen's Road Central

and Wellington Street, side by side with one another or

with the painting studios. Usually the photographers

were on the second or the third floor, where they could

set up a sunlit glasshouse necessary to produce portraits.

In an article titled "Hong-kong Photographers" published

in 1872, the Scottish photographer John

Thomson gave a detailed and lively account of a typical

photographic studio in Hong Kong:

There are a few ghastly pictures in black and

white in a frame at the doorway, some of them

having the cheerful expression of victims whose

heads had been spiked to secure the necessary

degree of steadiness. There is a narrow ladder or

staircase leading to the artist's quarters;....The

pungent smell first encountered is that of collodion;

the other more noxious odours are native.

Look round; ...we are in a small room, the

walls of which are hung with portraits, some in

oil and of a large size, for the firm paints on

canvas. There are ships, too, and fairly well done.

Oh! the portraits! They are chiefly of foreigners—seafaring

men—and they form a kind of

gallery of horrors.

There are four or five artists at work in the

light part of the room and verandah copying

photographs, on a large scale, in oil....

The glass house is a small den at the back of

the waiting-room, lighted from above only. The

glare is blinding and the heat stifling. 34

Inherited from the painting trade and the photographic

practice of their foreign counterparts, and furthermore

determined by the demands of their clients,

34. John Thomson, "Hong-kong

Photographers," British Journal of

Photography 19, no. 656 (29

November 1872): 569, and 19,

no. 658 (13 December 1872):

59 T ~59 2 ; extracts from pp. 569,

591.This is reprinted in full in

the Appendix.

35. Ibid., p. 591.

36. D. K. Griffith, an early foreign

photographer who worked in

Hong Kong and on the southern

coast of China for over twenty

years, recalled the dangers and

difficulties he and the local practitioners

had encountered: "This

hostility by the Natives lies in

the strange belief that the photographic

image is the soul of the

original, the withdrawal of

which produces death a month

or a year later....The native artist

has little support from his countrymen.

In my own case I have

had my chair torn to pieces on

the road, my coolies beaten, and

my camera broken...in the case

of a China-man, he would have

fared much worse" (quoted in

Frank Fischbeck in his

"Foreword" to Trea Wilshire, Old

Hong Kong [Hong Kong:

FormAsia, 1987], n.p.).

37. Robert P. F. Lam,

"Introduction," in Hong Kong

Museum of History, The Hong

Kong Album: A Selection of the

Museum's Historical Photographs

(Hong Kong: Urban Council,

1982), p. 3.

38. See Afong's advertisement in

The China Mail, n December

1871. Before his departure from

Hong Kong, Floyd had organized

at least nine raffles of his

photographs. I have found the

dates of his sixth raffle, in

December 1870 (see his advertisement

in The China Mail, 17

November 1870), and his ninth

raffle, in December 1873 (advertisement

in The China Mail, 22

November 1873). Regarding the

opening of Afong's studio, see his

advertisement in the Hong Kong

Daily Press, n April 1870.

39.Thomson, The Straits of

Malacca, Indo-China and China,

p. 190.

the major business of the early Chinese photographers

in Hong Kong was studio portraiture. Views of Victoria

Harbor, Canton, Shanghai, and other ports of China,

pictures of Chinese people and their customs, and pho-

tographs of current affairs were also sold by the studios.

Some photographers also pirated and copied works by

European photographers and sold them clandestinely

along with their own pictures. 35 As Thomson noted,

many studios provided both photographic and painting

services, supplying hand-tinted photographs as well as

paintings copied or enlarged from miniature pho-


At first, most of the Chinese-run studios' customers

were expatriates, traveling traders, and sailors.The native

Chinese had initially expressed fear, suspicion, and hatred

toward photography, 36 but as the camera and the pictures

it made became more familiar, some wealthy Chinese

also went to the studios to have their portraits made. 37

Advertising in the local newspapers for a period of

time was a common way for a photographic studio to

attract customers. If we leaf through the newspapers of

this period, every now and then we will come across

advertisements of these photographic studios. Specials

were also advertised: Lai Afong, the best-known early

Chinese photographer in Hong Kong, whose studio

was open by April 1870, followed the precedent of

Floyd and attempted a raffle of his photographs of

Hong Kong, Canton, and Foochow. 38 Some studios also

hired assistants to scour the ships in the harbor in search

of customers among the foreign crews. 39

Little information has been found concerning the

relationship between the local Chinese photographers

and their foreign counterparts. Based on a picture of

photographic studios on Queen's Road taken between

1867 and 1869, we can reasonably infer that Floyd had

some Chinese employees. Afong was obviously on very

good terms with Thomson, as the latter praised him

warmly in "Hong-kong Photographers." In fact, at least

two expatriate photographers, Emil Rusfeldt and D. K.

Griffith, worked for Afong as portrait photographers. 40

And when Afong moved his studio to Queen's Road

Central in April 1878, his premises onWyndham Street

were taken over by the photographer H. Schiiren. 4 '

In the later years of the nineteenth century, the

annual Directory and Chronicle for China, Japan, and

Others records twelve or thirteen photographic studios

in Hong Kong, indicating that the market was quite

saturated and the competition was very intense. But as

the local economy prospered and the population grew,

the photographic industry found a new direction of

expansion and a new clientele. Advertisements for

photographic studios had been appearing only in

The China Mail or other English-language newspapers,

but in the 18905 they started to appear in the Chinese

press as well. More local Chinese were able to afford the

cost of a visit to the photographic studios, which grew

to rely more and more on the business of residents, as

reflected in the increasing number of advertisements for

photographic portraiture appearing in the Chinese

press. A typical example of such advertisements can be

found in a Chinese-language newspaper Huazi Ribao

in January 1895:

The magic of photography began recently in

the West. Now it is very popular in China. How

to make the image lively and intelligent depends

on the person. Our studio is committed to

exploring this craft, and is very confident. We

have methods to make enlargements over a foot

in length or to print sizes measuring just a few

inches. The backgrounds are suitably chosen, the

face and eyes all look alive, and the figures are all


40. Rusfeldt was in Afong's studio

from October 1871 to

around March 1872. He opened

his own establishment, the

Hongkong Photographic

Rooms, in April 1872 (see his

advertisement in The China Mail,

19 April 1872). Griffith started

his service with Afong in July

1878 (see Afong's advertisement

in The China Mail, n July 1878).

He opened his own photographic

studio in May 1884 (see

his advertisement in The China

Mail, 24 May 1884). One W. H.

Lentz had also been in Afong's

employment (see Afong's notice

in The China Mail, 10 January

1876), but I have not been able

to identify the nature of his job.

41. See Afong's and Schiiren's

advertisements in The China

Mail, 29 April and II July 1878.

42. Advertisement by Kay Hing

(Qixing), Huazi Rihao,

31 January 1895.

very realistic. [The photographs] will keep

unchanged for a very long time, and impart a

strong sense of the spirit.... 42

Unlike the foreign visitors, the native Chinese had

little interest in photographs of views and customs, and

the photographic studios therefore turned almost exclusively

to the production of portraits. Even Afong, whose

major business had long been the sale of pictures of

views, celebrities, and current events, now placed more

emphasis on photographs of faces. An advertisement in

the Huazi Ribao in 1909 read:

Our photography studio has been operating for

a number of decades. Both local and foreign

gentlemen and businessmen have greatly praised

our work numerous times. Recently we undertook

new researches into innovations in the

craft, aspiring to achieve clear, excellent, and

exquisite results. We also stock many Chinese


and Western styles of dress and [paintings of]

natural scenes for the use of backdrop decorations.

Please come visit us at No. 31 Queen's

Road Central, on the right-hand side of the

Judicial Magistrate. 43

This advertisement of Afong also points to a new

trend in the general attitude toward photographic portraits

during this period. Studio sessions extended

beyond the general purpose of producing permanent

records of faces or figures: having your photograph

made had turned into a fashionable activity, especially

for the upper class (the cost of a photographic sitting

still precluded most of the general public at that time).

The clients would put on Chinese or Western formal

clothing, stage costumes, or even outfits for Buddhist

monks and nuns and pose in front of the camera

amid railings, certain garden trappings, or painted backdrops.

This fad of role playing continued at least into

the 19308.

43. Huazi Ribao, 4 May 1909.

Life in Hong Kong

Images of Chinese life form a major category in nineteenth-century

Hong Kong photography and largely

catered to Western perceptions of the "other." They

represent an attempt to understand a different culture

and society in quasi-ethnographic terms by classifying it

according to social classes and types, typical activities

and occupations; as a result, images of labor and work

are particularly prevalent. Two conspicuous subgenres

playing to Western curiosity about characteristic

Chinese behavior and customs are quaint local modes

of transportation—namely the rickshaw and sedan

chair—and, more perversely, forms of execution and

torture. While John Thomson's photographs show an

interest in this categorization by type and occupation,

his intelligent curiosity led to the creation of more

nuanced and less stereotyped images of Chinese life,

such as his photographs of a curio shop, villagers, and a

scene aboard a junk.

In contrast to images of Chinese life, photographs

of foreign life in Hong Kong were generally produced

for personal rather than commercial purposes. Hence

they commonly depict private and leisure activities, in

representations of the home, recreation, and outings.

Special events were also documented, and these included

local holidays, visits to the colony by the famous,

and occurrences of plague and typhoons. In groups of

photographs almost thirty years apart, Lai Afong and

Mee Cheung recorded the aftermath of typhoons in

1874 and 1906.

Portraits and People

Daguerreotype portraits were probably the earliest photographs

taken in Hong Kong, and throughout the

nineteenth century portraiture continued to be the

medium's most popular use for both Western and

Chinese patrons. While outdoor portraiture was not

unheard of, formal studio portraits appear to have been

the norm. Photography studios employed glasshouse

structures to allow in the maximum natural light

required for early photography, and they were also

equipped with props for posing, such as metal braces

(to hold the sitter's pose steady for the minutes-long

exposure), furniture, architectural elements, carpets, curtains,

and backdrops. In addition to preserving the

images of individuals and families, photography was also

employed by hongs and regiments for group portraits.

Portraiture is the primary area of early Hong Kong

photography for which Chinese patronage can be documented,

and Chinese patrons differed from their

Western counterparts in their requirements. They

favored full-length, frontal poses over bust, half-length,

and profile views, and instead of architectural props

such as balustrades or columns preferred using smaller

props held in the hand or placed on a small table at

their side.

Other residents of and visitors to Hong Kong also

commissioned portraits, as seen in photographs made

by the American Milton Miller of local Indian merchants

and two Japanese ambassadors to the colony.

Cartes-de-visite and Stereo-views

Cartes-de-visite are small photographs on cards, often

printed with the photographers name. Subjects varied

widely, ranging from portraits to landscapes to genre

images. From the i86os onward, almost all photographers

active in Hong Kong produced these collectible

images. The cartes-de-visite shown here include examples

by both Chinese and Western photographers,

among them five works from the long-lived studio of

Pun Lun, an unusual hand-colored carte-de-visite by

John Thomson, and a rare early work by See Tay, best

known for his later photographs for imperial patrons in

North China. The subjects represent the kinds of genre

images available, in particular, traditional Chinese trades

and occupations and Chinese types.

Stereoscopic photographs, or stereo-views, are double

photographs taken with a camera employing dual

lenses. When viewed through a stereoscope, the two

images merge to produce a single scene giving an

impression of depth. Popular at mid-century among the

Western middle class, stereo-views saw a revival late in

the century after the invention of stereo-cameras usable

by amateurs. The examples here of turn-of-the-century

stereo-views were produced for an American armchair

audience.While the subjects remained similar to those

of photographs produced decades earlier, changing

technology permitted more casual, cropped snapshot

compositions as well as subjects in motion. One view

of a typical stepped street in Hong Kong reveals the

signboard for the Chinese photography studio of Pun



Selected Bibliography

Checklist of the Exhibition

the rule—but looks more like a topographical sketch than a "picture."

Its successor in the set, No. 113, East Point—in reality two photographs

taken by the new lens above-mentioned—is however the photograph

par excellence of the collection, inasmuch as it combines in a greater

degree than any other all the qualities which render what we have

taken the liberty of naming "memorial photographs" valuable. The distant

clouds, the opposite hills trending toward the Lyeemoon pass, the

still harbour, and the buildings which now occupy what at one time

was the colony of Hongkong, form an admirable picture, with the additional

advantage of unusual size. It is of course well known that, owing

to accidental circumstances, any given photographic print may be better

or worse than the average of others from the same plate. Hence

criticism may be objected to which is perfectly just as regards the copy

alluded to, but which would be in error if applied to another copy differently

exposed and toned. We can only say that the copy before us of

East Point is an admirable picture, and that none will be dissatisfied

whose copies equal the one in question. No. 138, another View of the

Praya, is by far the best of the waterside set, though as in its companions,

the movement of the tide has made the boats "hazy" in outline.

The sky, that difficult object to the photographer, is in this case unusually

distinct, the clouds over West Point having submitted with good

grace to the camera. No. 140, The Chinese Village at East Point, is a good

photograph, chiefly remarkable for the distinctness of the foliage in the

foreground. No. 142, the Old Joss House at East Point, merits no particular

notice, and the same may be said of No. 143, A Farm House, East

Pom/ 1 . They are both satisfactory photographs, but possess an interest

simply as illustrating the native style of temple and dwelling. No. 145,

The Water Tank, Cane Road is, much like the foregoing, a fair photograph

and nothing more. Tank Lane, No. 146, the scene of the murder

last year—the second house on the left of the Road was we believe the

precise spot—is a great improvement on its three predecessors and is a

nice little "bit" of photography. Nos. 94 and 95, two Views of the

Harbour, are interesting to those familiar with the colony, but are neither

very favourable specimens of Mr. Floyd's photography; for he must

of course consent to be judged by his best pictures and some are so

good that we cannot tolerate comparative failures. No. 137, the Ice

House, is a good picture spoilt by an obtrusive tree which stands out in

inky blackness on the right of the foreground.

We are somewhat surprised that the very excellent set of photographs

brought out by Mr. Floyd do not include some views from

the neighbourhood of Lyeemoon pass, Stanley, and Aberdeen. A view

from the Peak too on a clear day would surely repay the trouble. He

has however given us some pleasing pieces from Pokfulam. Douglas

Castle, before noticed, makes one, or rather three, of them, there being


three photographs of that well-known building, No. 89 being the best

of the three. Siemssen's Bungalow, No. 119; and Mr. Ruttonjee's House,

No. 65, are views of a similar nature, and they all maintain the excellent

character visible in the majority of Mr. Floyd's pictures. We cannot

but congratulate the Colony upon the issue of these useful mementoes

of its scenery and architecture. An Album like this of every open port

in China would form one of the most interesting collections of pictures

possible. Even in Hongkong the Chinese element peeps out here

and there, Europeanized as the natives are as regards their architectural

arrangements. At the ports where the Chinese fashion in building and

means of transport flourishes uncorrupted by the necessary vigilance

of surveyors general, the scenery will furnish many striking views, and

some of these it is we believe Mr. Floyd's intention to transfer to the

camera as soon as other engagements permit.

We have nearly exhausted the Hongkong pictures before us,

though by no means all which Mr. Floyd has on hand. We must not

omit however to notice No. 148, the New Barracks from Scandal Point,

and No. 85, the Grand Stand during the last races; many well-known

faces can be distinctly made out amongst the crowd, and considering

the immense difficulty of getting so many persons still at the same

instant, his success has been remarkable. There are a few more photographs

from this neighbourhood, but none sufficiently striking to

call for special notice, although well taken and likely to interest some,

even if uncared for by others.

In his Macao pictures Mr. Floyd has been very successful. Nos.

133-4-5-6, four photographs joined together, give a General View of

Macao which is most admirable, albeit more panoramic than artistic.

But No. 125, a View of Praya Grande, is both. None who see this can

deny that the ancient residence of Camoens has well deserved the epithet

of "the beautiful peninsula," or wonder if China regrets that she is

no longer mistress of so bewitching a spot. Another view, No. 126,

shewing the Cathedral, gives an equally favourable view of the Praya,

and makes the hardworked resident sigh for a run amongst the wellkept

roads and shady paths of the little Portuguese Colony. A View of

Monte Font, No. 127, will be suggestive to many still resident here of an

inmate once well known in the China mercantile world. Two photographs

of the public gardens, Nos. 122 and 124, conclude a series

which will easily bear extension in a colony offering so many

favourable spots for the artist.

Similar remarks will apply to the collection of views from

Canton. Numberless points of interest are open to the photographer in

"the City of Rams," and the few availed of by Mr. Floyd will, before

long, be supplemented by a series sufficiently full to meet the wishes

of residents at that port as well as of those of Hongkong, to whom

Canton scenery is familiar. Two or three of those now published, are

we observe by another photographic artist from whom Mr. Floyd has

obtained the negatives; and we must say that we prefer Mr. Floyd's

own work. Decidedly the most striking is No. 12, the Tsing Hwei

Szu—the Nine-Storied Pagoda, of which a recently published work

gives some interesting particulars. It is a lofty pagoda, with nine stories

of mouldering brick-work, its summit, bereft of the golden pinnacle

which once crowned the lofty height, but clothed with the foliage of

large trees planted there by seeds brought by passing birds or the wind.

The date of this structure is referred by Chinese historians to A.D. 537,

in the reign of Wu Ti of the Liang dynasty, when it was built as a

receptacle and shrine for a relic of Buddha—the original signification

of pagodas in general. Its original height is stated as having been

upwards of 200 feet (the present altitude is estimated at about 180

feet), and some ten centuries after its foundation a pinnacle of gilded

copper surmounted by a golden ball was added to the structure then

existing. A winding staircase gave access to the summit, but was so

peculiarly constructed that, in lieu of being carried up through the

interior shaft, it led only from one storey to the next so that, in order

to make the ascent, it was necessary at each storey to pass out through

a doorway upon a platform carried round the exterior, and, after walking

round half the circumference, to re-enter at a doorway opposite,

where the staircase again led upwards. In consequence of the ruinous

condition of the pagoda, and the rotting away of the external ledge,

the ascent has now become impracticable. It was accomplished last in

1859 by some British officers. The Chinese entitle this structure the Fa

T'ap, Flowery, Ornamented Pagoda. The five-storied pagoda so familiar

to all visitors to Canton makes an interesting photograph (No. n); a

still better one however is the general view of Canton, No. 12.

Shamlen, No. 130, and Canton Rwer, No. 131, are comparative failures as

pictures, though in both the clouds and distances are well rendered.

Two or three views from Peking conclude the collection, of the success

of which taken as a whole there can be no possible question. We

may add that the sets are mounted in large well-bound albums, if

desired, at moderate cost.

Reprinted from The China Mail, 8 August 1868.

Review: Photographs of Hongkong by John

Thomson, ER.G.S. &c. [Hongkong]

The difficulties which beset a reviewer of books have often enough

been brought to public knowledge. We have never however in the

course of a tolerably persistent perusal of the art-criticisms which

appear in the weekly and daily home journals, met with any complaint

of the difficulties which fall to the lot of him who endeavours to give

the public a just idea of the relative merits of paintings or photographs.

The art critic is exempt from that most dreary task, the perusal, as a

matter of business, of some trashy novel or scarcely less fatiguing "book

of travels" to produce curious specimens of which has been the peculiar

lot of publishers of the nineteenth century, and his task is at first

sight comparatively easy. But as there is not one competent art-critic

for five competent judges of the merits of literary work, a consciousness

of this fact renders the pen of the former less fluent and assertive

than that of the latter. Happily many of the most difficult questions to

be taken into consideration in judging a painting are reduced to a minimum

when photographs become the subject of review, and while the

task is easier, the public regard the judgement given with less suspicion.

We have now before us a collection of Hongkong views to

which we purpose, (as on a former occasion), drawing public attention.

For obvious reasons we refrain from drawing comparisons

between the works of two artists, each of whom have earned no small

local reputation in the exercise of their profession. The public can draw

their conclusions as to the relative merits of similar views produced by

each. We now deal only with Mr. Thomson's productions, and it will

be the easier to consider them as standing alone from the fact that few

similar stand-points have been chosen by himself and Mr. Floyd.

On turning over this really magnificent collection, the difficulty

in pronouncing as to the comparative merit of any given plate increases

with the amount of careful study bestowed upon each. There is not

a single photograph from still life to which objection can be taken,

whether as regards the point of view chosen, or the careful finish produced

by the merely mechanical details of manipulation. To the general

public—by which we mean not merely residents in the Colony, but

all who are interested in its aspect as chance visitors or home correspondents—the

most attractive will doubtless be the "characteristic"

scenes which give at a glance a general idea of the localities they represent.

To such we may particularize the plates which give the most

familiar views of well-known streets, &c. Hongkong, Looking East, A

General View of Queen's Road (from Battery Point), The Race Course

(from the Gap), Wanchai, The Praya (one of the best in the book), and

two views of Queen's Road from opposite Messrs. Bowra & Co., and

Messrs. Lane, Crawford & Co.'s establishments, form what we should

term the most prominent of the "characteristic" series. The stranger

would best learn from them the aspect of the finer portions of the

town. Space forbids our dilating at length on the manifold beauties of

these views, but we can unhesitatingly pronounce: the first view of

Queen's Road to be the most perfect photograph of its sort which has

ever been produced in the Far East. By a happy combination of excellent

judgement and rare good fortune a picture has been obtained of

remarkable success; and while the critic almost hopelessly searches for

errors to seize upon in its companions, he is compelled to pronounce

this as near perfection as the photograph of such a subject can ever

hope to be.

Turning to what we place in another division of subjects (and

apropos of these arbitrary "divisions" we may remark that we find this

idea almost instinctively adopted by all who combine some artistic

taste with a desire to preserve mementos of localities they have visited,

or in which they have been resident)—amongst them, we say, we

should place many of the most excellent photographs with which the

volume before us abounds. We are at some loss for a brief designation

of this class, but we allude to plates which, while to a certain extent

"characteristic," derive an immense increase of interest from the fact of

a personal acquaintance with the scenes portrayed. We have yet a third

division to which we shall presently allude; but the "memento" class, if

we may be permitted to so call them, is to most people than the generally

"characteristic" or those (our third class) dependent purely on

their artistic rendering of an otherwise uninteresting scene. These, as

we have said, include the largest number in all collections of local photographs,

and Mr. Thomson has been peculiarly happy in his selection.

St. John's Cathedral, the Botanical Garden, the Hongkong and German

Clubs are good specimens of this class; but such admirable plates as the

Gap, A Chinese Hotel, and Kowloon City (this latter the most successful

perhaps in combining all the characteristics of a good local photograph

to be found in the book) are studies not merely to the resident, but

pictures which immediately attract the mere casual visitor, however

ignorant he may practically be of the localities in question. We do not

recollect, even amongst the ample collections of Messrs. Beato,Wood,

or Shannon, each of whom devoted much attention to purely Chinese

scenes, to have come across anything so excellent as the Chinese Hotel.

The very practical faults of Chinese architecture become developed

into beauties by the magic aid of the camera. Doubtless these architectural

plates require less knowledge of artistic details than landscapes

embracing a wide area of view. But we cannot grudge praise to so

excellent a plate.

To particularise the whole of the photographs which we place in

this division would be tedious. The unusual size of most of the

plates—larger than any yet published—gives the artist all advantage of

which he has most skilfully availed himself. The praise bestowed upon

the landscape and architectural subjects may be freely extended to

most of those involving portraits from the life. The Curio Shop is the

best of these; not only are the four native figures represented, perfect

in their pose, but every article exposed for sale—the carved chessmen,

the fans, and all the hundred odds and ends of an ivory establishment—are

distinctly distinguishable in their details, and even the

lengthy Chinese inscription on the fan held by the principal figure is

as legible as in the original. "Wah-loong and Cum-wo, from Canton,

dealers in silk, shawls, ivory, &c." may congratulate themselves on having

become accidentally famous. The photographs from junks are as

amusing as they are excellent, the man-of-war style of clearing decks

being most evidently unknown to the navigators of the primitive

machine chosen for illustration. Kowloon Peninsula, from a point of

view unfamiliar to most of our readers we imagine, is another excellent


In the third division we place those photographs, the merit of

which lies rather in their abstract beauty, simply as pictures than in any

interest attaching to the views they represent. And we would here

remark that the toning of these plates is exquisite. The rich warm sepia

tint deceives the eye into the belief that they are paintings rather than

photographs, and illustrates the capabilities of the art in a most satisfactory

manner. On the Bench, East Point is the gear of the entire book.

The subject is common-place enough, but the picture is perfect.

Hongkong, from the China Joss House, and a beautiful little bit entitled

Causeway Bay take, in our opinion, rank after the preceding. A Rustic

Brook is another delicious piece of Hongkong scenery, which universally

awakes an enquiry as to its whereabouts; the Chinese children in

the foreground are admirably posed. Happy Valley from any thing but

the conventional point of view, The Peak from the rear of the Murray

Barracks, and two admirable views of the East Point Joss House merit

special attention. We only regret that we are compelled to omit a

detailed mention of many most admirable plates. And in conclusion

can sincerely recommend the public to examine for themselves a collection

which, with the series already published, completes the most

perfect set of views ever produced in the Far East.

Reprinted from The China Mail, 12 September 1868.

cap, and rise to find that we have been photographed by a Chinaman.

A-hung vanishes into the darkroom, and from a small window pronounces

the plate "number one."

We will now have a look at our friends the limners. There is an

old man in this establishment, or, rather, a man who looks twenty years

older than he ought—he of sallow, deep-lined visage in the corner. He

is a miniature painter on ivory, whose work is held in high estimation

for its delicacy, careful drawing, and beauty of colouring. This individual

is never able to work more than from two to three hours a day, the

rest of his time being occupied with the opium pipe and siestas.

Opium has been the curse of his life. As his occupation is a profitable

one in his skillful hands, he can always command time and money for

the excessive indulgence of the vice.

There is a degree of refinement and beauty about his miniatures

which is rare and surprising when one considers his most inartistic

surroundings. His work is done chiefly from photographs. If the subject

has to be enlarged he places over the photograph a piece of glass

marked with small squares. Corresponding squares of larger size are

then pencilled on the ivory and filled in from the photograph. This

device is adopted by the painters in oil, but with much less success, as

their productions are always out of drawing, and are distressing caricatures

of humanity. They are done in this way:—A master hand paints

in the head, an inferior the hands, and an apprentice the costume and

jewellery, the latter being generally profuse, as it costs nothing.

It would be difficult to describe wherein these painters fail in

rendering the human face. I shall be best understood by saying that,

like the figures in a wax-work exhibition, in their delineation they

come so near the object intended to be represented, and yet want the

divine modelling and soul of the original so utterly as to render the

picture perfectly hideous.

The cost of a painting measuring about eighteen inches by one

foot is about thirty shillings. They are the delight of the foreign sailors

frequenting the harbour, who invest their savings in these mementos of

dear or dead friends. There is the traveller now going off on his morning

rounds to visit the ships in the harbour, with his portable collection

of samples. We will descend with him to the street. A-hung is

busy with new customers, who are engrossing his attention. Mark the

polite parting salutation of this photographer of the Flowery Land as

we bid him adieu.


Reprinted from The British Journal of Photography 20, no. 656 (29

November 1872), p. 569; and no. 658 (13 December 1872), p. 591.


Tsai Jung-fang. Hong Kong in Chinese History: Community and Social Unrest in the British Colony, 1842-1913.

New York: Columbia University Press, 1991.

Warner, John, too Years Ago, A Picture Story of Hong Kong in iSjo: Photographs from the City Museum and Art

Gallery Collection (Bainianqian zhi Xianggang). Hong Kong: City Museum and Art Gallery, 1970.


. Fragrant Harbour: Early Photographs of Hong Kong (Xianggang zaogi zhi tupian). Hong Kong: John

Warner Publications, 1976. Bilingual.

Welsh, Frank. A Borrowed Place:The History of Hong Kong. New York: Kodansha America, 1993.

White, Barbara-Sue, ed. Hong Kong: Somewhere between Heaven and Earth. Hong Kong: Oxford University

Press, 1996.

Wiltshire, Trea. Old Hong Kong. Hong Kong: FormAsia Books, 1987.

Worswick, Clark, with an essay by Jonathan Spence. Imperial China: Photographs 1850—1912. New York:

Penn wick/Crown, 1978.

Wu Qun. Zhongguo shcying licheng (The Historical Development of Photography in China). Beijing: Xinhua

chubanshe, 1986.

. Guangdong sheying shihua tekan (Special issue on topics in the history of photography in Guangdong).

Guangzhou: Sheying zhi yu, 1993.


Checklist of the Exhibition at

the Asia Society Galleries


Photographer unknown

Hong Kong Buildings, 1855

Albumen silver print

22 x 29.1 cm (8% x 11/2 in)

Dennis G. Crow

Felice Beato (British, c. 1830—0. 1904)

Panorama of Hong Kong Showing the Fleet

for the North China Expedition, 1860

Five albumen silver prints

21 x 139.7 cm (8/ x 55 in)

Museum of Modern Art, New York, 40.86

Gift of Jon Hendricks

Felice Beato (British, c. 1830—0. 1904)

thirst Arrival of Chinese Expeditionary

Force, Encampment, Kowloon, March 1860

Six albumen silver prints

21.6 x 79.4 cm (8/2 x 31 / in)

Museum of Modern Art, New York,


Purchased as the gift of Shirley C. Burden

and the Estate of Vera Louise Fraser

Milton M. Miller (American, active


Queen's Road, Hong Kong, early i86os

Albumen silver print

25.4 x 33.2 cm (10 x 13/ in)

Royal Asiatic Society, London

John Thomson (Scottish, 1837-1921)

The Clock Tower, Hong-kong, c. 1868—71

Albumen silver print

17.7 x 23.5 cm (7 x 9/4 in)

Janet Lehr Inc., New York

John Thomson (Scottish, 1837-1921)

St. John's Cathedral, Hong-kong,

c. 1868-71

Albumen silver print

21.7 x 29 cm (8%r, x ii/(, in)

Janet Lehr Inc., New York

John Thomson (Scottish, 1837-1921)

Joss House, Taipingshan, c. 1868—71

Albumen silver print

18 x 23.5 cm (7/8 x 9/ in)

Janet Lehr Inc., New York

John Thomson (Scottish, 1837-1921)

Chinese Hotel, Hong-kong, c. 1868-71

Albumen silver print

23 x 18.5 cm (9 x 7/ in)

Janet Lehr Inc., New York

John Thomson (Scottish, 1837-1921)

Causeway Bay, Hong-kong, c. 1868—71

Albumen silver print

17.8 x 22.5 cm (7 x 8% in)

Janet Lehr Inc., New York

John Thomson (Scottish, 1837-1921)

Pavilion (Yunjingge?), c. 1868-71

Albumen silver print

19 x 26.5 cm (7/2 x 10/8 in)

Fong Chow

Attributed to John Thomson (Scottish,


•'anorama la of the Pr; Praya, c. 1868-71

n .„ 11 -1

Two albumen silver prints

19.8 x 55.6 cm (7% x 21% in)

Fong Chow

William Pryor Floyd (British, active


Hong Kong Chinese Quarter (Tai Ping

Shan), late i86os-early 18705

Albumen silver print

19.3 x 26.9 cm (7/8 x io/« in)

Collection of Michael and Jane Wilson

William Pryor Floyd (British, active


Joss House on Black Rock, East Point, late

i86os-early 18705

Albumen silver print

18.8 x 26.1 cm (7% x io/ in)

Courtesy of George Eastman House,


Emil Rusfeldt (active 18705-18805)

Germanic Club, Taken from the Corner of

Wellington and Wyndham Streets..., c. 18705

Albumen silver print

26.7 x 20.8 cm (10/2 x 8-Mr, in)

Paul F.Walter

Lai Afong (Chinese, active 1859?—1900)

The Pokfulam Reservoir and Douglas

Castle, c. 18705

Albumen silver print

21 x 27.1 cm (8/ x 10/s in)

Fong Chow

Lai Afong (Chinese, active 1859?—1900)

The Road Leading to Morrison Hill, c. 18708

Albumen silver print

15.2 x 24.5 cm (6 x 9/8 in)

Charlotte Horstmann and Gerald

Godfrey Limited

Attributed to Wilhelm Burger

Happy Valley Racecourse from the

Cemetery, c. 18705

Albumen silver print

19 x 26 cm (7/2 x io/ in)

Charlotte Horstmann and Gerald

Godfrey Limited

Photographer unknown

City Hall with Dent Fountain, c. 18705-805

Albumen silver print

21.6 x 26.6 cm (8/ x 10/2 in)

Fong Chow

Photographer unknown

West Point, c. i870s-8os

Albumen silver print

20.5 x 27.2 cm (8/ x io/ in)

Collection of Tsim Bok-kow

Photographer unknown

Queen's Road toward West Point,

c. 18805—905

Albumen silver print

20.5 x 25.5 cm (8/ x 10 in)

Collection of Tsim Bok-kow

Photographer unknown

Hong Kong Street, c. 18805—905

Albumen silver print

21.9 x 27.9 cm (8/8 x ii in)

Dennis G. Crow

Photographer unknown

Wellington Street, c. 18905

Albumen silver print

23.1 x 29.8 cm (9/ x 11/ in)

W.John Hoffmann

Photographer unknown

Amah Rock, c. 18908

Albumen silver print

21.3 x 26.7 cm (8% x 10/2 in)

W.John Hoffmann


Probably by Milton M. Miller

(American, active 18505—18705)

Aberdeen Dock and H.L.M. Steamer

"Weser," early i86os

Albumen silver print

25.4 x 32 cm (10 x 12% in)

Gilman Paper Company Collection

Possibly by Milton M. Miller

(American, active 18505-18705)

Panorama ofjardine Matheson's Godowns,

East Point, early i86os

Two albumen silver prints

22.5 x 57.5 cm (8% x 22% in)

H. Kwan Lau, New York

William Pryor Floyd (British, active


Chinese Convict and Sikh Policeman,


Albumen silver print

20.8 x 26.5 cm (8%, x 10% in)

Private collection

John Thomson (Scottish, 1837-1921)

Villagers, Hong-kong, c. 1868-71

Albumen silver print

17.5 x 22.9 cm (6 7 /K x 9 in)

Janet Lehr Inc., New York

John Thomson (Scottish, 1837-1921)

Wah Loong and Cumwo Shop, c. 1868-71

Albumen silver print

22.5 x 28 cm (8% x ii in)

Janet Lehr Inc., New York

John Thomson (Scottish, 1837—1921)

Aboard a Chinese Junk, c. 1868-71

Albumen silver print

18.5 x 22 cm (7% x 8% in)

Janet Lehr Inc., New York

Probably by John Thomson (Scottish,


Pay you chow-chow?, c. 1868-71

Albumen silver print with applied color

19.5 x 14.5 cm (7 5 /« x 5/4 in)

Courtesy of Peabody Essex Museum,

Salem, Mass., 26.290, p. 41

William Pryor Floyd (British, active


Album of Hong Kong Views, late

i86os-early 18705

30.7 x 38.8 cm (i2/s x 15/4 in)

Courtesy of Peabody Essex Museum,

Salem, Mass., Ai974.i.i

Shown: William Pryor Floyd, Grandstand

(Race course, 1868)

Albumen silver print

17.5 x 25.7 cm (6% x IO/K in)

Courtesy of Peabody Essex Museum,

Salem, Mass., A 1974.1.1

Lai Afong (Chinese, active i859?-i9Oo)

Album of Hong Kong and Macao: The

Typhoon 0/22 September 1874, 1874

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Library, London, HK #2

Shown: Wreck of the Steamers "Leonor"

and "Albay," Praya and Douglas Wharf

Destroyed by Typhoon, 22 September 1874

Albumen silver print

21.2 x 27.8 cm (8% x ii in)

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Library, London

Photographer unknown

Porter and Dogs, Hong Kong, c. 18705

Albumen silver print

20.3 x 27.5 cm (8 x 10% in)

Daniel Wolf

Photographer unknown

Chinese Actors, c. 1875

Albumen silver print

17 x 24.2 cm (6/4 x 9/2 in)

Daniel Wolf


Attributed to Lai Afong (Chinese, active R. C. Hurley

Rickshaw and Sedan Chair, c. 18705—805

Albumen silver print

18.7 x 24.5 cm (7% x 9% in)

Collection of Tsim Bok-kow

Photographer unknown

Flogging Post, c. 18705—805

Albumen silver print

21.4 x 29.1 cm (8% x ii/2 in)

Collection of Tsim Bok-kow

Lai Afong (Chinese, active i859?-i9Oo)

Chinese Woman and Child, c. i88os

Albumen silver print

25.6 x 20.4 cm (IO/K x 8 in)

Gary Edwards Photographs, Washington,


Photographer unknown

Annie and Horse Boy, 1887

Albumen silver print

23.7 x 28.5 cm (9% x ii/ in)

Courtesy of Peabody Essex Museum,

Salem, Mass., X-4, p. 10

Photographer unknown

Chinese Section of Racecourse

Grandstand, c. 18805—905

Albumen silver print

20 x 26.5 cm (7% x 10% in)

Dennis G. Crow

Photographer unknown

Execution Scene, c. 18905

Albumen silver print

20 x 26.9 cm (7% x 10% in)

Collection of Michael and Jane Wilson,


Photographer unknown

Plague Inspectors, c. 1894

Albumen silver print

20.5 x 26.5 cm (8 V\h x ioXt in)

Prints and Photographs Division, Library

of Congress,Washington, D.C., 6374, #3

Street Decorations for the Queen's

Jubilee, 1897

Albumen silver print

21 x 26 cm (8/4 x io ] /4 in)

Charlotte Horstmann and Gerald

Godfrey Limited

D. K. Griffith (British, active


Leaving School, 1897

Albumen silver print

20 x 25 cm (7/« x 9% in)

Dennis G. Crow

Photographer unknown

Europeans Dining in a Chinese Restaurant,

Hong Kong, c. 1900

Albumen silver print

22 x 28.5 cm (8% x ii % in)

Collection of Ken and Jenny Jacobson

Photographer unknown

"Dragon" Procession Passing along the

Queen's Road, Hong Kong ... in Honor of

God of Commerce, c. 19005

Albumen silver print

28.3 x 21.4 cm (n/s x 8% in)

Collection of Ken and Jenny Jacobson

Photographer unknown

Chinese Interior, c. 19005

Gelatin silver print

19.3 x 24.5 cm (7% x 9% in)

Lois Connor

Mee Cheung

Blake Pier after the Breeze, 1906

Albumen silver print

10.3 x 28.6 cm (4/6 x n/4 in)

HongKongBank Archives, PH 140.11

Mee Cheung

Salvage Operations after the 1906


Two albumen silver prints

Each 9.4 x 11.7 cm (3'Mr. x 4% in)

HongKongBank Archives, PH 140.11


Milton M. Miller (American, active


WC. & Company, Hong Kong, early


Albumen silver print

23.2 x 33.7 cm (9% x 13/4 in)

Gilman Paper Company Collection

Milton M. Miller (American, active


Two Ambassadors, early 18605

Albumen silver print

28.1 x 24.4 cm (nMf, x 9% in)

Collection of Ken and Jenny Jacobson

Milton M. Miller (American, active


Parsees, Hong Kong, early 18605

Albumen silver print

25.9 x 28.5 cm (io/4 x IT/ in)

Royal Asiatic Society, London

Milton M. Miller (American, active


A Merchant at Hong Kong, early i86os

Albumen silver print

32.5 x 26.4 cm (12/4 x 10% in)

Royal Asiatic Society, London

Milton M. Miller (American, active


Comprador and Staff, Oriental Bank

Corporation, Hong Kong, early i86os

Albumen silver print

24.8 x 32 cm (9/4 x 12% in)

Royal Asiatic Society, London

Milton M. Miller (American, active


Chinese Women, Hong Kong, early i86os

Albumen silver print

25 x 27.5 cm (9% x 10% in)

Royal Asiatic Society, London

William Pryor Floyd (British, active


British Army, 1868

Albumen silver print

22.5 x 26 cm (8% x io/4 in)

Private collection

Probably by John Thomson (Scottish,


Hong Kong Girl, c. 1868-71

Albumen silver print

14.7 x 19.2 cm (5/1 x 7/2 in)

Courtesy of Peabody Essex Museum,

Salem, Mass., 26.290

Photographer unknown

Native of Hong Kong—Woman, before 1875

Albumen silver print

22.5 x 18.4 cm (8% x 7/ in)

Daniel Wolf

Lai Afong (Chinese, active i859?-i9Oo)

Hong Kong Merchants, c. 18708—8os

Albumen silver print

20 x 26.2 cm (7% x io/i6 in)

Robert and Paula Hershkowitz

Mee Cheung

Chinese Woman, c. 18908

Albumen silver print

27 x 20.3 cm (to/ x 8 in)

Collection of Tsim Bok-kow

Photographer unknown

A Chinese School, Hong Kong, c. 19005

Albumen silver print

27 x 29.1 cm (io/i x 11/2 in)

Collection of Ken and Jenny Jacobson


John Thomson (Scottish, 1837-1921)

Roadside Foodstand, c. 1868—72

Albumen silver print with applied color

on carte-de-visite

9 x 5.8 cm (3/6 x 2/6 in)

Carte-de-visite: 10.5 x 7 cm (4/8 x

2/ in)

Janet Lehr Inc., New York

William Pryor Floyd (British, active


Gamblers, c. 18708

Albumen silver print on carte-de-visite

Carte-de-visite: 9.2 x 5.6 cm (3% x 2/ in)

Collection of Ken and Jenny Jacobson

See Tay (Liang Shitai, Chinese, active


Hong Kong Porter, c. 18708

Albumen silver print on carte-de-visite

9.5 x 5.8 cm (3/1 x 2/ in)

Carte-de-visite: 9.8 x 6 cm (3% x 2% in)

Dennis G. Crow

John Hingqua (probably Chinese, active


Chinese Woman with Umbrella, c. 18708

Albumen silver print on carte-de-visite

8.8 x 5.6 cm (3/2 x 2/ in)

Carte-de-visite: 10.4 x 6.5 cm (4/8 x 2/in)

Collection of Tsim Bok-kow

Lai Afong (Chinese, active i859?-i9Oo)

Barber, c. 18705-805

Albumen silver print on carte-de-visite

9 x 6.1 cm (3/2 x 2% in)

Carte-de-visite: 9.9 x 6.4 cm (3% x 2/2 in)

Collection of Tsim Bok-kow

Pun Lun (Chinese, active 18708—19005)

Chinese Fortuneteller, c. 18708—808

Albumen silver print on carte-de-visite

9 x 5.8 cm (3%, x 2/6 in)

Carte-de-visite: 10.6 x 6.2 cm (4/6 x

2/6 in)

Janet Lehr Inc., New York

Pun Lun (Chinese, active 18708—19008)

Governor of Canton, c. 18708—805

Albumen silver print on carte-de-visite

9.2 x 5.8 cm (3/8 x 2/6 in)

Carte-de-visite: 10.6 x 6.2 cm (4/6 x

2/6 in)

Janet Lehr Inc., New York

Pun Lun (Chinese, active 18705—19005)

Three Musicians, c. 18705—805

Albumen silver print on carte-de-visite

5.8 x 9.2 cm (2/6 x 3/8 in)

Carte-de-visite: 6.2 x 10.6 cm (2/6 x

4/6 in)

Janet Lehr Inc., New York

Pun Lun (Chinese, active 18705—19005)

Chinese Artist, c. 18708-808

Albumen silver print on carte-de-visite

9 x 5.8 cm (3/2 x 2/ in)

Carte-de-visite: 10.6 x 6.2 cm (4/6 x

2/6 in)

Janet Lehr Inc., New York

Pun Lun (Chinese, active 18705—19005)

Chinese Girl, c. 18705-805

Albumen silver print on carte-de-visite

9.2 x 5.8 cm (3/8 x 2/6 in)

Carte-de-visite: 10.6 x 6.2 cm (4/6 x

2/6 in)

Janet Lehr Inc., New York


American Stereoscopic Company (James

Ricalton, American, 1844-1929)

A Street in Hong Kong, China, c. 1900

Albumen silver print on stereocard

7.9 x 14.9 cm (3/8 x 5/8 in)

Prints and Photographs Division,

Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

Universal Photo Art Company (probably

by James Ricalton, American,


Peak Residences on Mt. Gough, Hong

Kong, China, c. 1900

Albumen silver prints on stereocard

7.9 x 15.2 cm (3/6 x 6 in)

Prints and Photographs Division,

Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

Universal Photo Art Company (probably

by James Ricalton, American,


Indian Officers of the British Indian Troops,

Hong Kong, China, c. 1900

Albumen silver prints on stereocard

7.9 x 15.2 cm (3/6 x 6 in)

Prints and Photographs Division,

Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

Universal Photo Art Company (probably

by James Ricalton, American,


A Street Market in Hong Kong, China, c.


Albumen silver print on stereocard

7.9 x 15.2 cm (3/6 x 6 in)

Prints and Photographs Division,

Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

Keystone View (probably by James

Ricalton, American, 1844-1929)

Hong Kong from Summit of "The Peak"

Showing City of Kowloon and the

Mainland, China, c. 1900

Albumen silver prints on stereocard

7.9 x 15.2 cm (3/8x6 in)

Prints and Photographs Division,

Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

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