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Charles Frederick Moore (1837-1916), a photographer in China

05/12/2019

Jamie Carstairs, who manages the Historical Photographs of China Project, follows up  serendipitous events, leading to a rabbit hole, in which a ‘new’ nineteenth century China photographer was found.

‘Mr. C. F. Moore, in the service of the Customs at Ningpo, has been staying here in the same temple with us. He seems an enthusiastic photographer, and spends most of his time in taking views of the surrounding country. He has a sedan chair ingeniously contrived for his operations, which his coolies (sic) carry about the country wherever he goes. I hope to induce him to spare me a few views.’ So wrote Thomas Hanbury in a letter to his father when staying at the “Temple of Shih Douzar, about 40 miles from Ningpo” in October 1870. [1]

Following on from this intriguing snippet, I started working with the Royal BC Museum in Canada, identifying buildings and locations depicted in ninety-nine glass plate negatives by Charles Frederick Moore (Royal BC Museum ref: MS-3171) that they hold.  I was pleasantly surprised to see among them, three negatives which brought to mind prints made from them, being photographs taken in Zhapu (Chapu), a coastal town half way between Shanghai and Hangzhou. These prints are in an album in the Edward Bowra Collection: Bo01-044 (below) is off the negative with the Royal BC Museum reference J-00445. Bo01-045 is from negative J-00452. Bo01-046 is from J-00458.

Fort Chapu, Zhapu, north Zhejiang, c.1870. Photograph by Charles Frederick Moore. HPC ref: Bo01-044.

Another Moore negative (Royal BC Museum ref: J-00444) is of a pagoda at the Changchun yuan (长春园; 長春園), the Garden of Everlasting Spring, at the Yuanming Yuan, the Old Summer Palace, Beijing – discussed and reproduced in Nick Pearce’s Photographs of Peking, China 1861-1908 (Edward Mellon Press, 2005), plate 31 and page 119. This rarely photographed and distinctive pagoda with a round top, stood until 1900. The photograph can be considered to be by C.F. Moore, rather than ‘possibly’ by Dr John Dudgeon.

The Royal BC Museum also have an album (ref: MS-3171) of 155 prints among their Moore material. The album, not in the best condition, probably contains many photographs by Moore. There are therein some photographs of the ruins of the European palaces at the Yuanming Yuan (圆明园), including the following panoramic view of the burnt out shell of the Palace of the Delights of Harmony (Xieqiqu):

Two-part panorama of the ruins of the Palace of the Delights of Harmony (Xieqiqu), Yuanmingyuan (Old Summer Palace), Beijing. Photograph attributed to Charles Moore, c.1875. Image by Sally Butterfield (Archivist, Royal BC Museum) taken under a fume hood due to old mould.

In Barbarian Lens, Western Photographers of the Qianlong Emperor’s European Palaces (Gordon and Breach, 1998), Régine Thiriez speculates about a mystery/unidentified photographer and is tentative about attributions to Théophile Piry. However, two images of the ruins reproduced in Barbarian Lens, which are attributed to anon, turn out to be by Moore: J-00442 at the Royal BC Museum is the negative for Fig 35 on page 58. J-00463 is the negative for Fig 47 on page 88.

Furthermore, at least four images reproduced in Terry Bennett’s book History of Photography in China Western Photographers 1861-1879 (Quaritch, 2010) are also, most probably, by Moore rather than Piry, including:

J-00413 (fig. 5.35, page 299)

J-00443 (fig. 5.36, page 300)

J-00479 (fig. 5.29, page 298)

J-00508 (fig. 5.33, page 299).

Contemporaries in the Imperial Maritime Customs, Ernst Ohlmer, Charles Moore and Thomas Child (followed by later photographers, but interestingly, not John Thomson, apparently) photographed the melancholy and evocative ruins of the ‘ravishing’ ‘fairy palaces’ and gardens [2] which had been looted and torched by Franco-British forces in 1860 at the end of the Second Opium War. Their photographic records of the devastation as it degraded can be dated: Ohlmer (c.1873), Moore (c.1875) and Child (c.1877).

Bibianne Yii (1848/49-1914) married Charles Moore at the British Legation in Beijing on 23 March 1868 and the couple went on to have eleven children. In this photograph, presumably by Charles Moore, Bibianne is said to be sitting next to her wedding headdress (Source: DeeDeeEmme, via Ancestry.com).

More attributions to Moore could surely be ascertained in archives and collections that have emerged recently. For example, an album sold at Bonham’s Knightsbridge on 27 March 2019, is promising. This album includes an inscription by Bibianne Moore, Charles Moore’s wife, who had presented it to Hester Hart, Sir Robert Hart’s wife.  The album contains at least sixteen duplicates of prints also found in an album in the Edward Bowra Collection (HPC ref: Bo01), and nine photographs usually attributed to Dr John Dudgeon. However, given the provenance of the album, the chances are that some of the photographs in it would have been taken by Bibianne’s husband Charles. Indeed, two photographs in the Bonham’s album are almost certainly by Moore: a wooden cabinet carved by Sung Sing Cung and a carved bedstead – these photographs are listed in Moore’s 1873 ‘Catalogue of Pictures’, see below, respectively Y3 and Y2. This furniture was exhibited in Vienna in 1873; the Chinese contribution to the exhibition was organised by Edward Bowra.

The Bonham’s album also contains several photographs of Jiujiang (Kiukiang), where the Moore family were living at the time. The Jiujiang photographs may well be by Moore, including one entitled ‘Kiukiang – Bungalow’ of a modest residence (and a possible outhouse darkroom, with a useful fresh water stream nearby?), which was likely their home. It is also noted that oval shaped masks on prints (or prints then cut to an oval shape) could be a characteristic of Moore’s, although other photographers of course also made oval shaped prints.

Moore lists for sale, forty-one views of Hangzhou, Ningbo and vicinity. Some of the more specific descriptions may help identify these photographs, if they still exist, as by Moore. The ‘Catalogue of Pictures by C.F. Moore’ is in the Royal BC Museum ref: MS-3172.

The photograph X1 (‘Ch’a P’u. – Promontory showing Section of Circular Fort’) listed in Moore’s 1873 catalogue is most probably Bo01-042. X2 (‘Ch’a P’u. – City Wall’) is most probably Bo01-047.  X3 (‘Ch’a P’u. – City Gate’) is probably another atmospheric Moore photograph: Bo01-048. Bo01-043 can also be attributed to Moore. These four Zhapu photographs are in addition to the three Zhapu photographs by Moore, noted at the beginning of this blog. X15 (‘Custom’s Station, Chên Hai’) could well be Bo02-044.

There is a further album, which will surely add to our knowledge of Charles Moore when it has been digitised and studied. The Irish Jesuit Archives (IJA) in Dublin hold an album of approximately 186 prints, housed in a wooden box inscribed with the name ‘C. F. Moore’ and ‘Pekin’. It could be the photographer’s working portfolio. The IJA archivist has pointed out that there are scribbled pencil marks beside some photographs – ‘Bad copy’, ‘Negative sold for £12.10’ (!) [3], and some shorthand notes (not unusual for Moore. His notebook for his lectures on China, see poster below, contains much shorthand). At least two of the photographs have been reproduced and attributed to Dudgeon – attributions, which, given the context, could be revisited. [4]

A portrait in the IJA album is captioned in the same distinctive handwriting (likely to be Bibianne Moore’s hand) as in the Bonhams album, as follows: “Our photographic friend the Major” – i.e. Major James Crombie Watson, superintendent of police at Ningbo. Terry Bennett has noted that it seems that there was a group of photography enthusiasts in Ningbo – residents and passers through. Very likely they would often team up for outings, and take more than one camera. This would explain variants that crop up so often (a scenario possibly exemplified by Bo02-086, Bo02-087, Bo02-088 and negatives J-00460, J-00471 and J-00453 – all taken at the same place, recorded in the Bowra album as an ancient tomb near ‘Wang Chă’.

Photomontage double portrait of Major James Crombie Watson, c.1870 (See Bo02-001), holding a second portrait of himself and with someone/something in his pocket, pasted in to the album at the IJA. Image courtesy of the Irish Jesuit Archive, Dublin.

By 1873, Moore was a member of the London Amateur Photographic Association. A moot question is: had he been an active photographer earlier, when he served as paymaster with General Charles Gordon’s ‘Ever Victorious Army’? In any case, in 1907, Moore gave lectures in Canada, on ‘China in the time of General Gordon’, illustrated by ‘Stereopticon Views’ (i.e. magic lantern slides). The Moores had emigrated to British Columbia, Canada in 1885, and Charles worked there as a notary public. The Royal BC Museum also hold Moore’s lecture notebook, listing, I gather, the lantern slides projected, including the remarkable image below (negative ref no: J-00496), an ambitious action shot/narrative photograph for the period, which is also a valuable historical document (Visitors to the temple nowadays are asked not to spit at replicas of these statues).

Poster for ‘China in the time of General Gordon. (Royal BC Museum ref: MS-3172).

Photograph by C.F. Moore. Two men posed, seemingly throwing stones at iron figures, at Yue Fei Temple (Yuewang Temple 岳王廟), West Lake, Hangzhou, c.1870. This photograph (negative ref no: J-00496) is listed in Moore’s ‘China in the Time of General Gordon’ lecture notebook: “13. Iron figures in stone cages, being the conspirators who compassed the death of Yoh Fei, his son and family.” See Ar01-016 (note the sculpture on a column in both images).

There is a brief biography of Charles Frederick Moore here , based on a longer one here.

C.F. Moore was evidently an accomplished and significant photographer, active over diverse parts of China, for several years. It is marvellous to think of Moore’s ‘ingeniously contrived’ sedan chair darkroom, carried hither and thither by patient porters – the Chinese equivalent of Roger Fenton’s ‘Photographic Van’ in the Crimea. Further research, including into the albums, negatives and associated papers mentioned above, and into Moore’s career in China, will cast more light on his importance as a photographer in China, hitherto underappreciated.

This is thought to be a portrait of Charles Frederick Moore, taken in British Columbia, Canada, c.1910 (Source: DeeDeeEmme, via Ancestry.com).

Footnotes

[1] Quoted in The Letters of Charles Hanbury (1913), page 218. Letter dated 31 October 1870. Dr Andrew Hillier kindly sent me this extract, for interest.

[2]Barbarian Lens, Western Photographers of the Qianlong Emperor’s European Palaces by Régine Thiriez (Gordon and Breach, 1998), page 92.

[3] Attributing nineteenth century photographs taken in China is notoriously difficult, complicated by the selling of negatives (cf. ‘The Firm’). Prints circulated between friends, and among photographers. Prints shared with the recipient’s name written on the back can be a red herring.

[4] The photograph in the IJA album captioned “161. The Bell Tower French Legation – Montbelle, Rochechouart, Champes” is surely Fig. 2.11 on page 44 of Terry Bennett’s History of Photography in China Western Photographers 1861-1879 (Quaritch, 2010). Another photograph in the same album which is captioned “176. Students British Legation, Pekin – Bristow, Andrews, Ford, Hillier[s], Scott, Baber, Margary, McKean, Carles” must be Fig. 2.23 on page 55, ibid.  Both of these photographs are currently attributed to Dr John Dudgeon.

Statue and symbol: Queen Victoria in Hong Kong

29/11/2019

Dr Helena F. S. Lopes is Senior Research Associate in the History of Hong Kong and a Lecturer in Modern Chinese History at the University of Bristol. She holds a DPhil in History from the University of Oxford.

Wikipedia’s ‘List of statues of Queen Victoria’ includes more than a hundred such monuments scattered around the world, many of them in former British colonies. One remains in Hong Kong, having endured more than a century of tribulations.

Commissioned by the Hong Kong Jubilee Committee to mark the fiftieth anniversary in 1887 of Queen Victoria’s accession, the statue was funded by public subscription and designed by the Italian sculptor Mario Raggi (1879-1907), who lived and worked in London. Amongst his notable works were other memorial statues, including one of Benjamin Disraeli in Parliament Square (1883) and one of William Gladstone in Albert Square, Manchester (1901). Raggi’s statue of Queen Victoria was cast by H. Young and Co., bronze statue founders in Pimlico, a company which had been responsible for other prominent sculptures in the capital such as the monument to the Duke of Wellington in St Paul’s Cathedral.

Statue of Queen Victoria, designed by Mario Raggi, for Hong Kong. HPC ref: Bk13-04.

In 1893, before being shipped to Hong Kong, Queen Victoria’s statue was exhibited in London. The Illustrated London News reported on the viewing and included a photograph of the sculpture without the canopy that would be attached to it in Hong Kong. In the article, the vision of the statue’s commissioners is described as one of British colonial loyalty. The ‘artistic memorial’ was to be ‘fixed upon a prominent site in Hong-Kong, as a mark of the loyalty of that colony to the Queen and of their attachment to the mother country’.[i]

The ‘prominent site’ selected was on Wardley Street, in the heart of what was then known as the city of Victoria, on a site on the newly-reclaimed waterfront. Still, it would be almost ten years until the statue was finally unveiled on 28 May 1896, on the occasion of celebrations for the Queen’s 77th birthday. A few weeks before the event, the North-China Herald reported on a committee meeting debating the unveiling ceremony to be presided by the Governor, Sir William Robinson. It stipulated that ‘it should be made as public as possible, all foreign Consuls, all officers of the Army and Navy, and all subscribers of the Fund being invited, as well as all the ladies.’ Efforts would also be made for ‘having as grand a military display as possible.’[ii] This performance of colonial might was projected as an elite affair, even though afterwards the statue was on full display for anyone passing through the square.

Even in its early days, the statue caused some controversy. Shortly after the unveiling ceremony, the Hong Kong Daily Press lamented that the ‘predominant feeling with reference to the Queen’s statue is one of disappointment’. This was due to the materials used: ‘Bronze under a canopy is an anomaly and is repulsive alike to common sense and artistic feeling’. Citing a 1890 letter from James Johnstone Keswick, the Scottish businessman who had been the Chairman of the Queen’s Jubilee Memorial Committee in Hong Kong, the article noted that there had been a misunderstanding with the sculptor regarding which material to use and a decision in favour of marble had been lost in communication. The idea of requesting a marble replacement was considered but it did not occur.[iii] In her study of Sir Catchick Paul Chater and Statue Square, Liz Chater mentions that a small marble statue of Queen Victory was also cast in the same period, most likely for a private client (her book includes a rare photograph of it).[iv]

The Supreme Court and Queen Victoria’s Statue, Hong Kong, c.1923-29. HPC ref: JC01-01.

Queen Victoria’s Statue, The Cenotaph and the Hong Kong Club, Statue Square, Hong Kong, c.1924. HPC ref: Bk09-11.

The Historical Photographs of China website has some images of what is now known as Statue Square, where Queen Victoria’s monument first stood. A few, likely taken in the 1920s, are in an album (ref: JC01) in the Jamie Carstairs Collection. The statues are not the main focus of the unknown photographer, whose views over the square tend to privilege iconic buildings such as the Supreme Court (which later housed the Legislative Council and now the Court of Final Appeal). Queen Victoria can be glimpsed in some of these. A slightly closer look at the sculpture can be found in the photographs by Denis H. Hazell published in his Picturesque Hongkong.

R. C. Hurley ‘Tourist’s Guide to Hong Kong and Mainland’ (1897). Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Despite its controversial bronze-marble combination, the statue of Queen Victoria became a major landmark in the city. It was regularly featured in photographic albums such as  JC01, illustrated books such as Hazell’s and tourist guidebooks such as that written by R. C. Hurley and published in 1897 – only one year after its unveiling. In June 1911, to celebrate the coronation of George V and his wife Mary, the statue was decorated with dozens of Chinese lanterns on wires – a nocturnal spectacle captured with stunning results by the Lai Afong (賴阿芳) Studio, ran by one of Hong Kong’s most distinguished first professional photographers.

Queen Victoria’s statue, Hong Kong, lit up with lanterns for the coronation of King George V and Queen Mary, June 1911. Photograph by Afong Studio (Lai Fong). HPC ref: Bi-s184.

Victoria’s image in Hong Kong was not just that of a visual symbol of colonial prestige. Its materiality as a valuable bronze statue was to be of no small importance. During the Pacific War, when Hong Kong fell under Japanese occupation, the statue was taken to Japan to be melted down and the metal recycled for the Japanese effort. The wartime dismantling of the statue mirrors what happened elsewhere, notably in Shanghai where memorials erected by foreign communities, such as the statue of Sir Robert Hart or the Allied War Memorial, were taken down. In Shanghai, and despite attempts to the contrary, these statues were not reinstated after the war, their absence a signifier of de facto decolonisation.[v] In Hong Kong, colonial rule returned and so did Queen Victoria.

The statue of Queen Victoria, damaged during the war. Source: Bill Hillman “Hillman WWII Scrapbook, HMCS Prince Robert Tribute Site”.

Some of the other monuments in Statue Square did not escape their intended wartime fate. But Victoria survived the ordeal, despite some damage, and was returned to Hong Kong after the war. The restored version – without the canopy – was unveiled in 1952 in Victoria Park, where it continues to stand today.

Statue of Queen Victoria in Victoria Park, facing south in the tradition of all Chinese Imperial figures, November 2008. Photograph by Minghong. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

The statue’s association with the British empire – a considerable expansion of which happened under Victoria’s long reign – has become for some a contested symbol in late- and post-colonial Hong Kong. In 1996, about a year before the Hong Kong’s handover, Pun Sing Lui (Pan Xing Lei 潘星磊), a twenty-something artist, defaced the statue with red pain and broke its nose, protesting against ‘dull, colonial culture’.[vi] Pun was arrested and the statue fixed. For some, it remains an uncomfortable monument, as news of a possible ‘cover up’ in the running up to a visit by President Xi Jinping in 2017 suggest.[vii] However, its public display at Victoria Park has seen other types of protest, too. Over the past months, it has been a site where pro-democracy protesters gathered, their numbers and movement dwarfing the static Victoria.[viii] Some also chose to make her a vehicle for their message.

The many lives of Queen Victoria’s statue and its multiple meanings have recently inspired a solo exhibition by the Hong Kong artist Lee Kai Chung (李繼忠). Entitled ‘I could not recall how I got here’ (「無法憶起我怎樣到達這裏」), and awarded the WYNG Media Award in 2018, the show was based on archival research about the history of the statues seized by Japanese forces. The artist uses photography, film, bronze sculpture, 3D modelling, and 3D printing to investigate ‘the transition of meanings of a “memorial bronze statue” brought about by the passing of time’.[ix] As this latest artistic reinvention of the statue shows, both its symbolism and the material aspects of its production and reconstruction continue to invite multiple interpretations.

Notes:

[i] ‘Signor Raggi’s Statue of the Queen’, The Illustrated London News, 28 January 1893, p. 118.

[ii] ‘The Queen’s Statue in Hongkong’, The North-China Herald, 8 May 1896.

[iii] ‘The Queen’s Statue: Why is it in Bronze instead of Marble’, The Hong Kong Daily Press, 30 May 1896.

[iv] Liz Chater, The Statues of Statue Square, Hong Kong (Chater Genealogy Publishing, 2009), pp. 15-16.

[v] On these, see Robert Bickers, ‘Moving Stories: Memorialisation and its Legacies in Treaty Port China’, The Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History 42/5 (2014), pp. 826-856, Robert Bickers, ‘Lost monuments and memorials of the Shanghai Bund 1: The War Memorial (1924)’ and ‘Lost monuments and memorials of the Shanghai Bund 2: Statue of Sir Robert Hart, 1914’.

[vi] The episode is analysed in Elizabeth Ho, Neo-Victorianism and the Memory of Empire (London: Continuum, 2012), pp. 1-6.

[vii] Danny Mok and Tony Cheung, ‘Out of sight, out of mind? Queen Victoria statue obscured by boards and banner ahead of Xi visit’, South China Morning Post, 28 June 2017.

[viii] E.g. ‘Hong Kong: 1.7m people defy police to march in pouring rain’, The Guardian, 18 August, 2019; ‘China condemns U.S. lawmakers’ support for Hong Kong protests’, The Asahi Shimbun, 18 August, 2019.

[ix] ‘LEE Kai Chung Solo Exhibition, ‘I could not recall how I got here’, WMA Commission.

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

01/11/2019

Dr Helena F. S. Lopes is Senior Research Associate in the History of Hong Kong and a Lecturer in Modern Chinese History at the University of Bristol. She holds a DPhil in History from the University of Oxford.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

04/10/2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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