1930s China through American eyes



(CHINADAILY) The Chinese embassy in Washington received a special gift from a retired US Foreign Service officer on Feb 19.

It was a set of 24 photos taken in 1930s China and given by Richard Garrison of Arlington, Virginia to Wu Xi, deputy chief of mission of the Chinese embassy.

The photos, which cover street life and scenes in major Chinese cities, including Beijing, Shanghai, Wuhan, Guangzhou, Hong Kong and Macao, were left by his mother, Stella Garrison, who passed away more than 10 years ago.

All the photos were made by the Keystone View Company, a major distributor of stereographic images in the early 20th century.

Garrison did not remember seeing these photos as a child. "I think she must have kept them because she enjoyed looking at them," he said of his mother.

His mother, a teacher whose first job was in a country school near Tecumseh, Nebraska,was in possession of the photos for decades after she got them from the state superintendent's office. She and her husband finally got to visit China in the mid-1980s on an Asia trip that took them to Thailand, Hong Kong and Beijing.

"My mother said she was surprised, shocked and pleased when my father said, 'let's go to China,'" Garrison recalled.

"They enjoyed it."

The parents were able to make a side trip to visit a Chinese school. They also toldhim how intensive agriculture is in China. "Every part of the land is used, nothing seems to be wasted," Garrison recalled his mother's words.

The Great Wall of China on the rugged hills

This is a part of the ancient barrier set up by the Chinese to keep out "barbarians" from the North. It begins at the seacoast behind and runs for more than 1,200 miles, up and down mountains, over plains and valleys, in any direction deemed desirable by the extraordinary engineering practice of those days. It consists of two parallel walls of substantial brickwork about fifteen feet apart, the intervening space packed with earth and stones.

It is impossible to imagine the labor and hardship which must have been endured by countless thousands of laborers in shaping and transporting into the wilderness such enormous quantities of brick and stone as were required for such an undertaking, in laying the walls and filling the space between them, even in carrying up to the mountain heights the water needed for mixing mortar.

[Photo provided to China Daily/Keystone View Company]

The treasury building, Canton

Canton, one of the most progressive cities in China, was a commercial center when Rome was at the height of its glory. The domed building is one of the new government buildings, the Treasury.

A feature of interest in this is the new building going up at the left. The front of the structure is covered by a lacework of scaffolding made of bamboo poles. Not a nail is used in the erection of these scaffoldings as they are tied together with ropes of rattan. This method is used on all the modern buildings now springing up in Canton. The modern Chinese skyscrapers are built entirely by human endeavor.

[Photo provided to China Daily/Keystone View Company]

On the promenade of Macao

The city occupies a peninsula three miles long and a mile wide with the harbor spread out in the shape of a crescent at the foot of a great hill. Old world buildings that look as though they have been lifted from the streets of Lisbon cover the hill and from the colorful and fragrant gardens rise red roofs and walls of every color.

Macao is notorious as a gambling center and is called the Monte Carlo of the East. It is a veritable Eden for those to whom reckless gambling is the greatest thrill life affords. The gambling resorts begin near the steamer landing and can be found in all part of the town. Fan-tan is one of the most popular games. Because of its night life it attracts also the tourists who come to observe and who will probably chance some of their smaller coins just so they can say they have wooed Dame Fortune and Macao.

[Photo provided to China Daily/Keystone View Company]

Grinding soy beans with a hand mill

The American ex-soldier who has learned to detest beans cannot appreciate the food importance attached to the soy bean in Eastern Asia. Its entry into the field of manufacturing is another matter. This he can accept. It has been found that the soy bean can be used in the making of a great many products. Some of these are paint, soap, linoleum, printing inks, glycerin and rubber substitute. The plant is valuable as a forage crop and the seeds are a nutritious livestock food. As it enriches the soil on which it grows, it is a valuable crop.

To the Chinese the soy bean is first of all important as a food, ranking second only to rice. It is rich in vitamins and for the Chinese provides the proteins, fats and calories their rice diet lacks. In China, it is "the poor man's meat and the poor man's milk."

It is in this last named use these Chinese mothers are especially interested. While many large bean mills exist throughout northern China -- where the soy bean is largely grown -- the simple stone mills operated by hand such as we see here are found in almost every home. Bean milk is made by crushing the beans. Water is added and the mass is then heated. This bean milk is fed to thousands of Chinese babies and has been so satisfactory its use is also being adopted in other lands for infant feeding. From the soy bean is also made the famous soy sauce, a piquant sauce much used in Chinese dishes.

[Photo provided to China Daily/Keystone View Company]

Witches' mountain and the Yangtze River

For the first 1,000 miles of its course from its outlets up to Ichang (modern day Yichang), the Yangtze River is navigable by large steamers. Above that point navigation is impossible for any but light native boats or specially constructed foreign vessels. Between Ichang and Kweichow (Guizhou) rapids occur frequently in the deep gorges through which the river cuts its way. These rapids make navigation difficult.

Above Kweichow several tributaries empty into the Yangtze from the north, the most important of which is the Min-kiang coming out of the low table-land of the province of Szechwan (Sichuan). Of the lower tributaries the most remarkable is the Han, which joins the Yangtze at Hankow (Hankou). The Han is navigable to steamers for three hundred miles. In some places the elevation of the plain above the low water mark is only one foot, while in summer the river rises about 26 feet above the low water level. To protect themselves from floods, the natives have built dikes along the river, about fifty to one hundred feet from the natural banks.

Our view shows a gorge on the Yangtze where the river flows by a peak known as the Witches' Mountain. The scenery here is imposing, but the river is swift and not easy to navigate. Our view shows some of the types of native craft seen on the upper waters of the great Yangtze River.

[Photo provided to China Daily/Keystone View Company]

On a Peiping street

Very typical of Peiping (Beijing) is this scene. Just a few minutes' ride in a rickshaw has transported us to this native section where no automobiles may traverse, because there is no room for them on this narrow street. Strange and mysterious to our occidental eyes are the weird shops we see and the Chinese signs. Stranger still are the queer foods that can be purchased on this street, food quite beyond the comprehension of Western cooks. In the foreground at the left is a meat market where the chickens are sold already cooked, and each fowl is painted a different color, red, green, blue or any other color to suit the customer.

[Photo provided to China Daily/Keystone View Company]