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Bronze Temple

Street gamblers
Street Gamblers

A junk
A Canton Junk

Yuan-Fu Rapid
Yuan-Fu Rapid

'China' Thomson

After a year in Britain, Thomson again felt the urge to travel, and returned to the Far East in 1867. After moving his studio from Singapore to Hong Kong, he spent the next five years recording China in all its diversity.

Thomson travelled all over China, from the southern trading ports of Hong Kong and Canton to the city of Peking and the Great Wall in the north, and from the island of Formosa (Taiwan) to the interior of China, 3,000 miles up the River Yangzi. His subject matter ranged equally wide: from beggars and street people through to Mandarins and Princes, from Imperial Palaces to remote monasteries, and from rural villages to the grandeur of the Gorges, his vision encompassed more of the culture and people of China than had hitherto been available to western audiences.

Often travelling with only his dog, Spot, as a companion, he visited remote parts of China which had never before seen a camera, often placing himself in dangerous situations. He had to cope with widely varying conditions in which to photograph, and often had to improvise when chemicals became impossible to find. His skills were not only technical: he had to overcome fear and mistrust in order to photograph subjects as diverse as senior government officials and humble boat-people.

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