"John Thomson (1837-1921) was the first known photographer to document the people and landscape of China for publication and dissemination to the Western world. Between 1868 and 1872 he travelled over 6,500 kilometres with his cumbersome camera and equipment, darkroom and chemicals capturing all aspects of Chinese life. The photographs in these four volumes show the many sides of China: sweeping landscapes, royalty and ruling classes, merchants and economic activity, everyday life, and the faces of men, women and children. In a time when knowledge was derived from observation and classification it should not seem odd that Thomson desired a recognition not from the quality of his photographs, but from his contributions to general knowledge" (Western Travellers in China).
"My design in the accompanying work is to present a series of pictures of China and its people, such as shall convey an accurate impression of the country I traversed as well as the arts, usages, and manners which prevail in different provinces of the Empire. With this intention I made the camera the constant companion of my wanderings, and to it I am indebted for the faithful representation of the scenes I visited and the types of races I came into contact" (Introduction).
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