Wednesday, September 10, 2008

1871 -Fuzhou Church by Thomson

Lately,I seem to have taken on a liking for photographs of ancient days and ancient buildings.

And incidentally I met up with a 75 year old cousin and a second aunt (on my father's side ) for brunch. We got to tell tales and swap gossips. One of the topics covered was my Goo Poh's experiences in Fuzhou City during the Second World War.

Aunt Ling told us about an old European church in Fuzhou City which my grandfather and his brother must have seen. My grandaunt or Goo Poh Yuk Ging had gone to China to seek medical treatment for her ailing husband. Unfortunately he died in China leaving her a widow with three young children. The youngest was just born and she was brought up in China (under the care of another family) until the 60's when my Goo Poh was financially better off and it was politically safe to "redeem this daughter and bring her out to Sibu". That was just before Malaysia was formed.

My own maternal grandmother, Tiong Lien Tie, was stranded there too during the war. As a result she was fondly remembered by all the Sibu Foochow "overseas" students who were also stranded in Fuzhou City at that time.

When they came back to Sibu, they remembered themselves "coming back by the first boat,or the second boat or the third boat" from Fuzhou City . My Goo Poh (sister of my grandfather) came back to Sibu by the First Boat. She had always been grateful to people who visited her in China (she lived in a very remote village).

My mother's second brother brought back his Fuzhou City-born bride after the war. Both of them were teachers of Chinese language and they taught in bukit Lan for the greater part of their lives. They went on to become the illustrious in-laws of timber tycoons. This aunt of ours up to this day speaks Foochow with a very strong Fuzhou City accent.

Here is the photo of the church taken by Thomson and its related history.

'Foochow Church', about 1871

Picture Number:1992-5063_0017
Credit:National Museum of Photography, Film & Television/Science & Society Picture Library

A photograph of a European Church in Fuzhou, China, taken by John Thomson [1837-1921] in about 1871, published in 1873 in the book 'Foochow and the River Min'. As part of the unequal treaties following the Opium War of 1839 to 1842 China was forced to accept Christian missionaries. As early as 1847 three American Methodists built the first Protestant church in Fuzhou. They were soon followed by other missionary groups from Britain. Thomson travelled extensively in Fujian province, formerly Fukien, south east China, from late 1870 to early 1871. The book, 'Foochow and the River Min', records his journey up the River Min by boat from Fuzhou to Nanping, a distance of about 160 miles. Thomson was one of the most significant travel photographer-explorers of the nineteenth century. Born in Scotland, he studied chemistry at the University of Edinburgh, before taking up photography in the 1860s. Thomson travelled extensively throughout Asia, documenting the antiquities, landscapes and people of Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Macao and China. In the early 1870s he returned to England where he worked with the journalist Adolphe Smith on a project documenting the life of the urban poor. The resulting book, 'Street Life in London' was published in twelve parts between 1877 and 1878.

In Collection of: National Museum of Photography Film & Television

2 memories:

James TC Wong said...

Good write-up sister! Keep your Fuzhou - related stories coming!

I Am Sarawakiana said...

Hi Nice to hear from you ! Glad that you like the stories.

The photo is an amazing archival find!! Splendid!


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