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Historical photographs give insight into China's past


A collection of 200 black-and-white photographs giving an extraordinary insight into the lives of Chinese society in the early 20th century will be on display at the Hong Kong Heritage Museum from tomorrow (May 3).

The exhibition - Life in China around the May Fourth Movement: Sidney D Gamble's Photographs of China 1908-1932 - runs until October 6. American social scientist Sidney D Gamble (1890-1968) captured the daily life and social conditions of ordinary people in his photographs.

Speaking at the opening ceremony of the exhibition today (May 2), the Deputy Director (Culture) of Leisure and Cultural Services, Miss Choi Suk-kuen, noted that the May Fourth Movement of 1919 was a significant time in modern Chinese history, with far-reaching consequences, not only for politics, but also for culture and academia.

Miss Choi said the photographs were taken by Gamble during four trips to China around the time of the May Fourth Movement - the most critical years for modern China.

"At a time when photography was not yet common, Gamble used not only pens but also cameras for systematic documentation of his fieldwork and this was indeed groundbreaking," Miss Choi said. "The photographs on display represent an interpretation of Chinese society by a western scholar, and the efforts he made to understand the Chinese people."

Between 1908 and 1932, Gamble travelled extensively through the north, east, south and southwest of the country to study Chinese society and write a number of books on village life in the north. His photographs capture China's political, economic, cultural, religious and social life in the early 20th century and provide quality reference material for students of Chinese history.

Gamble's photographs were first exhibited in 1989 and have since travelled to 19 cities in the United States and Canada as well as Beijing and many other Mainland cities.

The exhibition in Hong Kong is divided into six sections, namely, Gamble and China, Tide of History, Daily Life, The 72 Trades, Folklore and Religion and Scenes of Main Cities.

Gamble and China records the photographer's journeys in China.

Tide of History captures scenes of significant historical events in modern China including the celebration of victory after World War I, the May Fourth Movement, the May Thirtieth Incident, the death of Dr Sun Yat-sen, opium burning events in Shanghai and Tongxian, and the introduction of modern education to Beijing.

Daily Life captures people smoking, chatting, raising pets and attending cockfights.

The 72 Trades showcases agricultural life as well as craftsmen working at such trades as thread winding, sewing, shoemaking, umbrella making and shaving.

Folklore and Religion features the traditions of different national ethnic groups, reflected in their costumes, traditions and ceremonies, such as weddings and funerals.

Scenes of Main Cities focuses on everyday life and casual street scenes.

Located at 1 Man Lam Road in Shatin, the Heritage Museum opens from 10am to 6pm from Monday to Saturday, and from 10am to 7pm on Sundays and public holidays. It is closed on Tuesdays (except public holidays). Admission is $10, with half-price concession for senior citizens aged 60 or above, people with disabilities and full-time students. Admission on Wednesdays is free.

There are free shuttle-bus services between the Shatin KCR Station and the museum from 1pm to 6pm on Saturdays and from 1pm to 7pm on Sundays and public holidays.

For enquiries, please call 2180 8188 or visit the Heritage Museum's website at

End/Friday, May 2, 2003

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