Photo exhibition on China's 1911 Revolution
About 60 historical photos, which record not only the daily lives of ordinary Chinese in the late Qing dynasty, but also important historical events and figures in modern Chinese history, will be on display at the "China's 1911 Revolution: Francis Stafford's Photo Exhibition" at the Dr Sun Yat-sen Museum from tomorrow (June 13) until November 19.
Francis Stafford (1884-1938) was born in Colorado, United States. He started work in the printing industry at the age of 17 and gradually became a litho photographer. In 1909, Stafford took his wife and son to Shanghai, where he worked as a photographer for the head office of Commercial Press. By virtue of his profession, Stafford gained access to many different parts of China. The Wuchang Uprising of 1911 was an epoch-making event in modern Chinese history that captured the attention of the world's media. Many reporters lost no time in rushing to Wuhan to report the events taking place there.
During the 1911 Revolution, Stafford took many pictures of historical scenes from Wuhan to Shanghai, including the establishment of the Hubei Military Government, the confrontation between revolutionary and imperial troops, the burning of Hankou, the peace conference between the Qing Government and the independent provinces, as well as Dr Sun Yat-sen leaving Shanghai for Nanjing to assume the provisional presidency.
Provided by Professor Ronald Anderson, the grandson of Stafford, the selected photos on display document the fighting between the revolutionary and imperial armies at Hankou and Hanyang, which lasted more than 40 days, making this exhibition a valuable visual account of the 1911 Revolution.
Viewers can also get a rare glimpse of the daily lives of ordinary Chinese in the late Qing dynasty from the exhibition. When Stafford arrived in China, the days of the Qing dynasty were already numbered. China's doors were wide open to foreign powers after her defeat in a series of conflicts. Foreign imperialism and internal social upheavals sowed the seeds of a revolution as people lost faith in the Qing Government. Some photos on display are rare visual documentation of people living in villages and towns at the time. Men wearing long braids, or queues, and women with bound feet were still a common sight in the early 20th century in China.
Apart from showing the daily life of the general population, the exhibits also capture the moment of crises in China and the founding of the Republic of China. After the Treaty of Nanking was signed in 1842, many cities along the coast or in the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River were opened as trading ports. Foreign powers further demarcated their boundaries by establishing concessions within the trading ports, inside which they ran administrative and judicial systems independently from that of the Qing Government. The first foreign concession in China came into being in Shanghai in 1845, while Tianjin and Hankou hosted the largest number of foreign concessions throughout history. It was only after the Second World War in 1945 that foreign concessions vanished from China.
When China was defeated in the First Sino-Japanese War in 1895, the Qing Government started to train a new army with 5,000 soldiers stationed west of Tianjin. Hoping to use it to strengthen China’s defence in the wake of the Boxer Uprising, the Qing Government poured more and more resources into the New Army's training. Many soldiers of the New Army studied in Japan, where they were influenced by constitutional and revolutionary ideas. Many of them were sympathetic to the revolutionary cause upon their return home and those from the Wuchang New Army took the initiative and started the 1911 Revolution.
The success of the Wuchang Uprising shocked the Qing Government, which immediately called an emergency cabinet meeting and cancelled the imperial army's training at Beijing's Autumn Drill Ground (now Lulong in Hubei province). Supported by the imperial navy positioned on the Yangtze River, the imperial army headed by the Minister of War Yin Chang left Beijing for Wuhan to suppress the revolutionary insurgents. The confrontation between the two sides lasted for 48 days in Hankou and Hanyang. Shells from their batteries set the Chinese section of Hankou on fire, leaving this once prosperous city in ruins.
At the time of the Wuchang Uprising, Dr Sun Yat-sen was in the United States advocating revolution and raising funds. Learning of the success of the insurrection, Dr Sun immediately set himself a diplomatic mission and called for international sympathy and support from the United States, Britain and France. Dr Sun arrived in Shanghai on December 25 - after an absence of 16 years - and was sworn in as provisional president at Nanjing on January 1, 1912. To reach a peace agreement with the imperial camp, Dr Sun promised to put Yuan Shikai forward as provisional president in exchange for the abdication of the Qing emperor. Emperor Puyi abdicated on February 12, bringing to an end both the 267-year-old Manchu dynasty and China's two-millennia-old monarchy.
The Dr Sun Yat-sen Museum is at 7 Castle Road, Mid-levels, Central, Hong Kong. It opens from 10am to 6pm from Monday to Saturday and from 10am to 7pm on Sundays and public holidays. It is closed on Thursdays (except public holidays). Admission fee is $10 with a half-price concession for full-time students, people with disabilities and senior citizens aged 60 or above. Admission is free on Wednesdays and the anniversary of Dr Sun's birth (November 12).
For details, please visit the Dr Sun Yat-sen Museum's website at http://hk.drsunyatsen.museum
or call 2367 6373.
Ends/Thursday, June 12, 2008