Album photographique - Souvenir de la campagne de Chine 14 août 1900 - 18 septembre 1901
14 août 1900 - 18 septembre 1901 , Album : 24x19cm, photographies : formats divers, 1 album relié.
Photograph album: Memories of the China Campaign 14 August 1900 – 18 September 1901 by a military Doctor
14 August 1900 – 18 September 1901, Album: 24 x 19 cm, photographies: various format, 20th-century half cloth
Exceptional album bringing together a total of 57 original photographs, contemporary albumen and silver prints. These photos were taken between 1900 and 1901 by the French military doctor Henry Coullaud (1872-1954).
Contemporary half blue cloth over flower-patterned paper, red label with Chinese characters laid down on upper covers.
The Chinese calligraphy on this label, as Professor Denis Coullaud explains, is of the doctor's surname. The Chinese inscription in black letters on the crimson background of a thin vertical strip could be translated as: “To Koo-Loo, whose magical hand brings back the spring.” This is known as a “paï-pien”.
“This gift was presented on a fine spring morning in 1900, with great pomp and circumstance, to the nasal tone of a clarinet accompanied by the thin sound of a small flute and a tambourine. This was the Wang family's way of expressing their thanks for Major Coullaud's successfully operating on the patriarch's cataract. The Chinese had translated his name by its phonetic equivalent into two characters, Koo and Loo,” (in Denis Coullaud,La Main merveilleuse qui rend le printemps
, 1992).“Each image has been annotated (place and title) by the photographer, who has also written an inscription on the verso of the title of the first album: “To my sister, a souvenir, with best wishes from her brother Henry, Bordeaux 25 October 1901.”
A young military doctor weary of barracks life in mainland and dreaming of adventure, Henry Coullaud requested to be sent out to join the Campaign in China. His request was approved and he left on 19 August 1900 on board the Alexandre III as part of the 1st march Batallion of an Infantry Regiment.
The beginning of the album consists of photos of the crew of the Alexandre III. Several images follow of the stops made by the ship: Port-Said, Djibouti, Singapore and finally the harbor at Ta-Koo, which they reached forty-two days after leaving Marseilles. This first part, which shows the crossing, is essentially composed of photos of ports and several of the locals in Djibouti.This is precious testimony to the early development of the town, which was at the time the seat of French Somaliland.
A second part concerns the various Chinese cities which Doctor Coullaud visited: Tong-Koo, Tien-Tsin, Pao-Ting-Foo, Tin-Tjô, Cheng-Feng, Sou-Kiao, Si-Gnan-Shien and Tai-To.These images, which have a raw realism, give us a huge panorama of life in China, both of French-Chinese relations and the life of the native Chinese in the cities and the countryside.
It covers the official engagements of the French delegation, including visiting beauty spots, artistic performances (theatre, acrobatic parades, and a Chinese orchestra in front of the French flag on 14 July), as well as military parades and pictures of high-ranking individuals, both Chinese dignitaries and French officers.A few of the images bring across the strange atmosphere at the time of the height of the Boxer Rising: faces of rebels displayed in cages in the public squares, French officers throwing coins to the populace on the occasion of 14 July.
Four rare photographs, like a mini-reportage series, show the stages of the execution of five people in Tien-Tsin.
The amateur photographer also makes much of historical monuments, taking pictures of cityscapes, pagodas, towers, doors, and walls. But what fascinated him most was the life of the locals, both in the cities and in the provinces. He even made it into their inner circles and took the occasion to make superb photos, especially of Tatar and Chinese women with tiny bound feet, a few years before the banning of this thousands of years-old tradition of erotically-inspired mutilation. His medical status allowed him to rub shoulders with all levels of society, from Chinese dignitaries to deprived peasants.
His images are a precious witness to all the various minor trades of the time:
money-bearers (of the famous, pierced Chinese Cash coins), waterbearers, barbers, postmen, cobblers, grocers, and so on.
With this unique album, an important memorial with ethnological merit, Major Henry Coullaud gives us a glimpse into life in China at the turn of the 20th