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These extraordinary pictures are autochromes, the earliest color photographs invented by the Lumière brothers in Lyon in 1903. The same Lumière brothers who also invented... cinema in 1895!



The Autochrome Lumière remained the principal color photography process available in the world until the mid 1930s. The Lumière brothers started commercializing autochrome plates in 1907, and Albert Kahn, a banker from Paris who had started a crazy project of collecting photographic records of the entire Earth bought many autochrome plates from the Lumière brothers and sent a team to the Chinese Empire to take color photographs (and also record animated films) of daily life in the Chinese Empire. Empress Cixi had just died (in 1908), the infant emperor Puyi was on the throne, and the ruler of China was his father the regent Prince Chun, although many provinces were already ruling themselves more or less independently from Beijing. Political tension was bubbling in the provinces, particularly in the commercial and industrial provinces of the lower Yangzi (Hubei, Jiangsu), and those tensions would finally turn into a full-blown revolution in October 1911, ending 2,000 years of Chinese Empire and starting the Republic of China.

Albert Kahn's team had thus the extraordinary luck of being able to take color photographs of the Chinese Empire in its very last years. All the pictures here are from those last years of the empire between the death of Cixi and the adbication of Puyi. I don't think they have been shown before on the internet. All the photographs and films from Albert Kahn's world collection are stored at the Musée Albert Kahn, in Boulogne-Billancourt (an inner surburb of Paris). The museum is open to the public. Tourists usually don't know about this musem, but I highly recommend a visit next time you're in Paris. There you can look at all the color photographs of all the countries of the world collected in the 1910s and 1920s (they surely have color photographs of your country and city in their collection), and you can also watch animated films of all these countries. There is also a great Japanese garden behind the museum (which used to be Albert Kahn's house).

The pictures here are small size, but at the museum you should be able to see them large size. Anyway, enjoy the tour of imperial China in its final two years!



Looking over a bridge in Beijing. Note the queue of hair (i.e. we're before 1911, the Manchu dynasty has not fallen yet):


Chinese villagers near Beijing:


Master and his students near the gate of the imperial college in Beijing:


Street gate in Beijing:


The moat of the Forbidden City in Beijing:


The Forbidden City:


Mortuary houses in Beijing:


A street in Mukden (now Shenyang), capital of Manchuria:


The so-called "triumph way" by a tomb complex (the Ming tombs?) near Beijing:


On the shores of Daming Lake, in Jinan (Shandong province):


Bridge at the Summer Palace in Beijing:


Monks in a temple dedicated to Guandi (the Chinese "god of war", in fact a 3rd century Chinese general who was later deified) on the sacred Mount Tai (Shandong province):


Buddhist pagoda:


A street in Beijing:


Street of the jewellers in Mukden (Shenyang):


A Chinese woman with bound feet in Fuhu Temple (伏虎寺, a Buddhist temple whose name means "Temple of the crouching tiger") on the sacred Mount Emei (Sichuan province):



The city wall of Mukden (Shenyang), which was demolished in 1949:


A little open-air market in the countryside near Beijing:


Inside the Temple of Confucius, in Qufu (birth place of Confucius, in Shandong province). Note the queue of hair again:


Western airfield near Beijing (we're 10 years after the Boxer Rebellion):


I'll post more pictures tomorrow!
 

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Inside the Temple of Confucius, in Qufu (birth place of Confucius, in Shandong province). Note the queue of hair again:


no, this guy is better looking, very fashionable!!:banana::nuts:
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Next batch of pictures.

Earthenware sellers in Beijing:


Buddhist lama in Beijing:


Marble Boat built by Empress Cixi at the Summer Palace in Beijing:


The Great Wall:


Villagers at the entrance of a Manchu village:


Mother and her child in Beijing:


Somewhere in Beijing:


The convoy of French explorer Stéphane Passet in Inner Mongolia:


A peddler selling cakes and patisseries near Mukden (Shenyang), in Manchuria:


Ming Tombs near Beijing:


Temple of Heaven in Beijing:


Somewhere in Mukden (Shenyang), Manchuria:


Encampment in Inner Mongolia:


Group of women in Beijing:


The Bell Tower in Beijing:


The same today:
 

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Thanks for sharing the photos!
I heard many of Chinese traditional architecture were destroyed through Mao's period.
I hope they keep the left nicely and restore some of great legacies of their ancestors.
 

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Great collection.. U surely need appreciation For this great share.
And I have a suggestion. Start a thread about the OLD and New faces of the cities. Share the old and present pics of cities to let people know the changes that took place in the course of time.



 

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OMG, I've almost been to all the places revealed in the photos :)

I presume that most westerners could have a feeling that they are watching "the Lord of the rings" when seeing those realistic photos about Qing dyansty, but from the mainland Chinese perspective the first impression that crosses the mind is the ppl who lagged behind were sure to be bullied.

PS: I like the Qing's flag a lot, lol
 

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:cheers: Awesome, first the ones of Russia around the same time and now this!

I love pics from way way way back in the past!

Marble Boat built by Empress Cixi at the Summer Palace in Beijing:
I'm surprised this wasn't destroyed in the 20th century considering that the money used to renovate this in the 1800s was originally used for the Imperial Navy, its Western influences in renovation, and how badly CiXi was viewed by succeeding governments.
 

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Awesome ...
 

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thanks for sharing these photos.
i am a Chinese, born in the south part of china and i had ever been to Beijing for several times to found that the old Beijing is disappearing. i hate that. i don't like the modern Beijing.
 

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Beautiful architecture. I wish the Chnese would attach more importance to their heritage instead of just taking over American and european architectureal styles. Wouldn't it be possible to make a nice style of building based on this heritage? Something that evolved from it?
 

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Beautiful architecture. I wish the Chnese would attach more importance to their heritage instead of just taking over American and european architectureal styles. Wouldn't it be possible to make a nice style of building based on this heritage? Something that evolved from it?
agree with u
and about the chinese traditional architectureal style, l like the Tang Dynasty style 唐朝(AD581~AD907) it's different from the 清朝 Qing Dynasty style in those pics.
there is one pic

and the Japanese traditional architectural style also belongs to this style.
 
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