Among the many fascinating things we've come across the Internet in our lifetimes is this collection of more than 100-year-old photographs of Sichuan posted to history blog Ai Lishi ("Love History").
Ai Lishi is the creation of self-described amateur historian, collector of historical photographs, and "guy who rejects blackboard history lessons" Ao Xiang (敖翔). The site features photos grouped by category: the People's Republic of China (1949 to present), Foreign History, Republic of China (1912 to 1949), Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), and so forth.
Ao's information on these photos is sparse: "Chamberlin, American geologist, entered Sichuan in 1909 via Hong Kong, Guangdong, and Fujjian, and took more than 100 photographs of the cultures and customs of the Sichuanese."
In fact, there were two American Chamberlins who visited China in the first decade of the 20th century: Rollin Chamberlin, the photographer, trekked through China with his father, professor and prominent geologist Thomas Chrowder Chamberlin, as part of the Oriental Education Investigation Commission in 1909 and 1910.
They comprised two of the "four-man team commissioned by John D. Rockefeller to reconnoiter the vast and little-known Chinese empire as a potential site for the humanitarian projects of the nascent Rockefeller Foundation."
From the National Academy of Sciences (Link opens a PDF):
[...T]he Oriental Educational Investigation Commission to China ... involved a trans-Pacific journey with stops at Hawaii and Japan. The party assembled in Shanghai in February of 1909 and for nearly five months thereafter traveled by rail, river boat, sedan chairs, and Peking carts studying fifteen of the eighteen provinces of China with short excursions into Mongolia and Manchuria.
The Chinese venture ended, the party returned by way of the Trans-Siberian railroad and Europe, across which they zigzagged from the North Cape to the Balkans. A partial account of this journey appeared in the National Geographic Magazine (XXII: 1094-1119) and in the University of Chicago Magazine (March 1910:150-55).
This expedition was a precursor to the establishment of the China Medical Board and the Peking Union Medical College (link well worth a read for some notes on the development of Western-style medicine in China).
A collection of 726 photos from this Chinawide expedition can be viewed at Beloit College's T.C. Chamberlin Collection page.
This is Part 1 of a series on historical photos of Sichuan. Stay tuned for further posts in this series!
For past posts featuring historical photos and memoirs of Sichuan, Chengdu and surrounding areas, click on the links below:
Chengdu in the 1980: photos and interview with an early expat
Kunming in the 1980s
China Retro (Guangzhou, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing in the the late 1970s and '80s)
Celebrating Spring Festival in Chengdu in the past
A Colony of Blue Ants (Memories of the Cultural Revolution)
A Brief Overview of Sichuan History
The History of Teahouses in Chengdu
History of Western Medicine at Huaxi Hospital/ University