Images of Chinese during World War I in France

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Chinese students on a visit to the British Western Front-Chinese during World War I
Chinese students. According to the existing caption they are on a visit to the British Western Front. They see German culture as practised in a town destroyed by Germans just before the British forced them to evacuate it. They are posing informally for the camera along with a large group of soldiers. Directly behind them is a building that has been bombed or shelled. What is left of the building looks extremely precarious. The caption is deliberately sardonic. There is no evidence of any sort of culture, or 'kultur' here, the place is devastated. [Original reads: 'OFFICIAL PHOTOGRAPHS TAKEN ON THE WESTERN FRONT - CHINESE STUDENTS ON A VISIT TO THE BRITISH WESTERN FRONT. They see German 'kultur' as practised in a town destroyed by Germans just before the British forced them to evacuate it.'].

A dragon day celebrated by the Chinese in France and Chinese students at the Western Front.

The first group of images shows Chinese celebration during World War I in-France. The display was probably part of a Chinese New Year celebration put on by members of the Chinese Labour Corps. The second group depicts a group of Chinese students visiting the Western Front. It is possible that these students were from the newly established Republic of China. These image are in contrast to the photographs of the Chinese Labour Corps of nearly 200,000 men who were recruited in China to do many manual jobs on the Western Front.

Chinese-celebration-during-World-War-I-in-France-Display on stilts
Chinese celebration, France, during World War I. This photograph shows four men on stilts entertaining a crowd. One of the men has a stick, another is dressed as an old man with a long grey beard and whiskers, and a third is dressed in a long robe. A band is playing in the background near the watching crowd. It is probable that this display is part of a Chinese New Year celebration put on by members of the Chinese Labour Corps. The crowd is very mixed and includes children. [Original reads: 'OFFICIAL PHOTOGRAPH TAKEN ON THE BRITISH WESTERN FRONT IN FRANCE. A dragon day celebrated by the Chinese in France. A display on stilts.'].
Chinese-boat-display
Chinese celebration, France, during World War I. This photograph shows a person with a large white headdress and white or pale costume walking inside a carnival float covered with paper or cloth and with a patterned cloth awning. The person's feet can be seen under the float. A band is playing alongside. The crowd is interesting as it includes civilians and a few children, as well as a few men in uniform and men who may be from the Labour Corps. [Original reads: 'OFFICIAL PHOTOGRAPH TAKEN ON THE BRITISH WESTERN FRONT IN FRANCE. A dragon day celebrated by the Chinese in France. A Chinese boat display.'].
Chinese students on a visit to the British Western Front, outside an old German dug out
Five Chinese students and two British officers posed at the entrance to a dugout. As this looks like an official visit, it is possible that these students were from the newly established Republic of China. There was a long tradition of educated Chinese attending British universities, for example, in 1882, a Chinese man had become qualified as a British barrister. This image is in marked contrast to the photographs of the much disregarded Chinese Labour Corps of nearly 200,000 men who were recruited in China to do many manual jobs on the Western Front. [Original reads: 'Chinese students on a visit to the British Western Front, outside an old German dug out.'].
Chinese students starting for the trenches on the Western Front
Chinese students at the Western Front, France, during World War I. This group photograph of five Chinese students with an army officer was most likely taken by the British official photographer, John Warwick Brooke. Shortly after World War I ended, around 1,600 Chinese students travelled to France as part of the Work-Study Movement. In the spirit of the new Republic, their aim was to study and examine Western culture and technology. Despite being in the midst of internal troubles, China declared war on Germany in August 1917. Their economic and military contribution to the Allied war effort, however, was minimal. This was mainly due to an emphasis placed on resolving urgent internal issues. [Original reads: 'OFFICIAL PHOTOGRAPHS TAKEN ON THE FRONT IN FRANCE. Chinese students starting for the trenches on the Western Front (left to right) Tee Tong Chang, Tim Po Woo, Pow Kan Liang, Chung Ching Wang, Sih Gung Cheng.'].
Dragon-dance
Chinese men entertaining troops, France, during World War I. Superficially this photograph appears to be of a peaceful scene with Chinese men putting on a performance for an audience of nurses and soldiers. The Chinese are probably members of the Chinese Labour Corps, civilians contracted in China and used on the Western Front for duties such as building roads and burying the dead. The reality is shown by the segregation between the Chinese onlookers sitting on the grass on the hill behind, and the white troops seated in front of the stage. After the war, when the Chinese labour force was no longer needed, many were deported back to China as it was feared that they would take jobs away from soldiers returning home. [Original reads: 'OFFICIAL PHOTOGRAPH TAKEN ON THE BRITISH WESTERN FRONT IN FRANCE. Chinese entertain soldiers and nurses in France. A dragon dance.'].
Chinese entertain soldiers and nurses in an open air theatre in France
Chinese entertainment for the troops, France, during World War I. This photograph shows a group of Chinese men in costumes walking on stilts. They are performing on an open-air stage with part of their audience on the hillside around the back and sides of the stage. An orchestra can be seen on lower ground in front of the stage. The racial attitudes of the time can be clearly seen as there is a wire fence between the white British forces on the left and the Chinese and black members of the Labour Corps on the right. [Original reads: 'OFFICIAL PHOTOGRAPH TAKEN ON THE BRITISH WESTERN FRONT IN FRANCE. Chinese entertain soldiers and nurses in an open air theatre in France.'].
Dragons ready for the dragon fight
Troops watching Chinese dragon ceremonies, Western Front, France, during World War I. This shows some members of the Chinese Labour Corps carrying two huge paper dragons with large decorated heads and long snakelike tails. Two other Chinese are holding paper lanterns. British troops and Labour Corps members can be seen in the background. Large dragons like this are used in the processions on the final day of the Chinese New Year, which takes place in late January or early February. [Original reads: 'OFFICIAL PHOTOGRAPH TAKEN ON THE BRITISH WESTERN FRONT IN FRANCE. Chinese entertain British troops in France. Dragons ready for the Dragon fight.'].
Chinese students on a visit to the British Western Front
Chinese students. According to the existing caption they are on a visit to the British Western Front. They see German culture as practised in a town destroyed by Germans just before the British forced them to evacuate it. They are posing informally for the camera along with a large group of soldiers. Directly behind them is a building that has been bombed or shelled. What is left of the building looks extremely precarious. The caption is deliberately sardonic. There is no evidence of any sort of culture, or 'kultur' here, the place is devastated. [Original reads: 'OFFICIAL PHOTOGRAPHS TAKEN ON THE WESTERN FRONT - CHINESE STUDENTS ON A VISIT TO THE BRITISH WESTERN FRONT. They see German 'kultur' as practised in a town destroyed by Germans just before the British forced them to evacuate it.'].
Source: National Library of Scotland

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