The first photographs of Hong Kong, the Second Opium War, and Beijing, Felice Beato in 1860

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Felice Beato (born in Venice in 1832 and died in Florence in 1909) was an Italian-British photographer among the first to take photographs in East Asia and the Mediterranean and one of the first war photographers.

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felice-beato
Felice Beato

Through his work, many Westerners were able to see for the first time remote regions of Asia and the Mediterranean, hitherto only described through illustrations or stories.

Felice Beato in fact filmed fundamental moments of modern history, such as the Indian Rebellion of 1857, and the Second Opium War.

During his time in Japan, where he took some of the most powerful images of that era, he influenced other Japanese artists and photographers.

Felice Beato, born in Venice, became an English citizen, perhaps after his stay in Corfù, at the time a British protectorate.

Beato arrived in China from India to photograph the Anglo French military expedition during the Second Opium War.

Arrival in Hong Kong

Felice Beato arrived in Hong Kong in March 1860 and immediately began to tell the places he saw: the military camps in Hong Kong, then still only a piece of rocky land, and Canton.

Modern-Building-and-View-of-Hong-Kong-1860
Modern Building and View of Hong Kong 1860

His are among the first photographs of China.

After his meeting with Charles Wirgman, he began his collaboration with London News.

hong-kong-kowloon-1860
hong kong kowloon 1860

The two accompanied the Anglo French troops on their journey to Dalien Bay (Talien), then Pehtang and Taku Forts to Peiho boca, then Beijing and Qingyi Yuan, the summer palace.

The-Anglo-French-fleet-gathered-in-the-bay-of-Hong-Kong,-March-1860,-prior-to-their-assault-on-Beijing
The Anglo French fleet gathered in the bay of Hong Kong, March 1860, prior to their assault on Beijing
Government-House,-Hong-Kong
Government House, Hong Kong

Canton and South of China

Parade-Gnomio,-Canton

 

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Nine-story-Pagoda-and-Tartar-street,-Canton
Nine story Pagoda and Tartar street, Canton
Joss-House,-Canton
Joss House, Canton
Howqua's-Gardens,-Canton
Howqua’s Gardens, Canton
Five-storey-building,-canton
Five storey building, canton
Confucius,-Canton
Confucius, Canton
Cantonese-Masonry-Pagoda
Cantonese Masonry Pagoda
Twin-Pagodas,-Southern-Sung-Style
Twin Pagodas, Southern Sung Style
Pavilion-on-Water,-S.-China
Pavilion on Water, S. China
Footbridges-and-Elaborate-Commercial-Building,-S.-China
Footbridges and Elaborate Commercial Building, S. China
Three-arched-Stone-Bridge,-S.-China
Three arched Stone Bridge, S. China

The Second Opium War

His photographs of the Second Opium War, are the first images to document a military campaign in real time, while the events took place before his eyes, through a sequence of carefully archived images.

His photographs of Taku’s forts, tell the salient events of this moment: the approach to the fort, the effects of the bombing on the outer walls and on the fortifications, and finally the ravages inside the fort, including images of Chinese corpses.

taku-fort
Taku fort
Headquarter-House,-1st-Division,-Pehtang,-China,-August-1,-1860
Headquarter House, 1st Division, Pehtang, China, August 1, 1860
Interior-of-Pehtang-Showing-the-Magazine-and-Wooden-Gun,-August-1,-1860
Interior of Pehtang Showing the Magazine and Wooden Gun, August 1, 1860
Courtyard-with-Fortified-Walls-and-Figures-1860
Courtyard with Fortified Walls and Figures 1860
An-Pehtang-fort-was-abondoned-by-the-Chinese-army.-Printed-in-1860
An Pehtang fort was abondoned by the Chinese army. Printed in 1860
Beheading-in-the-Qing-Dynasty,-China
Beheading in the Qing Dynasty, China
Tomb-near-Pa-li-k'um.-The-Scene-of-the-Commencement-of-the-Attack-on-the-21st-September-1860-near-Pekin
Tomb near Pa li k’um. The Scene of the Commencement of the Attack on the 21st September 1860 near Pekin
Bridge-of-the-Pa-li-k'um,-the-Scene-of-the-Fight-with-Imperial-Chinese-Troops,-September-21,-1860,-near-Pekin
Bridge of the Pa li k’um, the Scene of the Fight with Imperial Chinese Troops, September 21, 1860, near Pekin
Forest-of-Steles
Forest of Steles

The Summer Palace

Just outside Beijing, stands the splendid imperial summer residence, or the Summer Palace (Qingyi Yuan, today Yihe Yuan).

Some of these images, taken between 6 and 18 October, show the complex during the looting of the western troops.

By order of Lord Elgin, on October 18 and 19, some buildings were set on fire by the British First Division in retaliation for the death and torture suffered by a diplomatic group of twenty.

According to Bennett, these are the first photographs of Beijing so far discovered and thus constitute a corpus of photographic documents of inestimable historical and cultural value.

Among the images, Beato also took a picture of Prince Kung who signed the Beijing Convention on the part of Emperor Xianfeng.

Prince-Kung
Prince Kung
Portrait-of-Prince-Kung,-Brother-of-the-Emperor-of-China,-Who-Signed-the-Treaty
Portrait of Prince Kung, Brother of the Emperor of China, Who Signed the Treaty

Old Photos of Qing Dynasty

Temple-Building,-N.-China
Temple Building, N. China
Tea-Room-on-Water
Tea Room on Water
Ruined-Village,-N.-China
Ruined Village, N. China
Portion-of-the-Great-Wall
Portion of the Great Wall
Pavilion-and-Commericial-Building-at-Water's-Edge
Pavilion and Commericial Building at Water’s Edge
General-Store-Office-in-City-of-Song-Tiang,-Province-of-Wu
General Store Office in City of Song Tiang, Province of Wu
Crumbling-Brick-Pagoda,-Sung-Dynasty-1860
Crumbling Brick Pagoda, Sung Dynasty 1860
Bridge-with-Houseboats,-China
Bridge with Houseboats, China

Sources: wikipedia , wikimedia

 


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