Shantou (Swatow), Guangdong (Kwangtung) province, China: irrigation on the Han River. Photograph by John Thomson, 1871.

  • Thomson, J. (John), 1837-1921.
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About this work


The left bank of the Han River near Shantou. Six men working two chain buckets from a river to a field [?]. The man nearest the camera is naked. In the background a junk with raised sail. The left hand frame is marked with an X

During the dry season people employed chain pumps to irrigate the fields. The pump normally consisted of a long square wooden tube into which an endless chain was fitted, carrying a series of wooden diaphragms separated from each other by about six inches. The diaphragms descended over guiding rods above the tube, and returned again at great speed to raise the water in a continuous flow. At its upper end the chain traversed a wheel having a series of spokes. The chain outside was made to rotate by pushing it down with the foot



Physical description

1 photograph : glass photonegative, wet collodion : stereograph ; glass approximately 10.5 x 21.5 cm (4 x 8 in.)


Swatow irrigation, China Bears Thomson's negative number: "808"

References note

China through the lens of John Thomson, 1868-1872, Beijing: Beijing World Art Museum, 2009, p. 143 (reproduced)


This is one of a collection of original glass negatives made by John Thomson. The negatives, made between 1868 and 1872, were purchased from Thomson by Sir Henry Wellcome in 1921


Wellcome Collection 19882i


Where to find it

  • LocationStatusAccess
    Closed stores
    By appointmentManual request


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