Canton, Kwangtung (Guangdong) province, China: two Buddhist priests. Photograph by John Thomson, 1869.
- Thomson, J. 1837-1921.
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Two men standing, one young, with prayer beads in his hands, the other older with beads around his neck. A brick wall and a leafy bush in the background
The photographer John Thomson was not only fascinated by sacred structures and monuments, he showed much interest in the lives of religious men too. Yet as a man of the 19th century he often employed a typology in his portrayals of people. For him there were basically two types of Buddhist priest in China, the southern and the northern. These two men are Thomson's 'typical Buddhist priests of southern China': both men, with their heads shaven, are dressed in a long robe with very wide sleeves. 'To keep a daily reckoning with Heaven', the older priest wears a rosary around his neck, while the younger man carries one in his hand. For Thomson the features of each of these priests were 'those expressive of weakness of character', thus 'no foreigner would care to trust him out of sight with a coin, far less with the future welfare of his soul.'