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Canton, Kwangtung province, China: a lady holding a parasol. Photograph by John Thomson, 1869.

  • Thomson, J. (John), 1837-1921
  • Pictures

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About this work


A woman standing on rush matting in a room, with her hair in an elaborate plait, holding a closed parasol with the point down. She is also holding a bundle of cloth, possibly a wrapped baby [?], in her arms

In China Thomson had a particular interest in women’s hair. Although he found that Chinese hair was uniformly black and straight, there was great diversity of styles throughout China according to the prevailing local fashion. This photograph shows a lady with an elaborate hairstyle, which Thomson described as "chignon par excellence". The chignon was made by a professional hairdresser, and wearing one meant that the woman had to sacrifice her comfort when sleeping. This photograph was taken at full length, showing the woman holding a closed parasol. The parasol was another example of Thomson’s proof that shadows were essential in the life of southern Chinese



Physical description

1 photograph : glass photonegative, wet collodion : stereograph


Canton Lady


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

References note

John Thomson, Illustrations of China and its people, vol II, pl X, "Ningpo Lady"
China through the lens of John Thomson, 1868-1872, Beijing: Beijing World Art Museum, 2009, p. 150 (reproduced)

Lettering note

Bears Thomson's negative number: "678"


Wellcome Library no. 19598i


  • English

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