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Manchu bride, Peking, Penchilie province, China.

J. Thomson

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Credit: Manchu bride, Peking, Penchilie province, China. . Credit: Wellcome Collection. Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

About this work


One of the photographs taken by the great Scottish traveller, geographer and photographer John Thomson (1837-1921) in China, Indo-China, Cyprus and Great Britain. Thomson's collection of over 600 glass negatives was acquired by Henry S. Wellcome in 1921. This photograph shows a young woman of the Manchu ethnic group in her wedding dress. She is dressed in a richly embroidered costume and a large floral headdress with tassels. Her face is powdered white. As an ethnographer, Thomson took many photographs of brides in the most lavish costumes they had ever worn, but expressed at length his gloomy view of their future lives, which he compared to slavery. "No Manchu maiden can be betrothed until she is fourteen years of age. Usually some elderly woman is employed as a go-between to arrange a marriage, and four primary rules exist to guide the matron. First the lady must be amiable. Secondly she must be a woman of few words. Thirdly she must be of industrious habits, and lastly she must neither want a limb nor an eye and indeed she must be moderately good-looking."



Manchu bride. Bears Thomson's negative number: "716"



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