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Canton (Guangzhou), Kwangtung province, China: two Cantonese boat women,. Photograph by John Thomson, 1869.

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

Selected images from this work

About this work


Two women looking at one another, the younger one with her hair in an elaborate plait, the other older with a plainer hairstyle. Both wear dark robes of coarse woven material. Mother and daughter?

Until the 1950s many people in Guangzhou, also in Hong Kong, lived on boats. For the poor, boats provided a more comfortable way of living and also a source of regular income. Boat people also enjoyed more freedom, using the boat as their means of transport. Often a boat was occupied by an entire family. In this photograph the intention was to highlight the glossy black hair and the olive skins of working-class Chinese women, which the photographer John Thomson found particularly attractive



Physical description

1 photograph : glass photonegative, wet collodion : stereograph


Boatwomen Canton, China


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

China through the lens of John Thomson, 1868-1872, Beijing: Beijing World Art Museum, 2009, p. 130 (reproduced)

Lettering note

Bears Thomson's negative number: "674"


Wellcome Library no. 19590i


  • English

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