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Canton, Kwangtung province, China. Photograph, 1981, from a negative by John Thomson, 1869.

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


An old woman, in profile to right, resting her chin on her crooked right index finger. Her greying hair is gathered in a twist at the back. She wears large curly earrings and a garment of coarse woven material. "Of the four heads shown in these pictures, the two upper ones are fair types of the aged labourers of China. Darby and Joan have for many years been associated together, and their life has been a uniform scene of hardships and toil. Two generations have now grown up around them, and their sons and grandsons have succeeded them as the bread-winners of the family. The old woman still busies herself in the lighter domestic duties; she is skilful with the needle, and invaluable as a nurse in time of sickness. Her hair has grown thin and white, but she still dresses it with neatness and care"--Thomson, loc. cit.



Physical description

1 photograph : photoprint


25 24 5x4 Chinese 4 old w Canton


This is one of a collection of same-size contact prints made, in 1981, from John Thomson's original negatives. The glass negatives, made between 1868 and 1872, were purchased from Thomson by Sir Henry Wellcome in 1921 and are now in the Wellcome Institute Library

References note

John Thomson, Illustrations of China and its people, London, 1873-4, vol I. pl XI, 2, "Woman of the working class", Clark Worswick and Jonathan Spence, Imperial China, London, 1979, p. 100

Lettering note

Bears Thomson's negative number: "668"


Wellcome Library no. 19579i

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