Presbyterian Archives Research Centre

Photo Gallery No 9 :

"A Tour of Old Canton"


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Canton Map 4


Moving north, the Governor & Viceroy's compounds are located in lower centre with the Five Storied Pagoda on the city wall (outlined in dark ink) at upper centre. The White Cloud Hills rise to the north west of Canton City, partly indicated by the closely drawn contour lines.

"A Room Full of Genii"

Taken in 1913, this image shows idols removed from shrines and other sites in Canton.

"Idols gathered by the Canton Police in the yamen of the Commission of Education, from streets, shrines, gateways, etc."


A Room Full of Genii



After the Great Fire


"After the Great Fire"

Taken after the "Great Fire" in 1915, this image shows but a fraction of the devastating damage caused when 2,800 homes were burnt near 13th Street. Buildings and streets were built in very close proximity to each other and this offered almost no protection when a fire broke out.

"A Chinese Apothecary & Dentist Shop"

The items suspended on strings from the ceiling are teeth which were the trademark and advertising method of an old style Chinese Dentist. If a patient needed a tooth, the Dentist chose a suitable human tooth from his stock in trade and merely shaped it to fit the new owner. Chinese Dentists pulled teeth with their bare fingers requiring them to constantly keep their fingers in good tone. This photograph is attributed to Mr CR Hager of the Basel Mission and dated circa 1906.


Apothecary & Dentist Shop



Five Storied Pagoda


"Five Storied Pagoda"

A five-storied pagoda or "Zhenhai Tower" on Yeuxiu Hill at the north eastern side of what was part of the old city wall.

At 2metres high, it offered marvellous views of both the city and mountanous countryside. Built in 1380 by Zhu Liangzu during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) to flaunt his power and the obsession that "he was able to shake the seas and the mountains".

During its more than 600 year long history the tower has been destroyed and rebuilt five times. The tower now houses the City Museum with exhibits featuring the history of Guangzhou from Neolithic times to the early 20th century.

"A Grave in the White Cloud Mountains" :

Taken in 1910, this terraced grave, with others at far left, is located on a hillside in the White Cloud Mountains, 17 kilometres distant from Canton. The sloping hillside site exhibits classic Feng Shui planning, a sloping site being considered auspicious.


Grave, White Cloud Mountains



Canton Map 5


Finally, moving east and away from the old City wall, we can see indicated homes for the Blind, Old Women, and Old Men, with the "Depository of the Dead" being 'conveniently' located beside the latter. A road leads north east to a Leper Village, well away from the City centre, and the Pearl River appears again at bottom.

"A Room in the City of the Dead" :

Taken prior to 1913, this image shows a room in the large "City of the Dead", just outside the Canton City north gate. This is presumed to be the "Depository of the Dead" marked on the above map.

This "city" of dwellings included rooms for priests, overseers and servants, but also up to 200 rooms which provided a temporary dwelling for the dead until a lucky spot for a grave could be found on the hillside and a favourable day for burial. Rooms were furnished as befitted the status in life of the deceased, incense burnt, and with offerings of food and paper money being left by relatives. Servants kept the rooms clean and dusted and would receive money from visiting relatives of the deceased. A light would be lit every night to keep away evil spirits and guide the spirit if it chose to leave the coffin.


A Room in the City of the Dead



Votive Figures


"Votive Figures"

A row of votive figures or statues, possibly in a temple. Almost every home and business contained an 'idol' to keep away evil spirits and bring good luck.


"Chinese Temple, Canton"

An typical example of the style of decorative hipped roof atop most temples and family ancestral halls. Many such architectural elements were destroyed during the Cultural Revolution in 1966. This view of the temple is somewhat obscured by a temporary awning.


Chinese Temple, Canton



Girls at True Light Seminary


"Girls at True Light Seminary"

A hand tinted lantern slide of girls at the True Light Seminary in Canton. Note the girls at front with their croquet mallets.

Originally founded in 1872 by Miss Harriet Noyes as a school for orphan girls, and sponsored by the Foreign Missions Board of the American Presbyterian Church, it soon developed an outstanding reputation by producing some of the brightest young women students. Moving to Hong Kong in 1949, the school continues today as the True Light Middle School, catering for kindergarten to college ages.

"Police Boat, Canton" :

A hand tinted lantern slide of a police boat on the Pearl River at Canton, being powered by oars or with sail when the wind was favourable.


Police Boat, Canton


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