Entitled in English The Snows of Others, a recent exhibition of photographs at the Millenium Museum in Beijing displayed over 100 images taken by various members of the Great St. Bernard Mission to Yunnan province. The time frame is set at between 1933 to 1952, (potentially) making for some interesting transitional historical documentation, although photographs of the late 1940s or the first years after the Liberation in 1949 regrettably were not on display.
From the introduction to the exhibition: " Between 1933 and 1952, the canons of the Great Saint Bernard sent four missions to Yunnan Province. the area extends from north to south, confined between the natural barriers of the Yangtze river, the Salween river and the Mekong river, from Yanjing (in Tibetan known as Yerkalo) to Weixi. The views offered by the three rivers, separated by mountains reaching heights of more than 4,500 meters, are unique.
During the mission's twenty years the canons took over the French Catholic fathers' mission stations. They built shelter, and began the construction of a hospice on the peak of Latsa, opening many schools, and in particular Hualuoba school. Most notably, the congregation of canons was able to enter an almost impenetrable universe of diverse ethnicities, religions, customs and traditions."
The materials presented in this exhibition (which opened on April 22 and closed on May 16, 2010) were selected from the mission's archives, which I was told hold several hundred photographs and films, a new medium introduced into the area which as yet is unexploited for scholarly purposes.
Visited with Tong Bingxue on May 16, the last day of the exhibition.
Thomas H. Hahn
© Thomas H. Hahn Docu-Images