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Created 2-Mar-07
Modified 25-Sep-23
12 photos
The Manchurian (or Pneumonic) Plague, a fiasco in the history of public health in China, came at a time when the imperial court in Beijing was at its weakest and the Republican Revolution led by Sun Yat-sen hadn't occurred yet. With a mortality rate of almost 100%, it's outbreak would claim the life of ca. 45,000 to 60,000 residents of Harbin and environs.
Not only did the outbreak occur at a crucial moment in Chinese history, it also took place in a geopolitically highly contested area: Russia, Japan and China all lay claim to controlling this particular region. I recommend the work of William C. Summers and Mark Gamsa for further reading (for English-language materials).

These original photographs are of German provenance. I acquired them only recently. They are captioned "Die Pest in China 1911" (which does not require translation I believe). I assume they were taken some time between January and March, 1911. In my course on the History of Science in China (Cornell University, spring semester 2005) I used this subject matter as an assignment topic for my students.

Through the gracious generosity of Jim Roller, MD, I am able to include images of the commemorative medal presented to medical delegates to the International Plague Conference in Mukden (now Shenyang) in April 1911. This particular medal (extremely rare it appears) was of solid gold mined in Manchuria.

Historical photographs scanned with an Epson 4990 scanner at 400dpi to TIFF (color mode), converted to lossless JPG. No post-processing. Captions are mine (there were none with the originals). The gritty realism of these photographs certainly reflects the severity of the event.

Thomas H. Hahn, Ithaca/Beijing
Uploaded March 1, 2007
Updated May 8, 2007
The winter of 1910-11 in the city of HarbinCoffins stacked high in front of a mansionRussian doctors and medical personelExamining a patientRestricted area to quarantine citizensCollecting the dead ICollecting the dead IIPreparations to burn the coffinsBurning the coffins IBurning the coffins IIThe medal awarded in April 1911 to delegates to the International Plague Conference at Mukden -frontThe medal awarded in April 1911 to delegates to the International Plague Conference at Mukden - back