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Created 9-Dec-06
Modified 9-Dec-06
16 photos
The 15 most important photographs of the Yuanming yuan ever taken. Published by Teng Gu in 1933 under the title Yuanmingyuan Oushi gongdian canji 圓明園歐式宮殿殘蹟. Extremely rare item. Photographs scanned from my personal copy.

The preface of this little book mentions Ernst Ohlmer as the photographer who undertook this visual documentation of the remains of the Summer Palace around 1872, twelve years after its destruction by the allied forces of France and Britain. The original photographs are traceable into the 1930s, when they were still housed in a museum in the German town of Hildesheim (near Hannover). They seem to have survived unharmed over the decades, as earlier this year (May 2010), Taiwanese collector Qin Feng acquired them. A traveling exhibit of these (and more of Ohlmer's) images was put together in the summer of 2010, with stops in Beijing, Dongguan (Guangdong province), and other places.

On the subject of these highly important and interesting images see the thesis by Regine Thiriez: Barbarian lens: western photographers of the Qianlong emperor's European palaces (Amsterdam, Gordon and Breach, 1998).

Recently a documentary film on the Yuanming yuan was released in China which created quite a stir. Some of these photographs were featured in this film. And - somewhat in connection with the Beijing Olympics in 2008 - a very interesting discussion is "raging" about what to do with the architectural remains and the grounds of the Yuanming yuan Palaces: rebuilding and reconstructing them (the original plans and drawings still do exist), leaving the site as is, or developing it for a variety of purposes.

Uploaded December 2006.
Updated October 5, 2010.
Thomas H. Hahn, Ithaca, NY.