Guangzhou Port Project is part of the project the Port and the Image: Documenting China’s Harbor Cities. It consists of two parts: photography work Wandering Through Guangzhou After 2000 Years by Wenjun Chen, and video work Three Foreigners Doing Business In Guangzhou by Yanmei Jiang. It is commissioned by the Chia Port Museum.
《漫游两千年后的广州港》 Wandering Through Guangzhou After 2000 Years
Guangzhou was one of the starting points for China’s ancient maritime silk road. In the Tang and Song dynasties, Guangzhou was China’s largest port, and in the Ming and Qing it was China’s only port open to foreign trade. The worlds silk, ceramics, tea, and handicrafts all passed through Guangzhou on their way to Europe, America, Japan, Korea, Southeast Asia, South Asia, Western Asia or Australia. The overseas market was particularly partial to export porcelain from the kilns in Guangdong, Fujian, Zhejiang, and Jiangxi, and a steady flow of ceramics went out across the “maritime silk road,” also known as the “maritime ceramic road,” to the rest of the world. Among this export porcelain was Guangdong’s “Canton ceramics,” which were white porcelain works fired in Jingdezhen that were then taken to Guangzhou and painted with images to match western tastes and cultural norms. These pieces were traditionally Chinese in style and technique with aesthetics that were exciting to a western audience. By using traditional Chinese motifs adopted to reflect western history, religion, mythology, and custom, Guangzhou’s export ceramics created a nuanced blend of Eastern and Western culture.
During the mid-19th century, at the same time when export porcelain was in vogue in Europe, photography began to spread across the continent. Photographers began to take advantage of the medium’s affinity for documentation as a new creative practice. When photography was introduced into Guangzhou, it too soon became a major medium of cultural exchange. Almost immediately after the end of the First Opium War, in 1844, a French customs official named Jules Itier began bringing photographic equipment into China. Itier lived in the 13th business district, and often liked to climb on to the roof of his building and take photos of the view to the south. After the Second Opium War, western photographers were granted the right to photograph within China. Beginning in Guangzhou and Shanghai, they began to open photo studios, and sell pictures and photographic supplies. As the market expanded, many Chinese citizens also began to enter the field of photography, ranging from the painter-turned-photographer Zhou Senfeng, to Zhang Laoqiu and Xie Fen who learned photography from working with soldiers from abroad. Many of them also went on to open studios in Hong Kong, Guangzhou, and Fuzhou.
As the modern port of Guangzhou developed with the city, the region began to grow. Along both banks of the Pearl River, ports began to pop up –Huangpu, Xinsha, and Nansha– carrying freight, passengers, entertainment and tourists throughout the region and bringing change with them. On one hand, “Wandering Through Guangzhou After 2000 years” begins with color-rich images that look back on Guangzhou’s history as an epicenter of commerce and cultural exchange. On the other hand, as the photographer wanders through Guangzhou’s historic ports, downtown, and new trade zones, he is able to record the changes that have occurred, and compare the city to how it first appeared in China’s early photographic history.
《三个在广州做生意的外国人》 Three Foreigners Doing Business In Guangzhou
According to “The History of the Port of Guangzhou,” Panyu (Guangzhou’s original name) began to grow as a port city in the Qin and Han dynasties (before Christ). As Guangzhou developed, it became China’s first real port city. During the Han dynasty, China’s foreign trade reached new heights, and ships from Guangzhou, Xuwen, and Hepu sailed toward South Asia, traversing the Indian ocean to form what was to become the Maritime Silk Road. This became a crucial element in establishing communication and exchange between the civilizations of the East and the West. From the Three Kingdoms period to the Sui dynasty, the international shipping industry began to develop; it was during the period that Guangzhou became the epicenter of all of China’s foreign trade. In the Tang dynasty, Guangzhou entered a new golden age. It blossomed into China’s largest port, and was one of the largest ports in the world at the time. Over this period, porcelain, silk, paper, copper, iron, gold, and silver all flowed out of Guangzhou as exports.
With more than 1000 years of trade history, business has become ingrained in Guangzhou’s culture. As one of the subjects of these photographs, Vasily Kalinin, put it:”When you meet people in Guangzhou they don’t ask you what you do, they ask you what kind of business you’re involved in.” Now, especially during the twice-yearly Canton Fair, business people from all around world make their way to Guangzhou to talk trade. Even normally during the year, there is a continuous stream of foreigners coming to Guangzhou for business. Goods from across the country are gathered together in Guangzhou, with every category of wholesale items piling up around the city as if it was one massive distribution center. A diverse array of faces, culture, and food all meet in Guangzhou, giving the city a unique flavor and a life of its own.
The three subject of my photographs are Vasily Kalinin, a Russian international student, Mauro Castellan , an Italian shoe entrepreneur, and Felly, an African businessman with an import-export company. They have lived in Guangzhou many years. One of them even lived in Guangzhou about 20 years. Through their eyes, I hope to understand Guangzhou as it is to them.
广州港计划在中国港口博物馆展览现场 Installation in China Port Museum：