Somewhere in China

There's so much more to China than Western eyes usually see. Explore the country's giant interior in the footsteps of some of the early 20th century's more intrepid filmmakers.

China's vast interior remained largely unexplored and undocumented by British filmmakers well into the 20th century. The European concessions and colonies of the east coast - in Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong - were an irresistible lure for western visitors. This is a journey into deep and distant China, through extraordinarily diverse landscapes: towering mountains, expansive deserts and along 3000-mile rivers stretching halfway across Asia. It's a record produced by intrepid explorers, missionaries and travellers, who brought portable home-movie cameras to document their holidays, anthropological studies, humanitarian work or evangelical activism. The films showcase China's remarkable ethnic diversity, meeting Mongol, Miao, Nosu, Uyghur and Manchu minorities on journeys from Kashgar to Inner Mongolia, around Hunan and Sichuan Provinces, and deep into mountainous Yunnan Province, where centuries-old methods of farming and hunting still prevailed. On the way cities too, still uninfluenced by encroaching western modernity: Kunming, Chongqing, Suzhou, Hangzhou and Changsha. But in all of China's vastness, it's not possible to identify the source of these fascinating images. So much is still unknown.

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A Stilted City. Chungking. ChinaA Stilted City. Chungking. China

Travelogue19301 minsSilent Location: Chongqing

Life among the limpet-like buildings clinging to the steep banks of the Yangtze in southwest China.

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Amateur film193542 minsSilent

Mongolian men show off their prowess in wrestling, archery and horse racing, known as the “three manly games”.

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Homework and Street Scenes in ChinaHomework and Street Scenes in China

Travelogue19087 mins

Intimate vignettes of crafters, beggars and labourers in the workshops, on the streets and eating in the outdoor kitchens of imperial China.

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Among the Tribes in South-West ChinaAmong the Tribes in South-West China

Documentary194837 minsSilent

This alluring travelogue follows a missionary on his colourful journey into the ethnically diverse mountains of Yunnan, south west China.

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Rice Cultivation in the Si-kiang Delta, South ChinaRice Cultivation in the Si-kiang Delta, South China

Documentary19372 minsSilent

An exceptionally detailed look at the process of rice cultivation, from planting to harvesting to pounding, in the Xi Jiang Delta, Guangdong Province.

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An Oriental VeniceAn Oriental Venice

Travelogue19252 minsSilent Location: Hangzhou

Enjoy a cruise along the ancient canals of Zhejiang Province in eastern China with this gorgeous stencil-coloured travelogue

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Naval Life in ChinaNaval Life in China

Travelogue19084 minsSilent

The waterways of Imperial China are bursting with life in this French travelogue made in the final years of the Qing Dynasty.

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This Is ChinaThis Is China

Documentary19469 mins

Mesmerising snapshot of a China full of extreme contrasts: Nationalists versus Communists, urban versus rural, advanced versus primitive.

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The Bombing of CantonThe Bombing of Canton

Documentary19389 mins Location: Guangzhou

Harrowing footage of death and destruction in the aftermath of sustained Japanese bombing of the southern Chinese city.

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Scenes in ChinaScenes in China

Travelogue19025 minsSilent Location: Kunming

Five astonishing and intimate scenes recording the private lives of Kunming residents in the final years of China's Qing dynasty.

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Kashgar: 11Kashgar: 11

Amateur film19288 minsSilent Location: Kashgar

Actors in elaborate makeup and traditional costume - and a trained goat - perform for the camera in this rare glimpse of China’s westernmost city.

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Unidentified Chinese Men (c.1900)Unidentified Chinese Men (c.1900)

Non-Fiction19002 minsSilent

How did these Chinese gentlemen end up in a Blackburn basement?

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China TodayChina Today

Travelogue193658 minsSilent Location: Guangzhou

An epic amateur travelogue of eastern China on the cusp of Japanese invasion, filmed by British writer Lady Dorothea Hosie.

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A Small Town in ChinaA Small Town in China

Amateur film19339 minsSilent

Missionaries mingle with the locals in this intimate portrait of community life in an unidentified Chinese town.

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River Scenery ChinaRiver Scenery China

Travelogue19211 minsSilent

Beautiful panoramas of a busy Chinese wharf evoke the river life of yore.

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On the Heels of the 'Reds' On the Heels of the 'Reds'

Non-Fiction19271 minsSilent

Troops of infamous warlord General Tsung Chang occupy strategic points in Jiangsu Province on the eve of the Chinese Civil War.

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In China - A Trip on the Imperial CanalIn China - A Trip on the Imperial Canal

Documentary19089 mins Location: Shanghai

Take a cruise through imperial China on the world's longest man-made waterway, the Grand Canal.

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Snapshots of China: Shaoyang Hospital, HunanSnapshots of China: Shaoyang Hospital, Hunan

Amateur film194610 minsSilent Location: Shaoyang

Rare insight into the health work of Methodist missionaries in rural Shaoyang, Hunan Province, South Central China.

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A Visit to CantonA Visit to Canton

Amateur film193613 minsSilent Location: Guangzhou

A lively film showing the bustle of street and river traffic in Zhongshan, birthplace of China’s first president and founding father of the Republic.

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Kashgar 1926: Actors and SoldiersKashgar 1926: Actors and Soldiers

Amateur film19265 minsSilent Location: Kashgar

Rare scenes of outdoor theatre, traditional dress and military pomp in China’s westernmost city.

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Tai-ani: The West GateTai-ani: The West Gate

Non-Fiction19211 minsSilent

Could the hidden hand of a newsreel company be directing this procession of weary Chinese labourers?

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Kashgar Scenes - 1926Kashgar Scenes - 1926

Amateur film19264 minsSilent

A rare glimpse of life in and around China’s troubled westernmost city in the 1920s.

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A Visit to HunanA Visit to Hunan

Travelogue194650 minsSilent Location: Shaoyang

This engaging film documents the journey of a doctor sent by the Methodist Missionary Society across land and sea to rural Hunan Province.

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Chinese "Pedal" Water in Fight on DroughtChinese "Pedal" Water in Fight on Drought

Non-Fiction19281 minsSilent

Chinese farmers use pedal power to combat China's worst drought of the 20th century.

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Foo-chow, ChinaFoo-chow, China

Non-Fiction19212 minsSilent Location: Fuzhou

Bustling, fluttering and swaying – wonderful visual details of daily life in a street in Fuzhou (then Foo-chow), Fujian Province in South East China.

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China IIChina II

Amateur film193017 minsSilent

Unique footage, shot by Quaker missionaries, of Yangtze River life and landscape.

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Packing Pottery; Threshing; Camel Train - China C1932/33Packing Pottery; Threshing; Camel Train - China C1932/33

Amateur film19334 minsSilent Location: Shanghai

Enigmatic scenes shot by a retired British teacher touring China in the early 1930s.

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Village and River Scenes - China C1932/33Village and River Scenes - China C1932/33

Amateur film19324 minsSilent

Rural China seen through the lens of a British amateur filmmaker in the 1930s.

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Town, Country & Seaside Life Round about Swatow ChaochowfuTown, Country & Seaside Life Round about Swatow Chaochowfu

Amateur film193511 minsSilent Location: Shantou

An inquisitive amateur filmmaker captures a fascinating portmanteau of local industries in China's Guangdong Province.

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Travel Scenes in HunanTravel Scenes in Hunan

Travelogue193516 minsSilent Location: Shaoyang

Scenes in and around Shaoyang in South Central China are brought to life by mesmerising amateur photography.

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The Work of Evangelism in HunanThe Work of Evangelism in Hunan

Amateur film193515 minsSilent Location: Shaoyang

Religious rites and Christian activism in South Central China, seen through the eyes of Methodist missionaries.

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Scenes of Northern ChinaScenes of Northern China

Amateur film19404 minsSilent

Remarkable footage of a busy township market in a remote and impoverished area of north China seemingly untouched by the modern world.

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China (1942)China (1942)

Documentary19420 mins Location: Chongqing

Fascinating anti-Japanese, pro-Chinese wartime propaganda film.

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China IVChina IV

Amateur film193013 minsSilent Location: Shanghai

Unique record of a Quaker mission to China, containing precious footage of Shanghai street and river life.

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Aid to ChinaAid to China

Charity appeal19453 mins

Heart-rending British appeal film for funds to ease suffering of China's orphaned children and starving millions after Japanese invasion.

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Snapshots of China Evangelism, HunanSnapshots of China Evangelism, Hunan

Amateur film194615 minsSilent Location: Changsha

Home-movie footage of Methodist missionaries at work and prayer opens an intriguing window onto Chinese church life in Hunan Province.

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Shantou 1 c.1932Shantou 1 c.1932

Amateur film19322 minsSilent Location: Shantou

Captivating amateur shots of a family of carpet-makers in south-east China.

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Shantou, China c.1932Shantou, China c.1932

Amateur film193211 minsSilent Location: Hong Kong

Home-movie snapshots of life and work in Shantou in Guangdong Province, South China.

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Front Line of DemocracyFront Line of Democracy

Documentary194622 minsSilent

Colour picture of Christianity in pre-revolutionary China