This film is part of Free

Homework and Street Scenes in China

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

Travelogue 1908 7 mins


These intimate vignettes of artisans, vagrants and labourers ('coolies') at work, begging and queuing for meals at an outdoor kitchen are an astonishing record of life in late Qing-dynasty China. The close-up portraits of work, hairdressing and eating are sensitive studies: a seamstress quietly embroiders; artisans craft lanterns; a barber styles a 'Manchu queue'; and a little lad sups his soup.

Until the Xinhai Revolution overthrew Qing imperial rule, the 'Manchu queue' - a long plait at the back with the forehead shaved - was a hairstyle imposed on all Chinese men, with charges of treason levied at non-conformists. This is one of two examples in this collection that feature the hairstyle being barbered - see also Modern China (1910).