This film is part of Free

Scenes in China

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

Travelogue 1902 5 mins Silent


This remarkable record of Kunming, regional capital of Yunnan Province, southwest China, was shot by French consul and hobbyist filmmaker Auguste François in the dying years of the Qing dynasty. The five astonishing, intimate scenes show a bustling market by the city wall, a rabble of Miao soldiers training, a wealthy couple dining, lounging opium smokers and an opera performed at a private party.

Auguste François served as French consul in south China between 1896 and 1904, where he earned the moniker 'the White Mandarin'. During his time as a government official, François took thousands of photographs and shot some 40 minutes of film documenting life in the late Qing dynasty. His position gave him access to aspects of Chinese society and subjects which would have eluded visiting cameramen. This fragment was donated to the BFI National Archive as part of the collection of a Swiss Jesuit priest, Abbé Joye, who would have used the material for teaching purposes.