This film is part of Free

Summer Palace Beijing and Tsientsin

Dancing bears and camels feature in views of Beijing's Summer Palace in the late 1920s filmed by an expat couple who are later seen enjoying a traditional Chinese meal.

Amateur film 1929 3 mins Silent

From the collection of:

Logo for Screen Archive South East


This film begins with a performing bear and a line of Bactrian camels before depicting scenes of Beijing's Summer Palace, Longevity Hill and Kunming Lake. The filmmaker's spouse, Charlotte Simpson, walks among buildings and sculptures before being seen enjoying a traditional Chinese meal. The film switches to a garden where the Simpsons and a colleague have fun enacting an award ceremony. The final shot shows a sign in Mandarin Baihua script advertising dyed fabrics.

William Simpson, who made this film, worked for the Bradford Dyers Association in Shanghai, at Number 1, The Bund. His wife Charlotte was born in China's Lushan mountains and she married William, who originally came from Bradford, in Shanghai's St Ignatius Roman Catholic Cathedral. The couple left Shanghai before the city was overrun by the Japanese Army and by 1938 had left China for good.