This film is part of Free

Visit to China

This stunning colour film features the only known pre-war footage of Seoul as well as Beijing, the Great Wall, the Marco Polo Bridge and many other famous landmarks.

Amateur film 1938 30 mins Silent

From the collection of:

Logo for Screen Archive South East


This astonishing colour film features many of China's cultural treasures including Beijing's Forbidden City and Summer Palace, the Temple of Heaven, the Ming Tombs, the Marco Polo Bridge, the Great Wall and the palaces of Chengde as well as amazing footage of Seoul. Life on the streets under Japanese occupation is also captured. Many activities are seen including markets, rickshaws, street children, a funeral and hundreds of camels and donkeys carrying heavy loads.

Tor H. Wistrand, who filmed these scenes, was a Swedish diplomat who was able to visit parts of China which had fallen under Japanese control. His visit to the Marco Polo Bridge was especially significant as it was the location for a notorious incident which occurred on the 7th July 1937 - an event that triggered the outbreak of total war between China and Japan. The capture of this bridge cut communications between Beijing and Kuomintang-held areas to the south and the city fell to the Japanese not long afterwards. The few visitors to the Forbidden City, as seen in this film, contrasts sharply with the current experience - where it's estimated that 7 million people visit the Imperial Palace complex each year.