"The San t'ah or three pagodas The small pagodas are seven-sided, about 7 feet wide on every side."
For the next several months GoKunming will publish a series of articles featuring photography by Joseph Francis Charles Rock, the Austrian-American author, geographer, linguist and botanist who explored western China extensively in the 1920s and 30s. We'll begin in southern Yunnan and then make our way north and then west, seeing what caught Rock's fancy as he moved through the countryside.
Rock's photo titles are often extremely brief, so, wherever possible we will include his field notes or parts of corresponding diary entries under each image. We first went to Simao (思茅) — today called Pu'er (普洱). Our second destination is Yunnan's Dali (大理), a city today synonymous with tourism. Rock visited the region in April and May of 1922, taking pictures of street scenes, people, an annual fair and the gorgeous surrounding landscape and buildings.
Rock's photo titles and descriptions use a Romanization system he possibly invented on his own. For instance, he often writes 'Dali' as 'Talifu', while in other places the names are inconsistently spelled. We can forgive him, as his photos provide an amazing view of southwest China as it existed 90 years ago. The pictures and text are published here unaltered, with special thanks to the Arnold Arboretum Horticultural Library at Harvard University for graciously allowing us to use them. An enormous collection of Rock's China photos are available at Harvard's Visual Information Access database.
"Tsangshan mountain range as seen from the Tali bell tower, inner gate. The Mohammedan mosque in foreground."
"Image of the famous General Yang of Talifu in the temple of Kuan. Halfway between Hsai Kuan and Talifu."
"The Tsangshan range back of Tali, from the parade grounds."
"The main street of Talifu looking towards the north gate."
"The Talifu Fair held once a year on the plain of Talifu."
"The west gate of Talifu with the Tsangshan range in the background."
"The dragon king of Erh hai Lake in a temple near the lake. E. of Talifu, Yunnan, China."
"A fishing boat with cormorant fishing birds on Lake Erh hai."
"The city of Talifu and Erh hai as seen from Chung Ho shan Temple."
"Three soldiers, part of my escort from Meng Hua Ting to Talifu."
"The Tangli and Haitung li pears grown at Haitung on Lake Erh Ha."
"The Temple on Erh hai Lake. Talifu, Yunnan, China."
"The Tsangshan range as seen from my camping place, the military parade ground. The Tali bell tower is seen to the right."
"The large pagoda of the San Tah ssu, 3 li from Tali."
"Wu hoa lu, the bell tower of Talifu. It is the inner gate of Tali leading in to the main street."
"The Siamese crowd who went with me from Chiengmai to Talifu."
"Two of the San t'ah or three pagodas."
"People at the Tali fair held on the plain and lower slope of the Tsangshan range, outside the west gate of Talifu."
"Abies Delavayi and Rhododendron sp? China, (Yunnan). Near our camp on Mt. Tsangshan. The walls of a high cliff with Abies Delavayi in the background and Rhododendron sp? in foreground in snow."