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Old Kunming: A Chinese bride in 1902

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Editor's note: Every week for the remainder of 2008 GoKunming will publish photos from the collection of Auguste François (1857-1935), who served as French consul in south China between 1896 and 1904, during which he spent several years in Kunming. The photos have been provided by Kunming resident and private collector Yin Xiaojun (殷晓俊). GoKunming thanks Yin Xiaojun for providing us a glimpse of Kunming at the beginning of the 20th Century.

Year: 1902
Subject: Young woman in bridal attire
Location: Uncertain, maybe at Wang Zhi's second son's tanghui

The woman in this photo by Auguste François is believed to be around 16 years old and is likely the fiancée of wealthy Kunming banker Wang Zhi's second son. Her facial features are in line with what was popular in that day – a round face, small mouth and single-edged eylids (单眼皮). Her eyebrows have been plucked – most likely by entwining them with string and then ripping the hairs out.

A close look at her clothing elicits some interesting details. Her chest is covered with embroidered bats and her sleeves embroidered butterflies. In Chinese the character for fortune is , pronounced - both the bats and butterflies are symbols used in hope of bringing good fortune. 'Bat' in Chinese is bīanfú (蝙蝠), and butterfly is húdíe (蝴蝶), which pronounced in the Kunming dialect sounds like 'fúdíe'.

The bride-to-be's lower layer of clothing is typical of Guizhou nobility 100 years ago, suggesting that the marriage was arranged between two powerful families.

Related articles:

Kunming Opera: Where the men were men – and the women were men too

Auguste François, Yin Xiaojun and Kunming at the end of the Qing Dynasty

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