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Old Kunming: Gateway of the Emerald Chicken

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Editor's note: GoKunming is publishing 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 Yunnan at the beginning of the 20th Century.

Year: 1900
Subject: Biji Fang (碧鸡坊), or 'Emerald Chicken Gateway'
Location: Present-day Jinma Biji Fang (金马碧鸡坊), Jinbi Lu


This 108 year-old photo is taken facing westward toward Jinma Biji Fang, which is a popular place for tourists to take their photos with the two large paifang (牌坊, gateways), one named 'Golden Horse' (金马, jinma) the other 'Emerald Chicken' (碧鸡, biji) that are said to represent mountains to the east and west of the city, as well as sun and moon deities.

This above photograph of the Biji gateway shows the original Biji structure, nearly half a century before it was destroyed, along with the Jinma gateway, in World War II. New gateways built to the same dimensions as the originals were built in the 1960s.

Aside from the original structures being destroyed, another major difference between now and then is that homes and shops were built right up to the gateways, whereas today the area around the gateways is a large commercial plaza (see image below) with a labyrinth of discos and clubs.

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