Chinese merchant & wife [Burma]
Photographer: Watts and Skeen
Medium: Photographic print
Photograph from the Curzon Collection, of a Chinese merchant and his wife in Burma (Myanmar), taken by Watts and Skeen in the 1890s. This is a full-length studio portrait of the couple, who are seated in traditional costume at either side of a table on which rests an opium pipe. Chinese communities had existed for many centuries in rural Burma and were largely formed by migrants travelling overland from China into Burma along the north-eastern trade routes and rivers. The urban Chinese population of cities such as Rangoon (Yangon) originated largely during the colonial era when Chinese from the coastal provinces of China came by sea to work as merchants, among other professions. This photograph was most probably taken in Rangoon as it was the location of the firm’s studio. In 1891 the Imperial Gazetteer of India estimated the Chinese colony in Rangoon as approximately 8000 people, and this had increased to more than 11,000 by 1901.