John Chinaman in his shop in King's Bazaar, Mandalay
Photographer: Hooper, Willoughby Wallace (1837-1912)
Medium: Photographic print
Photograph of a Chinese man in his shop in the King's Bazaar in Mandalay, Burma (Myanmar), taken by Willoughby Wallace Hooper in 1886. The photograph is from a series documenting the Third Anglo-Burmese War (1885-86), published in 1887 as ‘Burmah: a series of one hundred photographs illustrating incidents connected with the British Expeditionary Force to that country, from the embarkation at Madras, 1st Nov, 1885, to the capture of King Theebaw, with many views of Mandalay and surrounding country, native life and industries’. Two editions were issued, one with albumen prints, one with autotypes, along with a set of lantern slides. Hooper made the series while serving as Provost Marshal with the British Expeditionary Force, which entered Mandalay, the Burmese royal capital, on 28 November 1885. The Burmese king, Thibaw (reigned 1878-1885) was deposed and exiled to India and a military occupation of the city began. The war culminated in the annexation of Upper Burma by the British on 1 January 1886. 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. The urban Chinese population of cities such as Mandalay originated during the colonial era when Chinese from the coastal provinces of China came by sea to work as merchants, among other professions. A caption by Hooper accompanies the photograph: “There are a great number of Chinamen in Mandalay…The Chinese quarter in Mandalay is near the King’s Bazaar, on the south side of B Road. This Bazaar was built by the King and rented from him for a large sum annually by Moollah Ismael, by whom it was sublet to the various stall and shopkeepers…The shop here shewn is that of a General Merchant, a dealer in all sorts of “Europe articles,” such as paper, pens, pencils, matches, candles, buttons, thread, and such like.” Hooper was a dedicated amateur photographer and his photographs of the war in Burma are considered “one of the most accomplished and comprehensive records of a nineteenth century military campaign”. The series is also notable for the political scandal which arose following allegations by a journalist that Hooper had acted sadistically in the process of photographing the execution by firing squad of Burmese rebels. The subsequent court of inquiry concluded that he had behaved in a “callous and indecorous” way and the affair raised issues of the ethical role of the photographer in documenting human suffering and the conduct of the British military during a colonial war.