Photographs from 1920s show one of the towns that became Wuhan
Wuhan…100 years before Covid: Fascinating black-and-white photographs from the 1920s show one of the three towns that would form Chinese city where the coronavirus pandemic began
- The images were taken in Hankow in the 1920s and 1930s by family of woman who lived there until 1937
- Hankow was merged with the towns of Wuchang and Hanyang in 1949 to form what is now Wuhan
- They show the region when it was home to five foreign concessions – hubs run by Western powers
A fascinating photo album showing one of the three towns which were merged in 1949 to form the Chinese city of Wuhan, where the coronavirus pandemic is believed to have begun, has gone on sale.
The images, which were taken in Hankow in the 1920s and 1930s, show the city when it was home to various ‘concessions’ of foreign control – including one belonging to what was then Great Britain.
Hankow was merged with the towns of Wuchang and Hanyang to form what is now Wuhan city, the capital of China’s Hubei province.
Among the images in the album are those of Hankow’s Customs House and Dazhimen train station, both of which are still standing in today’s Wuhan.
Also seen are thousands of Western and Chinese revellers at a racecourse, as well as a shot of locals pulling rickshaws down a street adorned with Chinese-language signs and shop fronts.
The black and white images of Hankow belonged to a woman who was brought up in China in the early 20th century.
The collection is being sold by her family through Chorley’s Auctioneers, in Cranham, Gloucestershire, on June 22 and is expected to fetch between £200 and £300 when it goes under the hammer.
Auctioneer Thomas Jennerfust said: ‘This album gives us a glimpse of life in 1920s Hankow, a town which later merged with others to form modern day Wuhan.
‘We see colonial buildings of the various foreign ‘concessions’, views of the Chinese City and racegoers crowding the racecourse and flooded streets, perhaps from the floods of 1931.’
It was in Wuhan where Covid-19 was first detected in December 2019, leading to Wuhan residents being the first people in the world to be subjected to a lockdown.
British intelligence officials now believe it is ‘feasible’ that the virus may have escaped from the city’s Wuhan Institute of Virology, a Chinese research facility where research into bat-derived coronaviruses is conducted.
A fascinating photo album showing one of the three towns which were merged in 1949 to form the Chinese city of Wuhan, where the coronavirus pandemic is believed to have begun, has gone on sale. The images, which were taken in Hankow in the 1920s, show the city when it was home to various foreign ‘concessions’ – including ones belonging to the United Kingdom. Among the images in the album is one of Hankow’s Customs House, which is still standing today
What was then Hankow’s Dazhimen train station and is now Wuhan’s rail hub is also seen in the stunning images. Hankow was merged with the towns of Wuchang and Hanyang to form what is now Wuhan city, the capital of China’s Hubei province
The black and white images of Hankow belonged to a woman who was brought up in China in the early 20th century. The collection is being sold by her family through Chorley’s Auctioneeers, in Cranham, Gloucestershire, on June 22 and is expected to fetch between £200 and £300 when it goes under the hammer. Pictured: What was then the headquarters of the Asiatic Petroleum Company – a joint venture between the Shell and Royal Dutch oil companies. The building is now The Lin Jiang Hotel
It was in Wuhan where Covid-19 was first detected in December 2019, leading to Wuhan residents being the first people in the world to be subjected to a lockdown. British intelligence officials now believe it is ‘feasible’ that the virus may have escaped from the city’s Wuhan Institute of Virology, a Chinese research facility where research into bat-derived coronaviruses is conducted
Hankow’s branch of the National City Bank of New York is also seen in the album. The City Bank of New York, which was founded in 1812, still exists today as global firm Citibank. Hankou became a base for foreign businesses when the 1858 treaties of Tianjin were signed between China, France and Great Britain
This image shows Hankow residents walking down a wide street. One man is seen carrying an object on his shoulders whilst he walks in front of what was then the French Banque de L’Indochine. France acquired its Concession in Hankow in 1896. Its bank financed its commercial interests in China in cities including Hong Kong and Shanghai
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Also seen are thousands of Western and Chinese revellers who had gathered to watch horses and their riders compete at what was then Hankow Race Club. Whilst some Chinese people are visible, there are also many Westerners, highlighting how Hankow was then a hub of foreign trade. Concessions were granted to British, French, German, Japanese and Russian interests between 1861 and 1896
Traditional Chinese buildings are seen in this image of Hankow. The exact date of when the photograph was taken is unclear, but it dates from the 1920s. The buildings have since been replaced by modern structures. Hankow was merged with Hanyang and Wuchang by the then newly formed People’s Republic of China in 1949
This stunning image shows the non-Western part of Hankow. Shop signs written in Mandarin are seen above dozens of residents, some of whom are pulling rickshaws. In 1911, the republican revolution which overthrew China’s last imperial dynasty was accidentally sparked in Hankow. The catalyst for the revolt was the accidental detonation of a bomb in Hankow’s Russian Concession. It blew up after a pro-republican revolutionary dropped a lit cigarette
Another image in the album shows a quiet street scene. Residents are seen walking past a building which is partially obscured by trees. One person is carrying a rolled up object. The accidental detonation of the bomb in Hankou led to the police being called. They in turn found documents implicating members of Wuchang’s Garrison of Chinese soldiers as revolutionaries who were about to mutiny. The rebels were then faced with a choice of arrest and probable death or putting up a fight. The choice of the latter led to the anti-Qing rebellion, which eventually ended the 267-year-old Qing Dynasty
The woman who owned the photograph album which shows Hankow was born in 1911 and educated in the UK before moving to China with her family. Her father worked as a tea taster in Hankow. The woman lived with her parents in the city until neighbouring Japan invaded China in 1937. Pictured: Hankow waterfront as it was in the 1920s
In 1931, a series of floods hit many of China’s cities, including Hankow. Estimates of the number of people who died range from 150,000 to more than two million. The above image shows the extent of the flooding in Hankow. Two people are seen in a boat daubed with the number 70. Behind them, a person is seen using a piece of wood balanced on their shoulders to carry items
A building flying what appears to be the Union Jack in Hankow is seen in the above image. Hankow was captured by revolutionary Kuomintang armies in December 1926 and the British concession in Hankow was occupied. It led to an agreement between Britain and China for the joint administration of the concession until 1929, when it formally came to an end
The Hankow (Wuhan) Bund – or waterfront – is one of the best-preserved from China’s colonial era. At around 2.5miles (4km), it is twice the size of the more famous Shanghai Bund. It remains host to the buildings which were home to the five different foreign concessions. Pictured: The Bund as it looked in the 1920s
The Hankow Bund has not survived in its entirety – parts have been replaced by modern buildings. The German and Japanese parts of it have been almost entirely destroyed or covered over. More remains of the British, French and Russian concession areas. Pictured: A ground view of the Bund in the 1920s
This image shows a Chinese policeman standing in the street in Hankow in front of another concession building. Behind him, rickshaws are seen making journeys as other pedestrians also walk past
The presence of the Western concessions meant that Christian churches also had a presence in Hankow. Pictured above is what was then Hankow Orthodox Church
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