'Beggars', c 1871.
© National Media Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
A photograph of three ragged Chinese beggars being spoken to by a fourth man, taken by John Thomson [1837-1921], published in 1873 in the book 'Foochow and the River Min'. China suffered economically during the nineteenth century as the Western nations made increasing inroads into the country. For example, after the Opium War of 1839 to 1842 China was forced to accept Fuzhou as a treaty port with a European settlement and trading centre established. Thomson travelled extensively in Fujian province, formerly Fukien, south east China, from late 1870 to early 1871. The book, 'Foochow and the River Min', records his journey up the River Min by boat from Fuzhou to Nanping, a distance of about 160 miles. Thomson was one of the most significant travel photographer-explorers of the nineteenth century.