Two friends in Tsingtao (Qingdao), China

This portrait was probably taken in the 1920s (see comment by my dream walden below).  The sitters aren’t identified.  They’re dressed identically, but I don’t know if their clothing can tell us anything about them.

A stamp on the mat below the photo tells us the studio belonged to a photographer named Hanson:

Two men in Tsing Tao by Hanson 3

The mat has an appealing design:

Two men in Tsing Tao by Hanson 2


Once again, I hope my readers will have more insights than I do!


36 thoughts on “Two friends in Tsingtao (Qingdao), China

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  1. I googled the Chinese characters “鴻新”, Hanson was a photo studio at Tsingtao “青島”. “中山路” is the name of the road. The studio opened in 1920s and was merged with another studio in the 1950s. That’s all I know.

    Liked by 7 people

    1. That’s great information, Lin, thank you! I was hoping you’d see this photo and comment on it. I hardly ever see old photos from China for sale here in the USA, so I was lucky to get this one. I’ll update the post with the information you found about the 1920s, which is probably when this photo was taken.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. I wonder how the photo ended up in the USA and the journey it’s been through, think about all the stories behind the photos you collect. In my google search, I found a book on the history of photo studios in China from 1859-1956, there is a picture of the Hanson Studio and its business card. If you are interested, I can send you the link.

        Liked by 4 people

      2. Oh yes, please put the link into a comment. I’ve never tried to research a photo from China before. The dealer in Texas who sold me this told me she thought it had come from the estate of a British family who had lived in China for 25 years. That doesn’t really tell us anything, and anyway, you have to take such information with a grain of salt.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. They wear “Chang shan” (长衫) in Chinese, which is the type of clothing for man originated in Qing Dynasty (清朝,the last dynasty in Chinese history). To me they seem to come from a relatively wealthy family/families. One of the men places a book on his lap indicating that he’s well-educated. Very interesting photo!

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Thanks so much, Isabelle! I agree completely that they look wealthy and well-educated. Maybe they decided to have their portrait taken after completing their studies. Educated young men probably went into teaching, or government work, or maybe the law. I wonder what became of them in the tumultuous decades of the 1930s-1950s.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Oh yes that turbulent period of WW2. They might have gone to the war, I read somewhere saying that even young men from wealthy families went to the war to defend their homeland. Good to have a chat 😊

        Liked by 2 people

  3. The photo reminds me of my search for old photos in the HONG KONG antique district. There were very few; most were copies of old photos. And reproductions of antiques with real antique prices. Definitely no longer the place to find rare Chinese antiques. Perhaps the interior of China is a better place to look but I haven’t been there.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Wow, Linda, you get around! I’ve never been to China. Chinese antiques have become very expensive everywhere, as you know. I don’t look for them at auction but do see them occasionally. Even smaller local auction houses often have phone bidders from China now.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. My experience with searching for vintage photos in Japan and finding very few leads me to think the climate in parts of that country is inhospitable to paper photos. Possibly true also in China? But I also wonder if people in Asia are simply more likely to treasure their ancestors’ photos, for cultural reasons, than we are in America.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. That’s a really interesting question, Shayne. In China, it may be that not very many old photos survived invasion (1931), world war and communist revolution. If relatively few survived, they would be treasured for their historical value. In both China and Japan, people may have a greater respect for their history in general than we tend to have in the United States, in addition to reverence felt toward ancestors.

        Liked by 3 people

      1. Brad, I love history and the way photography can give a historical story new dimension. That said you have to write about what fascinates you, don’t you? And for me, it’s the history of crime. There are lots of mugshots for sale on eBay but I’m very selective!

        Liked by 2 people

  4. This is a lovely photo, Brad. A few thoughts. One is the painted backdrop – at the bottom right it looks to me like part of a dragon (but it might be something else), maybe with a flower above it. Then, I think these young men are, as has been said, from a wealthy family – simply because they do not have the hands of working people, definitely not labourers or farmers, for instance. And my other thought is the angle of shot: the camera is level directly with the sitting man’s eyes, and his companion is looking down at it. So I’d say that of the two young men, the sitting one is the main subject.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Excellent observations! I hadn’t paid much attention to the backdrop, but I bet you’re right about the dragon. And their hands definitely look like the hands of scholars. As far as the man who is seated closer being the main subject, that’s something to think about. In an American or European portrait from this period, I’m not sure that would be true, unless you had an older family member seated in the center (say, a grandparent). In this portrait, the identical clothing tells us the two young men have roughly equal social status. But your point is a good one and definitely worth considering. Maybe it was the family of the young man in front who commissioned the portrait.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. I too really like the logo and design of the cardboard frame. The flowers look very Art Nouveau to me which I think was popular in the west in the pre WWI years (1890-1910). The way the logo is made reminds me of posters of that period too, maybe stretching art deco design. At. First i thought the seated gentleman was older because of his higher forehead, but on closer inspection they both look quite young. Maybe two brothers, on the occasion of the older one’s graduation?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I wondered if they might be brothers or cousins, but I really don’t see a resemblance. Of course, cousins often look nothing like each other. By the way, I’m still working on identifying the Quaker relief workers in Metz, and have succeeded in identifying two of them with a high degree of certainty. I’ll leave a new comment on that post when I update it!

      Liked by 2 people

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