Black and white photograph showing a young boy balancing on a stool with a tier of bowls on his head. A crowd behind looks on.
This photograph was taken at Sanjiaodi, a small triangular-shaped area within the Tianqiao market. Sanjiaodi was formed in 1915 and was a place where acrobats, street traders and entertainers performing popular talking and singing routines congregated. After 1956 it gradually became a public housing area. Performances like this attracted large crowds of visitors and locals who would ogle at freaks, animals, strong men and people performing extraordinary feats. This photograph is typical of many of the images of China taken by Europeans in the 1800s, which emphasised the sensational and the bizarre. To their intended audiences such images were entertaining and shocking and conveyed the exotic 'otherness' of Chinese society. In 'A photographer in Old Peking' (p. 158), Hedda Morrison wrote that these days 'Chinese acrobatics and juggling are world-famous but they are descended from an ancient form of popular entertainment which was always seen at T'ien Ch'iao during holidays and festivals. Children started to train in these skills almost as soon as they could walk'.
This is one of a large number of photographs that were taken by Hedda Morrison (1908-1991) during her years of residence in Peking (Beijing), China 1933-1946.
Exhibited in 'An Asian experience: 1933-67', organised by the Asian Studies Association of Australia, Fisher Library Foyer, University of Sydney, 12-30 May 1986. Reproduced in Hedda Morrison, 'A photographer in Old Peking', Hong Kong, Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1985, p. 158, with the caption: 'Nowadays Chinese acrobatics and juggling are world-famous but they are descended from an ancient form of popular entertainment which was always seen at T'ien Ch'iao during holidays and festivals. Children started to train in these skills almost as soon as they could walk'.
Gift of Mr Alastair Morrison, 1992