Black and white photograph showing a close-up of a boy child in a striped shirt. His head is shaved except for a knot of hair on his forehead. He is seated between the knees of an adult.
The young child's topknot tied with auspicious red string points toward heaven, much like a Daoist's hat, and was thought to provide protection from illness and evil. This photograph was taken by Hedda Morrison during a trip to the 'Lost Tribe Country' in 1936. In 'Travels of a photographer in China' (p. 75), Hedda Morrison wrote: 'This is an area of the further Western Hills about 160 kilometres from Peking lying up against a spur of the Great Wall in the vicinity of Ta Lung Men, the Great Dragon Gate. 'Lost Tribe' is not the translation of a Chinese term but one given it by foreigners. Despite its romantic title the Lost Tribe Country is in reality a poor hill area inhabited by descendants of seventeenth-century rebels. These were part of a force led by a Shensi man called Li Tzu Ch'eng who in 1644 succeeded in capturing Peking while the main imperial forces were opposing the Manchus further north. When the rebels took the city, the last Ming emperor committed suicide on Coal Hill. Li's success was short-lived, however, for the Ming commander-in-chief, Wu San Kuei, then threw in his lot with the Manchus. Peking was quickly recaptured and Li's army dispersed. A group of his followers who had fled to the Western Hills later made their submission to the Manchus and were allowed to settle in the Lost Tribe country. They were not permitted to move and their descendants had been there ever since. I became interested in their history and in reports that the people still followed customs which had died out elsewhere'.
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 'Peking: 1933-1946 - A photographic impression', Menzies Library, Australian National University, 17-30 June 1967. Reproduced in Hedda Morrison, 'Travels of a photographer in China', Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1987, p. 92, with the caption: 'Young boy'.
Gift of Mr Alastair Morrison, 1992