photos and stories from the Powerhouse Museum
This photograph of a Hong-Kong school-boy was taken by John Thomson and published in Volume 1 of China and Its People in 1874. Western schools were set up across China by the Christian missions and at the time Thomson was writing about 20,000 boys [no girls appear to have been included] were enrolled. Schools were an integral part of the colonial project as central to education program was training the local population to be interpreters, compradores [a go-between with local knowledge], treasurers, or clerks.
Thomson was also keen to point out how these school-boys, even with the disadvantage of not having to learn English, were able to keep up with Western children for whom English was their native tongue. In addition to the school in Hong-Kong there was a foreign language and science school under the supervision of Dr. Martin in Beijing and a engineering and naval architecture school at Fuzhou.
Photography by John Thomson
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Post by Geoff Barker, Assistant Curator