The Sino-Japanese Hostilities 1937; [together with:] The Sino-Japanese Hostilities Shanghai 1937. Index.

Shanghai & Wei-Hai-Wei: Ah Fong Photographer, 819 Nanking Road, Aug.-Nov. 1937 Stock Code: 111970
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First edition of the complete set of 200 silver gelatin photographs issued by the Ah Fong Photography Studio, recording the brutal siege and conquest of Shanghai by the Japanese at the opening of the Second Sino-Japanese War. Japan's failure to defeat China in this war became the key dynamic for what happened in Asia during the Second World War. In his award-winning study of the conflict - China's War with Japan, 1937-1945: The Struggle for Survival (2013) - Rana Mitter, Professor of the History and Politics of Modern China at the Institute for Chinese Studies at Oxford, refers to the Battle of Shanghai as turning "China's most open, lively and cosmopolitan centre... into a charnel house". Extremely uncommon, WorldCat records a copy with just 100 prints at Cornell, and another similar in the National Library of Australia, IWM have listings for three copies within individual archives, but none with an image count, the presence of the folded index mounted inside the front boards, rather than the loosely inserted stitched index as here, suggesting that they are copies of the shorter version. BL has a copy of the 200-item index in the India Office Collection.

Following the First Sino-Japanese War (1894-5) in which Japan had conquered and absorbed Manchuria into their empire, hostilities had sporadically flared and intensified in the region. After a number of provocations in the summer of 1937 Chiang Kai-shek's nationalist forces joined with the warlords of Hunan and Szechwan provinces to fight the Japanese. Chiang believed that attacks on Japanese naval installations and troops in and around Shanghai would force the hand of foreign powers to ally with China in the fight against Japan to protect their investments in southern China. The Nationalist Chinese managed to hold out for three months against ferocious bombardment by the Japanese from 'planes based in Taiwan, and ships on the Huangpu River. These attacks inflicted terrible casualties on the Chinese, eventually forcing them to retreat from Shanghai to Nanking under constant attack from Japanese reinforcements. The sometimes shockingly brutal images gathered here include a panorama of the Bund with the USS Augusta and HMS Cumberland in port evacuating foreign nationals, the burning of Chapei in October, 1937, Japanese Marines in action, casualties from the Pantheon Theatre, Chinese troops in combat with tanks, cremated bodies, corpses floating downstream, Chinese snipers, bombing on Paoshan Road, Markham Road, the burning of Chapei, Pootung, and Kiangwan, Japanese heavy bombers, Red Cross transporting the wounded, American Marines, the Japanese "Victory March" through the International Concession with the photos taken outside of the British Consulate.

The Ah Fong studio was established in Hong Kong in 1859 by Lai Afong, a commercial photographer who was trained by early western photographers in China. "The most significant Chinese photographer of the nineteenth century" (Terry Bennett in Hannay, Encyclopedia of Nineteenth Century Photography (p.815) Afong subsequently opened studios in Canton, Shanghai, and Wei-Hai-Wei, "gaining his success mainly in western community residing or travelling in China" (Shi Chen, Early Chinese Photographers from 1840 to 1870, University of Florida, 2009, p.7). It seems that the studio maintained its reputation when his son took over around the turn of the century.

An excellent copy of this extremely elusive and historically important publication.

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2 vols. (album & index), landscape octavo. Original black sand-grained cloth cord-backed binder, red silk tie, large gilt block to the front board showing Shanghai under assault by Japanese 'planes, ships and tanks, large images of bombs and shells superimposed on the silhouette of the skyline of the Bund; the 12-page index, stitched in printed grey wrappers, lettered in black on the front panel. Housed in a black flat-back cloth box by the Chelsea Bindery.


The first with 201 tipped-in silver gelatin photos, all numbered in white ink above the image keyed to the printed index, frontispiece photo (88 x 127 mm) of dead and burned soldiers unlisted in index, nearly all of the rest are 63 x 83 mm, a number of n


Album slightly rubbed, minor edge-wear, remains very good; index with soft crease to front panel of wrappers, minor toning to fore-edges, ownership inscription of "J. D. Willmouth, Shanghai, China, August, 1937 - January, 1938" to front panel.


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