China in the late 1800s/early 1900s

My grandparents on my mother’s side were born and grew up in China. These photos are from the late 1800s or early 1900s. Their families were there as medical missionaries. My mom lived there until age five. There was a lot of lore about that time in my childhood. Now I love to see the photos of this lost world. I love to see the roads and buildings, the people going about their daily lives. Their faces, their clothes. What were they thinking, feeling?

My grandfather lived in China into his 30s. He loved the Chinese people and culture. He had a quiet nature and I think the Chinese culture was more real to him than that of Southern California, where he lived out the rest of his life. So much about my grandparents’ home was about China. Teak carven screens and chests everywhere, the house filled with the smell of the wood.

What’s the story in this photo? (above) Did the birds hang out on the boats to catch fish stirred up by river poles? The atmosphere entices my curiosity, as the people balance on their narrow boats. What would it be like, to feel a clear imperative each day, to engage with the elements, barefoot, surrounded by water, sky and the natural world, bringing home dinner?

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