The photographs of Beijing in this exhibition were taken in 1901 and 1902 shortly after the end of the Boxer Uprising 義和團運動. They come from an album in the possession of Svetlana Paichadze, assistant professor at Hokkaido University. Although we cannot identify the photographer, it is very likely that the photographs were taken by representatives of the Russian legation in Beijing or someone from the military sent to China in 1900 to suppress the Uprising.
Svetlana Paichadze grew up in Khabarovsk, a city in the Russian Far East, 30 kilometres away from the Chinese border. Her father, S. A. Paichadze studied the history of Russian books in China, Korea and Japan. Svetlana developed a strong interest in Japanese culture at a young age. At twelve years old she met historian Yu. V. Maretin when he came to Khabarovsk for a conference about the Amur Region and its famous Russian explorer, V. K. Arseniev. Maretin specialised in the history of Indonesia and China and was also the head of the Asian and African literature department of the Saltykov-Shchedrin State Public Library and one of the most important bibliophiles in Leningrad (St Petersburg). Impressed with Svetlana’s strong interest in East Asia, Maretin presented her with the photo album of Beijing in 1902 with the words “from the present to the future researcher of East Asia.” Svetlana has always treated the album as a talisman which has accompanied her throughout her academic journeys as well as her move from Russia to Japan. Hidden for decades, the album received new attention when Shuge Wei, a historian of modern China at ANU, saw the great value in it during her visit to the Hokkaido University in 2016 and encouraged Svetlana to share the photographs with a wider community.