Through the Eye of a Master Photographer (II) - 1949 the Historical Year of Liberation

"Jubilation" would hardly seem like the correct word to describe the mood of the masses when Mao Zedong's Red Army marched into the Teochew region in 1949. After all the Teochews are a people known above all for their business acumen and the chief port Swatow was China's shining model of capitalistic and modern progress in the 1930s.

Yet beaming jubilation was the very emotion shown on many faces captured by the camera of photographer Hang Tsi-kuang (Han Zhiguang 韓志光, right) in the historical year of liberation. Gripped by intense fear for their livelihood as the value of the money in their pockets plummeted each day under the Kuomintang government, hope was all the common people looked for. In their eyes the triumphant entry of the communists was not the takeover of a peasant army, but about them becoming part of an army of peasants to change the world order.

Expectant faces, Swatow 汕頭

The masses rally in days after liberation, Swatow 汕頭


An open parade at Zhongshan Park 中山公園, Swatow 汕頭


Painting the town red, Swatow 汕頭

Celebrating through the night, Swatow 汕頭


"Liberation Cup" basketball contest , Swatow 汕頭


When people hold future in their hands, Swatow 汕頭
In contrast to disorder and uncertainty that are the impressions from Han Tsi-kuang's photographs taken only in 1948, those he later took in 1950 can be seen to speak of unity and single-mindedness of the people. Is this story his pictures told, or are those images from a story he wished to tell? 

The fishing boats return, Teo-yor 潮陽


A bountiful catch, Hai-mung in Teo-yor county 潮陽海門


Transporting sugarcane, Lau-sua, Pholeng county 普寧流沙


"No one sells sugarcane here", "old liberated territory" in Gek-sai 揭西
Pulling in the nets, Namoa 南澳


Seen all in the sea of life, Namoa 南澳
This was a group photograph of the chairpersons of the 1st Swatow People's Representatives Assembly in March 1950, taken by Han Tsi-kuang's studio Lidou 麗都. Like many of his contemporaries, Han Tsi-kuang devoted himself to his profession in simple belief that a new China was being built by their hands. What the future beheld, they could not imagine.
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Comment on this post (1 comment)

  • C says...

    No one looks happy at all in any of the pictures, especially the top photo that’s captioned so called “expectant faces”, everyone looks frightened.

    May 25, 2016

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