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Portraits of reform

Updated: 2013-01-04 10:25
By Lin Qi ( China Daily)

Portraits of reform

The gate of Li Ancestry Hall. David Crook

A British couple chronicled rural northern China with their camera between 1947-48. Lin Qi highlights some of the precious collection's best pictures.

In his autobiography Hampstead Heath to Tian An Men, British communist David Crook (1910-2000) described his eight-month stay with his wife Isabel in Shilidian (Ten Mile Inn), Hebei province, as "a time of enlightenment".

From November 1947 to June 1948, they carried out socio-anthropological field observations in the village in the Liberated Areas controlled by the Communist Party of China.

The materials they collected before and throughout the land reform process were later used to produce the books Revolution in a Chinese Village: Ten Mile Inn and Mass Movement in a Chinese Village: Ten Mile Inn.

They took about 700 black-and-white photos that recorded villagers' everyday lives. More than 20 of these were included in the books, while the rest were kept among the Crooks' family treasures and never shown to the public - until now.

The exhibition Rural North China 1947-1948 at Beijing's Taikang Space presents a selection of these photos, a turning point in China's modern history. Also on display are photos of the same period taken by military photographers Wu Qun (1923-96) and Gao Liang (1921-2006).

The juxtaposition prompts people to think about how the revolution of some six decades ago shaped the present, and how land continues to profoundly influence rural and urban life.

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