Bodies and Structures 2.0: Deep-Mapping Modern East Asian History

The Mersey Tunnel - "A Train that Runs Under Water" 水底行车

The opening of the Mersey Tunnel, a railway tunnel connecting Liverpool and Wirral, in 1886, was another event that found its way from Western news sources into the pages of newspapers like Shenbao, and then into visual representation in Dianshizhai huabao. 

The text reads: 

England has built a railway beneath the Mersey River for trains to pass through. This has already appeared in Western newspapers, and it has been reported in translation in Shenbao by this very press. All who learn of it gasp at the marvel. From beginning to end, this project took much time; and workers were many. The path is twenty six English feet wide, and twenty three feet tall. Though a train can pass through it in under four minute’s time as the road is not particularly long, to this date it has taken fifteen or sixteen years of work to complete, and the labor of over three thousand workers. Such a precipitous moving of heaven and earth is unprecedented. From conception to planning then groundbreaking and completion took undeniable innovation and determination; it was no easy task. Yet, if we take this to be the pinnacle of Westerner’s talents, there superiority may not be so certain.

Chinese text:  

英國在沒爾河底凿成鐵路一條,行駛火車,已見之西國畫報, 即由該報譯登申報, 聞者莫不嘆為奇絕. 按此事自始以迄乎終, 有期也; 在工之人, 有數也. 路計英尺二丈六尺闊, 二丈三尺高. 以其開車經行不過四分鐘時計之, 此路當不甚長, 然為日則有十五六年之久, 做工則有三千人之多. 生吞活剝以闢天地間未有之奇, 由構思而創議而興作而成功, 則其堅忍不畏難之心確乎不可拔, 是為難能耳. 若以此事為極乎西人之靈敏而蓋其所長, 則恐未必然.

As the article notes, a very similar report on the tunnel opening appeared in Shenbao on April 30, 1886. News pieces of this nature, and other items appearing in Dianshizhai continued to be reprinted - either textually, or in the form of the entire lithographic image - for decades after Dianshizhai ceased publication. The ambivalence of the text shifts here from highlighting the dangers of railroads to questioning the timeline and overall value of the project. 

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