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12021-02-03T12:53:51-05:00Nathaniel Isaacson9a313a8f88ba8c43c463465ac9070fc9a3b50539Spectators have gathered to take in the scene.Nathaniel Isaacson1plain2021-02-03T12:53:51-05:00Nathaniel Isaacson9a313a8f88ba8c43c463465ac9070fc9a3b50539
12019-11-18T15:49:56-05:00"Building Railroads" 興辦鐵路61Image and Descriptions of Wusong and Tianjin Railways from Dianshizhaiimage_header2021-09-29T16:10:54-04:00Shanghai31.2222, 121.4581Tianjin39.3333, 117.3333Beijing39.92284, 116.401201882-1884Dianshizhai HuabaoWu Youru 吳友如 (Zunyange zhuren 尊聞閣主人, ed.). 申江勝景圖 Shenjiang shengjing tu. Beijing : Quan guo tu shu guan wen xian suo wei fu zhi zhong xin, 2005．Wu Youru 吳友如 (Zunwenge zhuzhu. 尊聞閣主署, ed.). Dianshizhai huabao 點石齋畫報 Dianshizhai: 1884-1898. 24 Volumes.Li Siyi 李思逸. Tielu xiandai xing 鐵路現代性 (Railway Modernity in China). Taibei: Shibao chubanshe, 2020.Nathaniel IsaacsonDianshizhai huabaoTianjin Colliery TramwayWusong RailwayTianjin Railway
The Dianshizhai report on the Wusong and Tianjin railways, dating from roughly late 1884, was produced well after the railway had been scrapped and its stock shipped off to Taiwan. The Tianjin Colliery Tramway replaced mule-driven cars with a steam locomotive in 1882, but the railway would not extend beyond its nine kilometer length for another two years. It would appear however, that even a railway that was seven years defunct, or a railway that connected a mine to a canal were still seen as newsworthy. The presentation of both railroads as a single lithographic image freezes them outside of real space and time in order to present them as a spectacle. I examine the potential provenance of the image in the section on mediated worlds, but for now we shall merely note that the train depicted in this image is most likely not based on the actual Wusong or Tianjin railways.
The text of the image reads:
From the moment the Occident established international trade, western ways have been imitated, and this has increased to the present moment. When it comes to previous inventions, not all of them have been completely eliminated, thus new fashions arrive and times change, this is not another case of parochial ignorance of the past. During the Tongzhi reign (1861–75), train construction had already begun in Shanghai. The more than thirty li between Shanghai and Wusong could be covered in less than thirty minutes. Unfortunately, the line was scrapped, the capital to be invested in it, suddenly lost. This year, in the second half of May a report from Tianjin indicated that a railroad was to be constructed, and that the court had given its approval, a test line would go from the Taku forts to Tianjin. Then on June 23rd, the court promulgated a decree tasking Li Xiang with collecting funding for the construction of a railway from Tianjin to Tongzhou (outside Beijing). The train’s layout features a locomotive car at the front. This is followed by some which carry people, and some for transporting goods, it is capable of pulling ten or twenty cars. In the future, it will gradually expand, travelling throughout all the provinces. It will be like the ubiquity of telegraph lines, reliable throughout. I dare not relax my vigilance towards it.
A image and description of the railway also appeared in Wu Youru's illustrated guide to Shanghai, the Shenjiang shengjing tu (1884).
Wu Youru's series of rhyming couplets reads:
Only the strength of vehicles separates China from the barbarians. Manpower and horsepower both have their purposes. Since establishing connections with the Occident, its wonders have stood out. The speed of the electric locomotive is difficult to surpass. Swift as lightning, it moves with the speed of many steeds. It rides on the wind and signals with whistles. At stops along the way the whistle sounds out. For avoiding accidents, flags are employed. A great succession of containers one after another wind back and forth coming and going. When they have passed by the road is empty, a parallel track that meanders along. I have included a picture to facilitate discussion.
Notably, while the author of the Dianshizhai piece counsels vigilance towards the dangers of trains and railroads, there is little evidence here of cosmological suspicions of railways (which would surface later during the Boxer Rebellion). For those who scrapped the Wusong Railroad and the authors of these pieces, the primary concern would appear to be who built and owned the railroad, not superstitious beliefs about damage to local fengshui.