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The Towering Hua Ta Pagoda

TING SHING, DUTTON & MICHAELS. Flower Pagoda

Canton, 1863

Albumen print, mounted. 8 x 11 ¼ inches.

A fine early photograph of the towering Hua Ta or Flower Pagoda at Guangzhou’s most celebrated temple.

This is an excellent early photograph of the Hua Ta or Flower Pagoda, the most famous pagoda in Guangzhou, photographed by Ting Shing, Sylvester Dutton, and Vincent Michaels in 1863. Ting Shing, an equal partner in the Dutton & Michaels Studio was “perhaps the earliest commercial Chinese photographer working in Canton”  (Bennett, History… Chinese Photographers … 1844-1879, 118).

The Hua Ta or Flower Pagoda, named for its colorful exterior, is the focal point of the famous ancient Buddhist Temple of the Six Banyan Trees in Guangzhou, a renowned Buddhist cultural site. The beautiful octagonal pagoda originally constructed during the Liang period of the Southern Dynasty is regarded as symbol of the city. From the outside the pagoda appears to be nine stories high but there are seventeen levels inside. The interior of the pagoda is adorned with 1000 sculptures of Buddha.

In 1863 Dutton and Michaels came to China from San Francisco and opened up a photographic studio in Canton (Guangzhou) with the Chinese photographer Ting Shing. As Terry Bennett notes in History … 1861-1879 Dutton and Michaels were “fine, experienced photographers who, in the short time they were in China, produced work of the highest merit.”

This fine photograph shows three Chinese men seated in front of the picturesque ruins of the Hua Ta Pagoda, before the late Qing Dynasty restorations of the temple and grounds.

$2,000