Projecting the road: Topological photography on the Yunnan-Burma frontier

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This article examines photography of the Sino-Burmese border at the turn of the twentieth century. Focusing on the road between Tengyue (Tengchong) in Yunnan and Bhamo in Burma, the article considers a photographic series by Albert Pichon of the Chinese Imperial Maritime Customs to explore how the frontier was perceived and understood in the context of imperial expansion, infrastructural transformation and foreign-mediated globalization. The Maritime Customs, at the frontier between Chinese and foreign power, had a key part in controlling and conceptualizing the borders of late Qing China. This article examines photography as a projection of the topological understanding of space within the Maritime Customs, in which frontier locations were seen as a ‘link in the chain’ and a ‘stage on the journey’.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)143-162
Number of pages20
JournalThe Chinese Historical Review
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 02 Nov 2018


  • China
  • Yunnan
  • photography
  • frontier
  • Tengyue
  • roads
  • Maritime Customs
  • Albert Pichon


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