Cameras of China

Now this is wonderful! Who would have thought that there's actually someone not just interested but also collecting Chinese rangefinder cameras! This is a 2004 article from the Shanghai Star, written by Li Jian, and copied from the China Daily website.
The dream of writing a book on the cameras of China has been rooted in Zhao Zhenxin's heart for 20 years. He aimed to record the history of Chinese cameras before the old cameras and their manufacturers disappeared completely.

Zhao Zhenxin.

To realize his dream, the 56-year-old has spent the past two decades searching out cameras manufactured all over the country.

Zhao has collected more than 300 cameras in different categories which were manufactured in China from the 1900s to the 1990s.

The Chinese Camera History Museum, as Zhao named his office, boasts abundant research materials on Chinese cameras.

The museum is nothing more than a little apartment on the first floor of a building in a run-down residential area in Shanghai.

Zhao bought the apartment in 2000 and converted the biggest room into the exhibition room for his precious cameras. Admission is free.

The smaller room was occupied by computers, piles of documents and books on photographing and cameras.

Nobody is likely to pay attention to the brown weather-beaten apartment. What distinguishes the little museum from the other old houses around is a board marked with its name and its collection of more than 300 cameras.

Rich collection
The earliest camera in Zhao's collection dates back to the early 1990s, but no record of the camera's specific history remains.

The small black box was believed to be one of the earliest cameras made in China, with a tiny lens and an iron rod serving as the shutter.

It used special film, smaller then the ordinary type and believed to be no longer obtainable.

The Shanghai 58-1 was another precious item. This hand-made camera, costing US$10,000, was one of the few Chinese-made models which could compete with its counterparts from other parts of the world.

"The old cameras recorded the history of China's industry and technology. Each camera has a story behind it," said Zhao.

Apart from the cameras, Zhao also collected many precious camera accessories such as the light meters from different times.

Zhao's collection and his research into cameras began with his experience of taking photos for his son.

He had to borrow a camera every month to take photos of his new born child. Cameras were regarded as luxurious possessions in China at that time.

Expensive hobby
He gradually became addicted to photography and craved his own camera. He spent a lot of time window-shopping in camera shops and second-hand goods stores for a camera he could afford.

He intended to buy an imported camera but the prices were too high since his monthly wages only amounted to 30 yuan (US$3.60) at that time.

He encountered a military officer in a second-hand goods shop who was trying to sell his camera, a German-made Leica.

Zhao bought the cameras for 70 yuan (US$8.50), spending all of his family savings.

The camera needed repairing, a complicated task for Zhao. Zhao's leisure time was completely consumed by the piles of camera parts, books on cameras and paying visits to experts. The camera was restored to working condition after a year's patient efforts.

Zhao interest in cameras blossomed following this experience.

His family often found him in camera shops, second-hand shops or recycling stations.

He also placed advertisements in newspapers looking for old cameras from all over the country.

As a salesman, he had the opportunity to travel to different places, where he could collect the cameras manufactured by local factories.

Idea for a book
It was Douglas St. Denny who gave Zhao his great inspiration. St. Denny wrote the first book on Chinese cameras in the 1980s.

Zhao was shocked to learn that the only history of Chinese cameras had been written by a foreigner.

The idea of writing a better book on Chinese cameras came to him when he found out there were a lot of mistakes in St. Denny's book.

He devoted himself even more whole-heartedly to the collection of old Chinese cameras, especially those made during the 1960s and 1970s, as well as those made before 1949, which were seldom mentioned in St. Denny's book.

Most of the Chinese cameras were the copies of foreign cameras. For example, Leica cameras from Germany and Sports cameras from the former Soviet Union were frequently copied.

The small number of each model meant finding an example was often difficult. Most had not been made for sale, and they had often been treated negligently.

Almost all of the 40-odd camera manufacturers had disappeared, with only two remaining in Shanghai. Zhao paid visits to many local manufacturers, only to find the old factories leveled to ground.

It was also hard to obtain information, with the manufacturers rarely welcoming his visits. A large proportion of Zhao's cameras were unaccompanied by fundamental information, lacking even a manufacturing date or address.

"It was the responsibility of the cameras to build a museum. But I shouldered it myself on behalf of the manufacturers, even the country. They thought it was my responsibility to do it," complained Zhao.

Zhao did not receive any financial support from the manufacturers, except for the occasional old camera.

In 1995, Zhao changed his job to international trade, achieving success that provided him with a more solid financial basis for his hobby.

Overseas interest
He bought an apartment near the downtown to use as his museum and display his collection. The museum opened to the public in 2001 and has developed into one the biggest museums featuring old Chinese cameras.

What surprised Zhao was that the number of foreigners was larger than that of Chinese. Many of these foreign visitors were even familiar with Chinese cameras.

Yet Zhao found it hard to manage the museum on his own. It also proved quite expensive.

"Although my camera collection has cost most of my savings, my family stands by me," said Zhao.

His son, a computer programmer, built a web site for his father to help the museum expand its collection.

"It is impossible for a single individual to collect all the kinds of Chinese cameras along with the relevant information unless the government provides some support," Zhao said.

"The cameras are not only the tools of photographers and the possessions of collectors but also a witness of the development of the national camera industry."

Zhao said he would donate all his collections to the museum once it was built.

Zhao has now begun to write his book, "Cameras of China", on the basis of his abundant collection and accumulated knowledge.

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Who were Hunnu?

Interesting article from a Mongolian website that hasn't been updated in 3 years. The direct link to the article is Who were Hunnu?
Who were Hunnu?

For many decades the study of ancient history of Mongols was subject to ideological directives and politics. And therefore, with the removal of political and ideological restraints after political reforms of 1990, archeology now experiences a boom.

One of the hottest areas is the history of Hunnu, a nomadic tribe that ruled the vast stretches of Central Asian steppes and forced China to go into extreme effort of building the Great China wall in attempt to protect against devastating raids.

The name of Atilla, the Hunnu king who led his men all the way to the walls of Rome and destroyed it to the horror of the Europe an nations probably rings a bell.

Hunnus become known around I-III centuries B.C., around the time armies of Greek Alexander the Great launched their offense against Persia and India.

The Hunnu kingdom stretched from Baikal Lake in the north to Great Chinese Wall in south, from Yellow Sea to the oases of Central Asia.

The state, ruled by a king or Shanyu elected by assembly of all tribe chieftains- khurultai, was built on the principle of military democracy under which all the nomadic herders were warriors and subjects at the same time.

Chinese historical records noted that each autumn all men and cattle were counted to decide the amount of taxes and army subscripts.

Hunnu army was based on decimal system and was well armed. Rock paintings from that period depict armored knights and horses protected with aprons embroidered with metal plates.

Hunnu domesticated various animals including camels and grew crops. Inside graveyards corn grindstone and parts of plough prove that their grew crops.

Hunnu knew metal works as the amazing number variety of their arms suggest. Each and very Hunnu warrior had various arms for close and distance combat. Plenty of bronze and potter kitchenware proves that Hunnu had well developed craftsmen.

The decline of Hunnu empire began in the first century B.C. starting from the rivalry of two princes, Huhan’e and Zhizhi. After several major battles the younger brother fled, leading his men to West, towards the Caspian Sea.

500 years later, their descendants migrated further reaching Dunai River and setting up own kingdom headed by Atilla.

The remaining and weakened Hunnu fell under the repeated assaults of a neighboring nomadic tribe, Xianbi, which appeared on the eastern flanks of the Hunnu empire.

Recent research suggests that Hunnu did not differ much from modern Mongols in their appearance and may represent their ancestors.

Anthropological studies show that the Mongoloid race or Central Asian type was already well shaped by the time of Hunnu.

This a final conclusion made by Prof. G.Tumen, Chair of the Anthropology and Archeology of the Mongolian National University, after more than 30 years of comparative study of skulls from Stone Age to modern times.

DNA analysis also proved the consistency of genetic lines between Hunnu and modern Mongols. This scientific conclusion implies that Atilla the Hun was indeed an ancestor of Chinggis Khaan.

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Mongolian movies in Amsterdam

On a Mongolian note. We don't seem to have an extensive Mongolian society here in Holland but Mongolian art and culture is at times well represented. This month there is at least 1 performance to attend here in Amsterdam.

This time it's a childrens' movie Sucho and the horsehead violin in KIT. The storyline would indicate an interesting movie. From the KIT website:
One day, Sucho, a herder boy, meets a white horse with which he sets forth to journey around the world. This Mongolian folktale, Sucho and the Horsehead Violin, is a musical performance about friendship, loyalty and deceit.

Age: 8+
zondag 11 september 2005 14:00 Kleine Zaal
Eu 4,- (t/m 13 jaar) Eu 8,- (14+)
Eu 8,00 (Eu 4,00)

Another movie, one that's been running for 55(!) weeks now in Rialto Filmtheater, is The Story of the Weeping Camel. National Geographic has this to say about the movie:
The Story of the Weeping Camel is an enchanting film that follows the adventures of a family of herders in Mongolia's Gobi region who face a crisis when the mother camel unexpectedly rejects her newborn calf after a particularly difficult birth. Uniquely composed of equal parts reality, drama, and magic, this film is a window into a different way of life and the universal terrain of the heart.

This is one very nice movie. I enjoyed it very much. It's slow moving but the landscape and the humor makes up for that. The final scene is specially touching and emotional. I had to wipe away a tear. :) Higly recommended.

The Story of the Weeping Camel

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