The proper writing of the history of photography in China as a discipline can be considered a phenomenon that began properly in the late 1970s and early 1980s. This makes it a rather new topic for academic research. Specifically, from that moment onwards there was a renewed interest in photography, which was accompanied by a desire to re-collect China’s past among the international community of scholars. This urge developed largely due to the dramatic loss of artefacts experienced in China over a hundred years of political and social turmoil. This fragmentary state prompted the establishment of the field and resulted in something of a new wave of publishing and the establishment of digital databases.

The first goal of France China Archives is to answer a rather simple question: in light of the fragmented materials scattered around the world, where are located photographic archives in France? This question originated in my PhD research, which addressed the development of the genre of landscape photography in China between the late 19th and early 20th centuries. I brought together hitherto isolated bodies of material held in different institutions across several countries, especially France. Consequently, the present database has emerged from a concern about the lack of information regarding French holdings.

France China Archives commits to facilitating the wide circulation of knowledge by providing an open-access platform that inventories photographic archives of China located in France. It encompasses private and public holdings, whose content cover the period 1840s to the present. It is designed to provide a scholarly digital space for the study of the variety of photographic practices in China, while making accessible French resources to the scholarly community, students, and the general public.

If the first objective of the project is to inventory photographic archives, the capacity to navigate amongst data eventually illuminates and problematizes new debates on the history of photography in China. More precisely, this database offers the possibility to gradually give a survey of the visual, technological and social developments of photography in China throughout its history. France China Archives is a work in progress and will be gradually updated and amended.



There are many different ways to access the data in this site. Below you will find explanations of the website’s key features and suggestions to help you get started.


This section catalogues public and private holdings containing photographs of China that have been unearthed. It will be gradually uploaded with new archives holdings; there is no selection whatsoever as long as the photographic materials relate to China. It can be digital and/or physical archives. Each record describes the content, the scope and the history of the collection or fonds by providing as much detail as possible. Different ways to get in touch with each archive owner is suggested: website and/or postal address.

Holdings described in this platform are commonly put under the umbrella term “archive.” The point is not an attempt to assert any univocal definition, but rather to apprehend them as: “Materials created or received by a person, family, or organization, public or private, in the conduct of their affairs and preserved because of the enduring value contained in the information they contain or as evidence of the functions and responsibilities of their creator, especially those materials maintained using the principles of provenance, original order, and collective control; permanent records” (Pearce-Moses, 2005: 30).

Browse Items

In this section, you will be able to search across different content: 1) first search across all the photographs uploaded on the database; 2) second search across all biographies of those who took the pictures; 3) third search across all documents available, including newspapers and illustrated periodicals that reproduced photographs.


This section provides an annotated list of databases around the world, as well as a bibliography. These resources are a work in progress and will be constantly updated and amended as we come across new sources. New titles and recommendations are warmly welcomed.


This map of France shows the places where are located all archives documented on the database. Map markers are not all accurate, notably for private holdings for which addresses remain private. Contrarily, map markers for public institutions are accurate. You can click on each marker to view the image and read the full description of the archive.



France China Archives has been developed thanks to the support of two Parisian research laboratories, namely InVisu (CNRS/INHA) and Centre d’études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine - UMR-8173 Chine, Corée, Japon (EHESS/CNRS). The implementation of this project relies on the use of Omeka S, a next-generation web-publishing platform for institutions interested in connecting digital cultural heritage collections with other resources online. The images are made available with the agreement of their owners to support teaching and learning, and research. There are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License, and thus presented here for routine use in classroom or home. Please feel free to let us you what you do with them.



If you use France China Archives in an article, book, website, or any other forum, please cite it in the following way: Marine Cabos-Brullé, France China Archives, www.fca.huma-num.fr (accessed [insert today’s date]).




Dr Marine Cabos-Brullé (琳珂), Project Director, Research Associate at SOAS and EHESS



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