The photographs of China in the early years of the twentieth century were taken by a young corporal of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, James Hutchinson, when stationed there from 1909. His battalion was guarding the British Legation in Peking and Concession in Tientsin in the wake of the Boxer Rebellion of 1900, which had seen the massacre of civilian and military personnel of the foreign powers and of Christian Chinese. Despite the alien and volatile setting, Hutchinson, born in Co. Laois, was fascinated by the ancient civilisation of ‘the Celestials’ and its dawning modernisation.
Wounded later at Gallipoli, Hutchinson re-settled with his family in Northern Ireland in the 1920s. His recollections, together with his photographs of the great monuments, the people of China and of his comrades-in-arms, make for a very personal, uniquely Irish and visually stunning record of a transient moment when the paths of two great empires, the British and the Chinese, collided.