Visiting the Getty Research Institute

Contact Information:
The Getty Research Institute
1200 Getty Center Drive
Suite 1100
Los Angeles, CA 90049-1688
Tel. (310) 440-7335
Getty Research Institute Gallery Hours:
Tuesday–Friday, 10:00 a.m.–5:30 p.m.
Saturday, 10:00 a.m.–9:00 p.m.
Sunday, 10:00 a.m.–5:30 p.m.
Closed Mondays and on January 1, July 4, Thanksgiving, and December 25
Research Library Hours:
9:30 a.m.–5:00 p.m.
Closed Saturdays, Sundays, major U.S. holidays, November 25, December 26–December 30
Reference Desk: (310) 440-7390

Gateways & Transitions

China traded with Europe for centuries; however, foreigners were only permitted to exchange goods in a limited way from the southern city of Canton (Guangzhou).

General View of Wuzhou / Lai Afong

In the early 1840s Great Britain defeated China militarily in the First Opium War (1839–42). As a result, China agreed to Britain's creation of a colony in Hong Kong and allowed British companies to establish commercial footholds in five other Chinese cities: Canton (Guangzhou), Amoy (Xiamen), Foochow (Fuzhou), Ningbo, and Shanghai. These so-called treaty ports became gateways through which ideas and goods flowed both into and out of China. Meanwhile, Britain and other European countries expanded the treaty-port system, permitting them to exact ever-greater concessions from an increasingly fragile Qing empire.

Enterprising photographers documented the expansion of these political and economic activities in Chinese cities that were experiencing cataclysmic transitions. Sweeping panoramas showed European-sponsored buildings—churches, customs offices, residences, and warehouses—that contrasted with more traditional Chinese architecture. Photographers marketed their wares and honed their skills in the context of these commercial gateways and cultural transformations.

Shanghai Merchants / Milton Miller
Interior of the Salon of Mr. Kresser, Director of the Bank of Hong Kong / John Thomson
Hong of Smith, Archer & Co. in Guangzhou / Lai Afong