A salute to Officer Liu

New York Post:

Today New York’s Finest will join with newly widowed Pei Xia Chen to bury a gallant officer: Wenjian Liu.

It was never supposed to turn out this way.

As recently as September, Pei was a bride planning a happy future with the man she loved. Her husband had come to this country from Guangdong Province in China as a teenager; he’d learned English at Brooklyn’s Lafayette HS; and he found his own path to the American Dream — as an officer in the finest police force in our nation.

It’s a reminder that cops have names and faces and families.

Detective Rafael Ramos, who was buried last week, had a wife and two sons he loved more than life itself. He was studying to be a chaplain.

We dwell on this because too often police officers are treated as cardboard cutouts.

These are the men and women we send into dark stairwells, down dangerous streets and into situations from which everyone else is running away. Their prayer each day as they put on the blue is that they discharge their responsibilities with honor and return home safely to their spouses and children.

We are encouraged by the outpouring of public affection for these men and what they symbolize, not to mention the incredible turnout for their funerals.

Notwithstanding the ugly chants about dead cops that have attended some of the protests, the public appreciates the men and women who stand between us and harm’s way.

In the first days after her husband was shot, Pei Xia Chen appeared before the TV cameras, distraught and shaky. Her message? To express the gratitude of the entire Liu family for the sympathy and condolences they have received.

In her statement, Pei detailed her husband’s devotion to the NYPD, his pride that he was able to use his Chinese language skills to contribute to the safety of this city and the joy he took in his chosen vocation.

Another way to look at it is this: While Liu may have started out in China, by the end of his all-too-short life he was a New Yorker through and through. On this sad day, we salute this dedicated police officer and lift his family up in our prayers.

Wenjian Liu was a loyal son and husband, a proud New Yorker and our protector. May he rest in peace.


What Hong Kong looked like 150 years ago…


Betty Yao isn’t sure what she finds more remarkable about the photographs of John Thomson: the fact that they have been so well preserved after 146 years, or the way a bearded, English-speaking Scotsman managed to so skillfully capture the personalities of ordinary Chinese people in the middle of the 19th century.

Given the long exposure time, it’s really unusual the way he captured people’s eyes – you can almost see their inner feelings,” says Ms. Yao, a Hong Kong-born, London-based curator. “It was the Qing Dynasty – how did this Scottish guy manage to travel to China with all this heavy equipment, up and down the country? And how did he manage to get so many photos of women and children?

This Friday, Ms. Yao brings Thomson’s photos back to Hong Kong for the first time in nearly 150 years. Dozens of his rarely seen images have been gathered in a new exhibition at the Hong Kong Maritime Museum that includes 22 photos of Hong Kong taken between 1868 and 1872, less than three decades after the island was colonized by the British.

With the Hong Kong scenes, it’s shocking how little is left of what he photographed,” says Ms. Yao. In one scene, Chinese men dressed in changshan, with shaved heads and Manchu-style queues, stand next to a turbaned Indian man on a leafy street lined by ornate European-style buildings. Another view of the Central waterfront bears more resemblance to Venice than it does to the skyscraping business district of today.

Born in Edinburgh in 1837, Thomson first encountered the novel art of photography when he apprenticed with a local manufacturer of optical equipment. In 1862, he traveled to Singapore to join his brother William, who had moved there to run a watchmaking business.

The trip marked the beginning of a decade’s worth of travels through Asia, and along the way Thomson documented everything from cyclone-ravaged Ceylon, now Sri Lanka, to street life in Beijing.

Thomson’s work was all the more remarkable given the limitations of the era’s photographic technology. Even as he journeyed through some of the most rugged and remote parts of China, he carried an unwieldy wooden camera, delicate glass plates (film was not introduced until 1885) and a vat of volatile, potentially deadly chemicals. Even the act of taking a single photograph was difficult and unpredictable; several seconds were needed for each exposure, meaning even slight movement would result in a blurred image.

Yet somehow, Thomson was able to produce remarkably sympathetic portraits of his subjects, whether they were Chinese boat people or Siamese royalty. “I think he cared a lot about people,” Ms. Yao says. Other [photographs] from that era were amateur or ethnographic, so they made the Chinese people look like specimens.”

Thomson returned to the U.K. from China in 1872 and went on to document the lives of London’s homeless, while also serving as the official photographer of the British royal family. After his death in 1921, his oeuvre was collected by pharmaceutical tycoon Sir Henry Wellcome.

It was through Wellcome’s collection that Ms. Yao, the program director for nonprofit cultural organization Asia House, was introduced to Thomson’s photographs in 2006. She was so taken with the work that she took a leave of absence to mount an exhibition of his China photographs in Beijing.

I said I’d be gone for six months. I haven’t been back since,” she says.

Now she spends her time touring the photographs around the world, with exhibitions already booked two years in advance. “There has been a huge surge of interest,” she says.

Ms. Yao still finds much to inspire her. “There are two images that remain with me, and they’re why I feel John Thomson is so special,” she says. “There’s one image of a Manchu bride, a young girl, very beautiful in the fineries of a rich family, but if you look at her eyes there’s a tinge of sadness.”

The other image depicts a boat woman from Canton, now Guangdong province. “She had just a simple cotton top, but if you look at her eyes, there’s a joie de vivre, a confidence in herself,” Ms. Yao says. “How this man managed to capture them both is what really impressed me.

Through the Lens of John Thomson: Hong Kong and Coastal China” runs from Nov. 23 to Feb. 26 at the Hong Kong Maritime Museum. Tickets are HK$30.

Check out this link:

What Hong Kong looked like 150 years ago…

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