Auguste François


Photographs by Auguste François : South China (1896-1904).


Auguste François (1857-1935) carried out several administrative/diplomatic missions in the Far East and in South America. He did his first photographic report in Paraguay where he was French Consul from 1893 to 1895 and the Association Auguste François has a collection of 300 negatives from this period. However, it was above all in China that the Consul developed this practice. He travelled extensively across the South provinces with his secretary J. Joseph Beauvais and brought back a substantial number of photographs, the majority of which are now held at the Musée Guimet (some are displayed on the national museums’ website: Réunion des Musées Nationaux - RMN), as well as some cinematographic images filmed in Yunnan from as early as 1901.


The Consul had at his disposition a substantial and varied amount of photography equipment: 9x12cm camera, 8x9cm camera, camera binoculars, stereo camera, 18x24cm view camera, 4.5x6cm Gaumont hand-held camera “Block-Notes”. On the mountainous paths of the Guizhou, with daily legs of 25 kilometres, this equipment required no less than 8 people to carry it. For certain pictures taken inside, the Consul used magnesium flashes. A. François was in direct correspondence with Léon Gaumont, pioneer of the cinema industry, and would develop and print his own photographs in dark rooms that he improvised according to circumstance, either behind the curtains of his sedan chair or in the cabin of his junk (Chinese sailing vessel). Most of the letters he sent to his French correspondents included photos. 


As well as his films, the Association Auguste François’s collection includes over a thousand photographs for China alone (Guangdong, Guangxi, Guizhou, Yunnan, Sichuan). It is essentially composed of digitalised images from paper prints made by the Consul himself, many of which had been put into albums or panoramas. He had also given precise dates and captions to each photo.


This collection provides a unique reflection of daily life in South China in the last years of the Qing Empire. It can be divided into several topics: landscapes, cities and countryside - Temples and Monuments - Population, types, daily life - The Chinese army and officials - The Consul and his circle - Itineraries and land/sea transport - The xenophobic uprisings of 1900 and 1903 - Studies of the French railway in Yunnan - Photomontages of panoramas.


Note: The few photos presented below aim simply to provide a quick overview of the content of the collection. The images reproduced only give a poor idea of the quality of the original prints.

© Association Auguste François - Paris




AAF-1242: From Mong-Tseu to Yunnanfu. Gorge                             AAF-1299: Statue with halberd. Pagoda of the

between Kouang-Yi and Tong-Hai. Litter carriers going                   War God. Yunnan, 1902.

down a stepped road. Yunnan, 1900.




AAF-1278 : Yunnanfu, 1902 : In the road leading to the North       AAF-1222: Kouei-Tcheou (Guizhou), 1899. Transplanting rice.





AAF-1221: Kouei-Tcheou (Guizhou), 1899. Indigenous Yi-Kia      AAF-1227: Red River, 1900. On my junk, pole navigation.

from Cheu-Teou-Tchay, in a paved courtyard.                                   1900.




AAF-1255: Yunnanfu, 1902. Small terraced pagoda on the side       AAF-1277: Panorama of the bridge on the overflow of the lake,

of the Emperor’s hill.                                                                                                        near Yunnanfu (Yunnan, 1902).




AAF-1279: In the vicinity of Yunnanfu, 1902 : Place where the     AAF-1289: Group of independant "Lo-Lo" or Man-Tseu of

Mandarins leaving the province would bid their goodbyes.             Kien-Tchang, taken in the groups marching against the Chinese.

Steles built in honour of those who helped the people.                     Lou-Kou region, Upper Yang-Tseu. Sichuan, 1904.

According to rites, their boots were removed to stop them from

leaving. And these shoes that they left behind to go and obey

the Emperor’s orders were hung from these steles in memory.



AAF-1172: Auguste François in a civilian dress sitting beside           AAF-1174: Stuck in the rapids. A. François sitting between Joseph

Marshal Su Yuan-Chun. Longzhou, Guangxi - 1897.                            Beauvais and a French secretary - Guangxi, 1899.




AAF-1189: Auguste François in uniform sitting with General             AAF-1181: Auguste François standing in work clothes with

Su wearing the Mandarin’s winter dress in sable.                                  a panther in his arms. Yunnanfu, 1903.

Yunnanfu, 1903.



AAF-1202: Kouang-Si (Guangxi), 1899. The river police’s                 AAF-1195: Kouang-Si (Guangxi), 1899. Yao indigenous

gunboat escorting my junk. On the right, the captain.                           steering wooden rafts to Lo-Ma.



AAF-1257: Yunnanfu, 1902. Paved street running alongside              AAF-1250: From Mong-Tseu to Yunnanfu (1900). South entrance

a pound cultivated as a ricefield.                                                              of Tcheng-Kong-Hien, sub-préfecture in the Yunnanfu plain,

                                                                                                                        11th and final leg from the Red River to Man-Hao.




AAF-1287: Young woman from Sseu-Mao in wedding dress              AAF-1288: Three bonzes from the Kin-Ma-Chan Temple

(face on). Yunnanfu, 1902.                                                                        ("Temple of the Golden Horse”). Vicinity of Longzhou.

                                                                                                                        Guangxi - 1897.



AAF-1291: Ma-Tou, Man-Tseu from the "Black bone” caste,             AAF-1292: "Lo-Lo" (Man-Tseu) woman and two young girls

influential chief of the Mien-Chan region, in war costume.                 from Kien-Tchang. Sichuan, 1904.

Hei-Li (Sichuan), 1904.



AAF-1217: Kouei-Tcheou (Guizhou), 1899. Covered bridge in         AAF-1251: From Mong-Tseu to Yunnanfu, 1900. In the

a mountainous landscape. (Sanhe ?)                                                        Yunnanfu districts.



AAF-1213: Kouang-Si (Guangxi), 1899. Astronomy observation       AAF-1168: At the French Residence in Hai-Phong. A. François

in Lieou-Tcheou-Fou. A. François, sitting on a chair among                (1st left), Charles Laurent, Auditor at the Treasury, 2 other

servants and curious bystanders, is using a sextant.                              Frenchmen (one holding a monkey on leash), and 2 Chenese

                                                                                                                        servants. Tonkin, 1887.



AAF-1173: Auguste François sitting in uniform, with his                     AAF-1192: Kouang-Si (Guangxi), 1899.  The Consul’s junk

Chinese butler, Tong-To behind him. Yunnanfu, 1900.                        with its French flag.



AAF-1309: Panorama of Tsin-Tcheou-Fou - Guangxi, 1899.



AAF-1318: Panorama of the bridge on the overflow of the lake near Yunnanfu - Yunnan, 1902.


© Association Auguste François - Paris


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Updated: 7th October 2012