Guangzhou was one of the starting points for China's ancient maritime silk road. In the Tang and Song dynasties, Guangzhou was China's largest port, and in the Ming and Qing it was China's only port open to foreign trade. The worlds silk, ceramics, tea, and handicrafts all passed through Guangzhou on their way to Europe, America, Japan, Korea, Southeast Asia, South Asia, Western Asia or Australia. The overseas market was particularly partial to export porcelain from the kilns in Guangdong, Fujian, Zhejiang, and Jiangxi, and a steady flow of ceramics went out across the "maritime silk road," also known as the "maritime ceramic road," to the rest of the world. Among this export porcelain was Guangdong's “Canton ceramics,” which were white porcelain works fired in Jingdezhen that were then taken to Guangzhou and painted with images to match western tastes and cultural norms. These pieces were traditionally Chinese in style and technique with aesthetics that were exciting to a western audience. By using traditional Chinese motifs adopted to reflect western history, religion, mythology, and custom, Guangzhou’s export ceramics created a nuanced blend of Eastern and Western culture.

During the mid-19th century, at the same time when export porcelain was in vogue in Europe, photography began to spread across the continent. Photographers began to take advantage of the medium’s affinity for documentation as a new creative practice. When photography was introduced into Guangzhou, it too soon became a major medium of cultural exchange. Almost immediately after the end of the First Opium War, in 1844, a French customs official named Jules Itier began bringing photographic equipment into China. Itier lived in the 13th business district, and often liked to climb on to the roof of his building and take photos of the view to the south. After the Second Opium War, western photographers were granted the right to photograph within China. Beginning in Guangzhou and Shanghai, they began to open photo studios, and sell pictures and photographic supplies. As the market expanded, many Chinese citizens also began to enter the field of photography, ranging from the painter-turned-photographer Zhou Senfeng, to Zhang Laoqiu and Xie Fen who learned photography from working with soldiers from abroad. Many of them also went on to open studios in Hong Kong, Guangzhou, and Fuzhou.

As the modern port of Guangzhou developed with the city, the region began to grow. Along both banks of the Pearl River, ports began to pop up --Huangpu, Xinsha, and Nansha-- carrying freight, passengers, entertainment and tourists throughout the region and bringing change with them. On one hand, "Wandering Through Guangzhou After 2000 years" begins with color-rich images that look back on Guangzhou's history as an epicenter of commerce and cultural exchange. On the other hand, as the photographer wanders through Guangzhou's historic ports, downtown, and new trade zones, he is able to record the changes that have occurred, and compare the city to how it first appeared in China's early photographic history.

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