Environments of “The West” in Chinese Travel Diaries and Photo Albums during the 1920s and 1930s

This paper examines the travel diaries and photo albums assembled by Chinese engineers when they visited America and Europe to study modern hydraulic structures. As China’s state builders sought to modernize China’s water systems on the Western model, they traveled to America and Europe to visually document port and waterway infrastructures. How were European and American environments and technology presented in the assembled travel diaries and photo albums? What values and hopes for the future of the Chinese nation were revealed in how they recorded their travels and observations of Western environments and infrastructures? At the intersection of environmental history and visual culture, this paper interrogates the meaning of global science and exchange through the engineering landscapes of “the West” in the photographs and writings by Chinese traveler engineers.

Shirley Ye (Birmingham)