Produced in the Chinese port cities in the late 18th and 19th Centuries for tradesmen to take home as a souvenir, albums like these typically cover the entire spectre of Chinese life: the emperors, processions, festivals, professions, costumes, punishments, landscapes, botanical subjects, animals and port views. Today they provide us with a colourful insight in the Chinese trade. The range of subjects covered in this extensive album includes a full set of port views, which typically depict the journey of the tradesman over the Pearl River to Canton. This journey began at the mouth of the River in Macao, where the captains negotiated with the Chinese tradesmen to be allowed to approach Canton. Via the forts of Boca Tigris, the ships sailed to Whampoa, with its characteristic nine-storied pagoda, where the ships were unloaded. The cargo was then transported in smaller ships to Canton. After 1840, when cities other than Canton were allowed to open their ports to foreigners, the views of Boca Tigris were replaced by those of Shanghai and Hong Kong. In this album we see two views of Canton, two of Whampoa, and one of Macao, Shanghai and Hong Kong each.
Not only port scenes, but also botanical subjects are well-represented in this album: exotic fruits, birds and flowers were of great interest to the western eye, as well as aspects of Chinese life, which in this album ranges from portraits of Emperors and festival processions to the so-called flower-boats and opium-smokers.