Amoy (Xiamen), Fukien province, China: a Chinese residential quarter. Photograph by John Thomson, 1870/1871.
Rooftops and terraces of houses. A person leaning over a wall talking to a group on an adjoining rooftop. Washing hanging on poles in the foreground. In the left centre a large smooth rock with an elaborate doorway and incised Chinese characters. Almost the same view as Thomson's negative number 359, but in the shade
Although many people subsequently have come to regard Xiamen as a romantic coastal city, in the second half of the 19th century it was seriously dilapidated. Other than a few handsome houses that belonged to wealthy merchants and Europeans, which were situated either on the top of the hill away from the city or on the island of Gulangyu, the houses in the city itself were crowded together. Many of them were in a terrible state of decay, and the long, dark and narrow streets, paved with cobblestones, were so worn and loose that "they rest for the most part in treacherous pits of mud . . . if a foot be placed hastily on the rocking flag, a shower of most offensive dirt is splashed up over one's clothes".