Bodies and Structures 2.0: Deep-Mapping Modern East Asian History

The Mersey Tunnel in Anglophone Media

While the image from Dianshizhai was an original lithograph, the artist seems to have borrowed elements of the visual style and layout used by western news sources, especially in assembling the image of the tunnel in three parts, depicting the bustling river teeming with boats, a cutaway of the train tunnel traversing the earth beneath the river, and another cutaway of train and tunnel with the train approaching the viewer.

Reports of the tunnel's planning, construction, and eventual opening appearing in Illustrated London News between 1881 and 1886 are stylistically very similar, featuring a panorama of the Mersey River teeming with steamships at the top of the page, and a cutaway view of the tunnel descending beneath the river. Both Chinese and English-language images include rudimentary depictions of the support and ventilation structure of the tunnel.

The Dianshizhai huabao image appears to combine these two images, featuring both a panoramic cutaway, and a more detailed illustration of the train itself moving through the tunnel. We cannot say for certain that the above images from the Illustrated London News are the images that Dianshizhai's illustrators saw and emulated in colonial Shanghai, but it does seem quite likely.

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