The Mystery Man Amongst Us

This man is part of my family. He stands proudly in his place on the window seal, together with photos of my husband and kids. He is by far the most prominent-looking of them all. He is all dressed up in his finest gear. But who is he?

My grandmother told me that he was an important mandarin in one of the provinces in China, where my great grandparents worked as missionaries.

My great grandfather got the picture of him as a gift, proving that his missionary station was under this mans’ protection. It must have been before 1912, when the system of mandarins was abolished.

As I grew up, I saw this photo standing on a shelf in the cabinet reserved for mementos from China, that my grandparents kept in their livingroom.

I used to study his face and wonder who he was. He looks very serious – and at the same time quite young. He is apparantely very well off and can probably keep his family fed without problem.

The photograph is taken by a person called “Yung Huang”, but I don’t know where and I am unsure as to if I should open the frame and see if there is any information on the back of the photo.

Somehow, I like that he is a bit of a mystery. He was passed on to me after my grandparents died and my cousin had had him for a while. Now, he is part of our family and makes sure we don’t forget what happened over there, in China. He might even have been someone who helped my great grandparents survive over there, as the protection of the mandarin was vital to not be killed by robbers or plunderers that were roaming the country side on a regular basis.

At least, I reckon he was a good guy, seeing that his portrait was brought all the way from China to Sweden and preserved in a glass cabinet. For that, you need to have been of some importance – and done something to deserve a place in the family.

It was an important occasion to have ones’ photograph taken.

(If anyone has any information about his clothing, the photographer or anything connected to this photo, I would love to hear from you.)

19th of September: I finally did it – thanks to you all – I opened the frame and pulled out the photo… no new information, I’m afraid. Here’s what it looks like:

The photo is glued to the cardboard. Too bad 😊

20 thoughts on “The Mystery Man Amongst Us

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      1. If the back of the frame is sealed with paper, my personal opinion would be to leave it sealed for now. You may be able to find out who he was through online research, if you know the general area where your great-grandparents lived.

        Paper conservators would advise you to remove it from the frame and put it in an acid-free, archival mat behind museum glass (to prevent damage from light), especially if you plan to display it. The old mat around the photo has turned brown because of the acid used in the paper at that time. On the other hand, the photo itself looks well-preserved. I think the question is, do you value keeping everything the way it is, because it’s a family heirloom? Other than sunlight, the biggest threat to the photo is humidity, so you want to keep it in as dry an environment as possible.

        Liked by 3 people

      2. Thank you so much for your initiated advice! I do like the fact that I believe my great grandparents put it in it’s current frame. Though the paper on the back has loosened close to the frame in a couple of places, it would feel slightly terrible to tear it off – especially if I don’t find any complementary information. Perhaps I will find out more in my coming research, as you say 🙂 I will be sure to keep it dry and away of sunlight – thanks!!

        Liked by 3 people

  1. Fascinating story as ever! He clearly could afford to feed his family judging by the size of him!
    It’s curious how western his clothes look.
    I have to say that curiosity would get the better of me and I would have to take the back off! 😊

    Liked by 3 people

      1. Don’t worry Thérèse, you won’t hurt anything by removing the backing paper. The mat will be held in place by small nails probably, so the photo shouldn’t fall out. You can remove the nails easily with a pair of pliers if you want, or you can leave the photo in the frame. It will be fine. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Not at all. You can keep it in a separate folder if it has any information on it or if you just don’t want to throw it away. If you remove it, you may find cardboard between the paper and the mat. You may be able to remove the cardboard and put it back again, or it may be too brittle.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I did it! And I think I can put the cardboard back again without great trouble 😊
    Unfortunatly, the photo is glued to the cardboard, so I can’t have a look on the backside. No other info anywhere either😶 But, at least now I know this is not where the mystery will get its’ solution! Thanks to you all for helping me work up the courage to check it out!😍

    Liked by 2 people

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