This is a guided tour to the geographic history to my hometown. Before the 20th century, commuting between Macao and Guangzhou (Canton) was heavily relied on waterborne transport, as the dense river networks in the Pearl River delta made land transport inconvenient at that time. There were two main waterways between two places, the inner passage started from the Inner Harbour in Macao, took the westward way into the West River and entering the Shiqi River toward the Xiangshan County; therefrom took the zigzag waterway passing through Shunde, Zini (means Purple Mud) Custom, Bijiang, Dawagjiao(The Great King Channel) and arriving at the city of Guangzhou through the back waterway of the Pearl River (also known as Macao Passage by foreign merchants). The outer passage, on the other hand, started eastward toward the Lintin Sea (the Solitary Sea), entering the Lion Sea through Humen (Bogue); thereafter anchoring at the Whampoa Anchorage for custom inspections before entering the city of Guangzhou.
The inner passage, measuring around 160 km in total, mostly used by local residents, foreign merchants generally used the outer passage for logistic purpose instead. Yet they also saw the inner passage as a perfect touristic route to take a glimpse of the view of Southern China countryside, as it ran through populated counties like Xiangshan and Shunde. Some of the travellers in the 19th century sketched and wrote about their trip and left some precious historic records for local culture and history study. In modern days, the inner passage is seldom used, as its incapacity for large tonnage ships and the development of bridges and land transports such as highways and high-speed railways. The landscapes along the waterway have also utterly changed ever since.
The waterways represent a local history that has been overlooked in modern times. In a time dominated by media and grand narratives, local history seems to be insignificant. Yet my archeologic and photographic journey helped me reconnected myself to the past of my hometown. I travelled along the waterway in 2020-2021 and used a drone to capture elevated images of different parts of the waterway, in accordance and in comparison to the atlas and illustrations made before the First Opium War (1840-1842) as a follow up topographic and archaeological research, to observe the urbanisation of my hometown, meanwhile leaving images of modern times for the future, which I suppose, is a great responsibility for a photographer.
* All names of locations are translated into its literal meanings to help understanding the name.
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