China in Family Photographs

A People's History of Revolution

and Everyday Life

Translated and Edited

by Ed Krebs and Hanchao Lu

China in Family Photographs: A People’s History of Revolution and Everyday Life is a collection of translations from Old Photos, a Chinese bimonthly of small size that features photographs and narratives. This magazine was launched in 1996, when China was awash in a sea of nostalgia. The magazine quickly moved from nostalgia to reflection on China’s history in the age of photography, from the late 19th century through the 1980s. 

Old Photos (Lao Zhaopian in Chinese) soon built an avid following.  Readers readily saw that the magazine was concerned with the everyday lives of ordinary people while also covering the momentous, often traumatic political life of the People’s Republic.  The editors invited readers to submit their own contributions, and, after scouring family photo albums, they did!

After the first few issues of the magazine, it became clear it would also serve as a forum and archive for people’s experiences and reflections about life in the People’s Republic.  Old Photos presented an open format where readers’ contributions were published alongside the work of professional writers, including historians and novelists. This conveys a tone that proclaims:  this is our history, not the history those above would have us believe.

This collection of translations offers readers insight into the lives of people from many different walks of life in China: a bright young woman who worked hard for her education and became a chemistry professor; an engineer devoted to “building the country through science” whose principles were too high for his own good; and a country doctor whose success was turned around during the Cultural Revolution. This collection stimulates thinking about people and events that have shaped modern China.

About the Translators and Editors

Ed Krebs is an independent scholar living in the Atlanta, Georgia, area, and is active in a variety of research and translation activities.

Hanchao Lu
is a Professor of History in the School of History, Technology, and Society at Georgia Institute of Technology.