Reviews 367 Laikwan Pang. The Distorting Mirror: Visual Modernity in China. Honolulu: University of Hawai`i Press, 2007. viii, 280 pp. Hardcover $57.00, isbn 0-8248-3093-8. E-book $55.00, isbn 978-0-8248-3093-9. A postcard dating to the late Qing dynasty (16441911) shows a man steadying a portable kinetoscope on a bamboo stand, while a young boy in heavy cotton robes crouches to peer into it. The picture contains a series of nested visual interactions: The boy looks through a peephole at the magical rotating images inside the box, and the owner of this marvelous technology looks directly into the camera lens of the photographer documenting the scene. Over a hundred years later, we take the position of the photographer looking at this scene of seeing, the postcard having traveled from China and through time to take its place in the twenty-first century on the dustcover of Laikwan Pang's book. Much remains obdurately invisible about this postcard: the place in which the figures are standing, their identity, the pictures inside the kinetoscope, the photographer's intent, and the names of the person who mailed the postcard and the person to whom it was sent. What is clear is that the photographer thought there was
China Review International – University of Hawai'I Press
Published: Jan 6, 2009
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