Benjamin March (1899-1934) was a respected scholar and curator of Chinese art. The papers document his scholarship and travels through numerous journals, diaries and photographs. In July of 1925, March married Miss Dorothy Rowe in Nanjing and together they traveled to the city of Hangzhou, which March photographed extensively. From romantic silhouettes of his wife to academic depictions of culturally significant paintings, March managed to capture every aspect of his honeymoon.
Wed. 29 July
In the early afternoon, immediately after lunch, we took rickshas and rode out of the city through narrow streets, and along a white and green canal, to the Six Harmony Pagoda. I had been wanting to visit it again, and to try a couple pictures I had not been able to make succeed the last time. Today we went again, and again we climbed to the top. In the clear sunlight of early afternoon we could see out over the country, to the far blue hills and the distant waters of the bay into which the pirates used to come to terrorize the city. A brisk wind drove the laden junks up the green Ch’ien T’ang river. We loafed and enjoyed the scene, then bumped back over through paved streets to town and home.
When we had returned and refreshed ourselves we took our supper down to our boat and went out on the lake to enjoy the moon, rapidly nearing its time of fullness for the month. We drifted and paddled about the lake and the islands. After supper we sat, wrote a little verse, and then Dorothy sang for a long while and I lay on my back watching the white moon. A good day, a very good day – and no rain.
Charles Freer’s visit to West Lake in 1911 was decidedly less romantic than March’s, but not without excitement. In a letter to his friend Frank Hecker the following week, Freer admirably summarizes the adventure:
February 23, 1911:
My last little trip to the interior – one of five days, to the old capital city Hangchow – also provided experiences that had been lacking during earlier trips – Fire and Robbery!
Capt. Dallam and wife of the U.S.A. in one house-boat and Baron von Wurmb a collector, and myself in another house-boat towed by a steam tug left Shanghai and went by river and canal to old Hangchow to study the ancient art and the famous lake – West Lake! the place where so many early Chinese painters worked in landscape – the spot Sesshu painted in my screen. All went well until our last night at Hang chow, when before dinner, the Dallam’s boat on which they both were, caught fire from an overturned oilstove and was badly damaged.
After our return we begged the Dallams our friends, to exchanged boats for the night in order that Mrs. Dallam might be more comfortable, but they would not hear of it and eventually retired with only paper doors in place of the wood ones which had burned – the hull being steel.
During the night, pirates entered their boat, still lashed to ours, and carried off their money, silver and clothes – leaving only enough of the latter to dress Mrs. Dallam – the Captain being equipped from my trunk after the robbery had been discovered. Our selves and the crews of over twenty men and two photographers on board, slept peacefully through the raid and no one of us knew of the unexpected visit until the Dallams were ready to arise and dress.
The pirates with my usual luck, left our boat and chattels untouched!
A sacred stone dog taken by the Baron and the Dallams from an ancient temple, and kept on board the Dallam house-boat, probably heralded the pirates in revenge for the insult shown him – at least the natives told us so. How near to the truth this claim may approach I know not. But I am satisfied that the God of Luck protected me and mine. I refused to aid in disgracing the temple dog.
--David Hogge and Beatrice Kelly, Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives