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Haldore Hanson's China Collection (1937-1938)

About this collection


Haldore Hanson graduated from Carleton College in the spring of 1934. He spent the summer after graduation in Japan and from there traveled to China where he studied Chinese language and culture at a college in Beijing, supporting himself by teaching English at the college and working as a freelance journalist for local English-language magazines. When Japanese troops invaded China in July of 1937, the Associated Press hired Mr. Hanson as a part-time & free-lance war correspondent. Hanson’s ability to speak Chinese made him one of the first foreign correspondents able and willing to travel behind the Japanese lines to investigate reports of partisan activity and the existence of an organized peasant fighting force. During a brief initial trip undertaken in March of 1938, Hanson met the commander in chief of the Central Hebei guerillas, Lü Zhengcao (呂正操). Commander Lü invited Hanson to return for an extended stay in the summer when he could visit more than twenty other guerilla armies scattered over North China. Hanson crossed the lines again in late May. During the next two and a half months traveling with the Eighth Route Army in Hebei, Shanxi, and Shaanxi, Hanson witnessed the Sino-Japanese conflict first hand. The photographs that he took during that trip include scenes from battles between the Japanese forces and the forces of the Eighth Route Army, images of destroyed towns and villages, and scenes that give insights into the daily lives and character of members of the guerilla forces. During his travels he was also able to interview Mao Zedong and other prominent Communist leaders. He later gave a historical account of his experiences in China in two books, Humane endeavour: the story of the China war and Fifty years around the third world: adventures and reflections of an overseas American.


This collection includes photographs Hanson took in China between 1937 and 1938. Highlights of the collection include early photographs of Mao Zedong (毛澤東), Lin Biao (林彪), Zhou Enlai (周恩來), and Zhu De (朱德) at Yan'an (延安)—prominent members of the guerilla troops that took over China in 1949, creating today’s “People’s Republic of China”—and of Dr. Norman Bethune, the well-known Canadian surgeon who traveled to China in 1938 and created mobile medical units for Chinese forces fighting Japanese troops.


Mrs. Bernice (Brown) Hanson was also a Carleton alumna (‘36) and was involved in the Carleton-in-China Program from 1935 to 1936. She taught English at the mission school at Fenyang  (old form: Fenchow) in Shanxi Province but was forced to leave China in February of 1938. Haldore and Bernice, who did not know each other at Carleton, met in China and were married in Chicago in 1939.


Mr. Hanson returned to the United States in late 1938 and went on to have a distinguished career in the State Department and various important non-governmental organizations and foundations. Mr. Hanson delivered a Convocation address at Carleton in 1979 and received a Carleton Distinctive Achievement Award in 1981. When Mr. Hanson died in 1992, his family donated copies of the photographs he took in China to Carleton College, where they now comprise a collection in Gould Library Special Collections. Copies of these photographs reside also in the Beijing Military Museum in China.



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This collection is open access. These photos were a gift to the Carleton Library from the family of Haldore Hanson. The heirs gave us written permission to put images of the photos online and to share these photos with scholars and cultural institutions as long as Mr. Hanson is acknowledged in any print or online appearance of the photographs. We are unaware of any other copyright restrictions on the use of these photos or if copyright for any of the photos is held by other persons or institutions.



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