The Real Story Behind the 1900s Photo of a Chinese Man ‘Eating Rice’

Rice can bring happiness.

A photo of a smiling Chinese man eating rice supposedly taken in the early 1900s has attracted controversy over the years with many people highly doubting its authenticity.

The suspicion is based on the fact that smiling for the cameras is a practice quite unheard of in early photography.

Titled “Eating rice, China,” the image has been deemed authentic by the American Museum of Natural History.

Taken between 1901-1904, the photo is among the 143 photographs gathered by young German scholar Berthold Laufer in China during Jacob H. Schiff Chinese expedition.

Sent on behalf of the American Museum, Laufer went to China to collect thousands of random objects he felt to be representative of Chinese culture and life.

No information was reportedly provided on how the famed sinologist (expert on Chinese culture) acquired them, nor was there any evidence that Laufer took the photos himself as he didn’t even bring a camera with him on his expedition.

There is no official explanation on why the Chinese man, dubbed by netizens as “the happiest man in China,” decided to pose with a wide grin.

However, some have speculated that the man wasn’t simply aware of the western tradition of keeping a serious face while being photographed. 

The American Museum of Natural History admitted that many of the photos Laufer found “are known to be widely-distributed images available for purchase at the time.”

Despite some criticisms, some netizens have expressed fascination on the mysterious smiling Chinese man.

So there you have it, it’s real folks.

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