‘Fly Over China’ in the 1930s

The Summer Palace in Beijing. (Image: NTDTV)
The Summer Palace in Beijing. (Image: NTDTV)

In June 2015, the Chinese Embassy in Germany held an aerial photo exhibition under the title of “Fly Over China.” Most of the photos were taken by Wulf-Diether Graf zu Castell-Rüdenhausen, a former Lufthansa Airline pilot, who worked in China from 1933 to 1936. The photos recorded nature scenery, unique landscape, ethnic culture, and historical relics. In 1938, Castell published a selection of his photographs in a book entitle Chinaflug (China Flight).

Palace of Supreme Harmony Palace. (Network picture)

The Palace of Supreme Harmony in Beijing. (Image: NTDTV)

Castell was born in 1905 to a respected family in Berlin. He had showed interest in China since a young age, and visiting the Far East had been his dream. In 1926, the 21-year old Castell obtained his pilot certificate and flew for with Lufthansa in 1930. In 1933, Castell was assigned to China, which fulfilled his lifelong dream.

Beijing Old City Wall. (Network picture)

The Old City Wall in Beijing. (Image: NTDTV)

During his time in China, Castell took a series of aerial photographs from the left-side window of his airplane with a Lycra 2 Series Camera. In August 1936, Castell returned to Germany, and sorted out the photos for the publication of his book.

Zhengzhou community fire. Zhengzhou is an important railway hub city in Henan Province. (Network picture)

Zhengzhou City, a railway hub in Henan Province. (Image: NTDTV)

On the last page of the book, Castell wrote a memorandum:

About 30 kilometers north of Guangzhou, a densely populated village. (Network picture)

A densely populated village north of Guangzhou. (Image: NTDV)

The mountain slopes in southern Sichuan are covered with numerous rice fields, all of which are filled with water. (Network picture)

Flooded fields in southern Sichuan. (Image: NTDTV)

There are countless punts on the Pearl River in Guangzhou and some residents live on such flat boats. (Network picture)

Punts on the Pearl River in Guangzhou. (Image: NTDTV)

Gansu terraced fields. (Network picture)

Terraced fields in Gansu Province. (Image: NTDTV)

Guangxi karst landform. (Network picture)

Karst landforms in Guangxi Province. (Image: NTDTV)

Henan cave dwellings; Cave is generally 10 to 15 meters deep square wooden buildings, the room partially cut to the ground, warm in winter and cool in summer. (Web picture

Henan cave dwellings built into the ground 10 to 15 meters deep. (Image: NTDTV)

Erdos downtown Lama Temple. (Network picture)

The Lama Temple in Ordos City, Inner Mongolia. (Image: NTDTV)

Summer harvest in a village in northern Anhui. Threshing began, the well-arranged stone mill in the livestock pull the food ground into flour. (Network picture)

A village in northern Anhui Province after a summer harvest. (Image: NTDTV)

Beijing Temple of Heaven. (Network picture)

Temple of Heaven in Beijing. (Image: NTDTV)

Translated by Jean Chen.

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