Zhang Yuting 张玉亭 was an early cinematographer who specialized in documentaries and newsreels, but whose film career was cut short by patriotism. A native of Tianjin, Zhang began in 1914 at the Tianjin office of the French Pathé Brothers Company. In 1920 he was designated Pathé's Beijing representative. He later started his own company, Yuting, which offered a full range of photographic services: still and motion picture photography, film processing, film and equipment sales, etc. As a sideline, Zhang began shooting documentary and newsreel films. Although he had several outstanding productions, his major film effort was documenting the dedication of Sun Yat-sen's mausoleum in Nanjing. Sun, the "Father of Modern China," had died in 1925 in Beijing. The Chinese government ordered that his permanent resting place be in Nanjing, the capitol of the Republic of China at that time, and commissioned a mausoleum for that purpose. Construction of the tomb was completed in the spring of 1929, and in late May of that year Sun's coffin was transported to Nanjing by special train, then conveyed to the mausoleum for final interment. Zhang Yuting recorded the entire process on film, then edited it into a feature-length documentary. Unfortunately, by the time of the Japanese occupation, the original was lost, with only scattered printed records remaining to describe Zhang's film. When the Japanese occupation forces demanded Zhang Yuting hand over these records, since they might be a rallying point for Chinese resistance, Zhang refused. He was arrested and interned for the rest of the war.
[right, Sun Yat-sen's mausoleum in Nanjing]
In the 1991 TV miniseries《Song Qingling and her Sisters》, one episode consisted entirely of a recreation of Zhang Yuting's documentary, as taken from surviving written records and contemporary accounts. It is powerful, and conveys (even to a foreigner) the emotional impact Zhang's original documentary must have had on patriotic Chinese viewers of the time. The recreation is remindful of other national heroes' funeral trains, e.g. those of Wellington and Lincoln, although their passing came a half-century too early for recording on motion picture films.
[left, dvd of《Song Qingling and her Sisters》, well worth watching for the student of modern Chinese history]