These photos (and their titles!) have an unlikely source - they come from The King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry's Christmas cards, 1912.
Why would a British infantryman be sending photos of Chinese gentlemen to his family and friends?
The subject of the photos is the disappearance of the Chinese "Queue", the long pigtail you can see on the gentleman on the left. For more than 200 years, all Chinese men had been forced to wear their hair in this style. Its disappearance was big news at the time.
It was originally a Manchu hairstyle: shaved forehead, the rest of the hair uncut and braided into a pigtail. When the Manchus conquered China, they forced the resident Han Chinese to adopt the same hairstyle.
As new rulers, stamping out any remaining resistance to their rule was top of their to-do list. One easy way to do this was to kill any man who didn't wear his hair in the approved Manchu style!
With the final overthrow of the Qing dynasty (ie the Manchus) in 1911, the queue's days were numbered. Once again, the man-on-the-street didn't have any say in the matter - in December that year:
A revolutionary edict abolishes pigtails and orders calendar reform - ~very widespread forced hair-queue cuttings by revolutionary troops: the traditional Chinese pigtail begins to disappear. [Chinese Chronology, 1911]
I wonder if local hair stylists still celebrate that day?
Back to the Christmas card. The Yorkshire-men were stationed here between 1908 and 1913, so this was the last year's Christmas card they send from Hong Kong. I'll put up pictures of the whole booklet another time, but it includes a standard greeting, space to write more if you want, and four photos including these.
To the ladies who received these cards, the photos must have looked very strange and exotic. But there's a twist to the story:
Today, thousands of Chinese barbers all over the country are doing a rushing business, and vast quantities of Chinese hair are being exported to be made into the rats and switches [hairpieces for women's hairstyles] for European and American ladies. [The Chinese Revolution. c.1912]
So there's a good chance at least some of the ladies looking at these photos already had a queue or two in their home!