A Chinese blogger on Toutiao.com has dug up five rare photographs showing very tall Chinese men of the late Qing Dynasty. The vintage photos of these men, who stood well over two meters (six and a half feet) at a time when malnutrition frequently stunted growth, were taken in an age when China was just starting to be explored by Westerners.
Zhan Shicai, born in 1841, is perhaps the most famous of the imperial Chinese giants. According to a report by a Chinese-Australian historical society, he was native of eastern China’s Fujian Province and had a claimed height of 2.44 meters, or about 8 feet, making him one of the world’s tallest men. Zhan moved to London in 1865, and performed onstage in the West as “Chang the Chinese Giant.” He received a Western education and learned ten different languages.
After his Chinese wife Kin Foo died in 1871, Zhan married an Englishwoman he met in Australia and had two children with her. In his later years, spent in Great Britain, he opened a tea shop and a store selling Chinese imports. He lived to the age of 50.
Not much is known about this man, except that he was invited by Western travelers to take part in performances abroad. He is pictured in stage costume with the performance organizers.
Chang Yanming, of southwestern China’s Yunnan Province, was 2.41 meters (about 7 feet 11 inches) tall. He served as bailiff at the local yamen, or imperial government officer. This photo was taken by Australian adventurer George Ernest Morrison.
Morrison worked as a journalist correspondent for The Times in Beijing and was political advisor to Chinese military ruler Yuan Shikai. Below is another photo he took of a giant man living in a Chinese village.
Gigantism is a rare condition caused by abnormal growth hormones. The world’s tallest man, Robert Wadlow, measured 2.72 meters (about 8 feet 11 inches) in height, and weighed about 450 pounds. At the time of his death at the age of 22, the American was still growing by multiple inches a year.