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Shanghai Splendor

Shanghai Splendor: Economic Sentiments and the Making of Modern China, 1843-1949

Wen-hsin Yeh
Copyright Date: 2007
Edition: 1
Pages: 319
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/j.ctt1pnw49
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  • Book Info
    Shanghai Splendor
    Book Description:

    Rich with details of everyday life, this multifaceted social and cultural history of China's leading metropolis in the twentieth century offers a kaleidoscopic view of Shanghai as the major site of Chinese modernization. Engaging the entire span of Shanghai's modern history from the Opium War to the eve of the Communist takeover in 1949, Wen-hsin Yeh traces the evolution of a dazzling urban culture that became alternately isolated from and intertwined with China's tumultuous history. Looking in particular at Shanghai's leading banks, publishing enterprises, and department stores, she sketches the rise of a new maritime and capitalist economic culture among the city's middle class. Making extensive use of urban tales and visual representations, the book captures urbanite voices as it uncovers the sociocultural dynamics that shaped the people and their politics.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-93342-2
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-8)

    In the century after the Opium War (1839–42), against the backdrop of deeply seated anti-mercantile ambivalence, a middle class emerged and gained social legitimacy in Shanghai. It embraced the pursuit of industrial wealth on the grounds that it would bring material benefits to the nation. It succeeded in framing the discourse of wealth in terms of science while forging an alliance with the modernizing Chinese state. The new wealth was presented, in the first half of the twentieth century, as patriotic, scientific, and democratic. Even though much of the new money was held in the foreign concessions and by...

  6. CHAPTER 1 The Material Turn
    (pp. 9-29)

    Despite the modern origin of social science theories about capitalism, it remains controversial whether “capitalism” is uniquely modern. By comparison, it is a point of much less ambiguity, even if only for its general inclusiveness, that “economism,” characterized by a decisive materialistic turn in culture and society, is of recent origin. “Economism,” as Leah Greenfeld identifies it, is a state of mind and a view of life in which issues of economy occupy a place of centrality. In social and political thought it emerges in the assumption that continuous economic growth is considered not only a possibility but also an...

  7. CHAPTER 2 The State in Commerce
    (pp. 30-50)

    In the 1920s a new elite emerged in Shanghai. Some, educated overseas and recipients of advanced degrees, presided as bankers, industrialists, entrepreneurs, lawyers, accountants, deans, and so forth. Others, seasoned with long years of experience in the city, served as managers, shareholders, traders, distributors, advertisers, agents, and brokers. They formed companies, launched firms, established schools, ran businesses, hired trainees, signed contracts, dealt with foreign partners, formed civic associations, and engaged in an expanding range of social, political, and charitable activities. They cut across conventional lines of social divisions, built a dense network of relationships, and interacted with each other in...

  8. CHAPTER 3 Visual Politics and Shanghai Glamour
    (pp. 51-78)

    In the year 1853 the Taiping rebels burst through the mountain passes of southwestern China and poured down the Xiang River valley. They sacked Wuhan, the imperial stronghold in the upper Yangzi, and emptied out the governor-general’s office, which contained over two million taels of silver. Thus fortified, rebel forces charged eastward to take town after town, the ranks of their followers swelling into the tens of thousands. They captured Nanjing, declared it the capital of the “Heavenly Kingdom of Great Peace,” and went on to take Suzhou, the seat of the governor-general of the lower Yangzi. The Suzhou elite...

  9. CHAPTER 4 The Clock and the Compound
    (pp. 79-100)

    A major landmark on the Shanghai waterfront was the giant clock above the Maritime Customs House. Made in England and an exact copy of Westminster’s Big Ben, it sat at a height of ten stories atop the customs building, its four faces visible to all who approached the Bund. The largest clock in Asia at the time, it chimed the quarters and hours just like its London counterpart. More than the jazz concerts in the riverside park, the fog horns on the water, or the clamor rising from the streets, it was the chimes sounding from the Customs House that...

  10. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  11. CHAPTER 5 Enlightened Paternalism
    (pp. 101-128)

    “Modernity” in Shanghai, with its indigenization of foreign products and its promotion of machine-related science, mobilized the capacities of the printing press to undertake a campaign of negotiation and persuasion. Entrepreneurs, officials, and educators all took part, in different capacities, in this process. The result was the emergence of a new belief that with science as its foundation, modern enterprises would facilitate economic progress and bring material benefits, and that this combination of science and prosperity would serve to enrich the nation and enlighten the people. There were books that explained the connections between science and wealth, and schools that...

  12. CHAPTER 6 Petty Urbanites and Tales of Woe
    (pp. 129-151)

    In the 1930s, a new group of writers began contributing to the pages of Shanghai’s journals and magazines. Consisting of shop clerks, office workers, trade apprentices, business trainees, elementary school teachers, and so forth, these were individuals whose formal education had ended before university, but who were working in jobs that required literacy. They found their public forum in the left-leaning journals, to which they contributed autobiographical accounts of personal circumstances. By and large, these authors recounted tales of hardship. They suggested preoccupations with the economic problems of the era and evoked an atmosphere of insecurity and fear.

    There was...

  13. CHAPTER 7 From Patriarchs to Capitalists
    (pp. 152-204)

    In July 1937, the Nationalist government declared the War of Resistance against Japan. In Shanghai, fighting broke out soon after in the city’s outskirts on August 13, 1937. The war, which was to last for eight years (1937–45), went through three stages: intense fighting in the lower Yangzi region (August–December 1937), the isolation of the foreign concessions into “lone islets” (August 1937–December 1941) in occupied China, and, with the outbreak of war in the Pacific on December 7, 1941, the full occupation of the concessions under Japanese military authorities, aided by the Nationalist Wang Jingwei regime in...

  14. EPILOGUE: The Return of the Banker
    (pp. 205-218)

    In May 1949, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) crossed the Yangzi River and marched into Shanghai, entering the undefended city on a bright spring day. Throngs of onlookers crowded the streets. Thousands of underground Party members, including the activists among the employee associations and publishing enterprises, staged celebrations for the liberation that they had so assiduously worked for. The city’s elite faced a difficult decision with the takeover. Managers of Wing On chose to stay, as did the accountant Pan Xulun. A large number of senior bank executives, however, decided to either relocate to Hong Kong or New York, or...

  15. Notes
    (pp. 219-258)
  16. Bibliography
    (pp. 259-284)
  17. Glossary
    (pp. 285-292)
  18. Index
    (pp. 293-305)
  19. Back Matter
    (pp. 306-307)