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Shanghai and the Edges of Empires

Shanghai and the Edges of Empires

Meng Yue
Copyright Date: 2006
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 336
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  • Book Info
    Shanghai and the Edges of Empires
    Book Description:

    Shanghai and the Edges of Empires analyzes a century-long shift of urbanity from China's heartland to its shore. Simultaneously appropriating and resisting imposing forces, Shanghai opened itself to subversive practices, becoming a crucible of creativity and modernism. Meng Yue reveals the paradoxical interdependence between imperial and imperialist histories and the retranslation of culture that characterized the emergence of the city of Shanghai.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-6107-7
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. INTRODUCTION: The Border of Histories
    (pp. vii-xxx)

    With this geographic metaphor, a 1935 English tour book,All about Shanghai,announced the city’s cosmopolitan status to potential visitors from around the world. The metaphor’s inspiration lies in its bold statement that a “world city,” usually thought to exist only in the heart of the modern West, had emerged on the landscape of the East: in China. The vivid image made Shanghai an exciting reflection of Paris or New York in Asia. A non-Western cosmopolitanism, though not yet well known, clearly asserted itself through the metaphor. But this bold metaphorical claim also elicited deep ambivalence. Calling Shanghai a “Paris...

  4. ONE The Shifting Locations of the Translation of Science
    (pp. 3-30)

    The Qing Empire in the middle decades of the nineteenth century saw the cultural centers of its heartland—cultural centers that had adorned the economic cores of China with magnificent and sophisticated urbanism—transferred to the tiny treaty port of Shanghai. When I say “transfer” I mean both physical relocation and the thematic transformation of social and cultural practices. As one of the few cities in the southern half of China that was not involved in a prolonged civil war after 1860, Shanghai became the primary refuge for those who had built the previous cultural centers and for their knowledge...

  5. TWO Semiotic Modernity: The Politics of Philology and Compilation
    (pp. 31-62)

    Several rupturing events took place in China around the turn of the twentieth century: the Sino-Japanese War of 1894, the Hundred Day Reform of 1898, the Qing state’s New Policy of 1902, and the influx of new ideas brought from Japan by Chinese dissidents and students. These events had a tremendous cultural effect, the emergence of what one may call “semiotic modernity,” that is, the modernity of semiotics and words. Because of the convenient affinity between the Japanese and Chinese written languages, modern concepts, vocabularies, texts, and graphics flooded China’s printed world during this period by way of Meiji Japan,...

  6. THREE Urban Festivity as a Disruptive History
    (pp. 65-105)

    Having discussed the historical transformation of urban society from Suzhou to Shanghai I now turn to focus on another type of urban culture practice, what can be called “urban festivity,” during the same historical transition.

    The mere mention of Broadway in New York, the West End of London, central Paris, Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles, or Shanghai’s Nanjing Road provokes images not only of glamour and success but of an opulent culture of urban festivity. In Shanghai, that culture involved the energy generated by a concentration of such urban settings as restaurants, hotels, theaters, shops, teahouses, and singsong places, filled...

  7. FOUR In Search of a Habitable Globe
    (pp. 106-136)

    The unruly urban festivity discussed in chapter 3 took on a global dimension with the end of Qing imperial authority. En route to Shanghai, this urban festivity developed its own traditions of justice and morality, traditions that signified the dissolution of the Qing imperial world. In Shanghai, it established connections with overseas revolutionary cultural trends to such an extent that those trends formed a revolutionary “cultural nexus” (to borrow Prasenjit Duara’s concept [1988]) that contested the old nexus that had kept late-imperial society together. This new cultural nexus gave the urban society of Shanghai an alternative globality, represented by Chinese...

  8. FIVE Reenvisioning the Urban Interior: Gardens and the Paradox of the Public Sphere
    (pp. 139-170)

    The last part of the book deals with the practices of urban space that came along with the inside-out-turn of the Qing Empire and that reflected the disharmonious overlapping between imperial and imperialist histories. This section of the book focuses in particular on those cross-cultural spatial constructions in gardens, entertainment centers, and proto-malls in Chinese cities upon which the changing urban societies of China projected various versions of their reading of the globe as well as their ideal of “the world.” The central concern of this and the following chapter is the question of how to conceive the meaning of...

  9. SIX The Rise of an Entertainment Cosmopolitanism
    (pp. 171-209)

    The fact that the critical public took gardens as the early sites of their activities revealed Shanghai’s specific spatial structure and the pattern of landholding. At the overlapping territories of empires, Shanghai’s center for urban activities would hardly be those conventional public spaces such as the city temple or areas around the city gates, even though those were still central to most Chinese cities. Nor would the tall buildings and Nanjing Road of the International Settlement be likely to represent any social or communal centers for the Chinese. Gardens and school lecture halls thus joined the city temple to become...

  10. CONCLUSION: Chinese Cosmopolitanism Repositioned
    (pp. 210-232)

    The city and urban cultural life described in this volume have a lot to do with what can be called at large a Chinese cosmopolitanism, or cosmopolitanism in a Chinese context.¹ I use the word “Chinese” to refer to a collection of cultural-historical as well as textual resources rather than to a political and social entity, and the word “cosmopolitanism” to refer to a set of political, material, intellectual, and emotional practices. Though not merely ideas and discourses, these practices do connect with a connotation of “cosmos” or “universe” (tian xia) in Chinese thought. As Mizoguchi has concisely put it,...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 233-256)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 257-288)
  13. Index
    (pp. 289-296)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 297-297)