“History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.”
— Mark Twain

Dwelling in the World: Family, House, and Home in Tianjin, China, 1860–1960

Posted: April 9th, 2021 | No Comments »

Elizabeth LaCouture’s new book on Tientsin – Dwelling in the World – is a must read for anyone interested in the city…

By the early twentieth century, Chinese residents of the northern treaty-port city of Tianjin were dwelling in the world. Divided by nine foreign concessions, Tianjin was one of the world’s most colonized and cosmopolitan cities. Residents could circle the globe in an afternoon, strolling from a Chinese courtyard house through a Japanese garden past a French Beaux-Arts bank to dine at a German café and fall asleep in a British garden city-style semi-attached brick house.

Dwelling in the World considers family, house, and home in Tianjin to explore how tempos and structures of everyday life changed with the fall of the Qing Empire and the rise of a colonized city. Elizabeth LaCouture argues that the intimate ideas and practices of the modern home were more important in shaping the gender and status identities of Tianjin’s urban elites than the new public ideology of the nation. Placing the Chinese home in a global context, she challenges Euro-American historical notions that the private sphere emerged from industrialization. She argues that concepts of individual property rights that emerged during the Republican era became foundational to state-society relations in early Communist housing reforms and in today’s middle-class real estate boom.

Elizabeth LaCouture is the founding director of the Gender Studies Program at the University of Hong Kong, where she is an assistant professor of gender studies and history.

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Reinventing Licentiousness: Pornography and Modern China

Posted: April 8th, 2021 | No Comments »

Y Yvon Wang’s Reinventing Licentiousness looks very interesting.

Y. Yvon Wang draws on previously untapped archives―ranging from police archives and surveys to ephemeral texts and pictures―to argue that pornography in China represents a unique configuration of power and desire that both reflects and shapes historical processes. On the one hand, since the late imperial period, pornography has democratized pleasure in China and opened up new possibilities of imagining desire. On the other, ongoing controversies over its definition and control show how the regulatory ideas of premodern cultural politics and the popular products of early modern cultural markets have contoured the globalized world.

Reinventing Licentiousness emphasizes the material factors, particularly at the grassroots level of consumption and trade, that governed “proper” sexual desire and led to ideological shifts around the definition of pornography. By linking the past to the present and beyond, Wang’s social and intellectual history showcases circulated pornographic material as a motor for cultural change. The result is an astonishing foray into what historicizing pornography can mean for our understandings of desire, legitimacy, capitalism, and culture.

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Refrigeration in old Shanghai

Posted: April 7th, 2021 | No Comments »

There’s a whole bunch of interesting thesis to be written about the history of refrigeration in old Shanghai and how it miraculously changed life in the city in the summer months. In the old days – basically until the early 1930s it was ice and then electricity driven aircon and refrigeration.

Polar Star was a major refrigeration company in Shanghai with a factory and showroom up on Chang Ping Lu near Suzhou Creek.

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Old China Podcasts

Posted: April 6th, 2021 | No Comments »

Just a note to say that a number of my recent audio projects that free and easily downloadable are now gathered together on this website – see the home page ‘Old China Podcasts’ or click here. The selection includes my BBC Radio 3 docu-drama Peking Noir, an adaptation of my novella Strangers on the Praia, some selections from my collection Destination Shanghai and some of my contributions to the China Stories podcast feed.

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A bit of high concept from Yaron Studios of the Nanking Road in 1947

Posted: April 2nd, 2021 | No Comments »

A bit of a high concept approach in1947 from the Yaron Studios advetising agency of Nanking Road (Nanjing East Road). The company is perhaps best for its design of The Shanghai Pocket Guide For Servicemen issued to US troops stationed in Shanghai after 1945 – below….

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Edin Furniture of Shanghai

Posted: April 1st, 2021 | No Comments »

Edin Furntiure, ‘Manufacturers of High Class Upholstered Furniture’ was, in the late 1940s, located on Charngshu Road. An odd name and possibly a typo and more commonly Changshu (presumably after the city in Jiangsu), though it appears several times in directories withb this odd spelling. It was formerly the Route Sayzoong and is now Changshu Lu.

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Arthur Ransome & the Shanghai Mind on China Stories

Posted: March 31st, 2021 | No Comments »

If you haven’t discovered it yet the China Stories podcast comes from the Sinica Network on SupChina brings you audio narration of the best articles and op-eds appearing in Sixth Tone, Caixin Global, The Wire China, Week in China, The World of Chinese, Protocol China, and of course SupChina. Subscribe to the podcast and you can listen to features on the go, with narrators who won’t butcher the pronunciation of Chinese names and words. And just this week i uploaded an audio version of Los Angeles Review of Books China Channel article discussing Arthur Ransomeand his creation of the concept of the ‘Shanghai Mind’ in the 1920s. Click here

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France and Germany in the South China Sea, c. 1840-1930 – June 2021

Posted: March 30th, 2021 | No Comments »

Bert Becker’s France and Germany in the South China Sea 1840-1930 is an interesting title. With British Hong Kong and French Indochina on its northern and western shores, the ‘Asian Mediterranean’ was for almost a century a crucible of power and an axis of economic struggle for coastal shipping companies from various nations. Merchant steamers shipped cargoes and passengers between ports of the region. Hong Kong, the global port city, and the colonial ports of Saigon and Haiphong developed into major hubs for the flow of goods and people, while Guangzhouwan survived as an almost forgotten outpost of Indochina. While previous research in this field has largely remained within the confines of colonial history, this book uses the examples of French and German companies operating in the South China Sea to demonstrate the extent to which transnational actors and business networks interacted with imperial power and the process of globalisation.

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