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Marketing Medicine and Advertising Dreams in China, 1900–1950
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2. Marketing Medicine and Advertising
Dreams in China, 1900–1950

Sherman Cochran

Today… calendar posters are popular with ordinary people in Chinese society. The women in calendar posters are sick. Not only are calendar painters unskilled but the subjects of their paintings are disgusting and depraved. China has lots of women who are strong and healthy, but calendar painters only draw sickly ladies so weak that they could be knocked down by a gust of wind. This kind of sickness does not come from society. It comes from the painters.

LU XUN(1930)

Here Lu Xun, the most brilliant writer in China during the first half of the twentieth century, took a position that challenges anyone interested in advertising in Chinese history.[1] According to his analysis, advertising was traceable to one of two sources—commercial artists or society—and in his opinion the images of Chinese women then appearing in calendar posters were attributable to commercial artists rather than society. Was Lu Xun right? Was advertising wholly an expression of commercial artists' "sick" fantasies and not at all a reflection of society at large? If so, then why did calendar posters and other advertisements become, in Lu Xun's words, "popular with ordinary people in Chinese society"?

Lu Xun was undoubtedly right not to adopt the common and untrustworthy assumption that advertising directly reflects social reality or simply expresses popular attitudes. While it is tempting to imagine that advertising is a mirror that reflects a true image of society and popular thought, specialists on advertising in Western history have convincingly shown that at most it has been, in the words of the American historian Roland Marchand, "not a true mirror but a Zerrspiegel, a distorting mirror[;]…a fun-house mirror [that] not only distorted, it also selected."[2] If Lu Xun was right not to attribute advertising simply to society, he was wrong to attribute it solely to commercial artists. As will be noted later in this essay, certain Chinese commercial artists did play crucial roles as creators of advertising images (especially images of women), but they were not the only or even the principal historical figures responsible for making and popularizing advertisements in China during the first half of the twentieth century. More pivotal in the process of making and popularizing advertising were Chinese entrepreneurs who took the lead not only in producing advertising on the drawing boards (as shown in the first three

parts of this essay) but also in distributing it across space and sustaining it over time (as shown in the last two parts). To illustrate how entrepreneurs made and popularized advertising, this essay draws upon the history of "new medicine" (xinyao), Chinese-made Western-style patent medicines that were probably the most intensively and extensively advertised goods in China during the first half of the twentieth century. In particular, the focus here is on Huang Chujiu (1872–1931), a manufacturer and distributor of "new medicine," who was known in early-twentieth-century China as the King of Advertising (guanggao da wang).[3]


Huang Chujiu based his first major advertising campaign on the premise that, at the beginning of the twentieth century, Chinese yearned for Western solutions to their medical problems. He tested the popularity of this belief by introducing China's first Chinese-made drug that appeared to be Western. He distributed the drug in bottles under a Chinese name, Ailuo bunaozhi (Ailuo Brain Tonic), which sounded like a Chinese transliteration of a Western name, and he had China's biggest publishing house, the Commercial Press, print instructions on the label in English. On the label and the outer paper wrapper he added, also in English, that the product was invented by Dr. T. C. Yale. Thus, on the outside, this medicine gave every indication of being Western.[4]

Chinese Origins of a "Western" Alternative. Huang presented Ailuo Brain Tonic as Western even though he had no Western partner or Western financial backing, had never been in the West, and had never studied Western pharmacology or received any Western education. Born in 1872 in Taoyuan village, Yuyao county, Zhejiang province, 120 kilometers south of Shanghai, he had grown up as the son of a Chinese herbal doctor and had learned about Chinese medicine as an apprentice in his father's clinic. In his home village, until the age of fifteen he had attended a private school (sishu) of the kind that rejected Western educational reforms in favor of traditional Chinese learning.[5] Only once, after the death of his father in 1887 had prompted him and his mother to move to Shanghai, had he been exposed to a Western-oriented institution, when he had enrolled briefly at the Qingxin Academy (Qingxin shuyuan). But in Shanghai he had soon discovered opportunities to make money selling medicine as a street peddler, so he had begun skipping classes and then dropped out of school and ended his formal education altogether. Thereafter he had gradually built up a business selling Chinese medicines, first as a hawker in teahouses and wineshops around the Temple of the City God (chenghuang miao) and then as the proprietor of a small traditional drugstore, which he and his mother had opened in Shanghai's old walled city.[6]

In 1890, when Huang moved his business into Shanghai's French Concession, he took his first step toward identifying it with Western medicine by converting his

shop from an old-style drugstore into a new-style one. He dropped its original, traditional-sounding name, Hall of Long Life (Yishou tang), which ended in tang (hall), as the names of many old-style Chinese drugstores did, and he adopted an explicitly foreign-sounding name that was appropriate for Shanghai's French Concession, the Great China-France Drug Store (Zhongfa da yaofang), which ended in a new Chinese term, yaofang (drugstore). He also gave his new drugstore a name in English, the Great Eastern Dispensary, which he included along with its Chinese name on his shop sign and in the letterhead of his stationery. Later, he moved his drugstore one last time in Shanghai, from the French Concession into the International Settlement.[7]

While Huang's drugstore and the label on his Ailuo Brain Tonic might have appeared to be Western, there was in fact nothing Western about the contents of this medicine. He bought the recipe for it from a Chinese pharmacist, Wu Kunrong, who had intended that it be used as a sedative. Huang employed forty Chinese workers to produce and bottle it, and he distributed it through his and other Chinese-owned new-style drugstores. He promoted it in advertising campaigns exclusively through Chinese-language media—newspapers, handbills, and posters— and in this advertising he concentrated on promoting his "Western" medicine by locating it in a Chinese medical context.[8]

Huang's advertising urged Chinese to try his "Western" brain tonic to make up for the deficiencies of Chinese medicine. He traced these deficiencies to the traditional Chinese medical theory of the five yin orbs and six yang orbs (wu zang liu fu) and found fault with it for focusing too sharply on relations or functions in the body and not enough on relations or functions in the brain (naozhi). From Western medical theory he had learned, he said, that the brain was a sixth yin orb, and, on the basis of this discovery, he claimed to have formulated a new synthesis—the theory of the six yin orbs and six yang orbs (liu zang liu fu).[9]

In his advertising, Huang invoked Western medical theory as the key to his insights and as the basis for his product, Ailuo Brain Tonic, but he delivered this message in terminology and logic that remained firmly embedded in Chinese medical theory. Whereas Huang claimed to be adopting a Western medical perspective, he described the body entirely in terms of orbs (zang), not organs, even though, as the medical historian Manfred Porkert has pointed out, "statements bearing on a certain orb can under no circumstances be made to agree completely with statements bearing on the corresponding organ in Western thought…. [It is fallacious to assume] that congruence may be achieved between the description of a Chinese orb and the characteristics that Western medicine postulates for its substratum."[10] Huang made no comment on the differences between Chinese and Western modes of thinking about orbs and organs or, for that matter, about health and disease in general. Instead, keeping his advertisements strictly in Chinese terms, he boasted that he had discovered the "Western" theory of the sixth yin orb, and that it revealed the Chinese need for "brain health" (jiannao)—precisely the need that his product would satisfy.[11]


Overcoming Objections to Claims of Westernness. Huang's product had barely hit the market before he faced two challenges to the claims in his advertising. In 1907, less than a year after Huang introduced Ailuo Brain Tonic, he was approached by "a little American bum" (Meiguo xiao wulai—to quote the characterization given in the Huang family's version of the story) who demanded royalties because he claimed to be the son of T. C. Yale, the inventor identified on the label of Ailuo Brain Tonic. Recognizing this as a minor threat, Huang disposed of it by paying off this Mr. Yale quietly in exchange for his signature on a legal document granting to Huang's Great China-France Drug Store all rights to Ailuo Brain Tonic.[12]

Later in 1907 another complaint was lodged by a Portuguese physician named Yale. This doctor, an established medical practitioner in Shanghai's International Settlement, sued Huang for using his name to promote a drug without his permission and filed charges in the Mixed Court of the International Settlement. This time, unable to settle quietly out of court, Huang confronted his Western accuser and used the occasion to generate publicity for himself and his business.

Pleading innocent, Huang claimed that he had used the name T. C. Yale on the label because it was the Western equivalent of his own name. He explained that his name, Huang, means yellow, and since Yellow was not a common Western surname, he chose a common Western surname that sounds like Yellow: Yale. As for the initials T. C., these were the first letters of his two given names, Chu and Jiu, as romanized to represent the sounds of these two characters when pronounced in his native dialect.[13]

Huang's performance in the courtroom was mesmerizing. The judge found in his favor and dismissed the charges, and newspaper reporters described his victory in sensational stories. As a result, Huang's reputation as a slippery character (huatou) spread widely.[14] Even among Shanghainese (who have often been stereotyped by Chinese from elsewhere as "wily"), he became known jokingly as "one of the two and a half slipperiest characters in town."[15]

Following the trial, Huang quickly earned high profits on Ailuo Brain Tonic. He priced it at 2 yuan per bottle and sold 500 bottles per day. Since each bottle (containing 168 cc of medicine) cost only. 40 yuan to make, his rate of profit was 400 percent. As the profits rolled in, Huang used them to buy a fancy automobile, renovate a three-story building made of reinforced concrete, and begin distributing his goods in China outside Shanghai. By 1911, he had reinvested enough profits in the Great China-France Drug Store to make it the second-largest new-style Chinese drugstore in Shanghai, with capital of 68,000 yuan, annual sales revenue of 250,000 yuan, and annual profits of 50,000 yuan. At that time, in 1911, he made his business officially Western. By paying several hundred yuan to the Portuguese consul in Shanghai, he bought the citizenship of a deceased Portuguese resident of Shanghai, and he registered the Great China-France Drug Store as a Portuguese enterprise. Thereafter the letterhead on its stationery proclaimed in Chinese as well as English that it was a Portuguese business.[16]


By successfully introducing Ailuo Brain Tonic and defending it in court, Huang set precedents that opened the way for the sale in China of Chinese-made "new medicine" that appeared to have foreign origins. Impressed by his high profit rates, several Chinese drugstores began making their own new-style medicines, which became known as "goods under local trademarks" (benpai chanpin). By the mid-1930s the Great China-France Drug Store manufactured more than 500 such drugs under its local trademark, and it was by no means unique. Several other Chinese-owned new-style drugstores each made a comparable number of drugs under their local trademarks, and one, the Five Continents Drug Store (Wuzhou da yaofang), made as many as 780.[17]

Popularizing Western Solutions to Chinese Medical Problems. Why did Huang Chujiu's advertising for Ailuo Brian Tonic become popular? The above account shows that Huang personally played the leading role in devising specific advertising campaigns for merchandising his goods, but how did he make his advertising effective? Was it (in Lu Xun's terms) because Huang's advertising ideas and images came from society or from the advertiser?

In this particular case, such questions are difficult to answer because scholars are still debating the history of Chinese popular attitudes toward medicine—a field worthy of future research. On the basis of work done thus far, it seems that Huang's emphasis on a Western solution as a viable alternative to Chinese medicine was an idea espoused at the time only by a segment of China's intellectual elite and was not representative of popular thought in Chinese society as a whole. Intellectual and political historians have shown that advocates of modern Western medicine (xiyi) and defenders of traditional Chinese medicine (Zhongyi) battled fiercely and mobilized substantial organizations against each other during the first half of the twentieth century, [18] but their studies of these factional rivalries concentrate exclusively on the educated elite—intellectuals, political leaders, physicians—and leave open the question of whether other Chinese thought of medicine in these dualistic Sino-Western terms.

On the basis of studies of Chinese medical practice, it seems likely that during the first half of the twentieth century Huang advertised in a society where most Chinese thought of their medical options not dualistically in Sino-Western terms but eclectically in a framework of "medical pluralism." As Nathan Sivin has observed, "the abiding problem of medical pluralism" is central to any understanding of Chinese medical practice before and throughout the first half of the twentieth century. According to his summary, "Chinese chose freely throughout history—as freely as their social and financial circumstances permitted—among priests, spirit mediums, magicians, itinerant herbalists and acupuncturists, classical physicians, and other healers." Writing in 1987, Sivin noted that this wide variety of choices was then still available in some Chinese communities on the periphery of the mainland, although in the People's Republic "most of them have

been eradicated as superstitious, and the pluralism of the past has given way to the dualism of traditional and modern medicine."[19]

Sivin's thesis that pluralism in Chinese medicine did not give way to a Sino-Western dualism before the founding of the People's Republic has not yet been tested by historical research on healing services in China during the first half of the twentieth century, but it is convincing because it has strong support from his own historical research on pre-twentieth-century China and from several anthropologists' studies of Chinese medical practices in Taiwan and Hong Kong during the 1960s and 1970s.[20]

Huang thus popularized his medicine as Western in a society where Western medicine had not become widely popular. Faced with this marketing challenge, he devised a strategy for promoting Western medicine that differed from the one adopted by members of China's intellectual elite. As shown here, he advertised in familiar Chinese medical terms (body orbs) rather than unfamiliar Western scientific ones (body organs), and he thereby made his product seem intelligible and unthreatening to Chinese consumers even while it retained its appeal as an (apparent) import from the exotic Occident. In Lu Xun's terms, one might say that Huang's advertising came from both himself (through his adaptation of Chinese intellectuals' advocacy of Western medicine) and society (through his accommodation to popular unfamiliarity with Western medicine).


In 1911, emboldened by his success with "Western" Ailuo Brain Tonic, Huang Chujiu began to make an imitation of a Japanese-made medicine called Humane Elixir (a two-character name pronounced Jintan in Japanese and Rendan in Mandarin). Eventually, during an anti-Japanese boycott in China four years later, Huang began to compete with the Japanese manufacturer of this medicine by introducing nationalistic "buy Chinese" advertising, but initially he viewed it as a model for his own business.

Huang's Japanese Model: Humane Elixir. From Huang's point of view, Japanese-made Humane Elixir was the obvious choice as a model for his own product because it was by far the most popular foreign-made medicine in China. According to the American consul general in Shanghai at the time, Humane Elixir's sales in China were nearly equal to those of all other foreign-owned pharmaceutical companies combined.[21] Its popularity was not traceable to its therapeutic efficacy, at least not according to an analysis done at the time by the American Medical Association, which concluded that Humane Elixir "possessed no material potency" because it lacked "potent alkaloids" and consisted mostly of sugars that were "highly aromatized, suggesting ‘breath perfumes' like ‘sen sen.’[22]

But if the medical efficacy of Humane Elixir's product was open to doubt, the commercial potency of the company's marketing system in China was undeniable.

Humane Elixir's Japanese founder, Morishita Hiroshi, had an eye on China even before opening the company at Osaka in 1893. Throughout his life he had been interested in "Chinese medicine" (kanpo in Japanese), and while serving with the Japanese army in Taiwan he had conceived the idea of making Humane Elixir.[23] After consulting a Japanese sinologist and a Japanese journalist specializing in China, he chose for the product a name deeply rooted in Chinese tradition—humaneness was the very first of the five Confucian virtues (followed by righteousness, propriety, wisdom, and faithfulness), and elixir was the term long used to describe Daoist potions and other traditional Chinese tonics[24]—and soon set up a distributing system for it in China.

By 1908, Humane Elixir maintained sales offices in three Chinese cities (Shanghai in the lower Yangzi, Hankou in the middle Yangzi, Tianjin in north China) and made each of these offices responsible for distribution in a sales territory encompassing five or six of China's provinces. At the Shanghai office, it established Toa and Company, capitalized at 500,000 yen, to serve as its headquarters in China. Through Toa it lured Chinese-owned drugstores away from rival Western pharmaceutical firms and convinced them to sell Humane Elixir exclusively by granting them seven to ten months' credit (compared to only three months' credit from Western companies) and by protecting them from fluctuations in market prices. Whenever the market rose above the agreed-upon price, it allowed them to keep surplus profits, and whenever the market fell below the agreed-upon price, it allowed them to pass their losses along to it.[25] By using this strategy, Humane Elixir distributed its goods throughout China before Huang Chujiu entered the market at Shanghai. As the American consul at Shanghai remarked about Humane Elixir at the time, "This company has spared no pains, either in canvassing or publicity campaigns, to exploit thoroughly and systematically the whole of China, so that even in remoter interior sections it is difficult to escape the familiar poster extolling the virtues of ‘Jintan’ [Humane Elixir]."[26]

As suggested by these references to Humane Elixir's "publicity campaigns" and its "familiar poster," the Japanese company armed its large-scale distributing system with a full arsenal of advertising weapons. By 1910 it was already the numberone advertiser in Japan, [27] and it set its sights on the same goal in China. While sending its message through a wide range of media—newspapers, magazines, billboards, posters, handbills, calendars, and parades—Humane Elixir focused attention sharply on a single image: its trademark. This trademark was well designed to reach illiterate as well as literate Chinese consumers, according to an American advertising analyst who was sent by the United States Department of Commerce to spend eighteen months in 1919 and 1920 surveying advertising in China, Japan, and the Philippines. "The best ‘chop’ is nearly always pictorial, supplemented in most cases with a few easily read Chinese characters," he observed

in his report on advertising in China, and he cited Humane Elixir as his prime example: "One of the very best chops is that used by the Japanese ‘Jintan’ [Humane Elixir]…which is advertised and used all over China. The chop consists of nothing but the head and shoulders of a man wearing a distinctive kind of hat, together with two simple Chinese characters that even the most illiterate coolie can read and remember."[28] This description of the two characters in Humane Elixir's name as "simple" is no exaggeration. Each is written in only four strokes.

In the second decade of the twentieth century, Humane Elixir made its trademark familiar to illiterate as well as literate Chinese by featuring it in outdoor advertisements over and over again, especially on billboards and in parades of sandwich-board carriers.[29] In fact, it eventually made the Humane Elixir man's face on its trademark so familiar that he had an effect on men's fashions in China. Adopting his heavy black mustache as their model, many Chinese men grew similar mustaches and were seen wearing this kind of mustache in China's cities (including Beijing, as noted by novelist Lin Yutang) and in China's countryside (as portrayed in Wu Zuxiang's short story "Fan Village").[30] Even today, long after the image of the Humane Elixir man has ceased to occupy a prominent place in China's landscape, the term "Humane Elixir mustache" (rendan huzi) continues to be used to describe mustaches worn by Chinese men in China.

Imitating the Japanese Model. Favorably impressed by this Japanese company's success, Huang Chujiu tried to make a new medicine indistinguishable from Humane Elixir. He named his new medicine Human Elixir, which was pronounced exactly the same as Humane Elixir (Rendan in Chinese and Jintan in Japanese); even the tones used to say the two names were identical. To make Human Elixir, Huang founded the first Chinese-owned foreign-style mechanical pharmaceutical manufacturer, the Dragon and Tiger Company (Longhu gongsi) and assigned it the task of duplicating Humane Elixir. According to the Dragon and Tiger Company's analysis, Humane Elixir turned out to contain peppermint, borneol, cloves, and catechu, which were all readily available in China. So Huang used these ingredients in his effort to make Human Elixir resemble Humane Elixir as closely as possible.[31]

In advertising, as in manufacturing, Huang initially made his product appear to be similar to its Japanese counterpart. In July 1911, his first advertisement for Human Elixir in Shen bao, one of China's two biggest newspapers, established his theme by emphasizing his product's universal applicability. It should be "in every person's pocket and in every family's medicine chest," this advertisement proclaimed.[32] In it and subsequent advertisements during the next four years, Huang made no effort to differentiate his product from Japanese-made Humane Elixir, no mention of his product's Chinese origins, and no appeal to his Chinese customers' patriotism. In fact (following the example of Huang's Ailuo Brain Tonic), his advertising included un-Chinese, Western images such as an orchestra that featured brass horns and a bass drum (known in Chinese as foreign instruments, yanghao and yanggu).[33]


Using this strategy of imitation, Huang made a poor start with Human Elixir. Initially he was unable to raise sales above a hundred cases per year.[34] Nonetheless, he stayed with the same strategy until 1915, when Japan imposed on the Chinese government the Twenty-one Demands—a wide-ranging set of economic rights and privileges for Japanese in China—which provoked Chinese protests, including a boycott against Japanese-made goods.

Selling "National Goods." On March 23, 1915, less than two months after the Twenty-one Demands were made public, Chinese leaders of Shanghai's twenty major guilds formed the Society for the Use of National Goods (Quan yong guohuo hui) and started a boycott against Japanese-made goods that was largely devoted to the promotion of Chinese-made substitutes. Though officially banned by the Chinese government in Beijing, this organization quickly extended its reach, opening offices at seventy locations in China by May 1915.[35] As the boycott spread, Huang Chujiu tried to capitalize on it by advertising Human Elixir as one of the "national goods."

Between May and August of 1915 Huang filled his newspaper advertisements with nationalistic slogans in support of Human Elixir. These advertisements exhorted Chinese consumers to "Stop the Economic Drain [Abroad]" (louzhi), "Restore Economic Rights [to Chinese]" (wanhui liquan), and "Buy 100 Percent National Goods" (wanquan guohuo).[36] Conceding that Huang's Human Elixir had once tasted less good than his foreign rival's product did, his advertising insisted that it had been worth buying even then because it had always been an effective medicine and had always been a 100 percent national product. Besides, as of 1915, Human Elixir tasted "not a bit inferior to foreign goods [waihuo]," his advertising claimed, because he had improved it by combining raw materials from China with "the most upto-date manufacturing techniques from the West."[37] To enhance their visual appeal, Huang's newspaper advertisements contained nationalistic drawings along with nationalistic slogans. One advertisement from 1915, for example, employed the emotionally charged imagery of the flag and flagpole: the Chinese character for country (guo) formed the flagpole's base; the character for China (zhong) was the pole; and a flag emblazoned "Human Elixir" flew from the top of the pole.[38]

While adopting the rhetoric of modern nationalistic competition, Huang did not abandon the imagery of traditional Chinese harmony. Instead he blended the two together. In 1915 he revised Human Elixir's trademark so that it contained representations of both nationalistic competitiveness and traditional harmony. To signify nationalism, he highlighted in circles Chinese characters meaning Chinese national goods (Zhonghua guohuo); and to invoke tradition, he pictured a dragon and a tiger, which, according to traditional Daoist symbolism, produced a divine elixir by bringing together yang (the dragon) and yin (the tiger) in a harmonization of opposites.[39] This trademark gave the impression that Human Elixir was an official product as well as a nationalistic and traditional one by declaring that it had received

special recognition from three governmental agencies: approval from the Ministry of Health, tax-exempt status from the Ministry of Finance, and official registration from the Trademark Bureau.[40] To reinforce this impression, Huang bought for himself honorific official titles, including one as "presidential advisor" (da zongtongfu ziyi) to Yuan Shikai, who presided over China's republican government in 1915.[41]

Even while Huang used nationalistic and traditional imagery to differentiate his product from his Japanese rival's, he adopted more of his Japanese rival's financial and promotional techniques to strengthen his company's distributing system. In 1915 he converted his business into a limited liability company and recruited several Chinese investors to help him raise its capital to 100,000 yuan. With this backing, he began offering exactly the same credit to Chinese distributors as his Japanese rival had offered them, allowing them to hold goods up to ten months before they were required to make any payment. To supply these distributors with advertising, he followed step-by-step in his Japanese rival's tracks, sending out advertising teams to put up posters wherever Humane Elixir's advertising appeared in Shanghai and dispatching another four or five teams to do the same in other cities, towns, and villages outside Shanghai. These teams hired local children to parade around in tall hats and white gowns while marching to the beat of drums and handing out leaflets.[42]

And yet, despite all of this fanfare, Huang did not earn high profits. At the end of the boycott against Japan's Twenty-one Demands in August 1915, he was so disappointed in the sales of Human Elixir that he sold it to two Chinese publishers, Lufei Bohong and Shen Zhifang, the president and vice-president of the Zhonghua Book Company. A year later, after these new owners fared even less well and lost all of the 60,000 yuan they had invested in order to improve Human Elixir, Huang bought it back from them for 20,000 yuan, half as much as they had paid him for it.[43]

Thereafter, Huang continued to sell Human Elixir, with results ranging from poor to mediocre. In average years, he sold 200–300 cases of it. He regularly underpriced Human Elixir by 20 percent and at times by as much as 80 percent and, as a result, frequently suffered losses on Human Elixir and covered them by dipping into profits from Ailuo Brain Tonic. He recorded his highest sales, 1,000–1,260 cases per year, in conjunction with two anti-Japanese boycotts, one during the May Fourth Movement of 1919 and the other during the National Salvation Movement of 1931. But even selling at these levels Human Elixir was no match for its Japanese rival. During the boycott of 1919, it yielded profits of 20,000 yuan—less than half of the average annual profits on Huang's Ailuo Brain Tonic at that time—and during the boycott of 1931 its sales amounted to no more than one-thirtieth of its Japanese rival's sales in China (1,260 cases compared to 37,800 cases).[44]

Popularizing Economic Nationalism. Why was Huang's advertising for Human Elixir not as effective as advertising for his other products? As with Ailuo Brain

Tonic, he took command of the product's promotional campaign, but he had far less impressive results. Was his advertising's relative failure attributable to society or himself? These questions, like the ones raised earlier about popularizing Western medicine, are difficult to answer because of the limited amount of research available on the subject. Judging by available studies, it seems likely that Huang was less successful at popularizing Human Elixir at least in part because his advertising for it did not accommodate popular attitudes as inventively and as fully as his advertising for Ailuo Brain Tonic did.

As with Ailuo Brain Tonic, Huang devised an advertising campaign using ideas and images that had been introduced by members of China's intellectual elite. Since the turn of the century, Liang Qichao and other Chinese thinkers had advocated nationalist causes, and during the first third of the century Chinese intellectuals and students led an extraordinary number of Chinese antiforeign boycotts—each sparked by a political or diplomatic incident—that were directed primarily against Japan (in 1908, 1909, 1915, 1919–21, 1923, 1925–26, 1927, 1928–29, and 1931–32) and secondarily against Britain (in 1909, 1925–26, and 1927). Undoubtedly Huang adopted and continued to use "national goods" slogans because some of these boycotts were effective. As C. F. Remer has shown, when one of these boycotts spread widely and lasted more than a year in China, it reduced the sale of foreign-made goods by as much as 25–40 percent in the lower Yangzi region and south China and by 10 percent in north China.[45] Citing this evidence, economic historian Chiming Hou has gone so far as to conclude that economic nationalism gave Chinese-owned businesses a major advantage over foreign-owned rivals in their battles for China's market.[46] But perhaps this conclusion overestimates the extent to which consumers' preferences were based on a sharply defined Sino-foreign dualism in Chinese popular thought.

The rivalry between Huang's Human Elixir and his Japanese rival's Humane Elixir provides additional evidence to show that Chinese consumers practiced "medical pluralism" rather than choosing between Chinese medicine or Western medicine as distinct alternatives. In the case of Ailuo Brain Tonic, as noted in the first part of this essay, Huang took advantage of the lack of a sharp distinction between modern Western medicine and traditional Chinese medicine by advertising his supposedly Western product in familiar, unWestern, Chinese terms. In the case of Human Elixir, he tried once again to mix seemingly contradictory ideas and images: new, unfamiliar notions of Western-style competitiveness (in the nationalistic rhetoric of boycotts) and old, familiar representations of Chinese-style harmony (in the traditional images of the dragon and the tiger). Since a similar strategy had worked with Ailuo Brain Tonic, it might well have worked with Human Elixir too, but this time Huang had met his match. In competing with Japanese-owned Humane Elixir, not only did Huang have to contend with a company whose production and distribution were superior to his own, but he also had to compete with a foreign rival that advertised successfully on Chinese terms (as none of Ailuo Brain Tonic's Western rivals did). So the outcome of Huang's rivalry

with Humane Elixir in advertising seems attributable not simply to his alignment of an economic nationalist (Human Elixir) against an economic imperialist (Humane Elixir), but also to his failure to combine modern Western-style imagery with traditional Chinese-style imagery as effectively as his Japanese competitor did. Although Huang undeniably lost out in this competition, perhaps he should not be judged too harshly. After all, none of the manufacturers of Humane Elixir's competitors during the early twentieth century (or since) has invented such a concise and memorable Sino-Western syncretism as the one found in Humane Elixir's own trademark: a man modeled after Bismarck whose uniform, hat, and epaulets represent Western-style power, and two simply written Chinese characters whose meanings express the core values of Confucianism and Daoism.[47]


While Huang Chujiu had at best sporadic and limited advertising success with nationalism, he popularized advertising more consistently by using pictures of women to promote Ailuo Brain Tonic, Human Elixir, and several other products.[48] To produce these portraits, he recruited two Chinese commercial artists, Zheng Mantuo (1888–1961) and Hang Zhiying (1900–1947), who eventually became widely known in early-twentieth-century China for their calendar posters of women, especially nudes.

Unveiling Nudes. In 1914 Huang took his first and perhaps biggest step toward successfully commodifying women when he discovered Zheng, then an unknown twenty-six-year-old portrait painter. At the time, Zheng was painting portraits of classical Chinese beauties (shinu hua), and after migrating to Shanghai from Hangzhou only a few months earlier, he was hoping to sell his paintings by putting them on display at Zhang Garden in the heart of Shanghai's commercial district on Nanjing Road.[49]

When Huang saw Zheng's paintings, he immediately recognized the potential for advertising. He was particularly impressed by Zheng's rendering of classical Chinese beauties through the use of a new technique, light-colored brushwork known as rub-and-paint (cabi dancai).[50] Apparently Zheng had invented this technique on the basis of his experience working at the Erwoxuan Photography Studio in Hangzhou in 1913, and he used it to make his female subjects lifelike (xuxurusheng) and comely— "seemingly available at a viewer's beck and call," as art critic Zhang Yanfeng has recently observed.[51] Zheng thus differed from the most prominent Chinese artists then painting advertisements in China. His training was in painting portraits, whereas theirs was in painting New Year's pictures (nian hua) and drawing magazine illustrations, and his experience with photography made him more attentive to gradations of light and shade than they were.[52]

Upon seeing Zheng's paintings, Huang hired him on the spot and put him to work transforming the image of Chinese women in advertisements. Almost immediately

Zheng's advertising images became widely recognized because of their new technique and their new subject: women's bodies, including nudes. Prior to the twentieth century, Chinese artists had tended not to paint nudes or even show the shapes of women's figures. "Except in erotica," the art historian Marsha Weidner has noted, "figures in traditional Chinese paintings are invariably clothed and usually heavily draped…. Until the early twentieth century, when Chinese artists working in Western modes began to draw from nude models, the question of participation in life-drawing classes simply did not arise."[53] In comparative terms, according to another art historian, John Hay, before the twentieth century "no Chinese painter ever produced a ‘nude’ in the sense of that cluster of culturally defined anatomical shapes and surfaces so prominent in Western art."[54] Not until 1914 did a few Chinese artists paint nude models in private, and not until the mid-1920s did they begin to display paintings of nudes in public exhibitions.[55] Nor did photographers publish pictures of Chinese nudes at the time. As Perry Link noticed in surveying literature published in popular Chinese magazines, "Beauties in magazine photographs of the 1910s are always heavily clothed from the neck down."[56]

And yet, as early as 1914, while other Chinese artists and photographers continued to obscure women's bodies in heavy clothing, Zheng Mantuo began painting seminudes for Huang Chujiu's business, and Huang wasted no time publishing them in calendar posters advertising his medicine. For Zheng's very first calendar poster, he chose a familiar subject, Yang Guifei (719–56), royal consort to the Xuanzong emperor during the Tang dynasty, who had long been regarded as one of the four leading Chinese classical beauties, and he placed her in a hot springs as other Chinese painters had done before him. But unlike previous portraitists—even ones emphasizing Yang Guifei's seductiveness and the Xuanzong emperor's salaciousness—Zheng revealed the contours of Yang Guifei's body by showing her wearing a transparent silk bathrobe. Under the title Yang Guifei Emerging from Her Bath (Guifei chuyu), this painting appeared on the calendar poster that Huang's business distributed to its wholesalers, retailers, and customers for the year 1915.[57]

For painting Yang Guifei's head, Zheng had numerous models available to him. He was able to consult paintings of Chinese classical beauties, which continued as in the past to be a popular subject with Chinese artists. In addition he could look at the heads of Chinese classical beauties in advertisements that had been published and distributed by foreign-and Chinese-owned businesses in the first years of the twentieth century before Zheng joined Huang's staff.[58] Without seeing a copy of Yang Guifei Emerging from Her Bath, it is not possible to say precisely what model Zheng chose for Yang Guifei's head, but in light of his other early calendar posters of women, it seems likely that he endowed her with the stereotypical facial features of a classical Chinese beauty: almond-shaped eyes (xing yan), eyebrows like moth antennae (e mei), cherry lips (ying chun), an egg-shaped face (e dan lian), and hair piled high with a bun on top.[59]


For Yang Guifei's semiclothed body, Zheng could consult no comparable models of Chinese women in paintings and advertisements. So he modeled her body after the bodies of nude Western women as they appeared in magazines imported from the West. Before moving to Shanghai, Zheng had studied English at Hangzhou's Yuying Academy (Yuying xueyuan), and in Shanghai he used his reading knowledge to track down English-language magazines containing photographs of nudes. By copying a Western woman's nude body, adding Yang Guifei's head, and adjusting for scale, he produced the first painting showing a woman's body to be published as an advertisement in China.[60]

With the publication of this and subsequent calendar posters, Zheng Mantuo's work was soon in great demand. Huang Chujiu tried to retain Zheng, and, by the standards of the time, Huang spent heavily on advertising, paying an annual salary of 2,400 yuan each to his leading commercial artist, his best writer of advertising copy, and his advertising manager.[61] Despite Huang's tempting offers, Zheng soon left the Great China-France Drug Store, opened his own studio, and began to accept commissions. His minimum price for a basic design was 500 yuan. He offered his clients the opportunity to suggest additions and revisions, and he charged 100 yuan for each change that they required. Even billing at these high rates, Zheng was overwhelmed with orders, receiving so many that he had the luxury of holding over late requests for calendar posters from one year until the next.[62]

Keeping Up with Fashions. After Zheng left Huang's business, Huang began to pay commissions to a younger man, Hang Zhiying, who eventually surpassed Zheng as China's most influential painter of women in advertisements. During the second decade of the twentieth century, as a teenager working in the advertising department at the Commercial Press in Shanghai, Hang had learned Zheng's techniques by literally stealing from him—sneaking into Zheng's office at the Commercial Press and making off with original copies of his drawings.[63] Then in 1925 Hang left this job, founded his own business, and began to introduce innovations. His new techniques were adapted mainly from the work of Walt Disney (whose cartoons were shown in Shanghai's movie theaters beginning in the late 1920s). Like Disney, Hang named his business after himself (calling it Zhiying Studio), trained students there (serving as master for scores of apprentices before his death in 1947), and organized teams of artists to work collectively on each painting. In his business's hierarchy, he held the top position and signed his name (allowing no other) on all of the paintings that were done; below him were two immediate subordinates, Li Mubai (1913–91) and Jin Xuechen (1904–); below them were seven or eight other paid artists; and at the bottom of the organizational structure were unpaid apprentices. According to available evidence, all of these artists were men. Indeed, all identifiable Chinese calendar painters working for Hang or anyone else were men.[64]

Hang differed from Zheng in his portrayals of Chinese women's heads and bodies. On their faces, he put broad smiles—smiles so broad that he bared their

teeth. His modern women smiled with pleasure as they attended social occasions and engaged in Western-style sports—bicycling, tennis, golf, archery—and even his classical beauties broke into grins (rather than keeping their mouths closed behind demure "cherry lips").[65] Interested in women's heads quite apart from their bodies, Hang was the first Chinese to design calendar posters that showed contemporary women only from the neck or shoulders up. Prior to that time Chinese artists had avoided painting close-ups of heads, apparently because of a popular belief linking pictures of heads with beheadings and bad deaths. Breaking this taboo, Hang deliberately confined himself to heads in numerous paintings, which became known as "portraits of great beauties' heads" (da tou meinu hua).[66]

In his portraits of women's bodies, Hang also introduced innovations. Initially he followed Zheng Mantuo's example in showing classical Chinese beauties sometimes draped in traditional costumes that left their figures seemingly formless and sometimes clad in transparent bathrobes that made them seminude.[67] But later he showed women in two types of modern fashions, one Western and one Chinese. When dressing them in Western clothes, he exposed their unbound feet and breasts by showing them in tight-fitting shorts, bathing suits, unbuttoned blouses, untied halters, and evening gowns with plunging necklines.[68] When dressing them in modern Chinese style, he clothed them in the qipao, a Chinese adaptation of a Manchu costume that had a high collar, slits up the sides, and buttons running from the neck across the chest, under the right arm, and down the right side. Whereas earlier painters, including Zheng Mantuo, had shown Manchu and Chinese women in qipao that were waist-length jackets with long sleeves and were worn with loose-fitting long skirts or pants, Hang pictured Chinese women in qi-pao that were sleeveless floor-length dresses which clung tightly from the waist up and fell open at the slit, exposing the women's legs from the thigh down.[69] Whether dressing women in Western or Chinese costumes, he and his all-male staff of artists apparently painted them for men, placing them almost invariably in frontal positions and compliant poses and showing them gazing out from calendar posters as though eyeing male spectators.

Hang became renowned for his portraits of nudes and seminudes, and he received orders for calendar posters from lots of entrepreneurs besides Huang Chu-jiu. These orders came from Chinese-owned businesses—generally based in Shanghai, south China, and Southeast Asia, not in the northeast, north or north-west—and from foreign-owned businesses. Even the British-American Tobacco Company, proud possessor of the biggest advertising department of any business in China, eventually commissioned Hang to supply fully half of all its advertising paintings in China. Each year during the late 1920s and 1930s, Hang's Zhiying Studio produced more than eighty advertising paintings and earned over 240,000 yuan.[70]

Popularizing Women's Bodies. Why were Huang's calendar posters of women's bodies his most popular advertisements of all? As emphasized by Lu Xun in the

quotation cited at the beginning of this essay, Chinese commercial artists played important roles as painters of the images of women in advertisements; but as shown here, it was the entrepreneur Huang Chujiu who discovered Zheng Mantuo, the first and eventually most influential Chinese commercial artist of his time, and it was Huang who hired Zheng and put him to work constructing the first advertising images of Chinese women. As in campaigns for Ailuo Brain Tonic and Human Elixir, Huang thus played the leading role in the creation of advertising images. Once again his actions raise the question of whether his ideas came from himself or society at large, and once again this question is difficult to answer for lack of detailed studies of Chinese popular taste during the first half of the twentieth century.

If the bold analysis by the historian Mark Elvin is any indication, then Huang had available to him no conceptions of the human body as an aesthetic object except those discovered by members of the Chinese elite through contact with the West in the early twentieth century. Prior to the late nineteenth century, Elvin has argued, Chinese elites traditionally viewed the "body-person" (shen) as nothing more than "a pegdoll, a carrier of attributes," and, accordingly, they dressed in loose-fitting clothes and had "almost nothing corresponding to ‘fashion.’"[71] This "overall Chinese syndrome" in pre-twentieth-century attitudes toward the human body is traceable, according to Elvin, to a "fundamental historical difference between Chinese thought and Western thought. Chinese traditionally assumed that there was a deep gulf between the morally proper and the morally improper…. There was no accepted dialogue, either philosophical or artistic, between the correctupright (zhehng [zheng]) and the depravedoblique (xier [xie]), or between the public-impartial (gong) and the private-personally based (si)." Thus, "virtue" remained uncompromising, unrealistic, and sterile, and "vice" remained human and vital but irredeemable, instead of enriching each other by their interaction, as seems to have happened in the classical, medieval, and early-modern West.[72]

Only after this Western "dialogue" reached China in the early twentieth century, Elvin has asserted, did Chinese begin to view the unclothed human body as an aesthetic object, and only then did Chinese artists begin to depict clothed women in postures that made viewers conscious of bodies beneath the clothing.[73]

While concentrating mainly on the Chinese elite's conceptions of the body, Elvin has also concluded that the elite's exposure to Western images of the body did not decisively change popular Chinese attitudes. The Western "dialogue" between the "correct" and the "depraved" appealed only to the elite in China's largest cities and "was felt by most Chinese to be a deadly allurement… and also a source of general social anomie, precisely because it weakened the barriers between the ‘correct’ and the ‘depraved’ aspects of life. They lacked the cultural resources needed for the easy handling of this powerful, if peculiar, Western aberration."[74]

When applied to the case described here, Elvin's thesis is helpful only insofar as it highlights Western influence on the Chinese commercial artists who painted

Huang's calendar posters. Elvin's heavy emphasis on the newness and Westernness of Chinese conceptions of the body in the early twentieth century is borne out in this case to the extent that Zheng Mantuo copied his first nude women's bodies from photographs in Western magazines and Hang Zhiying chose Walt Disney's studio as a model for his business organization. But Elvin seems to have overestimated Western influence and underestimated Chinese "cultural resources," at least as manifested in the history of advertising. In fact, Huang succeeded where previous advertisers had failed precisely because his artists portrayed women as Chinese and evoked images of beauties from China's past as well as its present. During the first decade of the twentieth century, Western businesses had exported to China Western-made advertising showing Western women, and had been disappointed to find Chinese consumers unreceptive or even hostile to these images.[75] Not until Huang's artists began to feature Chinese women in advertising during the middle part of the succeeding decade did he (and subsequently his imitators, including Western businesses) become satisfied with the results. Huang's successful strategy of prominently showing classical Chinese beauties as well as contemporary Chinese women in advertising suggests that in the early twentieth century Chinese artists and their audiences retained a greater non-Western legacy of "cultural resources" and possessed a greater capacity for imagining and portraying Chinese women's bodies than Elvin has supposed.

This conclusion and the conclusions to the first two parts of this essay all have characterized Huang Chujiu as a pivotal figure taking ideas and images from the Chinese elite and popularizing them in Chinese society. Up to this point, his success at popularization has been inferred from the sales of his products and the satisfaction that he expressed with his advertising. But in efforts at popularization, how far did he and other sellers of "new medicine" reach? Was their advertising popular only with the elite in restricted localities or more widely throughout China and Chinese society? Clues to the answers lie in the extent to which medical advertisements were distributed in China.


During the first half of the twentieth century, businesses published and distributed advertising for "new medicine" in China on a grand scale. They made pictorial advertisements accessible to all social classes, including illiterate as well as literate observers, and they circulated these advertisements in all of China's nine macro-regions (lower, middle, and upper Yangzi, northeast, north, northwest, southeast, south, and southwest).[76] The biggest of the Chinese-owned drugstores conducted nothing less than mass advertising by operating marketing systems on three tiers: at Shanghai headquarters, in regional branches, and through local franchises.

Shanghai Headquarters. In the early twentieth century, Shanghai pulled ahead of its rivals as the city of choice for the headquarters of Chinese-owned businesses

selling "new medicine." As early as 1907–8, Shanghai became China's print capital and leading exporter of newspapers and advertising, and between 1911 and 1936, Shanghai surpassed Guangzhou as the most popular base for businesses selling and advertising "new medicine." As late as 1911, Shanghai ranked about the same as or slightly behind Guangzhou as a center for this trade, with each city housing 28 Chinese-owned new-style drugstores and with Shanghai handling 10 percent of China's imported drugs compared to Guangzhou's 12.2 percent. But by 1936 Shanghai far surpassed Guangzhou as the trading center for Chinese sellers and importers of new-style medicine, serving as home for 166 Chinese-owned new-style drugstores compared to Guangzhou's 84 and receiving 77 percent of China's imported drugs compared to Guangzhou's 5.9 percent (and Tianjin's 9.2 percent).[77]

Among Chinese entrepreneurs, Huang Chujiu was one of the first to establish formal headquarters at Shanghai, and for this purpose he designed buildings that themselves served as advertisements. In the 1920s, he deliberately selected sites for his buildings on corners at busy intersections in Shanghai so that they would attract attention. He housed his headquarters in his two most prominent office buildings, one at the corner of Beijing Road and Zhifu Road and the other at the corner of Fuzhou Road and Shandong Road. In 1928, when he decided to build them, he formulated "Basic Guidelines for the Design of the New Stores," which he gave the architects and builders to follow. In these guidelines, he emphasized the importance of big plate glass windows to showcase eye-catching displays, and he allowed no steps at the entrances because he wanted the buildings accessible to all, particularly the frail and elderly in search of medicine. Once completed, the buildings were ringed on the ground floor with windows whose design and construction (not counting displays) cost more than 30,000 taels. Each building stood five stories tall and was topped with a roof of gleaming ceramic tiles, one yellow and the other green. Even Huang's medicine factory attracted attention because he gilded its sign with twenty ounces (liang) of real gold.[78]

Of all Huang's buildings, the one with the greatest advertising value was the Great World (Da shijie), a five-story amusement hall that he opened in 1917 in Shanghai's French Concession at the corner of Tibet Road and Avenue Edouard VII (today's Yan'an Road). At the Great World, Huang installed distorting mirrors, staged Chinese regional operas, and supplied other forms of popular entertainment that attracted huge crowds—an average of twenty thousand paying customers per day—and as the pleasure seekers moved from one floor to the next in this rambling building, he exposed them to walls covered with advertisements for his medicines. Outside the building he also used the Great World to spread his advertising. On its facade he affixed billboards, and from its tower he launched advertising stunts, flying a huge kite, for example, that dropped advertising leaflets onto surrounding neighborhoods. Day after day he tied so much advertising to the Great World that people at the time began jokingly calling the place "Huang Chu-jiu's ‘Commercial World’" (Shangpin shijie).[79]


Besides designing buildings, Huang Chujiu and his staff also designed advertising at his Shanghai headquarters. He established a specialized advertising section (guanggao ke) and heavily funded it, allocating to it between 60 and 75 percent of the budget for his most popular medicines (leaving only 25–40 percent for the cost of manufacturing and distributing these goods). Part of this advertising budget covered salaries for painters and writers who, as noted earlier, were well paid by the standards of the time. Another part of the advertising budget financed the founding and operation of a radio station, Mainland Radio (Dalu diantai), a wholly owned subsidiary of Huang's business, which broadcast commercials for his medicines as sponsors for serialized adaptations of Chinese classics such as The Story of the West Wing (Xixiangji) and other programs every day. A third part of the advertising budget covered the cost of making visual commercials—slide shows and short films preceding feature-length movies at theaters. And a fourth part of the budget was spent on newspaper advertisements, including some of an unprecedented kind. In the 1920s, for example, Huang Chujiu was the first in Shanghai to take out full-page newspaper advertisements—a practice subsequently adopted by several other new-style drugstores. In 1923, when he launched a new medicine called "Machine for Long Life" (bailingji), he ran full-page advertisements for it in newspapers once or twice every month; at the same time he separately published his own magazine, Long Life Pictorial (Bailing huabao), which was devoted largely to advertisements for this product.[80]

In Shanghai, besides broadcasting commercials over the radio and running advertisements in newspapers, Huang and other sellers of new medicines distributed published advertisements through a merchandising hierarchy of wholesalers and retailers. At the highest level were the sixteen biggest Chinese-owned drugstore chains, each capitalized at more than 100,000 yuan. They made their own advertising and distributed it through their own chains of drugstores. By 1936, some had six wholly owned branch stores apiece in Shanghai, and altogether the sixteen biggest drugstore chains accounted for 68.3 percent of sales of "new medicine" in Shanghai at the time. At the next level were medium-sized drugstores capitalized at an average of 15,000 yuan, with sales of 30,000 yuan per year. From these medium-sized drugstores, Huang's firm and other big drug companies rented window space for their advertising. Still lower in the hierarchy were small drug-stores capitalized at an average of 2,000 yuan, with sales of 15,000–30,000 yuan per year, and below them were restaurants, tobacconists, and other commercial vendors, including itinerant peddlers. Big drugstores supplied advertising to these retailers either directly or indirectly through wholesalers.[81]

In the absence of detailed data, it is difficult to assess the effectiveness of this advertising in Shanghai, but the available evidence suggests that by 1936 it helped new-style drugstores (which all carried heavily advertised "new medicine") to outsell old-style drugstores (which all carried unadvertised traditional Chinese medicine).[82] As shown in table 2.1, even though in 1936 new-style drugstores in Shanghai

TABLE 2.1 A Comparison of Chinese-Owned New-Style
and Old-Style Drugstores in Shanghai, 1936
  No. of Stores Capital (in Yuan) No. of Employees Sales Volume (in Yuan)
    SOURCE: Shanghai shehui kexue yuan jingji yanjiu suo, comp., Shanghai jindai xiyao hangye shi(Shanghai: Shanghai shehui kexue yuan chubanshe, 1988), 120, 123.
New-style 166 7,550,000 2,012 41,510,000
Old-style 498 13,530,000 5,400 41,880,000
were far less numerous, less well capitalized, and less well staffed than old-style drugstores were, they generated about the same amount of total sales revenue.

Shanghai-based new-style drugstores advertised more intensively in Shanghai than in other cities (and most intensively of all in Shanghai's foreign concessions, where their headquarters were concentrated), but they did not confine their advertising to this one city.

Regional Branches. Outside Shanghai, as within it, the biggest new-style drug-stores established wholly owned branch drugstores, and they modeled these branches after the ones in Shanghai. As in Shanghai, they tended to locate each branch conspicuously on a corner at an intersection in the heart of a highly commercial area. Over each entrance they placed a large wooden signboard proclaiming that this drugstore was a branch of the Shanghai-based parent company. They designed branches as new-style drugstores, which, by contrast with old-style Chinese drugstores in each city, were multistoried buildings featuring clock towers, plate glass windows, and brightly lit interiors for displaying medicines to passersby and coaxing them inside.[83]

From their Shanghai headquarters, the biggest drugstores paid directly for newspaper advertising in their regional branches' localities. By the 1930s advertisers could take advantage of newspapers originating in every province of China. In 1935 China had 313 "big dailies" (consisting of one big sheet or more in each issue) plus 600 small and irregularly published newspapers. Altogether, according to an estimate at the time by Lin Yutang, 30 million Chinese read newspapers every day.[84]

The biggest Chinese drugstores distributed their own advertisements—which had been published in Shanghai—to their regional branches. As early as 1916 Huang Chujiu sent advertising teams outside Shanghai to put up posters and organize parades for distributing handbills in other cities. By 1936, several new-style drugstores based in Shanghai owned regional branches in metropolises at the cores of six of China's macroregions (lower, middle, and upper Yangzi, north, south, and southeast), leaving them without branches in the remaining three

(northeast, northwest, and southwest).[85] Their branches, in turn, distributed advertising and goods to the parent companies' local franchises.

Local Franchises. Without investing in additional branches, big new-style drugstores extended their sales networks by recruiting independently owned drugstores to serve as local franchises (lingpai lianhao). They arranged for local Chinese shopkeepers to affiliate with them by seeking out interested parties, negotiating deals, and signing contracts.

From the standpoint of the parent companies, their affiliations with franchises provided an inexpensive means of advertising their products in untapped markets. They added new franchises only in cities and towns where they had not previously opened a regional branch or designated a franchise, and they assumed no legal responsibility for a local franchise's losses. They tried to persuade each franchise to sign exclusive dealing agreements in which the franchise holder promised to sell only the medicines of the parent company, not of any rival, but they frequently accepted franchises where the local owners rejected this provision.[86]

For a local drugstore, the principal advantage of becoming a franchise took the form of advertising. The direct financial benefits for the local franchise were minimal—small discounts, early notification of sales, year-end commissions depending on the franchise's sales volume—and provided no guarantees of compensation in case of losses. But the amount of advertising supplied by the parent company was plentiful. The local franchise named its shop after the parent company, declaring on its shop sign that it was a branch (fenzhi), and became, in the words of a recruiting brochure used by one of the big drugstores based in Shanghai, part of "a well-organized advertising network penetrating every corner of the country."[87]

This claim that a company "penetrated every corner of the country" might sound like an advertising agent's cliché, but in fact between 1912 and 1936 the biggest new-style drugstores did reach all nine of China's macroregions by means of franchises. As shown in table 2.2, the three biggest drugstore chains distributed goods and advertising nationwide to 162 local franchises in 105 of China's cities and towns, and they marketed outside China through 15 local franchises in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaya, and Thailand.

Advertising for Chinese-owned new-style drugstores also was distributed outside cities and towns. Its success at reaching down the urban hierarchy into rural China is evident in the fact that Chinese peasants were still using pre-1949 calendar posters to decorate their homes in the early 1990s. In 1992, when the art critic Zhang Yanfeng began searching in China for forms of pre-1949 commercial art, she and her research assistants found little in the cities, where, they were told, such bourgeois remnants had survived until the 1960s but had been destroyed during the Cultural Revolution. So they extended their search outside the cities into the countryside in four regions—the lower Yangzi, north China, northeast China, and south China—where they eventually discovered 586 pre-1949 calendar posters hanging on walls in the homes of peasants.[88]

TABLE 2.2 Regional Branches and Local Franchises of Three Shanghai-Based Drug Companies (China and the West, China-France, and Five Continents), 1912–1936
Region of China or Country or Colony outside china No. of Cities and Towns with Regional No. of Towns with Regional branches No. of Cities and Towns with Local Franchises No. of Local Franchises
    SOURCE: Shanghai shehui kexue yuan jingji yanjiu suo, comp., Shanghai jindai xiyao hangye shi(Shanghai: Shanghai shehui kexue yuan chubanshe, 1988), 95–96, 98–99, 391–92.
Lower Yangzi 6 23 41 65
Middle Yangzi 5 7 17 28
Upper Yangzi 1 2 2 3
Northeast China 0 0 4 6
North China 4 5 23 30
Northwest China 0 0 6 8
Southeast China 1 1 5 11
South China 1 1 5 8
Southwest China 0 0 5 3
Taiwan 0 0 5 4
Hong Kong 0 0 1 4
Singapore 0 0 1 1
Indonesia 0 0 3
Malaya 0 0 1 1
Thailand 0 0 2

Reaching a Mass Audience. Did this advertising reach a mass audience in China? In their article on the beginnings of mass culture in China, Leo Oufan Lee and Andrew Nathan have defined mass culture as "culture that is nationwide, universal to all classes, and consciously engineered and controlled from above," and using this definition they have concluded that in China "it was not until after 1949 that a truly mass audience was created."[89] If taken literally, this definition sets unrealistic standards for assessing mass culture in Chinese history. In a country so large and diverse, it is doubtful whether any cultural medium even up to the present has become nationwide and universal to all classes, and it is questionable whether in any country culture is ever engineered and controlled entirely from above. Nonetheless, this definition has the advantage of specifying three useful criteria—the reach across space, reach across classes, and control over production.

By each of these three criteria, advertising for "new medicine" functioned as a formidable medium of mass culture in China before 1949. As shown above, in accordance with the first criterion, it reached nationwide to the extent that it circulated in all of China's macroregions (not to mention Southeast Asia). In keeping with the second criterion, it became "universal to all classes" to the extent that it used pictorial representations and itinerant drummers to reach the literate and the illiterate,

the peasants and the urban dwellers. And in conformity with the third criterion, it was "consciously engineered and controlled from above" to the extent that entrepreneurs like Huang Chujiu supervised its design, production, and distribution.

This conclusion is valid for the years 1912–36, as documented in table 2.2, but did advertising for "new medicine" continue to function as a medium of mass culture over a longer period of time? In an era of political turmoil and military conflicts, its durability was put to the test.


While Huang and other sellers of medicine extended their advertising across all regions and down urban hierarchies in China and Southeast Asia, they also sustained the distribution of their advertising to these far-flung locations over time. They did so despite attempts by governments to introduce official restrictions on medical advertising in the 1930s and 1940s. After being spared any such restrictions prior to 1930, they responded by effectively postponing, deflecting, or evading new policies proposed by each successive government: Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalist government, 1927–37; the Japanese occupying forces and the collaborationist government of Wang Jingwei, 1937–45; and the Nationalists again, 1945–49.

Delaying the Implementation of Nationalist Regulations, 1927–37. When the Nationalist government came to power, it established a Ministry of Health that was receptive to long-standing demands for official regulation of "new medicine" in China. Since the passage of the Pure Food and Drug Act in the United States in 1906, Chinese and Western members of the Chinese Medical Association had been campaigning for this kind of regulation.[90] Of all the leaders of the campaign, the one best positioned to influence official policies was Wu Liande, a Western-trained Chinese physician who first gained fame for leading a campaign against a plague of epidemic proportions in Harbin, 1910–11, and who subsequently held official appointments as a medical administrator in each of China's successive central governments (Qing, Beiyang, and Nationalist) during the first third of the twentieth century.[91] In 1929, Wu summed up the main arguments and expressed the tenor of this campaign when he urged the leaders of the Nationalist government to levy a tax on new-style medicines. These medicines, he said, were "needless and even harmful luxuries" and were sold in "enormous" quantities in China. If they remained untaxed and unregulated, then Chinese would continue to be, according to Wu, even more vulnerable to new-style drug companies' newspaper advertising and other marketing techniques than people were in other countries: "The gullibility of the general public is proverbial in every country, but in China this takes on an extreme form, for both the educated and uneducated readily swallow all the lies and exaggerations which appear in print."[92]

In February 1930 the Nationalist government's acting minister of health, Liu Ruiheng, responded to Wu and other advocates of regulation by issuing the "Proposed

Regulations Governing Patent and Proprietary Medicines." All of these medicines, according to the draft regulations, had to be properly tested, registered, labeled, and packaged, and all medical advertising had to be free of "false and pretentious claims, or the use of a third person as guarantee, or any misleading statement." Violators were subject to fines and other punishments.[93]

Written by four Chinese scientists, including one Western-trained pharmacologist, the draft regulations delighted the physicians who had been critical of new-style Chinese medicines and drugstores. Upon hearing news of the proposal, Bernard Read, a distinguished research scientist at Peking Union Medical College, spoke for many doctors when he published his endorsement of the draft regulations in the National Medical Journal of China (Shanghai) and the China Medical Journal (Beijing) and expressed his relief that new-style medicines, a "group of drugs flooding the China market," would finally be put under the "most rigid control…to protect the medical profession and the public against fraud, undesirable secrecy and proprietary advertising."[94] But this declaration of victory for the medical profession over new-style drugs and drugstores proved to be premature.

Even before the proposed regulations were announced, Huang Chujiu and other sellers of "new medicine" had already organized resistance to them. In January and February 1927, as Chiang Kai-shek's troops were preparing to take Shanghai, Huang Chujiu convened in his home two meetings of twenty of his fellow Chinese owners of new-style drugstores. At the first meeting he proposed the formation of a trade association, and at the second he announced the founding of the Shanghai New Medicine Trade Association (Shanghai xinyaoye gonghui) and the election of himself as its first president. Once before, in 1909, on the eve of the founding of the Chinese republic, Huang and a few other Chinese drugstore owners had established the Foreign Medicine Guild (Yangyao gongsuo) in anticipation of the need for a lobbying organization to deal with a new government that, as it turned out, was established with the founding of the Chinese republic in 1912. Now, on the eve of the Nationalists' founding of another new government, Huang formed a trade association in anticipation of the same need.[95]

Huang also took advantage of his informal contacts with people who had direct access to Chiang Kai-shek. He had a close relationship, for example, with Huang Jinrong, the very first person from Shanghai to call on Chiang after the Nationalist leader's arrival in the city in 1927.[96] Huang Chujiu and Huang Jinrong were from the same native place, Yuyao, and Huang Chujiu had cultivated a friendship with Huang Jinrong since 1917, when Huang Chujiu had constructed his first large building in Shanghai's French Concession—an area where Huang Jinrong wielded immense power because he held a position as a detective in the French police force and used elaborate networks of Chinese "disciples" (xuesheng) to control an underworld organization known as the Green Gang.[97] Through Huang Jinrong, Huang Chujiu also formed alliances with two younger Green Gang leaders, Du Yuesheng and Zhang Xiaolin. According to an investigation in 1931 by Tan Shaoliang, superintendent in the police force of Shanghai's International

Settlement, Huang Chujiu was "friendly" with Huang Jinrong, Du Yuesheng, and Zhang Xiaolin, although he was not involved in the opium trade and gambling rackets as they were.[98]

Besides befriending these powerful underworld figures, Huang Chujiu formed alliances with the second person to call on Chiang after the Nationalist leader's arrival in Shanghai in 1927: Yu Ziaqing, president of the Shanghai Commercial Federation (Shanghai shangye lianhehui).[99] Since 1915, Yu had been a major shareholder in Huang's Great China-France Drug Store, and during the same period Huang had served with Yu in the Shanghai General Chamber of Commerce and other merchant organizations.[100]

As head of the Shanghai New Medicine Trade Association, as a friend of Shanghai's leading underworld figures, and as a business associate of Shanghai's leading merchants, Huang Chujiu proved to be an effective lobbyist. In 1930, as soon as the Nationalist government's Ministry of Health announced its proposed regulations governing patent medicines, he formally protested in the name of the Shanghai New Medicine Trade Association, and in all likelihood he informally used his personal contacts to mobilize support for this protest. In response, the government agreed to delay implementation of the regulations. According to the draft regulations, the new laws were to be promulgated in July 1931 and were scheduled to go into effect after a grace period of six months, in January 1932.[101] But in actual practice the regulations were not enforced in 1932, or later. In 1933, according to D. Barat, an officer in the association of licensed pharmacists in Shanghai, "all these regulations exist only on paper." He cited a survey by the Health Authorities of the Foreign Settlement, which found that 90 percent of Shanghai's pharmacies were "run by unqualified people, and the importance and sale of pharmaceutical products is in the hands of laymen." As a result, Barat complained, not only Shanghai but the country as a whole had acquired a dubious distinction: "China is regarded by smaller as well as bigger manufacturing enterprises as the only country in the world that can be flooded with all kinds of worthless medicines."[102]

Meanwhile, advertising for these "worthless medicines" also went unregulated. In 1936 Lin Yutang wrote in his history of the press that "China is the ideal land for quack doctors, which is really a new evil arising only in modern times from the growth of periodicals." He was particularly disturbed by the large number of advertisements run by these "quack doctors" in the most widely circulated newspapers. Based on an analysis of one of China's two biggest newspapers, Shen bao, he concluded that it "is carrying on different days [in May 1936] not one, but four… ‘medical supplements' and ‘health supplements,’ run by different groups of doctors with different medicines to sell."[103]

In January 1937 the Nationalist government promulgated a new Patent Medicine Law that closely resembled the one passed in 1930.[104] Even if, as the government vowed, it intended to enforce this law with greater resolve, it had little opportunity to do so before the Japanese military invasion of China in the summer of 1937.


Wartime "Golden Age," 1937–45. During the Sino-Japanese War of 1937–45, the biggest Shanghai-based, Chinese-owned new-style drugstores continued to expand and extend their distributing networks outside Shanghai as well as within it. Even while many Chinese people and some Chinese businesses suffered under draconian Japanese rule, several leading Chinese-owned drugstores made informal and formal political arrangements that gave them opportunities to prosper. In fact, some of them raised sales and increased the number of their branches and franchises so dramatically that Chinese historians have characterized the wartime years as their "golden age."[105]

Outside Shanghai, as Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalist government retreated up the Yangzi River to its wartime capital at Chongqing, the biggest Chinese-owned drugstores sent some capital and equipment along with it. In 1937 and 1938, the Great China-France Drug Store moved upriver under the auspices of the government's Commission for Removal to Sichuan (Qian chuan weiyuanhui) and converted its Chongqing branch into the headquarters for a newly founded subsidiary, the China-France Company of the Western Region (Zhongfa Huaxi qu fen gongsi), capitalized at 1 million yuan with branches in Chengdu and Kunming and franchises in smaller cities and towns.[106]

In Shanghai, the key to new-style Chinese drugstores' political survival was their owners' relationship with the Chinese politician Chu Minyi, a close associate and brother-in-law of Wang Jingwei who founded the most prominent Chinese collaborationist government under Japanese rule. Before the war, some of these owners had dealt with Chu because of his role as a medical administrator with a special interest in pharmacology; although he never practiced medicine, in 1921 he had graduated from the University of Strasbourg in France with degrees in medicine and pharmacy, and in 1928–29 he had served on the Nationalist government's commissions on public health and national hygiene in China. In 1931, within a few months after Huang Chujiu had died, Chu had been appointed to the board of directors of the Great China-France Drug Stores by Huang's successor, Xu Xiaochu (who was also Huang's son-in-law), and after the war broke out in 1937, Xu's friendship with Chu served him and his business very well.[107]

Between 1937 and 1941, thanks to help from Chu, Xu was able to circumvent Japanese regulations without suffering from Japanese reprisals. After 1937, when Japan occupied part of Shanghai, Xu operated his business in the unoccupied part, the International Settlement and French Concession, which were still under Western rule, and he registered it behind a Western dummy front—an American-owned drug company that pretended to own his business in exchange for a payment equivalent to. 01 percent of its total value.[108] He and the Chinese owners of other big Shanghai-based drug companies (who used similar ruses to evade Japanese regulations) did a booming business.

In Shanghai, medicine companies benefited from rising demand as the city's population mushroomed from 3 million in 1937 to 6.5 million in 1938; and they transported goods outside the city too. Between 1937 and 1941, some of the big

Chinese-owned drug companies greatly expanded their own formal distributing systems, while others entrusted their long-distance marketing to informal trading groups (danbang fanyun jituan), also known as smugglers. By formal or informal means, they supplied goods and advertising to all of China's nine macroregions (whether under the political and military control of the Japanese, the Nationalists, the Communists, or others) and to six colonies and countries in Southeast Asia. As they extended their reach, Shanghai's five biggest Chinese-owned drug companies boosted their sales by an average of 83.4 percent between 1938 and 1939.[109]

Though prosperous in the short run, Xu and other Chinese owners of drug companies were well aware that Japan might soon seize the Western concessions in Shanghai, and they relied on Chu Minyi to protect them in that eventuality. In 1940, as soon as Wang Jingwei had set up his Japanese-sponsored government at Nanjing and had named Chu Minyi as the foreign minister and vice-president of his Executive Yuan, Xu elevated Chu from his position as member of his Great China-France Drug Store's board of directors to that of chairman of the board; some other big drug companies made similar efforts to ingratiate themselves with Chu. At the end of the following year, 1941, when Japan bombed Pearl Harbor and invaded much of East Asia, including Shanghai's International Settlement and French Concession, Xu's company was not taken over by Japanese authorities or subjected to "military management" as some other Chinese-owned enterprises were. Thanks to Chu's intervention, it and the other businesses under his protection remained under the original Chinese managers' control.[110]

For the duration of the war, 1942–45, Xu and some other Chinese owners of businesses continued to benefit from efforts by Chu and others in Wang's government to secure greater political autonomy for Chinese capitalists and financiers in Shanghai. As a result, Xu and other Chinese steadily increased their authority over distribution. At first, in April 1942, all Chinese industrialists had to distribute through a Japanese administrative organization, the Central China Commission for Control of Medicine (Huazhong yiyaopin tongzhi lianhehui), and although Xu held the highest position given to a Chinese in this organization, he was still subordinate to its Japanese head, Nakajima Seiichi, a manager in the Japanese-owned Takeda Pharmaceutical Company. A year later, in March 1943, after lobbying by Chu and others in Wang's government on behalf of Chinese capitalists, the Japanese authorities established at Shanghai the National Commission for the Control of Commerce, which was characterized by the Japanese as a "self-governed merchant group" and was composed of Xu and other leading Chinese businessmen in the city. Under this umbrella organization, Xu and other Chinese owners of drugstores held top positions in its subunit, the Shanghai New Medicine Trade Association (Shanghai xinyaoye shangye gonghui), founded in April 1943, and they served in these and other administrative positions in Wang Jingwei's government until the end of the war.[111]

Postwar Expansion. After the war, Chinese owners of drug companies flourished even though their wartime political patrons did not. While the Japanese

TABLE 2.3 New-Style Chinese-Owned Drugstores in Four Cities, 1882–1949
Years Shanghai Guangzhou Beijing Hankou
    SOURCES: Shanghai shehui kexue yuan jingji yanjiu suo, comp., Shanghai jindai xiyao hangye shi(Shanghai: Shanghai shehui kexue yuan chubanshe, 1988), 79, 350–57; Chen Xinqian and Zhang Tianlu, Zhongguo jindai yaoxue shi (Beijing: Renmin weisheng chubanshe, 1992), 31, 33–34, 39–41, 43.
1882–1912 28 28 20
1912–1937 166 84 107
1937–1945 652 153 130
1945–1949 636 300 200
with drew from China in 1945 and Chu Minyi was executed for treason at Nanjing in 1946, Xu Xiaochu was not only exonerated but celebrated for his wartime activities. He was officially declared to have been an undercover agent for Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalist government, and he became an influential figure in postwar business and politics under Nationalist rule. He recruited onto the board of directors of the Great China-France Drug Store other politically influential figures, notably Chen Guofu, chair of the Nationalist Central Finance Committee, and Zhao Dihua, director of the Bank of Communications, and he formed a close relationship with the military leader Bai Chongxi. Like himself, Bai was a Muslim, and on Bai's recommendation Xu attended the government's National Congress as a Muslim representative.[112]

Politically well connected, Xu's Great China-France Drug Store distributed medicine and advertising extensively in postwar China. It was finally free of its long-standing rival, Japanese-owned Humane Elixir, which retreated to Japan with the defeated Japanese military forces in 1945; and the Chinese company's management filled the vacuum by casting a wide net for its own Human Elixir. In 1946 it signed "special sales contracts" (teyue jingxiao hetong) specifying sales territories, setting commissions, granting credit, and taking responsibility for advertising with thirty sales agents in fifteen Chinese provinces and three Southeast Asian countries, and in 1947 its staff formulated an advertising plan for blanketing all regions of China with billboards and posters at every level of the urban hierarchy, down to the levels of county (xian) and rural market town (zhen). By 1949 it reached all nine of China's macroregions and all bordering regions except Tibet, and it sold 75 percent of its product, Human Elixir, outside Shanghai.[113]

Meanwhile, it advertised intensively as well as extensively. In the late 1940s its opportunities for intensive advertising increased because new-style drugstores proliferated, as shown in table 2.3. Thus in the late 1940s the Great China-France Drug Store and other sellers of "new medicine" had an unprecedented opportunity to advertise in more than a thousand new-style drugstores in China's three biggest cities alone, not to mention the rising number opened in other cities and towns.[114]

Although civil war between the Nationalists and Communists began in 1946 and raged throughout the late 1940s, not until late 1948, when the Communists'

victory seemed assured, did Xu Xiaochu and other owners of big new-style drug companies begin to withdraw from China. Between October and December 1948, Xu transferred approximately US$35,000 worth of the Great China-France Drug Store's assets to Taiwan, and on February 26, 1949, he fled there. At about the same time, several other owners of big new-style drug companies left China for Taiwan or Hong Kong.[115]

On January 1, 1951, less than two years after the Communists had won the civil war and founded the People's Republic, the new government took over the marketing of Human Elixir in China. The government recruited the Great China-France Drug Store's manufacturing division, Zhonghua Medicine Mill (Zhonghua zhiyao chang), to be the first pharmaceutical company to sign an official purchasing agreement (baoxiao hetong), which guaranteed that the government would supply all of Human Elixir's raw materials and would buy and distribute all of its finished goods. Lacking these guarantees, Human Elixir's rivals could not compete with it, so they soon either signed similar purchasing agreements with the government or became more fully nationalized as jointly managed companies (gongsi heying). On January 1, 1956, the Great China-France Drug Store's Zhonghua Medicine Mill finally became a jointly managed company—it was the last major pharmaceutical plant in China to do so—but by then it had lost all control over the marketing of its goods. The signing of its purchasing agreement with the government five years earlier had effectively brought to an end the marketing of medicine in China by itself and other large-scale presocialist commercial enterprises.[116]


This chapter has shown that Huang Chujiu and other sellers of "new medicine" produced images of the West, economic nationalism, and women and widely distributed these and other images through advertising in China over a sustained period of time during the first half of the twentieth century. It has argued that Huang as an entrepreneur played a pivotal role in advertising by taking ideas and images from the Chinese elite and disseminating his version of these ideas and images in promotional campaigns. By way of conclusion, it is worth considering some of the historiographical and theoretical implications of this argument.

According to intellectual historians of early-twentieth-century China, the Chinese responsible for introducing Western ideas into modern Chinese discourse bore little resemblance to Huang Chujiu. Compared to him, these Chinese were highly educated and cosmopolitan intellectuals, as characterized in biographies, collective portraits, and, most recently, cultural studies.[117] In Tani Barlow's words, the Chinese-educated elite "monopolized the appropriation of Western ideas, forms, signs, and discourses [in early-twentieth-century China]."[118]

If the Chinese intellectual elite "monopolized" the appropriation of ideas from the West, the case of Huang Chujiu demonstrates that the process of appropriation did not stop there. It is true that Huang, lacking the education and cosmopolitanism

shared by members of the intellectual elite, did not appropriate ideas, forms, signs, and discourses directly from the West. But as emphasized in this essay, it is also true that he did appropriate "Western" ideas, forms, signs, and discourses from the Chinese intellectual elite, and he made use of them for his own purposes. As shown in the first three parts of this essay, Huang co-opted some of the Chinese intellectual elite's most cherished causes—advocacy of Western medicine, economic nationalism, and women's liberation—and commodified them to promote his products. In the process, he substantially altered the contents of the Chinese intellectual elite's formulations, freely substituting familiar Chinese terms (like body orbs in Chinese medicine) for unfamiliar foreign ones (like body organs in Western medicine), loosely mixing old notions (such as traditional harmonization of opposites) with seemingly contradictory new ones (such as competitive economic nationalism), and unabashedly depoliticizing images (such as pictures of liberated women, whom he portrayed as fashionable beauties rather than as serious campaigners for women's rights).

In a word, Huang poached on the Chinese intellectual elite's modern discourse. This term poach has been coined by the theorist Michel de Certeau to describe a process in which consumers actively "use" (rather than passively accept) representations, rituals, and laws in any society. By poaching, according to Certeau, consumers defend themselves against whatever culture has been imposed upon them, and their poaching has the effects of subverting and transforming the imposed culture.[119] In general, this notion of poaching seems apt as a characterization of what Huang made of the Chinese intellectual elite's ideas and images.

And yet, Certeau's concept of poaching encompasses only part of the process by which Huang's and other entrepreneurs' advertising had subversive and transformative effects on Chinese culture during the first half of the twentieth century. These advertisers did more than defensively poach ideas and images from an intellectual elite. They also aggressively popularized their advertising by producing it in massive quantities, distributing it through large-scale marketing networks, and publicizing it in wartime as well as peacetime. Only with both concepts, poaching and popularizing, is it possible to make a reasonable reply to Lu Xun as he was quoted at the beginning of this essay. Advertisers' success in both poaching and popularizing helps to explain why, as Lu Xun acknowledged, advertising became "popular with ordinary people in Chinese society," and it also helps to explain why advertisers seemed to Lu Xun, as a member of China's intellectual elite, to be "sick."


It is customary for contributors to conference volumes to express thanks for conference participants' comments on earlier drafts of essays, but I owe a much deeper debt to my colleagues at this conference than is customary. In this case, the participants not only made comments but tape-recorded them so that I could hear them despite the fact that I was unable to attend the conference. For this special consideration, I am deeply grateful. I also wish to thank Zheng Liren for his invaluable help with research on this essay.


1. Lu Xun, "Lu Xun zai Zhonghua yishu daxue yanjiang jilu" (Transcript of Lu Xun's lecture at the China College of Art), recorded by Liu Ruli, February 21, 1930, in Xuexi Lu Xun de meishu sixiang (Studying Lu Xun's thoughts on art) (Beijing: Renmin meishu chuban-she, 1979), 2–3. [BACK]

2. Roland Marchand, Advertising the American Dream: Making Way for Modernity, 1920–1940 (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1985), xvii. [BACK]

3. Shanghai shehui kexue yuan jingji yanjiu suo (Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, Institute of Economics), Shanghai jindai xiyao hangye shi (A history of the modern medicine trade in Shanghai) (Shanghai: Shanghai shehui kexue yuan chubanshe, 1988), 236. Hereafter cited as Xiyao. [BACK]

4. Gong Jimin, "Huang Chujiu zhuan" (A biography of Huang Chujiu), pt. 3, Zhuanji wenxue (Biographical literature) 60, no. 3 (March 1992): 75–77; Kong Lingren et al., eds., Zhongguo jindai qiye de kaituozhe (Pioneers in modern Chinese enterprises), vol. 2 (Jinan: Shandong renmin chubanshe, 1991), 427–28. [BACK]

5. On private schools, cf. Evelyn Sakakida Rawski, Education and Popular Literacy in Ch'ing China (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1979), 162–67. [BACK]

6. Gong, "Huang," pt. 2, 60, no. 2 (February 1992): 53–56, 72–74; Guan Zhichang, "Huang Chujiu," Zhuanji wenxue (Biographical literature) 47, no. 3 (September 1985): 138; Xiyao, 231–32; Shanghai shehui kexue yuan jingji yanjiu suo (Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, Institute of Economics), ed., Longteng huyao bashi nian: Shanghai Zhonghua zhiyaochang chang shi (Eighty years of the dragon soaring and the tiger leaping: A factory history of the Zhonghua medicine factory of Shanghai) (Shanghai: Shanghai renmin chubanshe, 1991), 2. Hereafter cited as Longteng. [BACK]

7. Longteng, 2. [BACK]

8. Guan, "Huang," 138; Kong, Zhongguo, 2:427–28; Gong, "Huang," pt. 3, 60, no. 3 (March): 74–75. [BACK]

9. Gong, "Huang," pt. 3, 60, no. 3 (March): 72–73. [BACK]

10. Manfred Porkert, The Theoretical Foundation of Chinese Medicine: Systems of Correspondence (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1982), 107 and 161. [BACK]

11. Gong, "Huang," pt. 3, 60, no. 3 (March): 75. [BACK]

12. Ibid.; Guan, "Huang," 139; Kong, Zhongguo, 2:428. [BACK]

13. Gong, "Huang," pt. 3, 60, no. 3 (March): 75; Guan, "Huang," 138–39. [BACK]

14. Guan, "Huang," 139. [BACK]

15. The other "one and a half" were Shi Dezhi, a man of mixed Sino-Western descent who sold fake antiques, and Wu Jiangang, a fortuneteller. Ping Jinya, "Mantan Huang Chujiu jiqi ‘shiye’" (Random remarks on Huang Chujiu and his "industry"), in Wenshi ziliao xuanji (Collection of cultural and historical materials) (Beijing: Renmin chubanshe, 1963), 146–47. [BACK]

16. Xiyao, 36–37, 41, 233–35; Gong, "Huang," pt. 3, 60, no. 3 (March): 73–75; Shanghai Municipal Police Files, "File on the Affairs of the Late Huang Cho Chiu," D-1949 (1931). [BACK]

17. Xiyao, 93; Gong, "Huang," pt. 4, 60, no. 4 (April 1992): 94. [BACK]

18. Ralph C. Croizier, Traditional Medicine in Modern China: Science, Nationalism, and the Tensions of Cultural Change (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1968); Zhao Hongjun, Jindai Zhong Xi yi lunzheng shi (A history of disputes between Chinese and Western medicine in modern China) (Hefei: Anhui renmin chubanshe, 1989). [BACK]

19. Nathan Sivin, Traditional Medicine in Contemporary China (Ann Arbor: Center for Chinese Studies, University of Michigan, 1987), 195. [BACK]

20. Arthur Kleinman, Patients and Healers in the Context of Culture (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1980); Emily Ahern, "Chinese-Style and Western Style

Doctors in Northern Taiwan," in Culture and Healing in Asian Societies, ed. Arthur Kleinman (Cambridge: Schenkman, 1978); Marjory Topley, "Chinese Traditional Etiology and Methods of Cure in Hong Kong," in Asian Medical Systems, ed. Charles Leslie (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1976); Jack M. Potter, "Cantonese Shamanism," in Religion and Ritual in Chinese Society, ed. Arthur P. Wolf (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1974). [BACK]

21. Thomas Sammons, Proprietary Medicine and Ointment Trade in China, Department of Commerce, Bureau of Foreign and Domestic Commerce, Special Consular Report no. 76 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1917). [BACK]

22. "Jintan," China Medical Journal 30, no. 2 (March 1916): 150. [BACK]

23. Tsuien kinencho (A commemorative album in honor of the ancestors) (Osaka: Morishita Jintan kabushiki kaisha, 1959); Ito Yoichiro, "Morishita Hiroshi o o shinobu" (Remembering the venerable Morishita Hiroshi), Keizai jin 7, no. 1 (1953): 387. [BACK]

24. Jintan kara JINTAN e: Morishita Jintan hyakushunen kinenshi (From Jintan [in characters] to JINTAN [in capitalized roman letters]: Commemorating Morishita Jintan's 100th anniversary) (Osaka: Morishita Jintan kabushiki kaisha, 1995), 34. [BACK]

25. Tsuien; Longteng, 1–2, 5; Xiyao, 56–57. [BACK]

26. Sammons, Proprietary Medicine, 4. [BACK]

27. Johannes Hirschmeier and Tsunehiko Yui, The Development of Japanese Business, 1600–1973 (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1975), 181. [BACK]

28. J. W. Sanger, Advertising Methods in Japan, China, and the Philippines, U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Foreign and Domestic Commerce, Special Agents' Series no. 209 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1921), 67. [BACK]

29. Tsuien. [BACK]

30. Lin Yutang, Moment in Peking: A Novel of Contemporary Chinese Life (New York: John Day Company, 1939), 576; Wu Tsuhsiang (Wu Zuxiang), "Fan Village," in Modern Chinese Stories and Novellas, 1919–1949, ed. Joseph S. M. Lau, C. T. Hsia, and Leo Oufan Lee (New York: Columbia University Press, 1981), 404. [BACK]

31. Xiyao, 121, 234; Guan, "Huang," 139; Gong, "Huang," pt. 4, 60, no. 4 (April): 93. [BACK]

32. Shen bao, 7 and 25 July 1911. [BACK]

33. Shen bao, 26 July 1911. [BACK]

34. Longteng, 3. [BACK]

35. C. F. Remer, A Study of Chinese Boycotts with Special Reference to Their Economic Effectiveness (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1933), 47; Kikuchi Takaharu, Chugoku minzoku undo no kihon kozo: Taigai boikotto no kenkyu (The structure of Chinese nationalism: A study of anti-foreign boycotts) (Tokyo: Daian, 1966), 164–65; Joseph T. Chen, The May Fourth Movement in Shanghai (Leiden: Brill, 1971), 93. [BACK]

36. Shen bao, 18 and 23 May and 30 August 1915. [BACK]

37. Shen bao, 30 August 1915. [BACK]

38. Guohuo diaochalu (A record of research on national goods), vol. 3 (Shanghai: n.p., 1915). [BACK]

39. For a graphic visual representation of this image, see the thirteenth-century painting Dragon and Tiger Embracing (Long hu tuzhu), formerly attributed to Chen Rong, at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. [BACK]

40. Zhang Yanfeng, Lao yuefenpai: Guanggao hua (Old calendar posters: Advertising paintings), Han sheng zazhi (Echo Magazine) (Taipei) 2, no. 61 (1994): 47; Shen bao, 30 August 1915. [BACK]

41. Guan, "Huang," 139; Gong, "Huang," pt. 4, 60, no. 4 (April): 94; Xiyao, 234. [BACK]


42. Gong, "Huang," pt. 4, 60, no. 4 (April): 93–94; Xiyao, 235; Longteng, 4 and 6–7. [BACK]

43. Guan, "Huang," 139; Xiyao, 234–35; Longteng, 6. [BACK]

44. Longteng, 7–8, 11; Xiyao, 131, 235, 315; Gong, "Huang," pt. 4, 60, no. 4 (April): 93. [BACK]

45. Remer, Study, 245. [BACK]

46. Chiming Hou, Foreign Investment and Economic Development in China, 1840–1937 (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1965), 151–55. [BACK]

47. Jintan, 34. [BACK]

48. Zhang, Lao yuefenpai, 1:29. [BACK]

49. Ibid., 88. [BACK]

50. The art historian Ellen Laing has given the following lucid explanation of the "rub-and-paint" technique: "In this method, a layer of carbon powder was applied on the space where the image would go. The carbon in what were to be areas of shadow was gently rubbed into the paper, creating a sort of faint sketch; water pigments were then applied. The result was a realistic rendering of volume and mass. Colors became softer." See Ellen Johnston Laing, "Commodification of Art through Exhibition and Advertisement" (paper prepared for the annual meeting of the Association for Asian Studies, Chicago, March 13–16, 1997). [BACK]

51. Zhang, Lao yuefenpai, 1:88. [BACK]

52. Bu Ji, "Jiefangqian de ‘yuefenpai’ nianhua shiliao" (Historical materials on preliberation New Year's calendar posters), Meishu yanjiu (Research on art) 2 (1959): 51–52;Mayching Margaret Kao, "China's Response to the West in Art: 1898–1937" (Ph.D. diss., Stanford University, 1972). By thus distinguishing himself, Zheng became the most prominent of the second wave of commercial artists in China. On Zhou Muqiao, the most prominent Chinese commercial artist in the first wave, see Sherman Cochran, "Transnational Origins of Advertising in Early Twentieth Century China," in Inventing Nanjing Road: Commercial Culture in Shanghai, 1900–1945, ed. Sherman Cochran (Ithaca: Cornell East Asia Series, in press). [BACK]

53. Marsha Weidner, "Women in the History of Chinese Painting," in Views from Jade Terrace: Chinese Women Artists, 1300–1912, ed. Marsha Weidner et al. (New York: Indianapolis Museum of Art and Rizzoli, 1988), 23. [BACK]

54. John Hay, "The Body Invisible in Chinese Art?" in Body, Subject, and Power in China, ed. Angela Zito and Tani E. Barlow (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994), 43. [BACK]

55. Kao, "China's Response," 77 and 110–11. [BACK]

56. E. Perry Link Jr., Mandarin Ducks and Butterflies: Popular Fiction in Early Twentieth-Century Chinese Cities (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1981), 66. [BACK]

57. Bu Ji, "Jiefangqian," 51; Ellen Johnston Laing, "Chinese Palace-Style Poetry and the Depiction of A Palace Beauty," Art Bulletin 72, no. 2 (June 1990): 291; Zhang Muhan, "Cong meiren hua kan nuxing mei" (The ideal of feminine beauty as reflected in paintings of classical beauties), in Lidai meiren huaxuan (Selected paintings of beauties through the ages) (Taipei: Yishu tushu gongsi, 1984), 24. [BACK]

58. Cochran, "Transnational Origins." [BACK]

59. On this stereotype, see Zhang, "Cong meiren," 26. For examples of Zheng's earlier calendar posters of women, see Lao yuefenpai, 2:10. [BACK]

60. Bu Ji, "Jiefangqian," 51. [BACK]

61. Huang's advertising manager was Zhou Minggang, and his best writer was Xu Zhuodai, a popular humorist known for his "comic stories" (huaji xiaoshuo). On Xu, see Link, Mandarin Ducks, 158. [BACK]


62. Xiyao, 113–14; Gong, "Huang," pt. 4, 60, no. 4 (April): 96; Bu Ji, "Jiefangqian," 52–53. [BACK]

63. Ding Hao, "Ji lao Shanghai guanggao huajiaqun" (On advertising artists in old Shanghai), in Lao Shanghai guanggao (Advertising in old Shanghai), ed. Yi Bin (Shanghai: Shanghai huabao chubanshe, 1995), 13–17. [BACK]

64. Zhang, Lao yuefenpai, 1:29, 33, 89, 90; Bu Ji, "Jiefangqian," 53; Wu Hao, Zhuo Botang, Huang Ying, and Lu Wanwen, Duhui modeng: Yuefenpai 1910s–1930s (Calendar posters of the modern Chinese woman) (Hong Kong: Sanlian shudian youxian gongsi chubanshe, 1994), 5 and 161–64. [BACK]

65. Zhang, Lao yuefenpai, 1:28, 33, 60, 84; 2:18, 121. [BACK]

66. Ibid., 1:77–78; Bu Ji, "Jiefangqian," 55. [BACK]

67. Zhang, Lao yuefenpai, 1:33; 2:22–24. [BACK]

68. Ibid., 1:29, 60; 2:14, 86, 121. [BACK]

69. Ibid., 2:10, 11, 88, 95, 96, 106, 117–21; Cochran, "Transnational Origins." [BACK]

70. Zhang, Lao yuefenpai, 1:65,70–71, 77–78, 85–86, 90; Bu Ji, "Jiefangqian," 53, 55. [BACK]

71. Mark Elvin, "Tales of Shen and Xin: Body-Person and Heart-Mind in China during the Last 150 Years," Zone 4, pt. 2 (1989): 267–68 and 275. [BACK]

72. Ibid., 268. [BACK]

73. Ibid., 292 and 312. [BACK]

74. Ibid., 268. [BACK]

75. Cochran, "Transnational Origins." [BACK]

76. On the delineation of these "macroregions," see G. William Skinner, "Regional Urbanization in Nineteenth-Century China," in The City in Late Imperial China, ed. G. William Skinner (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1977), 211–49. [BACK]

77. Leo Oufan Lee and Andrew J. Nathan, "The Beginnings of Mass Culture: Journalism and Fiction in the Late Ch'ing and Beyond," in Popular Culture in Late Imperial China, ed. David Johnson, Andrew J. Nathan, and Evelyn S. Rawski (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1985), 368–70; Chen Xinqian and Zhang Tianlu, Zhongguo jindai yaoxue shi (A history of modern medicine in China) (Beijing: Renmin weisheng chubanshe, 1992), 31, 39; Xiyao, 66–67, 79. [BACK]

78. Shanghai shehui kexue yuan jingji yanjiu suo (Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, Institute of Economics), ed., Zhongxi yaochang bainian shi (A history of one hundred years at the China and the West Medicine Factory) (Shanghai: Shanghai shehui kexue yuan chubanshe, 1990), 12–13, hereafter cited as Zhongxi; Xiyao, 114; Gong, "Huang," pt. 4, 60, no. 4 (April 1992): 97. [BACK]

79. Xiyao, 237; Guan, "Huang," 139; Gong, "Huang," pt. 4, 60, no. 4 (April 1992): 96 and pt. 5, 60, no. 5 (May 1992): 105, 107. [BACK]

80. Xiyao, 109, 114–15, 235–36; Zhongxi, 23. [BACK]

81. Xiyao, 80, 95, 108, 114, 240; Chen and Zhang, Zhongguo, 37. [BACK]

82. On the contrast between the advertising policies of "old-style" and "new-style" drugstores, see Huang Kewu, "Cong Shen bao yiyao guanggao kan minchu Shanghai de yiliao wenhua yu shehui shenghuo, 1912–1926" (Medical advertisements in Shen bao as reflections of medicine, culture, and social life in early republican Shanghai, 1912–1926), Zhongyang yanjiu yuan jindai shi yanjiu suo jikan (Journal of Academia Sinica, Institute of Modern History) (1988): 150–53. [BACK]

83. Wuzhou da yaofang sanshi zhoujinian kan (A commemorative volume on the thirtieth anniversary of the Five Continents Drugstore) (Shanghai: n.p., 1936). [BACK]


84. Lin Yutang, A History of the Press and Public Opinion in China (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1936), 143–49. [BACK]

85. Longteng, 6; Gong, "Huang," pt. 4, 60, no. 4 (April): 93; Xiyao, 98; and also see table 2.2. [BACK]

86. Xiyao, 94–98. [BACK]

87. Ibid., 96–98. [BACK]

88. Zhang, Lao yuefenpai, 1:3, 104. [BACK]

89. Lee and Nathan, "Beginnings," 360 and 375. [BACK]

90. Physicians launched their first major campaign to restrict medical advertising in China in 1909. See China Medical Journal 23, no. 2 (March 1909): 107–10; 23, no. 3 (May 1909): 215–18; 23, no. 4 (July 1909): 256–57; 23, no. 5 (September 1909): 267–73, 365–68; 23, no. 6 (November 1909): 405–6, 421. [BACK]

91. Howard L. Boorman and Richard C. Howard, eds., Biographical Dictionary of Republican China, vol. 3 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1970), 440–42. [BACK]

92. Wu Lien-teh, "Financing Public Health in China," National Medical Journal of China 15, no. 1 (February 1929): 51. [BACK]

93. "Proposed Regulations Governing Patent and Proprietary Medicines," China Critic 3, no. 21 (22 May 1930): 500; and 3, no. 22 (29 May 1930): 522. [BACK]

94. Bernard F. Read, "The Chinese Pharmacopoeia," National Medical Journal of China 16 (1930): 282; and Read, "Chinese Pharmacopoeia I. 1930," China Medical Journal 44, no. 6 (June 1930): 520–21. [BACK]

95. Xiyao, 298–99. [BACK]

96. On Huang Jinrong's visit with Chiang, see Joseph Fewsmith, Party, State, and Local Elites in Republican China: Merchant Organizations and Politics in Shanghai, 1890–1930 (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1985), 117. [BACK]

97. Zhang Jungu, Du Yuesheng zhuan (A biography of Du Yuesheng), vol. 1 (Taipei: Zhuanji wenxue chubanshe, 1968), 80–109. [BACK]

98. Shanghai Municipal Police Files, "File on the Affairs of the Late Huang Cho Chiu." [BACK]

99. On Yu's visit with Chiang, see Fewsmith, Party, 117. [BACK]

100. Xiyao, 235; Shanghai Municipal Police Files, "File on the Affairs of the Late Huang Cho Chiu." [BACK]

101. Xiyao, 309. [BACK]

102. Quoted in "The Pharmaceutical Situation in China," Chinese Medical Journal 47, no. 4 (April 1933): 405. [BACK]

103. Lin, History, 143: Lin Yutang, Shen bao de yiyao fukan (Shen bao's medical supplements), Yuzhou feng 18 (June 1, 1936): 270–71. [BACK]

104. "Patent Medicine Law," Chinese Medical Journal 51, no. 1 (January 1937): 99–101. [BACK]

105. Chen and Zhang, Zhongguo, 32–33; Xiyao, 170–73. [BACK]

106. Xiyao, 149, 241–44, 279–80. [BACK]

107. Boorman and Howard, Biographical Dictionary, 1:467–68; Xiyao, 170–171, 239; Longteng, 11–12. [BACK]

108. Xiyao, 242–43. [BACK]

109. Xiyao, 154, 160, 170–71, 240–44; Chen and Zhang, Zhongguo, 32–33. [BACK]

110. Xiyao, 171–72, 242–43, 268–69, 280; Zhongxi, 34; Wang Kewen, "Collaborators and Capitalists: The Politics of ‘Material Control’ in Wartime Shanghai," Chinese Studies in History 26, no. 1 (fall 1992): 46–47. [BACK]


111. Xiyao, 171–72, 300–302; Wang, "Collaborators," 49–50. [BACK]

112. Xiyao, 244. [BACK]

113. Longteng, 12–20. [BACK]

114. On smaller cities and towns, see Chen and Zhang, Zhongguo, 44. [BACK]

115. Xiyao, 245, 256–57, 289. [BACK]

116. Longteng, 33–39. [BACK]

117. For biographies, see Maurice J. Meisner, Li Ta-chao and the Origins of Chinese Marxism (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1967); Jerome Grieder, Hu Shih and the Chinese Renaissance: Liberalism in the Chinese Revolution, 1917–1937 (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1970); Guy Alitto, The Last Confucian: Liang Shuming and the Chinese Dilemma of Modernity (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1979). For collective portraits, see Jonathan D. Spence, The Gate of Heavenly Peace: The Chinese and Their Revolution, 1895–1980 (New York: Viking, 1981); Vera Schwarcz, The Chinese Enlightenment: Intellectuals and the Legacy of the May Fourth Movement of 1919 (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1986); Arif Dirlik, The Origins of Chinese Communism (New York: Oxford University Press, 1989). For cultural studies, see Tani E. Barlow, "Theorizing Woman: Funü, Guojia, Jiating," in Body, Subject, and Power in China, ed. Angela Zita and Tani E. Barlow (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994). [BACK]

118. Barlow, "Theorizing Woman," 262. [BACK]

119. Michel de Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life, trans. Steven F. Randall (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1984), xi–xii and chap. 12. [BACK]

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