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The City and the Modern
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1. The City and the Modern


1. The Cultural Construction
of Modernity in Urban Shanghai

Some Preliminary Explorations

Leo Oufan Lee

The issue of Western modernity has been thoroughly treated—and critiqued—in recent scholarship; however, that of Chinese modernity remains to be examined. This essay represents an initial attempt to look at Chinese modernity from the perspective of cultural history by situating it in the emergent urban culture of Shanghai in the 1930s.

Modernity in China, as I have argued elsewhere, was closely associated with a new linear consciousness of time and history, which was itself derived from the Chinese reception of a social Darwinist concept of evolution made popular by the translations of Yan Fu and Liang Qichao at the turn of the century. In this new temporal scheme, present (jin) and past (gu) became polarized as contrasting values, and a new emphasis was placed on the present moment "as the pivotal point marking a rupture with the past and forming a progressive continuum toward a glorious future."[1] This new mode of time consciousness was, of course, a "derivative" discourse stemming from the Western post-Enlightenment tradition of modernity—an intellectual package now being severely criticized by postmodern theorists for the positivistic and inherently monological tendencies embedded in its faith in human reason and progress. One could further argue that the very same post-Enlightenment legacy has infused the expansionist projects of the colonial empires, particularly those of England, and that one of its political by-products is the modern nation-state. However, once transplanted into China, the legacy served to add a new dimension to Chinese semantics: in fact, the very word new (xin) became the crucial component of a cluster of new word compounds denoting a qualitative change in all spheres of life: from the late Qing reform movement (Weixin yundong), with its institutional designations such as new policies (xinzheng), to new schools (xinxue) to Liang Qichao's celebrated notion of new people (xinmin) and the May Fourth slogans such as new culture (xin wenhua) and new literature (xin wenxue). Two terms that gained wide popularity in the 1920s were

shidai (time or epoch) and xin shidai (new epoch), based on the Japanese word jidai. This sense of living in a new epoch, as advocated by May Fourth leaders such as Chen Duxiu, was what defined the ethos of modernity. By the 1900s, another Japanese term was adopted: wenming (bunmei), or civilization, which came to be used with words like dongfang (east) and xifang (west) to form the common May Fourth vocabulary of "Eastern" and "Western" civilizations as dichotomous and contrasting categories.[2] The underlying assumption was that Western civilization was marked by dynamic progress made possible by the manifestation of what Benjamin Schwartz has called a "Faustian-Promethean" strain that resulted in the achievement of wealth and power by the Western countries.[3]

Schwartz's pioneering study of Yan Fu has not covered the rapid spread of these new categories of value and thought in the Chinese popular press. In newspapers like Shenbao (Shanghai news) and magazines like Dongfang zazhi (Eastern miscellany) published by the Commercial Press, such new vocabulary terms became a regular feature of most articles. Thus by the 1920s, it came to be generally acknowledged that "modernity" was equated with the new Western civilization in all its spiritual and material manifestations. Whereas conservative or moderate commentators in Dongfang zazhi and other journals voiced concern with the possible bankruptcy of Western civilization as a result of World War I, all radical intellectuals continued to be firm believers in modernity as formulated above.

The center of cultural production of such ideas of modernity was indisputably Shanghai, in which the large majority of newspapers and publishing houses were located—in fact, congregated in one small area around Foochow Road. It is also worth noting that the earliest use of the Western calendar was found in Shenbao— a newspaper originally owned by a Westerner—which began to place both Chinese and Western calendar dates side by side on its front page in 1872. But it was not until Liang Qichao proclaimed his own use of the Western calendar (in his 1899 diary of his trip to America, which he published) that a paradigmatic change in time-consciousness was effected. Typical of his elitist aspirations, Liang simply announced that, as he declared his own transformation from provincial person to "man of the world," his use of the Western calendar was in keeping with the general trend toward unifying the measurements of time.[4] By coincidence, Liang announced his adoption on December 19, 1899, as he departed from Tokyo for Hawaii, on the very eve of a new century! By the 1920s, if not earlier, the commercial calendar poster had become a popular advertisement item for Shanghai's tobacco companies and a fixture in urban daily life. (See section 3.)

It was against such a "timely" background that a Chinese nationhood came to be "imagined." Benedict Anderson's widely cited book has led us to believe that a nation was first an "imagined community" before it became a political reality. This new community was itself based on a conception of simultaneity "marked by temporal coincidence and measured by clock and calendar."[5] The technical means for representing this "imagined community," according to Anderson, were

the two forms of print culture—newspapers and the novel—that first flowered in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in Europe.[6] However, Anderson does not go into much detail in fleshing out the complicated process in which these two forms were used to imagine the nation (aside from citing two Philippine novels). Another theorist, Jurgen Habermas, has likewise pointed to the close connection between periodicals and salons that contributed to the rise of the "public sphere" in England and France.[7] But neither Anderson nor Habermas has seen fit to connect the two phenomena: nationhood and the public sphere. In my view, this was precisely what constituted the intellectual problematic for China at the turn of the century, when the intellectuals and writers sought to imagine a new community (chun) of the nation (minzu or guojia but not yet minzuguojia) as they tried to define a new reading public.[8] They attempted to draw the broad contours of a new vision of China and disseminate such a vision to their audience, the newly emergent public of largely newspaper and journal readers and students in the new schools and colleges. But such a vision remained a "vision" —an imagined, often visually based evocation of a "new world" of China—not a cogent intellectual discourse or political system. In other words, this visionary imagination preceded the efforts of nation building and institutionalization. In China, modernity, for all its amorphousness, became the guiding ethos of such a vision, as yet without the Weberian concerns of rationalization and disenchantment that the practical workings of instrumental rationality inevitably entail.

Thus I argue that the nation as an imagined community in China was made possible not only by elite intellectuals like Liang Qichao, who proclaimed new concepts and values, but, more important, by the popular press. It is interesting to note that the rise of commercial publishing—particularly the large companies such as the Commercial Press (Shangwu yinshu guan, or literally the shop that printed books for commercial purposes) and China Bookstore (Zhonghua shuju)— also predated the establishment of the Republican nation-state in 1912. (In this regard we might give Homi Bhabha's term about nationalism another twist in meaning: "dissemi-Nation" indicated, thus more literally and less ironically, that the knowledge about the new nation must first be disseminated.)[9] As this chapter will show in detail, these commercial ventures in publishing were all in the name of introducing the textual sources of modernity, of which the general journals such as Dongfang zazhi and Xiaoshuo yuebao (Short story monthly) served as showcases. In a way, they are comparable to the eighteenth-century French "business of Enlightenment" as described by Robert Darnton, in which the ideas of the philosophes were popularized and vigorously disseminated by a network of printers and booksellers.[10] However, in the name of promoting new culture and education, books in China were sold quite cheaply as something of a study aid for students in new-style schools and for other readers who were deprived of schooling. In short, from its beginning Chinese modernity was envisioned and produced as a cultural enterprise of enlightenment—qimeng, a term taken from the traditional educational

practice in which a child received his first lesson from a teacher or tutor. That the term took on the new meaning of being "enlightened" with new knowledge in the national project of modernity should come as no surprise.

In this essay, for obvious reasons I cannot survey the whole "enlightenment industry"; I will instead focus on the textbook production of the Commercial Press, as seen in the advertisements of the press's leading journal, Dongfang zazhi, in order to throw some new light on this little-studied terrain of China's modern print culture.[11] Before I do so, perhaps a few words about the journal are in order.

The Business of Enlightenment: Journals and Textbooks

Dongfang zazhi may be considered a middlebrow publication under the aegis of the Commercial Press for the urban readership. Begun in 1904 as a monthly, it was changed into a fortnightly, and it continued publication until 1948. Sales for each issue could be as high as fifteen thousand copies.[12] Its table of contents shows its eclectic quality, combining journalistic reports, political commentary, and cultural criticism with translations and learned articles. The journal's "miscellaneous" contents may have lacked a distinct character, but herein lies its purpose and appeal. The lead article in the July 1919 issue of the journal spells out clearly the functions of this general magazine. Whereas on a lofty level the magazine is supposed to live up to three purposes—scholarly pursuit (yanjiu xueli), enlightenment (qifa sixiang), and correction of customs and mores (jiaozheng xisu)—its real function, on a mundane level, is like that of a grocery store (zahuo dian): the goods are diverse and trivial, seldom precious and valuable, but they are nevertheless daily necessities. The article also sets three more goals for the magazine of the future: to stay abreast of world trends, to be adaptable to present conditions, and above all to be suitable for practical life.[13] As an indication of its "world trends" orientation, the journal devoted considerable attention to the European war—with photos, a chronology of events, articles, and translations. The writings of Du Yaquan, its editor, and other authors reveal an obvious disillusionment with the West in general, which led them to caution against excessive Westernization. At the same time, however, the journal contained extensive coverage and discussion of postwar European political, intellectual, and cultural trends and focused rather excessively on discussions of nationalism and socialism (the latter especially after 1919). Conscious of the continued impact of knowledge from the West, the journal's editors and leading authors groped toward a moderate position by seeking compromises between Western modernity and Chinese tradition, which they considered to be still relevant.

During the period 1915–20, the journal had voluminous coverage of subjects related to science and technology. A large number of articles described new weaponry used in the European war, in particular the submarine and the dirigible (thus feeding the fascination with underwater and air gadgetry in late Qing fiction).

But the journal also carried rather learned articles on evolutionary theory, Freud's theory of dreams as a form of science, and various technological inventions that were already shaping and transforming human life: not only telegraphs, trolleys, telephones, and automobiles but also typewriters, gramophones, and movies. The sum total of the articles—some were translations from British, American, and Japanese popular journals and textbooks—conveys a continuing obsession with what in the late Qing discourse was referred to as the four major categories of modern technology: sound (sheng), light (guang), chemistry (hua), and electricity (dian)—a discourse later fleshed out in Mao Dun's novel Midnight. At the same time, however, some of the journal's articles sounded worried: if the triumph of modern civilization was inevitable, they seemed to argue, the Chinese should nevertheless be wary. In one article, titled "Machines and Life" (paraphrased from an article by Arthur Ponsonby in the British journal Contemporary Review), the author duly warned about the danger of the fast progress of all the new mechanical inventions, which, he stated, should not be equated with the progress of civilization.[14] Thus behind the journal's surface attitude of compromise and moderation lurks a sense of ambiguity and ambivalence, if not anxiety, toward the civilization of Western modernity, caused, ironically, by the journal's success in introducing it.

Although Dongfang zazhi was the flagship of the periodicals published by the Commercial Press, it still vied for attention with at least eight others by the same company. An advertisement lists the nine in the following order: Dongfang zazhi, Jiaoyu zazhi (Education magazine), Xuesheng zazhi (Student magazine), Shaonian zazhi (Young magazine), Funü zazhi (Women's magazine), Yingwen zazhi (English magazine), Yingyu zhoukan (English language weekly), Xiaoshuo yuebao (Short story monthly), and Nongxue zazhi (Agricultural study magazine). Short Story Monthly, in particular, has been widely described in post–May Fourth accounts as having been a bastion of the old-fashioned Butterfly school of popular fiction until Mao Dun assumed editorship in 1920 and turned it overnight into a journal of New Literature. Still, the imposition of a May Fourth interpretation has certainly not done full justice to this and other journals of the Commercial Press. Even a reading of the advertisement can reveal a common purpose: simply put, it is to provide readers with a certain practical knowledge for their everyday lives. Publication of the nine magazines also represented a new way of categorizing this practical knowledge; whereas Dongfang zazhi had the most comprehensive coverage—from politics, literature, science, business, and news to encyclopedic learning (baike zhi xue), according to the attached explanation in the advertisement—each of the other journals clearly catered to a specific readership: teachers, college and high school students in the new school system, youths, women, students enrolled in agricultural schools, and, most interestingly, self-taught readers. As the Commercial Press's only literary journal, the Short Story Monthly was intended originally for such self-taught learners. Another full-page advertisement for the journal mentioned not only its increasing sales (six thousand copies per issue), its inclusion of color

pages, and the translations of Lin Shu—China's most productive translator, who had rendered more than a hundred Western novels into classical Chinese—but also the fact that its choice contents were meant to provide "entertainment for the family, and [that] the new knowledge is particularly good for daily use, hence [the journal is] a must-read for household residents [ju jiazhe]" —a term that in all likelihood referred to urban housewives.[15] No wonder the enormously popular genre "butterfly fiction" became a useful item! Still, the fact that it was entertaining does not detract from its seriousness of purpose: the words xinzhi or xin zhishi (new knowledge) and chang shi (common knowledge) became ubiquitous in these advertisements. Even the two English journals were geared toward a practical purpose, as they provided how-to lessons in composition, grammar, translation, and letter writing, as well as "literature" for easy reading. They were also connected with the dictionary projects, such as Webster's, as well as correspondence schools sponsored by the Commercial Press and by an American company in Pennsylvania.[16] In one ad, the Berlitz method was highlighted.

In accordance with the stated purpose of the Commercial Press magazines, the women's publication, Women's Magazine, was designed as an aid to women's education (nüxue). The history of women's education in this transitional period deserves a long monograph and is too important to be summarized here. However, it is noteworthy that a distinctly modern quality is underscored by the ads and articles in the magazine. In an ad for the "big improvement" of Women's Magazine, published in 1916, the name of the new editor is prominently mentioned: a certain Mrs. Zhu Hu Binxia from Wuxi, a modern woman who had been educated in a women's school in Tokyo and who then went to America for an additional seven years of education, gaining a B.A. from Wellesley and research experience at Cornell.[17] An American degree (printed in block characters) thus added prestige to the journal, which May Fourth leaders like Hu Shi also played to their maximum advantage. The magazine's ads marked a transition of cultural capital: whereas the prime movers of the late Qing reform movement were scholars and officials who knew no foreign language and had to rely on translations, mostly from Japanese, the new generation of elite intellectuals were largely Western educated— some in fact had contributed articles to Dongfang zazhi from abroad—and the countries and educational institutions where they studied were also prominently attached to their names (an editorial practice continued to the present day in some journals in Hong Kong and Taiwan).

Dongfang zazhi carried a number of articles about Western universities, particularly those in the United States; it also featured or reprinted from other newspapers and journals accounts of Chinese universities, including the curriculum of Beijing University. But the main goal and market of the educational enterprise of the Commercial Press, insofar as we can gather from its advertisements, was primary and secondary education. From the magazine's founding in 1904 until its closing some forty years later, almost every issue of Dongfang zazhi is filled with advertised lists of textbooks of various sorts, revealing a feverish publishing activity

closely geared to the educational policies and laws of the government. Thus we can safely say that the Commercial Press played a seminal role in the modernization of the educational system: it was a gigantic task that fulfilled a national need after the abolition of the civil service examination system in 1905.

The Commercial Press was not the first to publish textbooks; two smaller companies—called Wenming (Civilization) and Guangzhi (Expanding wisdom)—had published a set of textbooks by four Wuxi schoolteachers sometime before 1903.[18] Their textbooks were called mengxue duben, or texts for "primary studies"; the term refers to the traditional notion of tongmeng, or children whose "beclouded" minds need to be cleared by the instruction of moral texts (according to the Confucian injunction), which in turn leads to the notion of qimeng, that is, qifa mengmei, or open up the children's state of ignorance, hence "enlightenment." By 1903, the Commercial Press, together with its chief rival, the China Bookstore, began to dominate the textbook market when it started its own textbook enterprise in a big way by setting up a new printing plant, hiring three Japanese advisors, and appointing an editorial board headed by Jiang Weiqiao, of which Wang Yaquan was also a member in charge of science textbooks.[19]

The founding of the Republic was enthusiastically advertised by the Commercial Press: it capitalized on the big event of the Wuchang Uprising in 1911 with a detailed account in Dongfang zazhi and the publication of thirteen volumes of photos and other illustrations, as well as more than three hundred postcards! Not surprisingly, the press also began to issue in 1912 a new set of textbooks, a series appropriately titled Textbooks of the Republic (Gongheguo jiaokeshu). The advertisement in Dongfang zazhi was headed by the following solemn announcement: "With the founding of the Republic, the political polity has been changed to that of a republic. The educational policy is consequently changed…. In view of the present changing circumstances, [this press] respectfully observes Decree No. 7 of the Ministry of Education, and has revised the various textbooks of the primary school level. All knowledge necessary to a national citizen of the Republic, as well as the origins of this Revolution, has been given in detail in them, so as to cultivate the complete Republican citizen."[20]

The subject of the national citizen—the Chinese word is guomin—thus formally entered the new textbooks. A special Primer for a National Citizen of the Republic (Gonghe guomin duben) was issued, clearly a revision of the original Primer for the National Citizen of the Constitutional Era (Lixian guomin duben, referring to the late Qing constitutional period of 1910–11). It also became a topic in the brandnew primary-school textbooks on xiushen, or cultivation—a term preserved from premodern primers on Confucian teaching. The new textbooks for the primary levels included not only the major subjects of Chinese (guowen), arithmetic (bisuan), history (lishi), geography (dili), and English but also quite a number of other subjects, including use of the abacus, singing, physical exercise, brush drawing, sewing, science, agriculture, commerce, and handicraft. Under the history category we find Chinese history, East Asian history, and Western history; and under geography,

Chinese geography, foreign geography, and human geography. In addition, there were textbooks on botany, biology, mining, physiology, physics, chemistry, arithmetic, geometry, trigonometry, algebra, general physical exercise, military exercise, and several others.[21] This is a most impressive list apparently intended to comprise an equally impressive curriculum.

I do not intend to discuss the pedagogic contents of the textbooks and curriculum. Rather, I would like to reveal how a publishing company, through concerted effort, succeeded in its self-assigned task of enlightening the public and, in so doing, aided in the nation-building effort of the Republican government. The compilation of textbooks for the education of its new guomin was definitely a priority in the government agenda, since the Ministry of Education publicized, as early as 1912, a set of provisional guidelines for general education. The old term for schools, xuetang, was changed to xuexiao. In the schools, coeducation was allowed for the primary level; reading the classics was abolished, as were some of the Qing dynasty legal codes.[22] In particular, the agency established two bureaux for compiling and censoring textbooks. To be sure, the practice had already started in the Qing period, but the new guidelines made some specific points about how textbooks' approach and contents should be handled, together with procedures for examination and approval by the agency.[23] The Commercial Press turned this new government policy to its own advantage by quoting in its textbook ads the seal of approval of the Ministry of Education (jiaoyu bu shending) together with the ministry's comments on particular texts. Most of the quoted comments are of a practical nature: for instance, "the choice of materials is excellent, the divisions clear; [the textbook] can be used for the physical sciences in higher primary schools." But occasionally a vaguely ideological phrase or sentence enters: "The wording is clear and succinct, and contains rather lively interest; extremely well equipped with the knowledge and morality necessary for the national citizen" (in reference to Jianming guowen jiaokeshu [The concise textbook for Chinese literature]; emphasis mine). All these endeavors pointed to the overriding objective of training the nation's people to be good citizens.

How should the people of a new nation be trained properly? The decrees issued by the Ministry of Education reflected many changes in approach. Whereas the 1912 decrees seemed to focus on practical education (primary-school curriculum must include handicraft, physical exercise, use of the abacus, etc.), the 1914 decrees—reflecting the power of the then president, the conservative warlord Yuan Shikai—restored the classics and honored the words of Confucius, with the special injunction that the curriculum in education must "emphasize the special national character of the people of this nation."[24] In 1919, two years after the Literary Revolution, the ministry formally decreed the use of the modern vernacular and new punctuation in all textbooks for the beginning two grades of primary schools.[25]

Given the turmoil of the period, we cannot be sure whether these changes in policy were strictly followed by the publishing companies. The Commercial Press,

being the largest, might have developed its own views on education, which, while not contradicting government policy, might have extended the prescribed curriculum. The advertisements give the impression that the textbooks were meant not only for a school curriculum but for extracurricular activities as well; some books clearly aimed at the urban cultural arena outside the schools. For such "outside" needs, the press seemed to pay special attention to children and young adolescents, with a very large selection of titles of fables, translated stories, picture books, cartoons, color postcards, maps, simple how-to primers on arithmetic, games, and toys. It obviously reflected a commercial move to seize a new segment of the urban market—children, together with their mothers. At the same time, the company's extracurricular publications had gone far beyond the confines of the school system to the world of urban adults who could not attend school and had to work for a living. In my view, it is in this public arena of urban society that the Commercial Press's task of enlightening the public performed a crucial role as it served to promote a vision of modernity beyond the ideological confines of government policy.

The Business of Enlightenment: Repositories

How does one provide basic knowledge in a way that makes it accessible to everyone in society? In addition to school textbooks, the Commercial Press launched two well-known repositories (wenku): Dongfang wenku (Eastern repository [1923–34]) and Wanyou wenku (Comprehensive repository [1929–34]). The Dongfang wenku, in which some of the major articles printed in Dongfang zazhi were collected (together with other treatises and translations that did not appear), totaled more than 120 pamphlet-sized volumes—a device clearly intended for the task of inculcating new knowledge. The roster of its authors is distinguished and includes both academic and nonacademic intellectuals representing a wide spectrum of backgrounds and positions. The subjects and titles (mostly translations) are even more impressive, as they cover an immensely wide range. I can give only a rough classification of the subjects covered, as follows: literature (19 titles), philosophy (17), sciences (13), society (9), economy (7), politics (6), foreign countries (6), diplomacy (6), history (5), geography (5), art (5), women (5), culture (4), psychology (3), law (3), scholarship (3), education (3), military affairs (2), migration (2), and journalism, language, archeology, religion, and medicine (1 each).[26] This rundown serves to give us merely a general impression, and it does not reveal the specific contents of the volumes. It seems to disclose a fairly heavy concentration on the humanities (literature and philosophy), which is followed by natural and social sciences. A considerable number of titles are concerned with diplomacy and foreign countries (12). Among the titles in literature, six are collections of stories from foreign countries: Anglo-American, French, Russian, European, Japanese, and Indian (the works of Tagore). But a more intriguing feature is the diversity of some of the other titles. To give one small example, a book written by Du Yaquan titled Chushi zhexue (A philosophy

to cope with the world) turns out to be based on a Japanese translation of a work by Schopenhauer. It is collected in a box (volumes 32–50) that also includes works on journalism, East-West cultural criticism, Chinese society and culture, ethics, psychology, contemporary philosophy (mainly on Dewey), Bergson and Eucken, Kropotkin, Gandhism, the philosophy of war, two volumes of Bertrand Russell's essays, and a volume on the fundamentals of science.

Still, Dongfang wenku is dwarfed by comparison with its sister repository, Wanyou wenku, whose conception was even more ambitious, for it was designed to fill up nothing less than a modern library. This is clearly what its chief editor Wang Yunwu had in mind when he embarked upon the two gigantic series comprising Wanyou wenku, each containing more than a thousand volumes. By purchasing the two series, a newly established library acquired a basic collection in the most economical and systematic fashion—economical as a result of modern printing, and systematic because of the new index system based on Mr. Wang's own four-corner system.[27] This may have been the most ambitious effort in the categorization and dissemination of knowledge for the general public during the Republican period.

From his own preface about the origin of the repository project, we see that Wang's basic design derives from the traditional congshu (collectanea) formula, and that he had seen fit to add a considerable number of new collections to the series Basic Collectanea of National Learning (Guoxue jiben congshu). We find such collections as Baike xiaocongshu (Mini collection of encyclopedic knowledge) and Xinshidai shidi congshu (History and geography of the new era), as well as separate congshu for agriculture, industry, commerce, normal school education, arithmetic, medicine, and athletics, all of which were meant to be "disciplinary tools."[28] By the time Wang edited the second series, he had further enlarged the collections of both Western translations and "national learning," and, instead of the disciplinary texts, had included two new collections: a collection on natural sciences (Kexue xiaocongsu) and a collection on "modern problems" (Xiandai wenti congshu); the most complex task, he admitted, was the compilation of the latter, because "there were few precedents in the publications in the nation and abroad."[29]

A glance through the catalogue of the two series is sufficient for some revelations. The editorial board for the first series lists Wang Yunwu as chief editor and a dozen other editors. At the end of the preface Wang also acknowledges the help of such "friends" —all intellectuals of great renown—as Cai Yuanpei, Hu Shi, Li Shizeng, Wu Zhihui, Yang Xingfo, and others. The editorial guidelines list the following four basic purposes: (1) the repository is intended to "inculcate in the general reading public the knowledge that is necessary for human life"; (2) "the standard of collection is based on necessity"; (3) "the whole collection is clearly systematic and complete in all categories; the categories have the effect of mutual enlightenment and do not have the blemish of duplication"; and (4) "what is deemed most necessary for all categories [of knowledge] is provided for the library or individual collector at the lowest price; students of the middle school or below, or teachers of primary schools, can establish a rudimentary library when they purchase

a complete set of this repository."[30] To facilitate such purchases, a cleverly designed mail-order scheme, with installments for payment, was attached to a pamphlet that announced the series. It is evident that this massive project surpasses the textbook project in its ambition to spread the "knowledge of human life" to a reading public created by the publishing market.

In its own way the project is certainly comparable to that of the French Encyclopedists and their disseminators.[31] The crucial difference, however, lies in the systems and contents of categorization. Let us leave aside the 400 titles of "Chinese learning" in the two series (100 in the first series and 300 in the second) and look into the 250 titles of translations of "world classics" (100 in the first series, 150 in the second), as well as the 200 titles of "natural science" and 50 titles of "modern problems" —a total of 500 titles of what might be called "Western learning." Even at a glance, the catalogues are most impressive. The following is a selective listing of the categories and the significant Western authors and titles contained therein.

There are fifteen categories of translations in the first series.

  1. Philosophy: Descartes's Discourse on Method, Spinoza's Ethics, Hume, Kant's Critique of Pure Reason, Schopenhauer, William James, Kropotkin, Nietzsche's Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Eucken, Bergson, Dewey, and Westaway's Scientific Method

  2. Psychology: W. James's Psychology: Brief Course, Freud's Psychoanalysis, J. B. Watson's Psychology from the Standpoint of Behaviorism, K. Koffka's The Growth of the Mind

  3. Sociology: H. Spencer, Kropotkin, Durkheim

  4. Political science: Plato's The Republic, Aristotle's Politics, Hobbes's Leviathan, Bentham's Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation, J. S. Mill's On Liberty, W. Bagehot's Physics and Politics, E. Jenks's History of Politics, Harold Laski's Grammar of Politics

  5. Economics: Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations, List, Proudhon, Marx's Value, Price, and Profit, Ingram, Hobson's Modern Capitalism, Webbs's History of Trade Unionism, D. S. Kimball's Principles of Industrial Organization, A. L. Bowley's Elements of Statistics

  6. Law: Gropius, Montesquieu, Maine, Dicey, Lombroso, Duguit

  7. Education: Rousseau's Emile, Herbart, Spencer, Dewey's Democracy and Education

  8. Natural sciences: Newton, Lamarck, Faraday, Darwin, Huxley, Pasteur, Russell, Einstein

  9. Anglo-American literature: Shakespeare's Hamlet, Milton's Paradise Lost, Defoe's Robinson Crusoe, Swift's Gulliver's Travels, Benjamin Franklin's Autobiography, Goldsmith's The Vicar of Wakefield, Walter Scott's Ivanhoe, Dickens's David Copperfield, Washington Irving's Tales of Alhambra (most of the preceding Anglo-American literature was translated by Lin Shu), G. B. Shaw

  10. 42
  11. French literature: Rousseau's Confessions, Molière's The Miser, Hugo's Les Miserables, Dumas père's The Three Musketeers, Dumas fils' La Dame aux Camelias (translated by Lin Shu), Maupassant's The Heritage

  12. German literature: Goethe's Egmont, Schiller's Wallenstein, Hauptmann's Der rote Hahn

  13. Russian literature: Gogol's The Reviser or Inspector General, Turgenev's Fathers and Sons, A. Ostrovsky's Poverty No Vice, Tolstoy's Childhood, Boyhood, and Youth

  14. Literature of other countries: Homer's Odyssey, Cicero's Orations, The Arabian Nights, Dante's Divine Comedy, Cervantes's Don Quixote, Ibsen's plays, Bj⊘rnson's In God's Way, Maeterlinck's The Blue Bird, Tagore's The Crescent Moon, a collection of Japanese stories translated by Zhou Zuoren

  15. History: Robinson's New History, Wells's Outline of History

  16. Geography: Huntington and Cushing's Principles of Human Geography, Bowmen's The New World

In the second series, the translations of Western titles are divided into the following categories (italics indicate new or added categories): culture and cultural history, philosophy (Bacon, Leibnitz, Comte, Nietzsche), psychology, logic (Aristotle's Logic), ethics, sociology (Durkheim, Morgan, Malthus), statistics, political science (Rousseau's Social Contract, Moore's Utopia), world diplomacy, economics and finance, law, military affairs, education, industry, family and marriage, general science, mathematics, biological sciences, physics, applied sciences (more specialized than in the first series), geography and travel, biographies (of Napoleon, Bismarck, von Hindenburg, Tolstoy, and Edison, and including the autobiographies of J. M. Mill and Andrew Carnegie), historiography, history of Europe and America, history of Asia, general literature, and national literatures, with the latter including collections of works from countries including Japan, India, the United States, England, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Russia, Poland, Denmark, Hungary, Norway, Sweden, and Romania, and the works of individual authors, such as Carlyle, Thackeray, Charlotte Bronte, J. M. Barrie, Drinkwater, Hardy, Galsworthy, Hawthorne, O. Henry, Frank Wedenkind, J. Freytag, Theodor Storm, Zola, Romain Rolland, Balzac, Octave Mirabeau, Paul Geraldy, Anatole France, Andreyev, Dostoevsky, Gorky, Dante, Euripides, Sophocles, Aeschylus, Knut Hamsum, Sienkiewicz, Ibanez, and K. Palamas.

To the above we may add the 200 titles of the natural sciences collection in the second series, which comprise the following ten categories: general discourses on science; astronomy; physics; chemistry; biology; zoology and anthropology; botany; geology, mining, and geography; biographies of famous scientists; and other. Almost all of the titles are translations (with Zhou Jianren, Lu Xun's younger brother, and Zhang Ziping, otherwise known as a popular novelist, taking a conspicuous share). These titles alone would earn the collection a particularly prominent position in the repository. Then, we must also add the 70 titles in the natural sciences section and the 30 titles in the applied sciences section of the

"mini encyclopedia" collection of the first series. Thus, in the two series, titles related to the sciences alone (excluding subjects such as industry, statistics, psychology, etc.) come to 336—roughly the same as the "Chinese learning" collection. If we then add to this the other titles in the translation collections, the balance definitely tilts in favor of "scientific learning." Perhaps a majority of the science titles bear on aspects of practicality in modern life. (By comparison, titles on the "pure" sciences were apparently included in the textbooks.) This is not surprising, given the practical nature and goals of the repository.

What ultimately seems most relevant are the 50 titles in the second series in the category "modern problems." What can be categorized as modern problems (which is itself problematic)? In the second series catalogue we find the category divided into two parts: China (24 problems) and the world (26 problems). A mere listing of the titles already tells a story of nationalism as conceived and categorized in a popular imagination. Given the background of the Commercial Press, one cannot expect such a story to have a radical revolutionary projection. Rather, the problems in the section on China clearly focus on the recently established nation-state: namely, constitution, local self-government, village reconstruction, land, water conservancy (shuili), transportation, finance, taxation, international trade, cotton, silk, tea, compulsory education, adult education, women, labor, consular jurisdiction, recovery of the Northeast, development of the Northwest, Mongolia, Tibet, Sino-Japanese relations, Sino-Soviet relations, and overseas Chinese. The problems represent a preoccupation with issues of social and economic development; territorial and diplomatic issues also seem to demand attention. The latter is clearly reflected in the second section, whose titles address problems of the "world," with Japan, Soviet Russia, America, India, and the Philippines (its independence) occupying the center of attention. But an overwhelming amount of attention is focused on international issues, above all the reform of the League of Nations, international jurisdiction, and national self-determination, but also military weapons, food, fuel, unemployment, migration, monetary regulations, eugenics, sale of narcotic drugs, and rationalization (helihua). Together they give a political context that realistically reflects the situation of the world between the two world wars, in which the new Republic of China emerged as a new nation concerned with its territorial sovereignty and domestic development.

However, if we compare the titles in the category above with the revolutionary programs of the Chinese Communist Party, whose activities during the same period (1929–34) marked a transition from the urban to the rural phases, it is clear that some of the basic revolutionary premises are missing from the "fifty modern problems" covered in the series: problems of the urban proletariat, workers' strikes, theories of socialism, revolutionary literature, and above all peasantry and its revolutionary potential. The discrepancy reveals not only a difference between political orientations (Wang Yunwu's editorial board consisted of moderates and conservatives) but also a gap between the urban and rural imaginations. In other words, the entire repository enterprise was both urban based and addressed to an

urban public. It deserves our attention because it provides the basic intellectual stuff of which an urban idea of Chinese modernity is made. At the very least, the above listings should be sufficient to give us a taxonomy of what constituted new knowledge in the early Republican era.

I hope that my narrative centered on the Commercial Press has also conveyed a sense of how its commercial enterprise evolved—from an educational enterprise based on textbook production to a cultural enterprise based on its journals and repositories. Together they forged a modern trajectory in terms of both time and space: the press's introduction of new knowledge was definitely animated by a desire to bring China abreast of what was going on around it, at the same time that it sought to support the effort of nation-building by providing intellectual resources for both the state and its "people." However, its definitions of the guomin remained vague, reflecting a nationalist echo of Liang Qichao's earlier slogan— and unfinished intellectual project—to have a "people made new" (xinmin) by renovating their collective mind and spirit. Whereas elitist intellectuals from Liang to Chen Duxiu and Lu Xun, perhaps following a Confucian precedent, continued to emphasize the issue of how to cultivate the intellectual and spiritual "essence" of a people, the less elitist intellectuals were perhaps less driven by such a moral impulse; they may have been more interested in the task of popularization—to make knowledge more general and accessible to the "new people" (who were "created" after all by their textbooks and newspapers), thus infusing urban society with the "temper" of a new era.


My strategy in my search for urban modernity is based on the assumption that, contrary to the elitist approach of conventional intellectual history, which tends to discuss only the essential ideas of individual thinkers, the task of a cultural historian is to explore what may be called the "cultural imaginary." Since a cultural imaginary may be defined as itself a contour of collective sensibilities and significations resulting from cultural production, we must also wrestle with both ends of this interpretive strategy—namely, both the social and institutional context of this cultural production and the forms in which such an imaginary is constructed and communicated. In other words, we must not neglect the "surfaces" —images and styles that do not necessarily enter into the depth of thought but nevertheless conjure up a collective imaginary. In my view, modernity is both idea and imaginary, both essence and surface. I shall leave the idea part to other scholars—or to another book—and direct my energies to the surface, by boldly attempting to "read" a large number of pictures and advertisements in the journals and newspapers. For such purposes, I will base my analysis on data provided in another journal, a pictorial magazine called Liangyou huabao (The young companion [1926–45]), which was the longest-running large-sized pictorial journal in modern China. Before I get into the pictorials themselves, I must give a brief background of this cultural

enterprise that, though smaller in scale than the Commercial Press, played an equally important role in the history of modern Chinese publishing—and in the shaping of a Chinese modernity.

The "Good Companion"

Liangyou tushu yinshua gongsi (literally, the Good friend books and printing company), established in Shanghai in 1925, clearly followed in the footsteps of the Commercial Press. Its founder, Wu Liande, an enterprising businessman who had once worked for the Commercial Press, was able to enlist such literary luminaries as Zhao Jiabi, Zheng Boqi, Ma Guoliang, and Zhou Shoujuan as editors. With its flagship journal, Liangyou huabao, the company quickly carved out a market for pictorial journals and other popular magazines. Following the example of the Commercial Press, it also sponsored the publication of collectanea and repositories, of which the most famous were Liangyou wenxue congshu (Liangyou's collectanea of literature), Liangyou wenku (Liangyou repository), and Zhongguo xinwenxue daxi (Compendium of new Chinese literature)—the last item has remained a useful compendium for all students of modern Chinese literature.[32] In an advertisement announcing the expansion of the company, it boasted about "the creation of a new era in the field of printing," since it was the first publishing company to specialize in photography. It also sponsored publication of half a dozen journals: in addition to Liangyou huabao, we find a cinema monthly—among the first of its kind—Silver Star (Yinxing); a journal entitled Modern Woman (Jindai funü); a weekly on the arts (Yishu jie), edited by the four "decadent" aesthetes Zhu Yingpeng, Zhang Ruogu, Fu Yanchang, and Xu Weinan; and a quarterly devoted to the world of athletics (Tiyu shijie). These magazine titles suggest the company's chief commercial direction: arts and entertainment. That such magazines satisfied an urban demand seems self-evident, but it is also likely that the demand was created by the magazines themselves.

At first glance, Liangyou huabao immediately impresses the reader with its large size—it is larger than Dongfang zazhi. For a pictorial, it contains a fairly heavy dose of written material, but its attraction obviously lies in its visual features. On the cover of each issue is a photograph or portrait of a moderately modern woman, with her name printed underneath. This may have been a continuation of a convention established by late Qing courtesan newspapers, in which a number of "famous flowers" (mostly courtesans who were acquaintances of the editors) appeared on the covers. But instead of courtesans Liangyou huabao covers featured "new-style" women of considerable renown. For instance, Lu Xiaoman, the coveted paramour and later wife of the famous poet Xu Zhimo, appears on the September 1927 issue. A photograph of the famous actress Anna May Wong (Huang Liushuang) appears on the cover of the June 1927 issue—a personal gift from her to the editor Wu Liande (her inscriptions are in English). This public display brings a sense of both realism and glamour. However, beginning in 1927, the

journal also featured portraits of "fantasy" women. For example, the woman on the June 1928 issue sports not only rather chic high-heeled shoes but also, as was apparently the fashion of the period, a big fur scarf, which is prominently displayed on her shoulders, and earrings. Yet both her dress and her facial features remain "traditional," and they blend harmoniously with the background of what seems like a traditional Chinese painting. On closer inspection, however, we realize that she is not so demurely traditional after all: one of her arms is half exposed and leans against the back of what seems to be a modern (rocking) chair, and with the other hand on her crossed legs she strikes a slightly flirtatious pose. Her dress patterns are more flowery and elaborate than would be expected for an average woman—and she definitely looks rather rich (or pretends to be) with her fur scarf and earrings. As in each issue, the title of the magazine appears in both Chinese and English: whereas the Chinese characters loom large, they are not as artfully designed as the English title—The Young Companion. When we read the entire cover, both word and image, a subtitle or even subtext easily suggests itself: the young, rich, and alluring woman is (made to appear as) a "young companion" to the reader: thus this fantasy woman is designed to lure the reader into the magazine's written contents, which provided genuine "intellectual companionship."

I am not prepared to argue that the women on the front covers served no other purpose than as commodified "objects" intended to arouse male desire. Rather, I think the magazine's intended readership may have consisted of more women and school-age youths than adult men. Self-identified as a good companion (liangyou) to the reading public, the journal could not flaunt prurient interests but had to maintain a good reputation in order to maintain its large circulation. This good reputation was established, however, not through any intellectual clout or scholarly depth, but through good-natured gestures of friendliness. The editor's words in the front pages of the beginning issues certainly give us such an impression—that the journal serves as a good and constant companion in the daily lives of its readers. In the third issue (April 15, 1926), the editor, assuming the guise of a spirit (Liangyou zhi shen), greets the readers on the front page:

Good morning, dear good friends:

As you open the first page this morning and meet me, I am really a little abashed, and I don't know what to say. So I'll just say good morning and wish you good health. I was an ignorant youth, but thanks to your loving care I have been on friendly terms with you for about two months. I am even more grateful to you for not forsaking me due to my ignorance, and from now on I vow to be a good person, a reliable person, and your trusting and loyal friend.

In another issue the "Words from the Editor" column brings the "friend" even closer to the quotidian lifestyle of the intended reader: "When you are tired from work, pick up a copy of Liangyou and read through it; you can be assured that your energy will revive and you'll work better. When you're in a movie theater before the music begins and the curtain is drawn up, pick up a copy of Liangyou and read

it; it's better than looking around. When at home you have nothing else to do, reading Liangyou is better than playing mahjongg. When lying in bed, and your eyes are not tired, it's better to read Liangyou than to stare and indulge in silly thoughts."[33]

To attribute the above merely to the ingenuity of the editor would be too easy, since behind such words lurk both a conscious intention and a cultural context. Just as the editors of Dongfang zazhi and Wanyou wenku capitalized on the obvious need for new knowledge, the editors of Liangyou huabao sensed and exploited the public need for a new urban lifestyle on the quotidian level. Naturally this need was better served by a pictorial magazine. A useful comparison can be made between the journal and its late Qing predecessor, Dianshizhai huabao (Pictorial from the stone-tablet studio), which revealed the popularity of such a medium. In the late Qing intellectual context, the Dianshizhai pictorial, which consists entirely of drawings in the traditional style (with no photography), is more "fantastic" in content but nevertheless aimed to inform and enlighten the reader with new knowledge by illustrating the wonders of the world. By the time Liangyou huabao was published, that intellectual task was being accomplished by the Commercial Press. At least in Shanghai, modernity, as evidenced by the transliterated term modeng, could be seen as an emergent urban style of life. Thus Liangyou huabao ushered in a second phase of pictorial journalism, one that reflected this urban taste for the modern life—which, beginning in the early 1930s, became further glamourized by the numerous movie magazines. It is in this context that I wish to pay more attention to its coverage of women and youth, for I believe that from this coverage unfolds another story of Chinese modernity.

Not only do women grace the front covers of Liangyou huabao, they also occupy a central position in the magazine's contents, of which the first and last few pages are entirely devoted to photographs; other photos and illustrations, including comic sketches (manhua), are interlaced with written articles. We can only imagine how an issue of the magazine was read by readers of the time, but the reading process would inevitably involve an experience of both visual and written "pleasures." The reader, if reading in sequence, would first look at the front cover and then the photos on the first few pages of the magazine before reading the articles. Or a reader might look at all the pictures and then choose a few articles to read. In either case, a chain of visual links is formed, with or without the written contents. It is highly unlikely that a reader of a pictorial magazine would read only the written and ignore all the visual materials. Thus I would like to attempt a rudimentary visual reading by focusing on pictures of women.

The woman on the cover may not have much to do with the contents of the issue; still, her look and dress serve to establish an initial surface impression that may be linked to other pictures inside the magazine. In some cases, some of the photos inside are variations (more photos or paintings) of the same cover woman as she models seasonal fashion. For instance, Ms. Yang Aili wears a spring or summer dress on the cover of the May 15, 1926, issue, but inside she wears a winter garment

complete with a big fur. As the reader scans the other photos (credited by a line in English: "supplied by A. L. Varges, International Newsreel Corp. of New York"), she or he is introduced to the different dress styles. In this issue, there is a whole page of six photos of women modeling different clothes, some of whom may have already become familiar due to their appearances on the magazine's covers. The reader is then drawn into a seasonal fashion fantasy in which different facets of the fantasy woman's social life (ordinary dress in the house, cape worn to a ballroom, etc.) are featured and further variations typecast her into one of several stock social categories. This last trait is clearly an ideological inscription taken from traditional Chinese culture: for instance, terms like miaoling nülang (young girl at a tender age), guinü (young maiden), dajia guixiu (cultivated maiden from a well-to-do family), and yanzhuang shaofu (gorgeously dressed young lady or housewife) often accompany the fashion photos.

I argue, however, that fashion-consciousness plays only a small part in these photos and drawings about women's fashion. (There were no fashion models then, as there was no such profession yet.) Rather, they reflect a consciousness of dress itself, which provides an index to a new range of sensibilities in the lives of urban women of the middle and upper classes. For I believe that the photos delineate a set of domestic and public spaces in which these categories of the "well-dressed woman" live and move: from the bedroom to the ballroom, and from the living room to the movie houses and department stores. Thus it is not surprising that by 1930 dress-consciousness had widened to include a consciousness of interior decoration and furniture. In issue No. 50 (1930) we find well-dressed women sitting in different rooms of "a typical modern home": two photos of the parlor with modern furniture; two photos of the bedroom with emphasis on the colors and tones of the wallpaper; and the children's bedroom with a bed, chair, and large drawing of an animal on the wall.

On the basis of these photos, it would seem that woman's place is still at home, albeit in a modern space, together with her children. In fact, this domestic link— women and their children—is repeated in almost all the advertisements. At first glance, this domestic picture seems to contradict the earlier May Fourth discourse, which centered on the image of an emancipated Nora—an independent woman who, like Ibsen's character, leaves her traditional family to lead an independent life. Still, I argue that this does not necessarily indicate a conservative retreat from the radicalism of the previous decade. The narrative that can be derived from reading through the Liangyou huabao is one that revolves around women's new roles in a modern conjugal family into which are woven other aspects of an evolving style of urban bourgeois life. Whereas, as these advertisements suggest, women's new roles are still in the home, it is a home made anew by all the modern conveniences and interior design. The domestic space of the household is now fully "publicized" in the open, and as such has become a public issue. As indicated in the numerous photos and articles in the journal, this public discourse of new domesticity

pays great attention to physical health and family hygiene. Some medicine ads are especially revealing in this regard.[34]

Advertising Modernity

In a revealing study of the medical ads in the newspaper Shenbao, Huang Kewu has concluded that social life in Shanghai was besmeared by the problems of contagious and sexual diseases, and of opium-smoking and its prohibition; the ads also showed some significant changes in women's lives, of which freedom from foot binding was a major phenomenon. My own preliminary findings, drawn from the ads in Dongfang zazhi and Liangyou huabao, indicate that there were other issues as well. For instance, the advertisements for Dr. Williams' Pink Pills for Pale People invariably contain illustrations of people to show the positive functions of the drug. In the other samples, I have found the recurrent motif of a modern conjugal family of husband and wife, sometimes with one or two children or an occasional grandfather or grandmother. Together these ads, it seems to me, tell an imagined story of a modern couple for whom marital happiness based on good health becomes a central element. If read together with Huang's findings, the ads project an urban lifestyle in which the errant husband is more likely to contract sexual diseases outside but the wife remains healthily at home. (Of course, he will stay healthy so long as he stays at home with his wife.) In contrast to the implied "evil" space outside, home is portrayed as a safe and clean place in which, in one ad, a woman is seen brushing her teeth with Colgate's Ribbon Dental Cream (when she is not using Colgate's Fab, which "Safely Washes Fine Fabrics"), and in another, holding her baby on top of a can of Momilk by American Brewer and Company, beside a long passage describing the dangers of wet nurses who, in a predictable transference, are the transmitters of sexual and other contagious diseases.[35]

Even in the ubiquitous cigarette ads, we find a picture of domestic comfort as an elaborately dressed wife (in the same style as the cover portrait cited earlier) offers a tin of Golden Dragon Cigarettes to her traditionally clothed husband sitting on a modern sofa. The four lines of Chinese words placed into a square form an awkward and blatantly exploitative message: "Beauty is lovely; cigarettes are also lovely. The cigarette that is a national product, it is even more lovely." Perhaps the most revealing is a set of three ads for Quaker Oats, which gives us three variations of the same story: in the first one, a wife wearing an apron is holding a bowl of Quaker Oats to give to her seated husband, who is reading a newspaper (with the heading "Ideal Breakfast"); in the second, a mother is holding her beloved baby and feeding him a spoonful of Quaker Oats; in the third, there is no direct representation of the cereal but the picture of two youngsters, a boy and a girl, carrying their satchels and running to school. The health message reads: "Give the energy, nourish the soul: youngsters in school consume a lot of energy, and the development of their bodies and hearts consumes even more. For nourishment, this

is proper food." From the three ads we can easily piece together a Quaker Oats story: the healthy life of a couple leads to a healthy family, which in turn strengthens the children's bodies and souls. This American product, therefore, contributes its share to the education of a healthy people. This crude bildungsroman is given a shot of nationalism in the two lines of another Momilk ad: "Strengthening the nation must begin with strengthening the people; strengthening the people must begin with strengthening the children."[36]

The emphasis on children is further evidenced by the many photos of naked babies in Liangyou huabao's issues. The magazine proceeded in late 1926 to sponsor, together with the Momilk company, a competition for the healthiest babies, with an award totaling four hundred yuan for the top thirty. Hundreds of photos of eager entrants appeared in subsequent issues. The whole enterprise is but a "healthy" echo of an American beauty contest, which the journal also featured in its twentieth issue. The Chinese headings for the beauty contest used three terms: meiren (beautiful person), meinü (beautiful woman), and renti mei (beauty of the human body). The last also became the recurrent theme of a series of photographs displaying the female body with an increasing degree of nudity. The issues of 1926 featured Western sculptures and paintings of nudes and photos of Japanese women in bathing suits. These were accompanied by drawings by contemporary Chinese artists (for instance, issue No. 15 [1927] featured the works of Wan Laiming). In issue No. 30 (1928), a number of nude poses appeared together with an ad for a book of Wan Laiming's paintings. This was the first time that photos of a Chinese nude model appeared: four photos showing the contours of a woman's back. In issue No. 40 (1929) a "photographic study" by Chang Chien Wen shows a full-page nude facing a mirror—with the explanatory remarks lauding the naturalness of her body: "a healthy body is the first principle of beauty." In issue No. 50 (1930), another photo of a frontal nude also takes up a whole page, with the English title "Under the shade of a willow tree (a photo by P. C. Chen)"; the Chinese title again lauded "a healthy and beautiful body."

It would take a long treatise to put the public display, artistic or otherwise, of the female body in a modern Chinese cultural context. (It would be relatively easy to see it as an invasion of Western culture and aesthetics that inscribes a long history of the Western human body on the Chinese mind.) As Mark Elvin has shown in a long article, the discourse on the body in traditional Chinese culture is full of complexities. The Chinese word for body, shen, is translated by Elvin as "body-person" as it is often connected with extraphysical attributes of person, self, life, or lifetime.[37] Both Confucianism and Taoism were, of course, much obsessed with the physical side of the human body. But according to Elvin the reason for this was above all to preserve longevity: "Late-traditional Chinese were hypochondriacs, obsessed with diets, medicine, and health generally"[38]—all presumably for such a purpose. One should add that these hypochondriacs were mostly men. Elvin notes that "the body-person is also the heart-mind's most important single resource. It is (obviously) the carrier of physical beauty, both female and male. It is the repository

of ‘face,’ both in the all-or-nothing sense of social credit-worthiness and in the incremental-decremental sense of prestige. Even its wealth seems to stick to it like a physical characteristic, and affects how it is perceived by others. The expected dowries and inheritances of the sons and daughters of the rich are discussed in the same breath as their appearance and their behavior. Female bodies have a precise market value. It goes without saying that this is so for the young ladies—far from the most unfortunate in this society—who are purchased as investments when young by the madames who run the houses of pleasure, and sell them off later as secondary wives to rich businessmen in whom a besotted lust has been artfully introduced."[39]

The relevance of this observation for our purposes is that this last instance may well have been preserved in the cultural memory of readers of Liangyou huabao. As I argued earlier, the journal's effort to maintain a healthy respectability and friendliness may have stemmed from an awareness of the popularity of countless journals, as well as the gossip sheets put out by the "mosquito press," devoted to the pleasure quarters. Catherine Yeh has demonstrated that in the late Qing period, such journals about courtesans also held beauty competitions; each "famous flower" had her own literati following.[40] The vogue faded from the publishing scene after (so Yeh surmised) such journals were replaced by movie magazines. Courtesan literature, in fact, did not fade from modern Chinese literature: only its "public image" was displaced by photographs and paintings of modern, and more respectable, women. Thus to display the female body either as a work of art (Western) or as an embodiment of physical health marked the beginnings of a new discourse that was made problematic precisely because it was derived from the previous courtesan journals, in which female bodies indeed carried a market value. Insofar as it portrayed young ladies, a new pictorial like Liangyou huabao had to reinvest the female body with an entirely new meaning and ethical value. The new women portrayed or photographed are not poor, or at least not from poor families. And when they are placed in a interior setting of a modern family, they are made to embody a totally different style of life. Their bodies, therefore, are placed in new "persons": to follow Elvin, their new house would be where they could anshen (settle down in life), just as their chushen (upbringing) and shen-fen (personal status) are purposefully given a "dressing up" of bourgeois wealth and respectability. Thus fashion—the styles of dressing up—became a modern element in a culture that did not have such a tradition except in a fleeting form (according to Elvin, "chiefly hairdo and makeup, it seems").[41]

To move from the portrait of a fashionable woman to that of a nude female generated further anxiety for readers living in that still transitional age, because the drawings of naked female bodies in traditional Chinese culture were found largely in pornographic books. The invention of photography and its adoption by the modern newspaper and magazine added a mimetic dimension: the nude figure looks like a real person. This new "shock of recognition" could incur all kinds of "misinterpretations" by the average readers of the time—most of all those derived

from male gaze and lust, hence leading to objectification and commodification of the female body—a familiar view in current feminist and postcolonial theories. But what if some (even large numbers) of the readers were women? And what if pages of nudes were placed in the journal together with pictures of Chinese and world leaders, sporting events, and Hollywood movie stars? The issue here is not confined to the female body alone: I argue that the display of the female body became part of a new public discourse related to the modernity of everyday life, a subject that has received considerable theoretical attention in the field of cultural studies because, among other reasons, it addresses directly the problematic of the (Western) culture of modernity and postmodernity.[42] As mentioned before, in the Chinese context of the early twentieth century, the theme of everyday life was a construction of print media and was structured and governed by a semiotics of material culture. The contours of such a material world can be detected, again, in the advertisements in the magazines. In the above discussion I have mentioned Quaker Oats, Momilk, Colgate's Ribbon Dental Cream, and Fab detergent. These products already fulfill, functionally, the family's needs for the morning ritual: the family can clean their teeth with the dental cream and breakfast on oatmeal and milk; yesterday's laundry can be cleaned with detergent. From the ads we can easily reconstruct a list of daily necessities and luxuries for the modern urban household: electric cooking pots (zhufan dianlu) as sold by the Oriental Trading Company, Limited; automatic firepots or gas burners (zilai huolu) from the Shanghai Gas Company, Limited (the ad notes that "recently Chinese people have largely replaced coal burners with gas burners, and that [a gas burner] is especially suitable for Chinese houses in winter for purposes of hygiene for the whole family"); cameras; camera studios; Agfa and Kodak film (featured in a journal that took great pride in photography); Eveready batteries; gramophones and records (Pathe and RCA)—though not yet the telephone—and fountain pens. A full-page ad in issue No. 7 (1926) for the Hong Kong branch of the Wing On Department Store presents a neat mosaic of these items: Conklin fountain pen (and a Western-clothed man using it), various kinds of cotton cloth, Swan brand silk stockings and cotton socks, Pilsner Art Export Beer, and a copy of Liangyou huabao. The necessities for daily comfort for an urban household, both inside and outside, seem complete.

By the early 1930s, an entire imaginary of urban modernity was constructed in the pages of Liangyou huabao. There appeared more and more photos showcasing the various attractions of the city itself. Issue No. 87 in 1934 includes a two-page photographic extravaganza billed in English as "Outline of Shanghai"; its Chinese title is even more revealing: "So This Is Shanghai: Sound, Light, and Electricity." Other photos show Shanghai's famed department stores, hotels, ballrooms, cinemas (together with movie stars), and women. An issue in 1934 presents a photographic mosaic with headings in both English and Chinese— "Intoxicated [sic] Shanghai" and "Duhui de ciji" (Excitements of the metropolis)—with photos of a jazz band, a new twenty-two-story skyscraper, scenes of horse and dog racing,

a movie poster of King Kong, and two parallel scenes showing a row of women baring their legs in athletics and cabaret dancing.[43] At the center is a young Chinese woman wearing a fashionable qipao—a gown of "Manchu cut" widely popular at the time—with high slits, who is seated in an alluring pose. Lest the photos be considered too seductive, the journal, in an apparent act of self-criticism, printed in a subsequent issue another series of pictures, titled "On the Sidewalks of Shanghai," showing other aspects of the city: used books and magazine stands, professional scribes whose business was to read and write letters for the illiterates at a modest price, four men gawking at pictures of women on a street wall, a newsstand, a bucket of cheap fountain pens, two men and a boy reading old pictorial storybooks, and beggars with their open letter to the public unfolded on the ground.[44] These photographs combine to reveal an intriguing self-reflexivity: the city to which the journal owed its very existence was first glamorized and then critiqued, as if to show that the imaginary modernity contained in its photographs was but a fantasy pieced together by a clever arrangement in print; at the same time, however, the mimetic intent of the photographs seemed to imply that this fantasy was based on reality. No matter how hard the journal's editors sought to present the other side of Shanghai, it was this modern fantasy that began to take hold of the popular imagination of its readers. What makes the story of Liangyou huabao worth telling, lies precisely in its conscious effort in advertising modernity, thereby helping to construct it in Shanghai's urban culture. As such, it marked not only a significant chapter in the history of modern Chinese journalism but a historical step in representing the progress of Chinese modernity itself.

Calendar Posters

It remains for me to discuss one last specimen in this series of commercial advertisements for modernity—perhaps the most significant one, as it provides the crucial temporal scheme of everyday operation—the commercial calendar.

The commercial calendar began as an advertising gimmick introduced by Western capitalism—principally the British and American tobacco, medicine, cosmetic, textile, and oil companies. As early as the second decade of the twentieth century, the American Tobacco Company (Yingmei yancao gongsi) had introduced offset lithographic printing, formed its own advertising department, and set up an art school for the sole purpose of training commercial artists. But its domination was soon challenged by native Chinese entrepreneurs, in particular Huang Chujiu, the owner of the Great Eastern Dispensary and the Great World Amusement Building, who spotted the artistic talent of a Hangzhou painter, Zheng Man-tuo, and promoted him.[45] Thus calendar posters painted by Zheng and his disciples became most sought-after items, thereby establishing a new tradition of commercial art that combined traditional Chinese painting techniques with modern design (sometimes framed with art deco patterns) and utility. In the 1920s and early 1930s, the calendar poster reached a peak of popularity.


The basic composition of the commercial calendars is the same for each: an oblong rectangular frame, like that of a traditional Chinese painting, with the portrait of a woman occupying about two-thirds of the frame, and at the bottom a calendar; on top of either the large frame or the calendar is printed the name of the company advertising its commodity: usually cigarettes or medicine. In some ways this makes for a perfect summation of some of the central elements I have discussed in this chapter: the calendar poster features not only the veneer of modernity as seen through advertisements but also the paraphernalia associated with the women in the pictures. In fact, the cover women in Liangyou huabao and the women in the calendars bear some striking similarities in terms of fashion, posture, and facial expression, and the background landscapes are similar. The calendar portraits also exhibit a painting technique that, while clearly linked to traditional brush styles and popular roots (such as the nianhua, or New Year pictures, in rural households), nevertheless added some innovative touches. This new vogue was popularized by Zheng Mantuo and his friends and disciples. A special technique of Zheng's was to begin drawing the woman's face with charcoal powder and then touch up with colored hues, thus creating a tender, subdued look. This kind of "portrait of a lady in modern dress" (shizuang shinu tu) became a representative fixture of the calendar, and the discerning viewer or collector supposedly could even see "her eyes following people."[46]

Allow me to read one such woman depicted on a calendar that I own (see figure 1.1).[47] This is one of the more traditional varieties of the calendar, and it advertises Hatamen brand cigarettes. It is painted with a special 1930 technique of light-colored brushwork (caibi dancai hua) first used by the artist Zheng Mantuo in the late Qing period.[48] In this particular case, the body of the woman is not lengthened, as sometimes is necessitated by the oblong shape of the frame. She sits sideways by a patch of water where a pair of swans swim together; in the upper and lower right corners are branches and grass painted in the traditional style. The ambiance seems to transport us away from the modern reality. In my view, it also evokes the fictional world of the Butterfly school (also known as the Mandarin Duck and Butterfly school); the pair of swans in particular is a visual reference, metonymically, to mandarin ducks. This common traditional style may serve to tone down the blatantly foreign (English) origin of the cigarettes. However, in order to spotlight the commodity, the cigarette pack in the grass next to her is red.

As we gaze at the picture of the woman, we find that although her clothes are traditional—she wears a simple and tastefully light-colored qipao—there are some very modern touches that distinguish her from the myriad traditional women who graced magazine covers. For one thing, the big flower she wears near her collar is a striking pink, which contrasts with the pale green color of her gown (with slim pink stripes to match), thereby both bringing out and toning down the familiar aesthetic association of prime colors (red and green). The pointed position of the flower of course also serves to point to the woman, thus giving rise to the familiar poetic metaphor for woman: yizhi hua—a solitary flower of (faded) splendor that


Figure 1.1. Calendar poster, 1930.

[Full Size]

conveys a vague feeling of passion soured by pity and sadness. What kind of flower is she wearing? A rose, a peony, or even a pear flower (as in the evocative poetic line: "A pear flower, bringing spring and rain" [Yizhi lihua chun dai yu]). I may be intentionally overreading the flower associations because I find her face reminiscent of the famous movie actress Ruan Lingyu, who rose to great fame around 1930—definitely a great icon and a legendary woman of passion, who later committed suicide for love. In fact, movie actresses often served as models for these commercial calendars (another famous example is the actress Li Lihua, who posed for a poster advertising yindanshilin bu, a blue-colored textile fabric commonly used for women's clothes).[49] As on movie screens, the women on the calendars are displayed objects who nevertheless make a subjective visual impact on individual viewers. What distinguishes a good calendar from a mediocre one lies precisely in this particular combination of the striking and the stereotypical, the real and the fantastic. The woman on a calendar, I suspect, becomes the key factor for the buyer's choice (if the calendar is not given out by the company as a New Year gift, according to custom then and now), and the tobacco company's "legendary" reputation may have something to do with its posted, hence fetishized, woman. Thus the woman figure, like the cigarette, became a commodity.[50]

But the real function of this calendar, hence the real content of this "text," is the calendar itself, which is reduced to the lower half but framed with a striking art deco design. What makes it immediately relevant to my purposes is the fact that the calendar in this case uses two sets of modern year-marks: 1930 of the Western calendar on the left and the nineteenth year of the Republic of China on the right. The rest of this yearly calendar is divided by the months, which are further divided into weeks. At this point the traditional lunar dates also enter into the charts. I have no idea when this calendrical arrangement became the standard, but the cultural significance cannot be overemphasized. Not only does the standard calendar bring two clear time-markers together (Chinese and Western, both notably modern), but the two also combine to inscribe a modern organizational scheme of time on the traditional. The division of months, days, and weeks is manifestly Western and modern, and by this time governed the everyday lives of Chinese urbanites; a few seasonal dates from the lunar calendar are placed on the month column on top—perhaps as a reminder of the important rituals people still needed to perform or, as is still practiced now, as a form of "fortunetelling" to alert the modern citydwellers to equate their modern datekeeping with a tabulation of divine fortune: which day may be auspicious for which ritual? All of these have become common features in the Chinese calendars used today. But the invention of the calendar poster must be duly accredited. For I believe that time—and the system of calendrical dating—is the foundation on which modernity is constructed. This is also the underlying thesis in Anderson's book, that nationalism could be imagined only as a result of a fundamental change in the conception of time: the imagined community of the nation springs from an idea of "homogeneous, empty time, in which simultaneity is, as it were, transverse, cross-time, marked not by prefiguring

and fulfillment, but by temporal coincidence, and measured by clock and calendar."[51] To bring Anderson's abstraction to the level of urban Shanghai, we could almost say that the daily life of the kind of "imagined modernity" I have described was also measured by the clock (there was a big one on top of the Shanghai Customs House) and the calendar.


In this essay I have surveyed two highly successful journals, Dongfang zazhi and Liangyou huabao, and their related commercial enterprises in order to explore the ways in which an imaginary of modernity was constructed in Shanghai's urban culture. The two also bore institutional linkages: Wu Liande, the founder of Liangyou huabao, once worked for the Commercial Press, and the Liangyou company clearly followed some of the publishing projects of the Commercial Press with its own resounding success. The most impressive and enduring of the Liangyou projects was surely the ten-volume Zhongguo xinwenxue daxi (Compendium of new Chinese literature) edited by Zhao Jiabi, which after its publication in the early 1930s soon attained canon status.[52] Other ambitious projects, such as Liangyou wenku (Liangyou repository) and Yijiao congshu (Tencent series), were cheap editions composed of works by renowned authors of modern Chinese literature and thought. But certainly the major legacy of modern Chinese print culture was its pictorial pages, which literally and figuratively contributed to the making of a modern Chinese imaginary.

Throughout the essay I have used the term imaginary in the sense of a cluster of linked images that collectively represent an imagined ideal (of Chinese modernity). An imaginary is different from a theory because it also concerns the way ordinary people imagine their surroundings; intellectual theory is the creation of a small intellectual elite, whereas social or cultural imaginary can be shared by large groups of people through the circulation of print and visual media. It aims at a common understanding that makes possible common practices and a sense of legitimacy.[53] Throughout this essay I have also emphasized the process of cultural construction rather than consumption, for reasons that should by now be clear. For I believe that this imaginary of modernity was still in the making during the early Republican period. I have further suggested that, following Anderson, such a modern imaginary was also related to the formation of the modern Chinese nation first as an imagined community. That this imagined community was being legitimized with the organization of a social imaginary can be evidenced in Liangyou's weighty pictorial album Zhonghua jingxiang (originally translated as China as She Is: A Comprehensive Album) published in 1934.[54] What lies behind this photographed collection of national scenery (jingxiang) seems to be a clear impulse to define the boundaries of the new nation. Further research is necessary to establish the exact relationship between this cultural and commercial enterprise and the policies of the modern Chinese state, particularly in education. It would not

be surprising to find that the kind of imaginary that was being constructed conformed largely to the prescriptions of the state.[55]

Likewise, we need to explore further the connection and interplay between editors and readers, producers and consumers. What was the composition of the urban readership? How diverse was it? Would different kinds of readers respond to different content in different journals? So far my evidence is merely textual: I have tried to gauge the range and size of the readerships from the printed articles and advertisements in the journals themselves, though there is danger that the journals are guilty of self-serving exaggeration. However, my purpose in this essay is not to describe empirical research but to explore the possibilities of a new approach, that of cultural history. Some of my interpretations can be taken as hypotheses subject to further proof. However, not all interpretations are based on empirical evidence, and no amount of research can ever establish the final picture. I hope that I have at least blazed a small trail by shifting our scholarly attention from the elitist domain of lofty ideas and grand narratives to a more popular realm of urban print culture.


1. Leo Oufan Lee, "In Search of Modernity: Reflections on a New Mode of Consciousness in Modern Chinese Literature and Thought," in Ideas across Cultures: Essays in Honor of Benjamin Schwartz, ed. Paul A. Cohen and Merle Goldman (Cambridge: Harvard East Asian Monographs, 1990), 110–11.1 [BACK]

2. The term wenming is included in appendix D, "Return Graphic Loans: Kanji Terms Derived from Classical Chinese," in Lydia Liu's Translingual Practice: Literature, National Culture, and Translated Modernity—China, 1900–1937 (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1996), 308. [BACK]

3. Benjamin Schwartz, In Search of Wealth and Power (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1964), 238–39. [BACK]

4. Rengong [Liang Qichao], "Hanman lu," Qingyi bao 35 (1899): 2275–78. [BACK]

5. Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism (New York: Verso, 1983). [BACK]

6. Ibid., 31–36. [BACK]

7. Jurgen Habermas, The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1989), 40–41, 50–51. [BACK]

8. But this is not the same as Habermas's "public sphere," as China did not share the same preconditions as Europe in the eighteenth century. Thus I differ from those who believe there was a Chinese public sphere or civil society. Still, the concept of a reading "public" does open up notions of the "public space" as well as urban space, which may constitute a "semipublic sphere" within the framework of urban society. But even so, some of the standard manifestations Habermas sees in eighteenth-century French salons or English pubs and journals did not take place in China. [BACK]

9. Homi K. Bhabha, "Dissemination: Time, Narrative, and the Margins of the Modern Nation," in Nation and Narration, ed. Homi K. Bhabha (London: Routledge, 1990). [BACK]

10. Robert Darnton, The Business of Enlightenment: A Publishing History of the Encyclopedie [sic] (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1968). [BACK]


11. There has already been scholarly treatment of both Dongfang zazhi and the Commercial Press in Western languages. Thus, I do not intend to go into their backgrounds. For a comprehensive study of the latter, see Jean-Pierre Drege, La Commercial Press de Shanghai, 1897–1949 (Paris: Institute des hautes etudes chinoises, College de France, 1978). See also the valuable collection of reminiscences Shangwu yinshugan jiushinian (Ninety years of the Commercial Press) (Beijing: Shangwu yinshuguan, 1987). [BACK]

12. Ma Xuexin, Cao Junwei, et al., eds., Shanghai wenhua yuanliu cidian (A dictionary of cultural sources in Shanghai) (Shanghai: Shanghai shehui kexueyuan chubanshe, 1992), 199. [BACK]

13. Jing Cang, "Jinhou zazhi jie zhi zhiwu" (The duty of the magazine world from now on), Dongfang zazhi (hereafter DZ) 16, no. 7 (July 1919): 3–5. [BACK]

14. Lu Lu, "Jiqi yu rensheng" (Machines and life), DZ 16, no. 10 (October 1916): 47–54. [BACK]

15. DZ 8, no. 1 (March 1911): 38. [BACK]

16. Apparently English-Chinese dictionaries were in great demand, and the Commercial Press had to make every effort in order to beat other publishers to the market. Most dictionaries were patchworks stitched together from English and Japanese dictionaries. In the case of publishing Webster's Dictionary, the Commercial Press had to pay a sizable sum as a result of the lawsuit brought by the original company. See Xie Juzeng, Shili yangchang de ciyang (Silhouettes on the Bund) (Guangzhou: Huacheng chubanshe), 50. [BACK]

17. Actually, Mrs. Zhu was editor in name only; the real editor was a man, Zhu Yunzhang, a member of the press's staff, who nominally consulted her and wrote some articles under her name. See Xie Juzeng, Shili yangchang de ciyang, 38. [BACK]

18. See "Jiaokeshu zhi fakan gaikuang" (The general situation of the publication of textbooks), in Zhongguo jindai chuban shiliao chubian, ed. Zhang Jinglu (Shanghai: Zhonghua shuju, 1957), 220. [BACK]

19. Ibid., 228. The Japanese connection proved to be a mixed blessing; the press eventually severed it. This may have been the reason, though an undocumented one, why the Japanese bombarded and destroyed the press's printing plant and other buildings during the air raid on January 28, 1932. [BACK]

20. This announcement and the advertisements for the photo and postcards can be found in DZ 8, no. 11 (November 1911). [BACK]

21. Zhongguo jindai chuban shiliao chubian, 243–44. [BACK]

22. Zhongguo jiaoyu daxi (The grand compendium of Chinese education) 2 (1994): 2221–22. [BACK]

23. Zhongguo jindai chuban shiliao chubian, 242–43. [BACK]

24. Ibid., 246. [BACK]

25. Ibid., 221. [BACK]

26. I am indebted to my student Mr. Chen Jianhua for these statistics and for other research assistance. [BACK]

27. Wang Yunwu, "Wangyou wenku di yierji yinxing yuanqi" (The background for the publication of the first and second series of the Wanyou wenku), in Zhongguo xiandai chuban shiliao yibian (Shanghai: Zhonghua shuju, 1954), 290–91. Drege discusses Wang Yunwu's reorganization efforts (Drege, Commercial Press, 89–94), and in the appendix section of Commercial Press are listings of the periodicals distributed by the press, as well as congshu and dictionaries (185–98), but not textbooks. [BACK]

28. Ibid., 290–91. [BACK]

29. Ibid., 293–94. [BACK]


30. "Wanyou wenku bianyi fanli" (The guidelines for the compilation of Wanyou wenku), Wanyou wenku diyiji yiqianzhong mulu (Catalogue of one thousand titles of Wanyou wenku, 1st ser.) (Shanghai: Shangwu yinshuguan, 1929), 2. [BACK]

31. The relevance was noted by Li Shizeng, a renowned intellectual of the time, who is reported to have remarked that he admired two historical figures: Ji Xiaolan, the Qing dynasty compiler of the Siku quanshu, and Diderot, the French philosophe of the Encyclopedie. See Qian Huafo and Zheng Yimei, Sanshinian lai zhi Shanghai (Shanghai of the past thirty years) (1946; reprint, Shanghai: Shanghai shudian, 1984), 46–47. [BACK]

32. Ma Xuexin et al., Shanghai wenhua yuanliu cidian (Shanghai: Shanghai shehui kexueyuan chubanshe, 1992), 379. For an analysis of the making of the Compendium of New Chinese Literature, see Lydia Liu, Translingual Practice, 214–38. [BACK]

33. Liangyou huabao, 6 (July 15, 1926): 18. [BACK]

34. Huang Kewu, "Cong Shenbao yiyao guanggao kan minchu Shanghai de yiliao wenhua yu shehui shenghuo" (Shanghai's medical culture and social life as seen in Shenbao's medicine advertisements), Zhongyang yanjiu yuan Jindai shi yanjiu suo jikan (Quarterly journal of the Modern History Institute, Academia Sinica), no. 17 (December 1988): 141–94. [BACK]

35. Liangyou huabao 6 (July 15, 1926): 18. [BACK]

36. Liangyou huabao 11 (December 15, 1926). [BACK]

37. Mark Elvin, "Tales of Shen and Xin: Body-Person and Heart-Mind in China during the Last 150 Years," Zone 4: Fragments for a History of the Human Body, pt. 2 (New York: Zone, 1989), 275. [BACK]

38. Ibid., 277. [BACK]

39. Ibid., 295. [BACK]

40. This is from a talk given at the Workshop on Chinese Cultural Studies, Fairbank Center, Harvard University, Cambridge, March 9, 1995. [BACK]

41. Ibid., 268. [BACK]

42. See, for instance, Henri Lefebvre, Everyday Life in the Modern World, trans. Sacha Rabinovitch (New Brunswick and London: Transaction Publishers, 1990). But Lefebvre's interpretive scheme is too contemporary and Western to be relevant to the Chinese materials treated in this essay. [BACK]

43. Liangyou huabao 85 (1934): 14–15. [BACK]

44. Liangyou huabao 103 (1935): 34–35. For sampling these photos I am grateful to my student Ezra Block, whose senior thesis at Harvard (June 1996), "Modeling Modernity: The Liangyou huabao in the 1930s," is also on the journal. [BACK]

45. Zhang Yanfeng, Lao yuefenpai guanggao hua (Advertisement paintings in old calendars), vol. 1 (Taipei: Hansheng zazhi, 1994), 65. [BACK]

46. Cai Zhenghua and Fan Zhenjia, "Yuefen pai" (Calendars), in Bainian Shanghai tan (The Shanghai treatyport during the last one hundred years), ed. Ye Shuping and Zheng Zu'an (Shanghai: Shanghai huabao chubanshe, 1990), 120–22. [BACK]

47. This is a gift from William Tay, who purchased it in Hong Kong. A photo reproduction of it is included in Zhang Yanfeng, Lao yuefenpai guanggao hua, 1:18. Apparently a widespread nostalgia for such old artifacts is now sweeping Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Mainland China. [BACK]

48. Zhang Yanfeng, Lao yuefenpai guanggao hua, 1:10. [BACK]

49. Ibid., 42. [BACK]

50. Francesca Dal Lago, at New York University, has written a master's thesis on the subject. Contrary to my sedate and "conservative" reading, her argument states that the

central figure on the poster is the "New Woman," who looks morally loose; hence the figure is associated with concubines or high-class prostitutes. See her paper "Modern Looking and Looking Modern: ‘Modern Woman’ as Commodity in 1930s Shanghai Calendar Posters" (paper delivered at the symposium "Visual Cultures and Modernities in China and Japan," Institute of Fine Arts, New York University, October 26, 1996). [BACK]

51. Anderson, Imagined Communities, 30. [BACK]

52. For a perceptive discussion, see Lydia Liu, Translingual Practice,chapter 4. [BACK]

53. These remarks are indebted to Charles Taylor, who spoke of the "social imaginary" at several conferences that I also attended. [BACK]

54. As advertised in Liangyou huabao 87 (April 1934) in the second printing; the first printing of three thousand copies quickly sold out. [BACK]

55. It would be intriguing to see whether Chiang Kai-shek's conservative "New Life Movement" had a visible impact on the pictorial contents of Liangyou huabao. I have glanced through the issues from 1930 to 1937, but I did not find any definite changes, except that there were no more pictures of nudes after 1934, and the more alluring portraits of the urban pleasures of Shanghai were toned down. [BACK]


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]


3. "A High Place Is No Better
Than a Low Place"

The City
in the Making of Modern China

David Strand


Lanzhou, the capital city of Gansu Province, stands at the geographical center of China. Located in a region notorious in the late imperial period for treacherous travel conditions, the city was, and is, a long way from centers of Chinese political, economic, and cultural life.[1] How far away depended, of course, on mode of transport. In the Republican era, Xi'an to Lanzhou by car took four to seven days (or three hours by once-a-week air flight).[2] A journey by camel from the nearest railhead at Baotou lasted forty days.[3] In an essay published in Mao Dun's 1936 compilation of vignettes, "One Day in China," Qian Julin, newly arrived in Lanzhou, made the city seem like the end of the world. A temple fair on Wuquan Mountain overlooking Lanzhou reminded him of the Festival of the Bathing of the Buddha in Jingan Temple in Shanghai. But he also lamented that in "lifeless and lonely Lanzhou," Mount Wuquan is the only "attraction" in an otherwise "dreary" place.[4] Sketching a hectic scene of pilgrims, beggars, prostitutes, peddlers, policemen, country girls dressed in "old and very out of fashion" clothes, "a few modern girls from the south," and a lone Christian evangelist, Qian also reported seeing a sign on the temple library that read, "‘A High Place Is No Better Than a Low Place.’ I say," he concluded enigmatically, "Lanzhou is no better than Shanghai."[5]

High in what sense? No better in what way? Shanghai towered over Lanzhou and nearly every other Chinese city in terms of marketing functions, political and cultural centrality, wealth, and population. But Shanghai apparently was no better for all that and Lanzhou no worse for being dreary. Reasons for this bleak comparison may lie in the author's personal desolation as an exile who both missed and deplored Shanghai, a city as famous for decadence and disorder as for progress and modernity.[6]


Cities in the first half of the twentieth century were high in that they held the commanding heights of most technological, cultural, and political change and low in their apparent inability to translate this advantage into a stable, urban-based economic, political, and social system capable of governing China. Cities like Beijing and Shanghai failed to produce or command a powerful nation-state. However, through media like newspapers, professions like writer, banker, and businessman, and disciplines like urban planning and social criticism, urban China did help produce a growing consciousness of being modern and Chinese. Among the parallel tracks and countercurrents left by failed republics, lost wars, and cultural humiliation was a heightened sense of connection among cities and between urban China and the rest of the country. High or low, Qian Julin saw Lanzhou through memories of Shanghai and Shanghai from his new vantage point in Lanzhou. He wrote his essay on Lanzhou within the framework of a common urban reality connected by camel, boat, horse or mule cart, car, train, and plane that also extended into the countryside and out into the world.

Distances were shrinking, however fitfully and unevenly, increasing the likelihood of finding the commodities and institutions of coastal Shanghai at the end of a long journey to a city of the interior like Lanzhou. Things one might buy in these out-of-the-way places, like cigarettes or patent medicine, were available as part of a national market. They were advertised, as Sherman Cochran shows in chapter 2 of this volume, with the help of recognizably Chinese and non-Chinese images. Alien and hybrid forms abounded. Western buildings with Chinese roofs, and political parties with citizens ordered in what political writers of the day described as "pagoda-style" hierarchies, achieved a generic presence in big cities and small towns. Meanwhile, temple festivals were still celebrated in modern, cosmopolitan Shanghai.

Urban zones and bands of influence widened beyond treatyport enclaves. The building of motor roads, such as the highway from Shanghai to Nanjing, laid out new urbanized corridors along older commercial routes.[7] In good weather, one could drive from Xi'an to Lanzhou in four days, because by 1935, a new road, complete with service and aid stations equipped with telephones, had been completed between the two cities.[8] Railway construction, though disrupted by war and political instability, tied cities together in ways that supplemented and superseded the water routes of the late imperial period. Connections and mobility promoted a mental picture of city life as one of continuous and simultaneous activity. Standing in the train station outside Qian Gate in Beijing, one could visualize disembarking outside Yudai Gate in Hankou.[9] With a further act of imagination one might anticipate completion of the 1901 plan to link Beijing to Guangzhou by direct rail.[10] By midcentury, rail lines would reach Lanzhou as well.

Six years after Qian Julin sent his ironic message from the interior, Cai Mengjian, the mayor of Nationalist-held Lanzhou, gave an optimistic speech celebrating the city's progress while still acknowledging the burden imposed by Lanzhou's remote location.[11] By 1942, the war against Japan had given Lanzhou's

old roles as Silk Road way station and imperial outpost new strategic import as the city became a link in supply lines running to and from the Soviet Union.[12] The Japanese invasion had also driven businesses and refugees west, stimulating economies and swelling populations in "rear-area cities" (houfang chengshi). From 1937 to 1940, the population of the city almost tripled to more than 150,000.[13] But in reporting on a recent trip taken to Chongqing to attend a political meeting, Mayor Cai lamented that, of the two hundred officials present at the Chongqing convocation, only eighteen had ever visited Lanzhou. The remainder pictured Lanzhou as "a desolate or uncivilized place," an image the mayor had tried to correct.[14]

Listening to the reports of other municipal officials also kindled the mayor's own sense of what kind of place Lanzhou ought to be: "In comparing Lanzhou to other cities I was for the most part satisfied. Only two points caused me to feel ashamed. One is that in terms of city size, the other cities are all bigger than Lanzhou. According to the Guilin report, Guilin's total area is 1,060 sq. km. Many surrounding counties are under its jurisdiction…. Our Lanzhou has only sixteen sq. km. That is really too small. Second, there is the problem of finances. Last year our budget for six months was only 900,000 yuan. Guilin's for one year is 6,000,000. Guilin itself only [has to] collect 2,000,000 itself. The rest comes from the provincial government."[15] Cai went on to note that although a third of Lanzhou's budget came from provincial sources, the city should be able to "step forward" to a better fiscal standing. And assuming that new resources were forthcoming, the mayor imagined a future, thriving (and larger) Lanzhou with neatly laid out commercial, industrial, academic, recreational, and residential zones.[16] The epithet "uncivilized" when applied to places like Lanzhou provoked not merely a denial but a plan to steal a march on the competition.

Mayor Cai's actual accomplishments were more modest: under his leadership, the town built a public Resist and Reconstruct Hall (kang jian tang) capable of seating a thousand people, added an official municipal guest house, repaired roads, opened public bathhouses, experimented with supplying scientifically tested potable water to residents at reasonable prices, and installed a number of street lamps.[17] These achievements, as well as grander plans to make Lanzhou a fully modern city, were touted with the enthusiasm befitting a local booster. Mayor Cai also succeeded in making Lanzhou bigger. Within a few months of his speech, and in the name of better planning and administration, Cai negotiated a tenfold increase in area for Lanzhou municipality.[18]

Remote Lanzhou's somewhat far-fetched claims to centrality were made more plausible by the unsettled nature of China's urban hierarchy. In contrast to recent Qing times, there was no clear center to look to. In the period from 1900 to 1950, the political capital of China strayed all over the map: Beijing in 1900–1912, 1912–28, 1948 (as "secondary capital"), and 1949–50; Nanjing in 1912, 1927–37, 1940–45 (as "puppet capital"), and 1946–49; Luoyang in 1932 (as "administrative capital"); Xi'an in 1932–43 (as "secondary capital" Xijing); and Chongqing in

1937–46.[19] With a more flexible definition of what constituted a national capital, Guangzhou, Wuhan, and Yan'an might also qualify during the months and years they hosted insurgent Nationalist and Communist regimes. Fixed status as important or unimportant, central or peripheral, was something cities could not count on and needed not necessarily accept. Who was to say where the center of China or a region within China actually was or, indeed, whether China would survive as a single political entity? Lanzhou was obliged to defend its position and importance. But so were Beijing, Shanghai, and Nanjing. In 1927, when the question of which city should be China's capital was debated, one brief in favor of the winner Nanjing acknowledged that Beijing, in addition to its position as current capital and cultural center, had become a railway hub served by four lines. But Nanjing had four rail lines as well and was better situated in the new "Pacific era" by dint of ready access to the ocean.[20] Of course, the author conceded, the argument he had just made against Beijing might also favor Wuhan. But Wuhan, with its three linked cities of Wuchang, Hankou, and Hanyang straddling the Yangzi River, was too vulnerable to flooding. Admirers of Wuhan stressed the tricities' struggle against natural forces as a badge of higher modernity. Wuhan rivaled St. Petersburg in the degree of human effort required to construct it in the face of an unpromising physical environment, a quality also shared by Hong Kong and Qing-dao.[21] After 1945, this debate was reopened, with many northerners favoring Beijing and southerners Nanjing.[22] Compromise proposals imagined Beijing as a political or "land" capital and Nanjing as a ceremonial or "sea" capital. Other candidates included Wuhan, Xi'an, and Jinan. Even Lanzhou won adherents on the basis of its central geographical location.[23]

The rise and decline of cities based on changing political and economic realities was nothing new in Chinese urban history.[24] The positioning of military garrisons, the licensing of salt monopolies, or the raising or lowering of a city's administrative status could have deep and long-lasting effects on urban commercial and cultural life. What was new in the early twentieth century was the promise of uniform progress made against the reality of unevenness imposed by political upheaval, staggered treatyport openings, the vagaries of global economic change, and the progressive modernization of transport. The windfall of attention, refugees, and investment Lanzhou received during the war years rapidly diminished after 1945, as people and capital flowed south and east.[25] Lanzhou did not become the Washington, D.C., or Brasilia of China. However, after 1949, in a recentered People's Republic, new political decisions to develop the surrounding region's natural resources led to further bursts of construction and growth.

Objective measures of urban development (or decline) were rarely congruent with the pace and direction of change imagined by planners, politicians, and residents. The real Lanzhou of the 1930s and 1940s lay somewhere between the desolation evoked by Qian Julin—and presumed by skeptical officials from other cities—and the festival of development imagined by Mayor Cai. In Lanzhou, stove beds (kang) were heated by horse dung or dung mixed with coal, and yet, limited

electrical service had been installed here before it was available in more developed Xi'an to the east.[26] Drinking water from wells in the surrounding hills was not always safe, and water taken by carriers from the Yellow River outside of the city's North Gate was polluted by human and animal waste.[27] Public health problems such as contaminated water contributed to the fact that in December 1934, in one city hospital alone, 2 percent of Lanzhou's population was treated for disease.[28] And yet, as this statistic proved, Lanzhou did have the beginnings of a modern medical establishment. The fact that living in Lanzhou could make one ill was a spur to reform.

Lanzhou was a study in contrasts weighted toward the preindustrial, with city walls still intact but also abutting a famous iron bridge built across the Yellow River in 1909.[29] Like Qingdao's 1890 iron pier, the Yellow River bridge both served transportation needs and staked out a symbolic foothold for the future expansion of a machineage China.[30] A few official buildings, banks, and hospitals in Lanzhou were modern style and of two or three stories. But most residences and shops had dirt floors, mud roofs, and old-style paper windows.[31] Selfconsciously conservative Lanzhou people described their community as one in which "women's feet are small [bound] and heads [hairstyles] are big." But more recently, the number of women with natural feet and bobbed hair had seemed to increase day by day.[32] Despite the existence of a number of struggling factories, Lanzhou remained dependent on other cities for even simply made goods. For example, mule carts were all manufactured in Xi'an and rickshaws were also imported from there, as well as from Kaifeng and Zhengzhou.[33] But this dependency also reflected Lanzhou's commercial ties with distant cities and integration into regional and national markets.

Lanzhou was a hub of trade for Gansu as well as Xinjiang, Qinghai, Ningxia, and Suiyuan. As such, it was a likely location for the reprocessing of goods like wool and hides. But attempts to build blanket and tanning industries in the area had faltered by the 1930s.[34] In the mid-1870s, Zuo Zongtang, governor-general of Gansu and Shaanxi appointed to suppress Muslim rebellions in the northwest, had ordered construction of a gunpowder plant and a weaving factory in Lanzhou.[35] The weaving factory, outfitted with equipment purchased in Belgium, was one of the earliest machine-powered plants in China and so in a class with comparable mechanized projects like the Tianjin telegraph bureau, the Kaiping mines, and the first textile plant in Shanghai.[36] However, once Governor-General Zuo left the local scene for further military and political challenges in Xinjiang and other corners of the empire, these industrial projects languished.[37] A similar fate met a tanning factory opened in 1922 in the nearby county seat of Tianshui.[38] Despite efforts by a former local official who "sent men to buy machinery in Shanghai and employed technicians from big tanneries in Tianjin and Sichuan," the business failed because of "poor management." Lanzhou's backwardness was both a burden and a provocation to development-minded officials and residents. The pressure to push the city beyond its current capabilities came from both outsiders

bent on exploiting the region's resources and strategic position, and insiders anxious for their community to reach standards set by sister cities like Shanghai and Guilin.

All this pushing and maneuvering could not in one stroke alter the basic facts of economic and geographic life. Cities in China were deeply affected by their rural surroundings and hinterlands. Lanzhou's money market was closely keyed to the agriculture cycle of planting and harvest.[39] Since much of the city's interurban trade depended on camel trains (to Baotou and then by train to Tianjin), commercial and manufacturing activity peaked in the spring and fall and was idle in late spring and summer to permit replenishing of the camel herds.[40] Lanzhou's urban economy—however modern it might appear when judged by products available in markets, technologies installed in factories and offices, and plans promoted in political meetings—was still captive to the reproductive cycle of the camel (and to the flotilla of inflated goatskin rafts carrying goods downriver to Baotou). In fact, the warinduced growth of the city in the late thirties and forties increased dependency on the camel as demand for transport rose and the availability of fuel for cars and trucks became ever more erratic.[41]

The geographer Clifton Pannell has argued that in China as late as 1937 "not a great deal of progress [had] been made in the emergence of a truly national urban system."[42] Given the documented rise of significant interregional trade in the late imperial period (c. 1550–c. 1920) and the acceleration of trade in the twentieth century, the presence of Zhengzhou-made rickshaws and Shanghai consumer goods in Lanzhou helps sketch a picture of more significant, if incomplete, progress.[43] Uneven rates of development made coastal cities like Shanghai different in both degree and kind from cities of the interior like Lanzhou. But many inland cities, no matter how remote from the coast, were equipped with basic modern institutions and technologies like police forces, telecommunication and rail links, and factories. Militarists, politicians, merchants, and tourists used Chinese cities in systematic ways to win wars, mobilize political supporters, sell products, and pursue pleasure. This conscious, systematic use of urban China was one means by which such a national system took shape. In turn, an urban infrastructure of rail, telegraph, and telephone lines and branching systems of commerce, culture, and politics made the idea of an integrated China more than an imperial afterthought or a modern abstraction.

As embarkation points, entrepôts, and busy producers of goods and services, Shanghai and other large coastal cities dominated industry, foreign trade, and the production of newspapers, films, and magazines. By keeping up with the rest of the world, Shanghai in particular stayed ahead of most places in China. Shanghai's "first textile mills were built before any in the American South, and by 1930 it had… the largest mill in the world; its first cinema opened five years after San Francisco got its first large movie house; and by the late 1930s its Commercial Press was publishing each year as many titles as the entire American publishing industry."[44] By 1946, 85 percent of imports to China passed through Shanghai and

60 percent of exports left from the city's docks.[45] And yet, as Susan Mann notes, "up to 80% of China's national product was still being produced outside of Shanghai's developed enclave during the early twentieth century, in the dispersed economies of rural marketing systems that formed the broad base of China's central place pyramid."[46] Citing G. William Skinner's work on China's central place system, Mann emphasizes the likely low general rate of urbanization in China in the first half of the twentieth century, probably far less than the 20 percent often mentioned in contemporary writings, though more than the 6 percent estimated for the late nineteenth century.[47] A more recent estimate places the urban population at 16.1 percent in 1949.[48] However, low overall rates of urbanization were combined with "a more balanced pattern of growth… than is generally found in other societies during the same period," and one that "favored market towns and villages rather than larger cities."[49]

There is truth in the image of an urban China paced and shaped by messages, goods, models, and technologies from Shanghai. Bits and pieces of Shanghai, like the "modern girls" glimpsed by Qian Julin on Wuquan Mountain, turned up all over, and travelers from Shanghai saw the imprint of their city in surprising places. The geographer Fang Wenpei noted that Chengdu's Chunxi Road East Avenue, "well-ordered and bustling, strangely resembled Shanghai's Nanking Road."[50] Even Lanzhou had silk, cloth, and foreign goods shops "by and large patterned on Shanghai department stores."[51] The trade might be called capital goods (jinghuo hang) in Lanzhou, connoting an earlier pattern of obtaining luxury items from Beijing, but the goods themselves came now from metropolitan Shanghai and Tianjin.

This Shanghai model writ large or small reflected more direct, yet subtle, kinds of influence and control. Shanghai and Beijing newspapers tended to dominate journalistic enterprise in other cities. Wuhan had forty newspapers but "most plagiarize Shanghai and Beijing newspapers."[52] News items were in turn copied by other newspapers until the news became more and more out of date as one read copies of copies. Old news in Wuhan and out-of-fashion clothes in Lanzhou thus shared a common point of origin and common standard of backwardness. Local markets were "conquered" by metropolitan papers.[53] Because of advances in communications, Shanghai papers could arrive in Suzhou or Hangzhou in a few hours and Beijing papers in a day or two. Residents learned, according to critics, not to take seriously the pasted together dailies that made claims to be their city's newspapers.[54]

However, the marketing of newspapers from the coast could also promote reciprocal patterns of interaction. The Tianjin feminist newspaper Funü ribao (Women's daily), founded in 1923, was one of several newspapers with that name published in different cities by different groups of women activists.[55] The stated purpose of the paper was to provide "a place for women to speak," permit "women in different parts of China to produce powerful propaganda materials," and encourage coordination of a nationwide movement.[56] During a period in

1924, when the question of whether men should head women's schools was being debated in the Funü ribao, female students in a women's college in Baoding rebelled against their male headmaster.[57] The Tianjin newspaper sent a special correspondent to Baoding to contact the students and cover the story, with the initial interviews being done by telephone from the reporter's hotel because school authorities had locked the women in the college. Baoding, as a military and warlord center, had a reputation for conservatism. However, Yuan Shikai's use of the city for military training, beginning in 1902 as part of the Qing New Policies reforms, led to the founding of army and police schools and later a law academy and veterinary and medical schools.[58] Unlike Zuo Zongtang's industrial enterprises in Lanzhou, Yuan's educational ventures took hold. In due course, Baoding acquired so many schools and academies that it earned the reputation of being a "student city." Newspapers, libraries, and printing factories underpinned a growing cultural establishment of uncertain political loyalties. In this light, an outbreak of feminism in Baoding is not so surprising.[59] As the protest unfolded over a period of weeks in 1924, women and women's organizations from around the country wrote in to support the Baoding students, demonstrations were held in Tianjin on their behalf, and the students themselves sent a deputation to Tianjin to mobilize support. Through the medium of the feminist press, one could act locally in the presence of a national audience and, from the standpoint of editors in coastal centers, compose the larger meaning implicit in scattered outbreaks of school protests. Provincial cities like Baoding responded to seeming "treatyport" issues like feminism in distinctive ways. The Baoding women's protests focused less on their school head's maleness than on his incompetence and failure to press ahead with educational reform, a stance very much in line with their city's decades-old New Policies ethos.[60] The site for feminist politics was not just big cities like Tianjin or even smaller towns like Baoding but a network of publishers, writers, readers, and activists linked by subscription, rail, phone, and a shared sense of women's issues.

The diffusion of institutions and technology to cities like Baoding was impressive. By 1918, two-thirds of provincial capitals had libraries.[61] In contrast, half of early-twentieth-century Russian cities "had no library of any kind and 95 percent had no institutions of higher education."[62] By the mid-thirties, most provincial capitals in China had "power plants, electric lights, flour mills, match and soap factories, telegraph and telephone installations, as well as modern schools, colleges, hospitals, hotels, and Christian churches," according to Olga Lang.[63] Lang also noted that "sometimes there are private houses and government buildings inspired by European architecture of Edwardian times. Some streets are paved with asphalt. Many business houses use foreign types of advertising and even neon lights. On street corners loudspeakers broadcast news and music from Shanghai or Nanking, adding a new note to the traditional noises of the Chinese street. Long modern gowns, rare in the hsiens, are frequent. Universities, normal schools, and technical institutes provide the city and its provinces with a modern intelligentsia.

Local newspapers print Chinese and foreign news."[64] By midcentury, many cities had majority populations of literate residents, most of whom had some level of formal education.[65] Even places several steps behind Shanghai or Tianjin looked to be budding with promise. Though Chongqing, as late as 1933, had only just begun to replace rattan sedan chairs with automobiles and rickshaws, it was still judged as having the potential to rival "other great Chinese commercial ports" once its streets and roads were rebuilt and widened.[66] Even though Qingdao lacked sufficient freshwater for drinking and industrial purposes, it could be judged by boosters as "not having reached its peak of prosperity" rather than as being simply inferior to Shanghai and Tianjin.[67] Although Lanzhou's conservative reputation in matters of gender was well deserved, the city's rendition of 1919 May Fourth protests included student demands for male-female equality and women's liberation.[68]

The distribution of modern machines and sentiments, though patterned by coastal-interior and coreperiphery relationships, was given to unpredictable highs and lows of action and intensity. A "balanced" urban system weighted toward the interior and smaller urban and marketing centers has led scholars like Rhoads Murphey to underline the historic separateness or alien nature of coastal cities based on their inability to complete or even begin the economic and cultural conquest of the rest of the country.[69] And yet this same system, by its market-sensitive nature, facilitated the distribution of Shanghai's economic, institutional, and cultural products. To borrow a term of Certeau's cited by Cochran, Shanghai's enclosure of modernity in such brilliant and tarnished form made it an ideal field for "poaching" by entrepreneurs, activists, and planners from all over China.

In interior cities like Lanzhou, the imprint of Shanghai and other coastal cities, though clear, continued to be limited by a variety of material factors. In addition to the greater weight of agricultural and pastoral realities on urban life, replicating habits of consumption was easier than building whole new modes of production. Industrialization, and the social transformations it wrought, spread more slowly from city to city than industrial products distributed through established and expanding markets. One might put down Lanzhou's difficulties in building an industrial base to its remoteness, but, as William Rowe points out, despite Wuhan's factory boom, nearby middle Yangzi River "commercial and handicraft centers as important as Shashi, Xiangyang, and Changde saw remarkably little industrialization until after the Second World War."[70] Nanjing's 1920s victory in the competition to become China's capital resulted in government-led economic and population growth without the rise of a factory economy. Toward the end of the Nanjing decade, less than 1 percent of the city's population worked in a handful of mechanized factories.[71]

If the influence of Shanghai was broadly but unevenly felt throughout urban China, even Shanghai appears to have been incompletely "Shanghainized" (Shanghai hua).[72] Olga Lang noted in the 1930s that in Shanghai, "although modern dress was a common sight, the traditional garb predominated. Many streets

were in no way different from those of" Beijing, Hankou, or Baoding.[73] Recent research by Hanchao Lu on shopping habits of the Shanghai population confirms Lang's observation and suggests that the existence of Nanking Road as a central attraction of the modern city did not displace smaller neighborhood stores and shops as centers of residential life.[74] This is not surprising since cities normally cannot urbanize their hinterlands without receiving rural influences in return.[75] The more products Shanghai sent to the interior the more rural dwellers it drew to its factories and industrial slums. The fact that some fashion-minded Chengdu or Lanzhou residents were more attuned to Shanghai's Nanking Road than many "urban villagers" in Shanghai suggests that the borders of modern urban China ran through the coastal metropolis as well as between Shanghai and its near and remote hinterlands.

Shanghai and other coastal cities also felt the influence of interior urban centers. For example, Hankou's financial markets were sufficiently powerful to influence those of Beijing and Shanghai.[76] Cities other than Shanghai might set the standard for building and development projects. When a "greater Shanghai plan" was drawn up in the 1920s, Qingdao was cited by backers as "our model" for the most modern harbor facilities.[77] As Wang Ling has recently pointed out, relationships among cities in terms of relative dominance or subordination could be quite complicated.[78] The weight of treatyport economic power eventually altered Beijing's long-standing dominance of Tianjin. However, the rise of Tianjin owed a great deal to investments made in military and other industries by the Qing state. Republican-era Beijing politicians like Cao Kun retained large holdings in Tianjin, while Beijing's demand for investment and equipment for projects like its waterworks and electric companies stimulated the growth of suppliers in Tianjin. Political power concentrated in Beijing converted to economic power, and cultural authority in Tianjin revisited the old capital and advanced the project of modern design. The basic construction and interior work for Beijing's new library built in 1934 as a hybrid of Chinese and Western forms were carried out by Tianjin firms.[79]

Travelers, politicians, and journalists saw cities of this period in modular and composite form. One could find Shanghai in most cities in China, and elements of these cities in Shanghai. As Lao She noted with amusement, even elements of a decadent city like Beijing had begun turning up in more modern centers of urban life:[80]

Since Beiping was bequeathed its status as former "ancient capital," its pageantry, its crafts, delicacies, dialect, and policemen, have gradually been dispersed to the four corners, spurred by the search for new places of wealth and men of aweinspiring demeanor like the emperors of old. And so Westernized Qingdao has Beiping "hot pot"; in bustling Tianjin late at night you can hear the low and mournful cry of peddlers selling Beiping-style delicacies; in Shanghai, Hankou, and Nanjing there are policemen and official messengers who speak Mandarin and eat sesame-flavored pancakes. Scented tea from the south is double-smoked in Beiping and sent south again. Even pallbearers can on occasion be found on trains to Tianjin or Nanjing, bearing the coffins of the high and mighty.[81]


Cities were not only centers of commerce in other things; they themselves could become commodities in whole or part and be dispatched by train or slower form of transport to colonize or embellish the social, economic, and political life of other cities. Influences were reciprocal rather than unidirectional, and unpredictable rather than tightly planned. In the process, the points and lines of urban China grew and thickened in ways that promised an alteration in the role and power of cities as a system. Cities became the object of reflections on the nature of urban and social life and the sites of extensive economic and social change. Critics who took a broader view of China's urban condition and prospects complained that governments only seemed to pay attention to the largest cities and ignored the potential of "interior and ordinary" urban centers.[82] As one sign that cities had come to exist as a separate category of thought, policy, and culture, municipal studies emerged as a scholarly and administrative discourse.[83] Fashions in bobbed hair, hot pot, and municipal reform spread from city to city within a receptive urban culture.

City governments themselves were prey to fashion and the enthusiasms of the moment. In the space of a few months, from the early winter of 1928 to the summer of 1929, nine urban centers selected official city flowers. Cities justified their choices on local and national grounds.[84] In Shanghai, cotton defeated the lotus in a popular poll in an expression of city pride in, and concern for, the troubled textile industry. Ningbo's municipal government picked the lotus on the grounds that the flower could "thrive under a fierce sun [Japan]," and that, since it grew in water, it could represent the reputation of intrepid, sea-going Ningbo residents as the "Norwegians of Asia." Devoting time to choosing official city flowers might suggest misplaced priorities given more pressing urban issues like poverty, drug addiction, and crime. But the event underlines the fact of urban development during this era as both a particular and a general phenomenon. Not every city could support a globally competitive textile industry or tannery, much less an effective municipal government. But every city could, if it wished, join in localism's latest incarnation—civic boosterism—and puzzle over the choices offered by peonies, chrysanthemums, bamboo, and roses as signs of participation in a national movement for a more modern city in China. The airfields, buses, hospitals, and harbors would follow as a matter of developmental logic. To be a modern Chinese was to be proud of one's hometown—native or adopted—and to see local development as a concrete embodiment of the larger, necessarily more abstract reality of China. In the process, the old sentiment of localism, fueling competition and, paradoxically, reinforcing demands for centralized budgets and national standards, helped fabricate new ideologies and policies like nationalism and economic modernization.


Cities like Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Beijing were centers of social criticism and polemic because they were modern. They had the requisite concentrations of

newspapers, political parties, universities, labor unions, and publishing houses to support public discussion and action. Even a small cluster of modern institutions in a city like Baoding provided sufficient means for joining a national chorus of critics and advocates. While never famous for political activism, Lanzhou residents participated in the founding of the Republic and early protest movements like the May Fourth Movement in good part because one institution—the Gansu College of Law and Politics, opened in 1909—provided a base for Republican and radical politics.[85] With the further aid of networks of educators, graduates, and students from Lanzhou resident within other cities or involved in national politics, political circles in the city were able to receive information and cues about political and social issues from Beijing or Guangzhou and react accordingly during national movements like the May Fourth protests.[86] Personal networks, hometown ties, and the core of modern institutions characteristic of provincial cities permitted the emergence of an urban political community that was remarkably inclusive and integrated.

Cities were also centers of social and political criticism because they were cities and so presented critics and activists with urban problems to recoil from and react to. Urban life stimulated social criticism directed at gaps between rich and poor classes, clashes between old and new (in areas like fashion, politics, business, and culture), differences in style and function among cities (as in the supposed conflict between commercial Shanghai and cultural Beijing), and the chasm perceived to have opened up between city and village.[87] According to Susan Mann, writers tended to take a systematic approach to the problem of cities based on the assumption that urban problems were part of a larger rural (and small town) context.[88] Some critics rejected the city in nativist fashion and proposed a rerooting of Chinese civilization in the village. Others sought to rebuild or reconstruct rural China by using the wealth and resources of cities. Still others defended urbanization as an engine of growth and accepted urban crisis as a necessary by-product of progress.

Chinese urbanites not only faced each other and compatriots in the countryside but also counterparts in New York, Paris, Tokyo, and Berlin. The kinds of models proposed by reformers were often taken from the global discourse on urban planning. For example, the garden city idea (tianyuan xinshi) enjoyed a considerable vogue in the twenties and thirties in China. Dong Xiujia, an acute observer of urban affairs who held positions in the Shanghai and Hankou municipal governments in the 1920s, advocated the creation of garden cities to meet the health and housing needs of both city and village.[89] The filthiness of modern cities and the backwardness of village life might thereby be canceled out by bringing nature into the city and modern conveniences into the countryside. Otherwise, China was fated to sink to a medieval level of "barbarism." Intellectuals just returned from European cities where traditions of municipal planning and management tended to be strong could become incensed at the seeming irrationality of the still-standing city walls, growing rickshaw trade, and shortages of basic services like

street paving and cleaning.[90] The presence of treaty ports provided ready access to the particulars of these Western models. The rapid construction of Qingdao by the Germans in 1901–6 left "a little Berlin" of broad streets and neat white buildings with redtiled roofs that struck visitors as parklike in aspect.[91] These relatively complete, "exported" cities, or cities within cities, of the treatyport era served as an open kit of modern devices.[92]

The mobility and turbulence that unified and buffeted urban China ensured that reform thinking would penetrate the interior and reach smaller urban centers. When a new municipal government was established in Lanzhou in the summer of 1941, the city's Nationalist newspaper observed that in the past "the construction of our country has mostly been in the east, especially in the great coastal cities."[93] However, the editorial went on, advances in European and North American urban planning directed at garden and satellite cities had shown that smaller cities like Lanzhou constituted the future of urban design. Anticipating the arguments Mao Zedong was later to make about the need for inland industrial alternatives to coastal development, the paper argued that Lanzhou was certainly safer (though not immune) from enemy attack. The recasting of Lanzhou as a Western garden city eventually inspired initiatives in pursuit of this ideal. In the spring of 1942, Mayor Cai Meng jian announced plans to carry out the greening (luhua) of the city through a treeplanting campaign.[94] A tree in deforested Gansu was as striking an image as one planted in the slums of Shanghai. A garden city in Lanzhou also fit the ambitions of dislocated administrators and modernizers forced to pick up where Zuo Zongtang had left off. While Lanzhou's flurry of municipal reforms would not have happened when it did without the intervention of the war, urban reform as an idea and policy had been introduced to other interior cities like Chengdu long before the Japanese drove China's national government west.[95]

An eye for the aesthetic possibilities of a new urban China was accompanied by a nose for corruption and decay. Like their contemporaries in Europe and North America, Chinese reformers found the bad smells attending congestion and urbanization a particular outrage. From a scientific perspective, the smell of sewage signaled the threat of disease.[96] In this regard one late imperial legacy— nightsoil collection—provided a ready target and object lesson on the need for reform. Long-standing prejudices directed against nightsoil carriers by city residents made the case for modern sewers or stricter regulation of nightsoil removal easy to make. The fact that human excrement was an urban resource of value to an agricultural society was less important than the need to make Chinese cities smell the same as modern, Western ones (in which, if they were not garden cities, the odor of excrement would presumably be replaced by that of smokestack and combustion-engine pollution).[97] One reformer sardonically reported that Xuanwu Gate in Beijing was also known as "Shit Gate" by local people because of its regular use as a point of conveyance by nightsoil haulers.[98] Another decried the "unsurpassed… stink of the nightsoil drying yards outside Anding Gate."[99]

One individual, whose account of development in the Wuhan cities in the 1920s was generally appreciative, did not refrain from noting the "stink" that assailed one when one left the foreign concession area.[100] And since the smell was associated with inadequate sanitation measures by municipal authorities, the bad smell was directly related in this critic's mind to other forms of corruption and inefficiency: "Although there is a police force, they have no idea what sanitation is."[101] The German and Japanese periods of direct municipal administration in Qing-dao were marked by a high degree of success in the areas of sanitation and health. After retrocession of control to China in 1922, the city became gradually dirtier. A reformminded observer noted that "although twice a year, in the spring and fall, police were dispatched to inspect the city, they did this in a perfunctory manner and without any real effect."[102] However, for nativists, cities stank of worse things than raw sewage. According to Zhou Zuoren, all cities had a disagreeable "Shanghai odor" (Shanghai qi), a quality the folklorist Tao Xingzhi termed "Shanghainization" and defined as "busyness, vulgarity and selfishness."[103] Cities turned honest men and women into degenerates as a matter of course through activities like rickshaw pulling and prostitution, wherein "uncounted male citizens" were used as "beasts" and their female counterparts as "playthings."[104] Even seemingly harmless practices like leisure hours spent in the parks of Shanghai were suspect. The revolutionary and writer Chen Tianhua believed such idle promenading to be so dangerous to one's personal and patriotic resolve as to justify leaving the city before it was too late.[105] The expansion of the city's leisure industry in the form of public amusement arcades and the selling of lottery tickets threatened to undermine "cultural order" and place city residents in the grip of "carnal desire."[106] Observers fretted that older forms of recreation linked to festivals like those celebrated at the New Year were being replaced by "dog races, roulette, dance halls, massage, and various kinds of improper enterprises."[107] Mao Dun portrays the revulsion of a young activist standing "stupidly at a tram station on the street corner. All around him were perfumed women with gleaming arms and legs, the rumble of vehicles, the noise of people, the arresting green and electric lights. An indescribable disgust arose in him."[108]

When this kind of antimetropolitan critique was developed most fully, technical modernity seemed to matter less than the general idea that the bigger and the more powerful the city, the more terrible the price paid for Western-style progress. And so for one intellectual disillusioned with urban life of the 1920s, commercial Guangzhou, industrial Shanghai, and political Beijing were "the three great centers of Chinese materialism" and, at the same time, the three worst "holes of poverty."[109] The notion that big was bad opened up opportunities for critics in the interior. In 1941, a Lanzhou newspaper, playing on the conventional image of Shanghai as an "island" "orphaned" by the Japanese occupation (discussed in chapter 11 by Paul Pickowicz), printed an article entitled "Shanghai: Poisoned, Orphaned Island" describing a city in the grip of poverty, moral decay, and, now, enemy occupation.[110] The appeal to a Lanzhou readership of a powerful Shanghai

cut off and laid low can be easily imagined. But the tables could not have been turned in so neat a fashion without the import of coastal models of urban administration, business, politics, and culture, combined with a reflexive anti-big-city current in contemporary social and political thinking.

Other critics, while aware of the moral and social problems represented by unsanitary conditions and degenerate behavior, also looked to the city for solutions. While cities were often the objects of criticism, they also represented a new standard of remedy. Advocates for cities stressed the importance of a more favorable attitude toward cities in moving beyond the traditional "agriculture-based state."[111] Citing India as a negative example, Dong Xiujia asserted that no country that emphasized agriculture alone could end up in a strong position.[112] Arguing in an undisguised antirural vein for a more balanced approach, Dong pointed out that "cities are the centers of the national economy."[113] Whereas cities can create wealth out of desolate landscapes, as the cases of Hong Kong and Qingdao proved, "China's villages have existed for thousands of years without the slightest improvement."[114] Eventually, citydriven economic growth would raise the standard of living in rural China as urban residents and industries bid up the price of agricultural goods.

Another strong, pro-city statement came from Hu Shi, who, reacting to the reality of rural and urban interpenetration, argued that Chinese cities were not urban enough: "The main reason for the failure of our big cities is that up until now we still have not broken with the customs of rural life. These habits include freedom, doing what one pleases, and being disorganized and passive. The new habits required by urban life [are an] involvement in politics, respect for law, systematic organization, and an active [attitude toward] work. If we cannot rid ourselves of these rural habits and live and work in tune with the city, we will not be able to manage urban affairs."[115] For political liberal Hu Shi, village air made one free and irresponsible, while the modern city was a workshop of industry and citizenship. As long as Chinese cities retained a rural air, they would resist the discipline of modernity. In partial recognition of the power of rural and small-town ways of life in the cities themselves, another writer, who evoked the experience of "stepping back several centuries" when he walked out into the surrounding countryside, agreed that "even within the same city the thinking of some people may range far into the future, beyond the realm of present-day life and experience, while others are stuck fast in the ways of their ancestors and will not deviate from them even a trifle."[116] Chinese cities bordered the fields of rural China and housed residents whose habits remained just as rustic as those who still farmed. The challenge, it seemed, lay in extending the city limits outward to the village and inward to those city people who remained immune or resistant to modern life.

That a liberal like Hu Shi praised the disciplinary value of modern urban life suggests a dilemma faced by those who would use the city as a means of changing China and Chinese. Freedom in the city might belong to a crusading newspaper editor or protesting students seeking to expand the public sphere of debate and

contention. But freedom also belonged to guilds and families screened from public view and official regulation by shop rules, courtyard walls, and traditions of self-regulation. This had been Sun Yatsen's famous complaint when he derided the traditional freedoms held by clan, family, and locality as making Chinese society so much loose "sand" in the hands of revolutionaries and reformers. Reformers took advantage of limited, but significant, freedoms of press, publication, and assembly to demand cities that were cleaner, safer, more efficient, and more productive. Since these goals required a more disciplined citizenry and a larger state, reformers embraced administrative solutions to social problems. This sometimes left the defense of urban freedom to local elites accustomed to commanding apprentices, workers, and other dependents and inclined to support authoritarian regimes capable of supplying social order. In the search for common ground, the pluralism encouraged by commercial culture and free public spheres was rivaled by the elite and popular appeals of order, discipline, and planning.


As a result, if many urban reformers imagined cities playing a burgeoning role in charting China's future, they also assumed that the state would enlarge its presence in urban affairs. As William Kirby shows in chapter 4, the impulse to administer and plan gained strength among elites throughout the Republican era. Despite the poor reputation of government for solving China's great problems, administrative initiatives during the late-nineteenth-century self-strengthening and the post-Boxer, New Policy era gave a strong impetus to the modernizing city. As late as the 1920s, it was clear to one observer of Wuhan's development as an industrial city that the four factories developed by Zhang Zhidong beginning in 1889 laid the foundation for the hundred or more that existed by 1924.[117] Zhang in 1895 also authorized construction of a modern cotton mill in the small, lower Yangzi River city of Nantong. As Qin Shao has shown in a new study of Nantong, local reformer Zhang Jian used this enterprise as a base to build a huge industrial, commercial, and cultural establishment.[118] By the early 1920s, Nantong not only had several textile factories but also an ironworks, wine factory, flour mill, and even a movie studio. Even when they failed to measure up to reformers' expectations, late Qing projects left surprising and subtle legacies. The turn-of-the-century construction of Zuo Zongtang's weaving factory in Lanzhou and the iron bridge thirty years later not only nudged the city into the machine age but also accomplished a "miracle" in the history of the region's two-wheeled or camel-borne transport system by encouraging the use of four-or even six-wheeled carts to bear the weight of the heavy metal equipment that needed to be freighted in.[119] In later decades, ordinary mule carts were improved by exchanging iron wheels for old automobile wheels and tires.[120] The New Policies also were of decisive importance in the growth of public utilities in many cities.[121] Cities that pioneered in the development of utilities later provided equipment and expertise for other urban centers.

When officials in Xi'an decided in the 1930s to modernize the city's antique system of two hundred hand-cranked telephones, they managed to obtain cast-off telephone and electrical equipment from Hankou and Nanjing and install a new phone system serving nearly a thousand customers.[122] In addition, the proliferation of new urban organizations like chambers of commerce took place throughout the country within a legal and administrative framework built by late Qing reformers.[123]

Republican-era political failures have obscured successes at the newly defined level of municipal governance. The absence in the late imperial system of a formal place for citywide, municipal government represented a suppressed administrative possibility. Big enough to address problems like local transportation and social order and small enough to avoid responsibility for military security or rural distress, the modernizing Chinese city could exploit advantages of scale that other localities and regions lacked. Therefore, if one is searching for the origins of an interventionist, administrative Chinese state, the city is a good place to look.

However, even when planners and administrators mustered the resources and will to carry out modernization projects, city residents often proved less than enthusiastic about the circumstances under which such public goods were provided. In a wide-ranging essay on local opposition to urban "reconstruction" (jianshe), Dong Xiujia identified several reasons why resistance to road-building and other public development efforts was so common. First of all, projects of all sizes disrupted urban life while often failing to convince residents of future benefits like higher property values and better communications.[124] In many cases, compensation for land taken for public purposes was set too low.[125] Attempts to widen streets in Guangzhou stirred the "opposition of private property owners who were [not surprisingly] reluctant…to see their property destroyed."[126] The same kind of complaints erupted in Lanzhou when the municipal government tore down buildings as part of a road-repair program.[127] Lanzhou officials claimed that improved communications finally pleased everyone and opined that "destruction is the mother of success" in such enterprises. But not everyone was so easily convinced. When the Beijing waterworks, established in 1908 by Zhou Xuexi, sought to lay pipe into the city, the line of construction happened to cross a sliver of graveyard property belonging to the imperial clan.[128] Zhou expended months of effort to negotiate passage through the parcel in the face of angry attacks by clan officials and accusations that the company had dug up graves in its haste to excavate. Even in cases where the interest at stake lacked such potent social or spiritual connections, customary expectations of compensation for property taken by the state made actions by developers liable to provoke an intense reaction.[129]

One way in which municipal planners and builders were able to avoid extensive conflicts with private property holders was to tear down city walls and construct roads and streetcar lines in their place. The destruction of city walls in the twentieth century has sometimes been seen as an expression of modernist, totalitarian fury directed at tradition and "feudalism."[130] Certainly such emotions existed

on the part of planners and builders. Defenders of city walls accused reformers of mindlessly destroying an important cultural and historical legacy.

Shortly before the fall of the Qing, reformminded officials considered the possibility of demolishing Beijing's massive walls and installing a streetcar system in their place.[131] In 1912, a newspaper editorialist, Leng Wangu, in an article entitled "Beijing's Walls Must Not Be Torn Down," blamed the "mentality of tearing down walls" (chaicheng de sixiang) on "great political reformers" who believe that "because a dictatorial form of government has been overthrown, nothing in China that is old may be left standing."[132] Leng attacked what he saw as the shallowness and mindlessness of such actions:

Although merchants and commoners are not so inclined, political reformers feel they must tear them down. And besides demolishing walls, there is cleaning the streets (jingjie). What is this thing called "cleaning the streets"? It is the wholesale knocking down of old houses to open up new, modern roads. In addition, [they] construct colossal foreign buildings which effect a great appearance and may be beneficial and healthy [but really reflect] an immaturity, a temperament [geared toward] managing things, superficiality, a parading of foreign prosperity, a failure to grasp the true nature of China (guonei), and a lack of understanding of the difficulty of [finding] resources.

Deeply skeptical of plans made by those he sarcastically referred to as "the new men of purpose and principle" (xin zhishi), Leng pleaded for "preservation of ancient relics," especially those in good condition like Beijing's walls, and cutting new gates where they were needed to meet the criticism that city walls were incompatible with modern traffic and communications. Modernity encompassed destruction as well as construction. This connection between tearing down and building up was an article of faith among many revolutionaries, from Sun Yatsen to Mao Zedong. Whether defacing a temple image in the name of hostility to superstition, tearing down a city wall to build a road, or destroying a class to make room for the people, violent assault on things and people helped define one's modernist credentials. While the first half of the twentieth century in China arguably witnessed more destruction than construction, the two processes were intimately related in the minds of planners, builders, and developers of all ideological stripes.

Leng Wangu was probably correct in claiming that grand and violent forms of developmentalism hostile or indifferent to cultural preservation lay behind the destruction of city walls. However, another, perhaps more practical, reason had to do with choosing the path of least resistance through the maze of individual and corporate property rights embodied in the Chinese city. The massive amounts of tamped earth and brick that had to be cleared out suggests the inertial force of that part of the urban tradition. The removal of Guangzhou's walls took three years, and the result was new, broad avenues suitable for modern transport.[133] But even there, wall demolition excited the opposition of owners of adjacent housing who feared damage to property values.[134]


In explaining resistance to the kind of general program of construction Leng Wangu railed against, Dong Xiujia also pointed to another practical problem: residents feared and resisted the tax increases often levied to finance reform projects.[135] Planners felt obliged to try to accomplish in a few years, through bold, expensive strokes, what took decades or centuries to achieve in European cities. Once built, projects like roads and telephone lines had to be maintained, and in the case of labor-intensive bodies like police forces, supported through large additional budgets for wages. Police levies, in particular, in the form of house or gate taxes, were often regarded as a burden by city residents.[136]

Municipal bureaucracies also insisted on the same, elaborate structure of bureaus and agencies no matter what the size or needs of the city in question.[137] Prestige and developmental ambitions reinforced the notion of big governments even for small cities. As a result, the greater part of municipal budgets went to pay official salaries rather than fund construction and service-oriented projects city people might better appreciate. Dong cited Ningbo, Anjing, and Suzhou as examples of cities too small to justify a full complement of municipal agencies. Nonetheless, residents were called on to support outsized bureaucratic structures with their tax contributions. Poor performance, linked to corruption, insufficient funds, or skewed priorities, further alienated residents.[138]

Finally, the failure to develop self-government institutions prevented emergence of what Dong characterized as proper sentiments (ganqing) between officials and residents.[139] Administrators "did not really listen" to city people (shimin), and so residents naturally opposed many policies they neither understood nor sympathized with. Chengdu police reformer Zhou Shanpei made an effort to build in such sentiments through a system of police commissioners (juzheng) at the subprecinct level who were to be "chosen by the people," but this method of linking police and community did not come to fruition.[140] Where such links emerged, as they did between shopkeepers and precinct stations in Beijing, they formed questionable marriages of convenience between policemen starved for unpaid wages and local merchants seeking to "rent" protection.[141] Even reformers with scant interest in democratic reform acknowledged that the key to successful "municipal reconstruction" (jianshi) was providing real "benefits to the people" in order to establish trust and, eventually, a cultural or spiritual reconstruction of the city (jianxin).[142]

Dong Xiujia recommended a number of measures designed to slow down the process of government-induced change, lighten the tax burden, educate the public, consult with various circles (jie) in the city about government plans and projects, and fight corruption.[143] Such moderation was in sharp contrast with the reformist zeal of leaders of cities like Shanghai or Lanzhou who were eager to commence projects, raise revenues, and defeat opposition to their schemes. Trying to put the brakes on development earned local people the contempt of officials who did not share Dong Xiujia's more balanced perspective and instead regarded such actions as evidence of feudalism, superstition, and selfishness. Remedies of

the kind Dong suggested are interesting, coming as they do from a committed urban reformer. They suggest a measure of common ground with the typical, though far more piecemeal, reactions of local residents and groups when faced with ambitious municipal projects.

Public skepticism of government was linked to the basic difficulty that municipal regimes had in distributing services and benefits to publics broad enough to stand for the shimin as a whole. The building of public utilities, for example, tended to benefit the relative few who could afford electricity, piped-in water, and telephone service.[144] And the dramatic improvements promised did not always represent such a sharp or positive break with past practice. In the port of Yantai, Chinese and foreign merchants contributed funds to finance a number of paved roads comparable to the best Shanghai had to offer. On the one hand, these new roads stood in stark contrast to the filthy and often impassable small lanes and alleyways. On the other, old-style streets made of cobblestone were still serviceable and not in any obvious need of replacement.[145] Likewise, replacing nightsoil carriers with modern sewage treatment systems promised to fix something that was not so much broken as smelly and limited in its capacity to keep pace with the modern city that reformers idealized. As Leng Wangu observed in his polemic on city walls, if one finds a wall "hopelessly ruined, an eyesore and an impediment to traffic," by all means one should tear it down.[146] But if, like the Beijing walls of 1912, they are "solid and lofty" and help keep out bandits, one should leave them alone. Rational choice was not always on the side of reformers. In the case of tax reform, existing and seemingly corrupt tax-farming schemes might appear relatively fair to residents when compared with higher, noncustomary rates resulting from a more "rational" system imposed from above.[147]

A remarkable feature of the development of municipal administration in the Republican period is the weakness of democratic and representative institutions.[148] The trend lines in urban political participation and state building both climbed upward in the first half of the century. May Fourth–era students with their mass protests, and political leaders with their newly built armies and parties, dramatized the often opposing—but also complementary—poles of popular movement and political order. The middle ground of an institutionalized public sphere faltered as electoral institutions and representative assemblies fell flat after the early Republic. In fact, the peak of institutional commitment to elections and assemblies in Shanghai may have come in 1909 under Qing reformers.[149] This was not simply a matter of political intransigence on the part of officials. By the end of the second and the early part of the third decade of the twentieth century, many political activists had become "disillusioned with local politics."[150] Late-Qing-and early-Republican-era enthusiasm for local self-government faded "as local assemblies were seen as instruments of bureaucratic venality and local elite exploitation."[151] Periodic attempts were made to democratize municipal institutions. But groups critical of government policy often had difficulty agreeing on how to transform their oppositional stance to bureaucratic or arbitrary rule into institutional

reform. Proposals in 1925 to form a special municipal unit in Shanghai with a mayor elected by residents were opposed not only by the national government and militarists but also by self-identified "local gentry and merchant" groups who wanted to handle local affairs themselves in a manner that seemed consistent with the city's "antigovernment" image.[152]

Although municipal reformers continually called for greater citizen participation in city politics and government, the trend in government was toward less accountable, more authoritarian administration. Late Qing initiatives promised municipal assemblies, and the 1911 revolution sparked regional and local suggestions for elected mayors and councils.[153] But Yuan Shikai's suspension of self-government regulations in 1914 cut short the constitutional basis of municipal democracy. Later attempts to reform city government were as likely to address the issue of independence from the central government as direct participation by residents.[154] Decentralization of power, whether based on the conventions of localism or newer federalist principles, had a higher priority than democratization. The southern Nationalist regime borrowed the American commissioner model of city government. But whereas commissioners in places like Galveston, Texas, were elected, the Nationalist plan called for the mayor to be selected by the provincial government.[155] Throughout the early 1920s, provincial governments promulgated revivals of more democratic arrangements. But none was implemented. After national unification in 1928, the dominant thrust in Nationalist administration of cities was what one contemporary nicely termed a "French-style" statism.[156] In Beijing, with many government functions performed by the police, and announced plans for self-government in the early 1920s continually deferred, the city's municipal office functioned as a kind of "public works bureau" with few direct ties to city people.[157]

By the early thirties, despite a raft of plans for democratic self-government in urban areas, the basic structures were still "officially managed" (guanban).[158] As a result, as Dong Xiujia complained, "the people, aside from paying taxes, transmit nothing to the government" —except, one might add, their periodic protests, bribes, and extortion payments.[159] A general municipal election took place in Beijing in 1935, but the government in Nanjing quickly nullified the results.[160] This rejection of democratic practice makes the Shanghai municipal government's decision in 1929 to put the question of the city's official flower to a vote in a popular poll all the more poignant. The other eight cities involved made the decision by administrative fiat or, in one case, upon the recommendation of local no-tables.[161]

The issue of state power in cities of the period is complicated by the fact that nongovernmental bodies like chambers of commerce served variously as agents, partners, or opponents of the regime. One way of looking at the development of municipal government in the twentieth century is to see this as a process whereby earlier structures of informal governance by local elites were formalized in new governmental institutions. But the statist and antidemocratic trends of the earlier

Republic seriously disrupted any such movement and left these often-powerful social groups in an ambiguous position.

Variation in the role of chambers of commerce is particularly striking as another example of broad diffusion of a particular modern form—the professional association (fatuan)—and consequent adaptation to local conditions. As in the case of schools, public utilities, and other modern institutions, chambers of commerce spread rapidly from metropolis to city to town, aided by the balanced or bottom-heavy nature of China's urban networks. By way of comparison, the development of chambers in Japan proceeded slowly and deliberately, so that the number of chartered commercial societies increased from 56 in 1900 to 61 by the end of the second decade of the twentieth century.[162] China had nearly 1,000 in 1912 and more than 1,500 registered chambers of commerce in 1919.[163] Since local chambers sometimes failed to register with the government, the actual number was probably even higher. Chambers in larger cities resembled their counterparts in European or North American cities in their range of activities related to improving commerce, mounting exhibitions, and lobbying the government. Chambers in smaller cities and towns might only serve to mediate commercial disputes.[164] Or, as in Nantong, they might play "an indispensable part in… the creation of schools, transportation facilities, new police forces, and land reclamation companies."[165] All chambers of commerce provided conditional access to the significant wealth of member firms and guilds, thus attracting the attention of government entities bent on constructive activity or simple extortion. In an era when revenues lagged far behind planned expenditures, chamber contributions—for projects like Nantong's schools and police and Lanzhou's new town hall—enabled reformminded officials to continue to move forward.[166] Qing reformers originally had wanted chambers of commerce to play the role of junior partner in an overall strategy of state-directed and-inspired economic development.[167] Though chambers were granted the role of "protecting commerce," and presumably their interests as merchant bodies, the new organizations were discouraged from having anything to do with politics or public policy. But chambers were soon drawn into such political realms by the very logic of the reforms themselves. Bureaucrats in Beijing in some cases saw local merchants as allies against the foot-dragging exhibited by conservative local officials.[168] The revenue-collecting and regulatory activities of the state also triggered a merchant response. As Nantong's Zhang Jian observed with considerable excitement, "Since chambers of commerce have been established in various places, merchants…have gradually acquired the mentality of not putting up with the obstructions and extortion of customs officials. When confronted with these old injuries, they now cry out at the injustice instead of keeping silent and bearing them like they did before."[169]

Some merchants were now as impatient with the old proverb that cautions "In business only discuss business" as political reformers were with the presence of city walls, dirty streets, and outmoded municipal administrations. Discussing business led to debating political issues like taxation, legal reform, and foreign competition.

Moreover, the key to success in business and in the larger project of building a powerful China seemed to be organization beyond one's firm and beyond one's city. As two Shanghai chamber officials complained in 1909, "Chinese merchants are sick! We are in a state of collapse! [Merchant] A and B will not work with each other. This business and that one lack mutual empathy. This port and that port fail to communicate. The situation daily worsens as we find ourselves at loggerheads with each other. Thus weakened we are subject to official oppression and the control of foreigners."[170]

As Yu Heping observes in a recent study of Chinese chambers of commerce, Chinese merchants came to have a national perspective as a result of the influence of New Policy rhetoric and policies and their own involvement in chamber activities. During the period 1907–14, local chambers of commerce, led by merchants in Shanghai and Hankou, gradually began to work in concert, leading to the formal establishment of an "All-China Federation of Chambers of Commerce" in Shanghai in 1914.[171] Three hundred protests in seventeen provinces during the spontaneous 1905 anti-American boycott demonstrated the potential power of a mobilized, nationwide merchant community. A journal published in Shanghai beginning in 1909 reported on merchant activities throughout the country and printed the messages, letters, and telegrams of local chambers.[172] Merchants, like political reformers and feminists, found intercity urban China supportive of consciousness-raising and organization building. To be sure, formal links also stimulated factional conflict and government oppression. At one point in 1916, a split along north and south, big-city-and county-level chambers threatened to overturn results of an election for the Federation presidency.[173] In 1914, the central government was forced by merchant protests to redraft new chamber of commerce laws that would have banned any national organization, required chambers to use language signifying an inferior administrative status in "reporting to superiors" (bing), and stipulated that chambers must report to and accept the detailed guidance of local officials.[174]

The merchants' remedy of organizing upward to citywide status and outward to other cities closely followed the strategies pursued by other groups, classes, and circles during this period.[175] Politicians ranging from Liang Qichao and Sun Yatsen to Mao Zedong and Hu Shi agreed that if grouping together was a source of strength, the bigger the group the better. Merchant leaders reasoned that "when merchant and merchant come together[,] that produces a chamber of commerce…. If chambers unite in a [national] federation (dahui), the extent of its effectiveness will be hundreds of times greater than [that of] today's chamber."[176] Being Chinese meant joining and following ever-larger groups and organizations, hitching part of one's identity to membership in unions, chambers, federations, and parties.

The Chinese city supported this process of group formation and integration in a variety of ways. Late imperial cities were already relatively well organized within particular trades and communities of sojourners, examination candidates, and

temple goers.[177] In some cases citywide trades or guilds had formed federations to help govern large commercial cities like Hankou.[178] Taking the next step of formalizing intergroup cooperation, while risking factional struggle and other forms of conflict, did not require a huge leap in terms of organizational resources and practices. In addition, the customary mobility of merchants and other sojourners from city to city and city to town and village facilitated the spread and replication of innovations like the chamber of commerce. Provincial hostels (huiguan) and hometown associations (tongxianghui) played important roles in hosting and undergirding association building.

In the absence of movement toward representative government, democracy— in the sense of election of officers and rule of law—made greater headway within nongovernmental bodies than in the juridical and political space that lay between state and society. Chambers of commerce reinforced established guild practices of holding meetings and elections in ways that made both chambers and member guilds more democratic.[179] The wave of chamber of commerce building in the last years of the Qing and the first decade of the Republic was followed by the reorganization of guilds in many cities along chamber lines. Byrna Goodman has shown how tongxianghui in Shanghai were subject to these same kinds of procedural innovations.[180] In Beijing, the practice of rotating leadership positions among the elders of a native-place organization gave way to the election of presidents or boards of directors.[181] In some cases, the government seems to have mandated democratization as a means of opening up autonomous and opaque institutions to government regulation and monitoring. Democratic practice—real enough, if judged by fights for control of local unions and chambers, and assertions of rights to vote for leaders and decide matters of collective importance— coexisted with encroaching state surveillance and continuing paternal hierarchies.

The conservative, order-keeping stance often taken by local organizations like chambers of commerce and other professional associations was a frustrating fact of urban political life for municipal reformers and political agitators alike. Though chambers finally supported and helped finance the 1911 revolution, the initial impulse of the organized merchant community had been moderate rather than revolutionary. During the first years of the Yuan Shikai presidency, chambers typically sided with government as a force of order against the political demands of revolutionary agitators.[182] As Yu Heping concludes in his study of the many progressive and innovative features of chambers of commerce in the late Qing and early Republic, the paramount goal of merchant elites was order. "No matter what kind of government, what kind of doctrine, what kind of party, [merchants] only wanted to maintain social order."[183] Anything else was liable to be seen as "a bad system, bad government, and even the enemy, the ‘party of disorder.’"[184] In the aftermath of the turbulent May Thirtieth Movement, a left-wing observer of the Nanjing urban scene made the following analysis: "The bourgeoisie have organized their power in three forms: the chamber of commerce, the satin [trade] association, and [other] local societies. These latter include an agricultural society,

a lawyers' association, and various guilds. Their power exceeds that of the chamber of commerce. But aside from ingratiating themselves with officials and militarists, they care nothing for local public or national affairs. Last year during the heat of the May Thirtieth Movement, nothing could stir them."[185] Shorn of polemic, the passage accurately describes some of the key functions of local elite organizations. "Ingratiating themselves" with officialdom and the armies in the neighborhood was often the key to maintaining social order and protecting local interests. In fact, an earlier article on the student movement in Nanjing had complained that this "live and let live" attitude was not confined to merchants of the city, since students also accepted unspoken limits on their protest activities.[186] Such self-restraint was one of the hallmarks of the late imperial urban social order, and the value attached to informal, mutual adjustment had yet to dissolve even in an age of ideological "heat."

In order to act effectively, officials either tried to ignore local notables like chamber of commerce leaders or selectively co-opt them. Activist municipal officials, like Mayor Wu Tiecheng of Shanghai in the early 1930s, succeeded best when they constructed a narrow base of support for their policies among social and economic elites they shared political and native-place connections with.[187] Such tactics of Chinese municipal officials resembled those of U.S. mayors in the early stages of urban renewal in the 1950s who handpicked compliant citizens' action commissions to mobilize public support without disturbing their control of the reform agenda.[188] For example, Mayor Wu's appointed municipal council of 1932 was weighted to include fellow Cantonese and bankers from Zhejiang and Jiangxu who were politically reliable. Later, this council was broadened by the addition of selected educators, journalists, and labor union leaders willing to cooperate with the government (and in a few cases oppose government initiatives on a narrow range of issues).[189] The way the Shanghai municipal council functioned was clearly at odds with the democratic promise embedded in many political reform proposals from 1909 on. However, by working the practice of consultation into the council's operations, the minimum expectations of a narrow range of local elites could be met as they "contributed their opinions on municipal matters" to the government.[190] In cases where elites managed to retain their prestige and broad influence over urban society, such consultations could be binding in ways that suggest that the underdevelopment of democracy was partially offset by the mediating efforts of local notables. Kristin Stapleton cites Chengdu's "Five Elders and Seven Sages" (wulao qixian) as examples of late Qing degree holders who remained "arbiters of the public good" into the 1940s.[191]

These two tendencies—administrative absolutism and elite mediation—helped set the stage for the urban reaction to Japanese occupation. After the initial phase of brutal assault, including the terror bombing of Shanghai and the Nanjing massacre, Japanese authorities settled in for a general program of development and order keeping. In north China, in fact, "the overall distribution of productive capacity, the urban character, the communications situation, and the regional economic

functions of an urban system produced great changes."[192] Since the Japanese were capable of providing both administrative guidance and social order, a local, urban perspective on the occupation might easily counsel collaboration even at the price of putting aside the national ambitions these local interests had once aligned themselves with. As Frederic Wakeman suggests in chapter 9 of this volume, such tendencies toward treason were strong among opportunists and villains. But there were also systemic and cultural reasons for collaboration, ranging from the persistence of reporting to superiors, whomever they might be, as an element of political and bureaucratic culture to the fielding of a cadre of notables expected to ingratiate themselves with the regime in place. Being a local booster could be an expression of national patriotism. But defending closely allied local interests might also lead to a charge of treason.

The adaptability of late imperial urban traditions is, in retrospect, quite impressive. Byrna Goodman and others have shown how native-place ties so important to Mayor Wu (and practically everyone else in urban China) expanded to serve a broad range of social, political, and economic purposes.[193] These findings seem to conflict with the harsh judgment Hu Shi made about the tendency of urban residents to keep their hometown identities at the expense of a true commitment to the city they actually lived in.[194] As evidence Hu offered the fact that individuals continued to list their native places on their calling cards and inscribe these connections above the gates to their residences. The task ahead, according to Hu, involved changing the attitudes of urban residents so that they would behave more like city people than country people or visitors: "Our first duty today in reforming municipal government is to create shimin. The way to create shimin is not to scream about overthrowing feudalism by banning the inscribing of native-place on calling cards or on one's front gate but rather to gradually carry out shimin participation in government."[195] In fact, Goodman points out that because of the adaptability of native-place solidarities and their role in making abstract notions like "nation" concrete in the defense of family and hometown, we might imagine urban residents of the Republican era skipping the stage or level of shimin consciousness.[196] Hu Shi was, perhaps, wrong about the supposed debilitating and narrowing force of native-place sentiments. But he may have been correct in pin-pointing the tentativeness of an urban identity "for itself."

There were many exceptions to this tendency to think and act subethnically, sublocally, and nationally rather than in a citywide direction. The threat of physical attack on a city, as happened in many places during the warlord period, instilled in residents a strong, if momentary, sense of the city as a community of fate.[197] Beijing residents who opposed moving the national capital to Nanjing in 1928 made their case on behalf of themselves as shimin.[198] Other forces likely to provoke selfconscious actions by shimin included contact with the modern city as a technological and institutional entity: a rapid rise in rates of taxation, changes brought on by construction projects, and higher utility rates or fares. The role of urban resident as consumer of public services or even private housing was an important

vehicle for raising shimin consciousness. The weight of a new tax or the prospect of a new regulatory policy prodded citizens into realizing the dimensions of an urban community of fate and, on occasion, acting on that basis. Hu Shi's argument that shimin consciousness required participation in municipal government suggests a dialectical relationship between city people as citizens and consumers, on the one hand, and citywide administration and power, on the other. For example, during the long process in which the Beijing Streetcar Company was proposed, financed, and constructed, all kinds of protestations were made by and on behalf of Beijing's shimin concerning issues like the need for public ownership, danger to residents who might be struck by streetcars, harm done to the livelihood of rickshaw pullers, and damage inflicted on historic and cultural sites.[199]

An open letter from "city resident" Qin Zizhuang, dating from the summer of 1923, while construction was in progress, captures the flavor and complexity of the emerging civic and urban consciousness Hu Shi was advocating. Qin begins by sarcastically observing that Beijing is developing streetcars at the very moment cities in Europe and North America are abandoning theirs in favor of buses. However much urban consciousness owed to late imperial civic activism, shimin status by the 1920s included an awareness of how city life in China compared to conditions in the larger, global world of cities. Stepping into that world, if only rhetorically, lent critical force to statements of urban concern.

The brunt of Qin's argument against the streetcar was directed against the aesthetic and cultural damage the utility promised to inflict on Beijing, and it is framed by Beijing's ambitions as a world city, ambitions presumably shared by developers of the streetcar and city officials. Qin appealed for a balance between progress and preservation: "Please note that in the future the streetcars will run from Tiananmen out to Xidan and Dongdan Arches and from Tiananmen to Tianqiao. This will wipe out the historical and cultural edifice of Tiananmen in its entirety and cause the heritage of hundreds of years to be cut off and scattered in a moment for the sake of the greed of a few. If we consider the capital cities of other countries, we see that they all have one or two magnificent avenues for natives and foreigners to stroll upon for purposes of edification, like the Champs Elysees in Paris, Unter den Linden in Berlin, and Wellington Street [sic] in London." Allowing Beijing "to be covered by the streetcar company's sprawling mess of poles and lines" would ruin the "clean" lines of the city for future generations. Not doing everything to save Beijing's treasures and vistas would be tantamount to giving in to "personal disgrace, the dying out of one's name, and the destruction of one's country." The people of Beijing would face "the censure of generations of our descendants and the ridicule of foreigners." The logic of this argument drives Qin to embrace his fellow city residents and the category of shimin: "Why not seize the moment and rise up to force negotiations with the company? At the same time, we should unite the shimin to complain to the municipal office and the police with the full force of our opposition and not stop until the [route of the planned] track has been changed. If this company in its perverse pursuit of profit does not adopt

the goodwill of our shimin, we shimin must ourselves make the appropriate response."[200]

On the one hand, Qin's plea that the city's architectural values have the same standing as personal reputation and the survival of family and nation highlights the potential power of the city as an emotive and critical force. While his arguments echo the preservationist sentiments found in Leng Wangu's defense of the city walls in 1912, Qin has found within the modernist reform stance that Leng condemned the grounds for resisting and revising what he saw as bad planning and a poor use of the technologies available globally. Qin's metropolitan sensibility and boosterlike zeal resemble that of the mayor of Lanzhou (and, as Mingzheng Shi reminds us, the Beijing municipal office derided by Qin).[201] On the other hand, the shimin identity assumed and celebrated in this open letter risked coming in a poor fourth behind national, group, and individual values and interests.


Most cities of this period, despite evidence produced by muckraking critics who saw urban concentrations only as corrupt and evil places, had significant supplies of what Robert Putnam has recently described as "social capital" or "features of social organization, such as trust, norms, and networks, that can improve the efficiency of society by facilitating coordinated actions."[202] In Putnam's book on Italian political development, he contrasts the "feudal autocracy" of the Italian south and the "communal republicanism" of the north.[203] The former made the dynamic and progressive rule of a Frederick II possible but also hastened the decay into clientelism and fragmentation when a strong central power was not present. The latter provided community support and direction for civic action and development, projects twentieth-century Chinese would term jianshe. Putting aside the important question of regional differences, Chinese cities of the early twentieth century inherited a late imperial legacy of autocracy that normally pulled its administrative punches (in part by the subtle means of not granting cities special municipal status beyond serving as the centers of larger territorial units) and communal or corporate self-management inclined toward political self-restraint. The balancing act performed by state and city depended on the intermittent exercise of social connections and a stabilizing structure of patronage and clientelism extending through state and society.

The remodeling of the Chinese city through the import of new technologies and organizational forms in the twentieth century presented officials and city people with new opportunities for building from the top down (technocratic and administrative initiatives), the middle out (the realm of fatuan and local elite bodies), or the bottom up (the growth of labor unions and other grassroots organizations). From one point of view, the problems lay in the middle where local elites used modern organizational forms and ideologies to prevent administrators from acting decisively and mobilizing the energies of ordinary people. Chambers of commerce,

designed to promote growth and reform (and often willing to act on that mandate), just as often tended to function like brakes on municipal reform rather than as engines of civic leadership. But if one is not handed the wheel through democratic enfranchisement, perhaps the brake of passive resistance and retreat is the next best mechanism to take hold of. City people then had to choose between imperious, somewhat alien (or actually foreign) technocrats and bureaucrats, more familiar and often conservative leaders of the circle their group was nested in, and radical activists who typically lacked both administrative and social power.

In order for social capital to be actually spent on civic endeavors, the catalytic or mediating influence of a Zhang Zhidong in Hankou, Zuo Zongtang or Cai Mengjian in Lanzhou, or Zhang Jian in Nantong was extremely important. These leaders helped integrate the pivotal middle level of elites into projects and tap resources available in higher-level administrative budgets or more distant metropolitan centers. Without such leadership, the power, wealth, and status available to support development might remain dormant or devoted solely to private or corporate enterprise.

Such projects were often pursued in a spirit of boosterism. Cai and Zhang Jian were heir to a tradition of localism that celebrated everything from tasty hams and fine pottery to beauty spots, pilgrimage sites, virtuous widows, and brilliant scholars. The test of a locale's value was measured in recognition accorded by elite consumers and imperial edict. The early twentieth century found new standards in the form of production figures, bacteria counts taken from water sources, the size of membership rolls, numbers of tourists, and recognition of a city, building, or person as a national model. As one travels around China today, at the turn of another century, and samples local beers and other liquors touted as superior to those of a neighboring county or province, visits newly developed theme parks and warm-spring resorts, tours sausage plants and pottery factories run as township and village enterprises, and talks to local officials and entrepreneurs about their dreams and schemes for development, echoes of Lanzhou as garden city or Nantong as a little Shanghai are clear and insistent. Broad participation in China's development has long been more than a matter of state control or popular protest. One could become Chinese in the modern sense by joining a demonstration or a party, but also by training for a profession, opening a local museum, or marketing a local resource. These latter, more local and pluralistic enterprises should not be equated with democracy or a localism invariably hostile to national authority. But they do comprise sites where social capital can be invested in ways that foster diversity, criticism, and a measure of autonomy.

In tracing the distribution of technical and institutional modernity, we can with some confidence identify the component parts of an urban China reorienting itself around a recognizably modern city of offices, factories, movie theaters, and public parks. But it is also clear that the more complex reality of urban—and rural—life "away from Nanking Road," Tiananmen, and the iron bridge at Lanzhou

needs to be brought into the picture of a developing and decaying urban China.[204] Brave words about garden cities and municipal reconstruction and an impressive collection of new machines and technologies held the high ground of discourse and policy. If the words often rang hollow and the machines sometimes rusted from disuse (or were broken by Luddite rivals), the pattern of development and the pressure for local progress on a national scale endured. Of course, most people still lived in the countryside. But even rural people came to be judged by urban standards of health, productivity, political activism, and knowledge about the world. Most people who finally "became Chinese" were not urbanites. But if they acquired elements of their modern Chineseness by joining a mass organization or militia, learning a propaganda song, pursuing a marriage based on love, buying a national brand of cigarettes, or brushing their teeth as a matter of personal hygiene, the point of origin for such behavior was likely to be someplace like Shanghai or Lanzhou, if not Paris or Tokyo. The process of making such actions and ideas parts of a Chinese identity as adopted values or hybrid constructs traversed a shifting topography of places high and low.


1. Xu Xueli, "Tuo ling dingdong yundilai—Lanzhou minjian yunshu shilue" (The tinkling sound of camel bells—an outline history of indigenous forms of shipping in Lanzhou), Xibei shidi (Historical geography of the northwest) 3 (1989): 100. A mid-seventeenth-century magistrate listed dangerous or impassable roads as one of the area's major shortcomings. [BACK]

2. Ren Mei'e, "Lanzhou fujin dizhi yanjiu" (An investigation of the topography of Lanzhou and vicinity), Fangzhi yuekan 8, no. 45 (1 April 1935): 18–19. Air connections to Lanzhou were radically curtailed during the war years because of fuel shortages. Lanzhou shizheng yizhounian (A year in Lanzhou municipality: July 1941–June 1942), vol. 1 (Lanzhou: Lanzhou shizhengfu mishu chubian, 1942), 10. [BACK]

3. Ren Mei'e, "Lanzhou fujin dizhi yanjiu," 19. [BACK]

4. Sherman Cochran and Andrew C. K. Hsieh, with Janis Cochran, trans., eds., and intro., One Day in China: May 21, 1936 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1983), 178. [BACK]

5. Ibid., 179. [BACK]

6. Ibid. Qian's point may also have been that religious practice was just as tainted by commerce and devoid of devotion in Lanzhou as in Shanghai. The editors of One Day in China note that the general purpose of reportage on religious activities was to expose the follies of "superstition," although not all the entries are aggressively antireligious in this sense (141). Qian is content to underline the recreational and mercenary motivations of festivalgoers. He seems more interested in mocking provincialism than in attacking popular religion. [BACK]

7. Yao Yiyun, Jing Hu lu luxing zhinan (A Nanjing-Shanghai Road travel guide) (Shanghai: Shijie chuban hezuoshe, 1933). However, in some cases building modern roads had little impact on interurban commerce because of a shortage of trucks and the attempts to prevent old-style carts from using (and damaging) pavement. William T. Rowe, "Wuhan and Its Region, 1736–1938" (paper presented at conference on "The Chinese Metropolis in the XXth Century," Lyon, 5–7 May 1993), 21. [BACK]


8. Wang Wang, ed., Xin Xi'an (New Xian) (Shanghai: Zhonghua shuju, 1940), 67–68. [BACK]

9. Zhou Yirang, "Wuhan sanzhen zhi xianzai ji qi jianglai" (The three Wuhan cities and their future), Dongfang zazhi (hereafter DFZZ) 21, no. 5 (10 March 1924): 70. [BACK]

10. The line was finally completed in the late 1940s. (Rowe, "Wuhan," 19–20.) [BACK]

11. Year in Lanzhou Municipality, 2:126–32. [BACK]

12. Xu Xueli, "Tuo ling dingdong yundilai," 101. [BACK]

13. Liao Kaitao, ed., Lanzhou (Taibei: Zhengzhong shuju, 1957). The recorded population grew from 57,846 in 1937 to 156,948 (pp. 28, 44). [BACK]

14. Year in Lanzhou Municipality, 1:131. [BACK]

15. Ibid. [BACK]

16. Ibid., 2:2–3. [BACK]

17. Gansu minguo ribao, 16 March 1942, p. 3; Year in Lanzhou Municipality, 1:23–24, 2:11–13. [BACK]

18. Year in Lanzhou Municipality, 2:1–2. [BACK]

19. Liu Jingkun and Fu Bing, "Minguo shiqi de shoudu, peidu yu xingdu" (Capitals, secondary capitals, and administrative capitals during the Republican era), Minguo dangan, no. 1 (1994): 114–17. [BACK]

20. Zhang Qiyun, "Zhongguo zhi guodu wenti" (The question of China's capital), DFZZ 24, no. 9 (10 May 1927): 5–6. [BACK]

21. Zhou Yirang, "Wuhan sanzhen zhi xianzai ji qi jianglai," 81. [BACK]

22. Zhang Ji (from Hebei) and Yu Zuoren (Shaanxi) pressed for Beijing. Southerners had the advantage of Nanjing's having been Sun Yatsen's choice. Liu Jingkun and Fu Bing, "Minguo shiqi de shoudu, peidu yu xingdu," 117. [BACK]

23. Chen Cheng, a Zhejiang native who had served in military and civilian posts charged with the defense of Wuhan, proposed Wuhan. Shanxi native Liu Guanxun advocated Xi'an. Geologist Weng Wenhao (Zhejiang) suggested Jinan (ibid.). [BACK]

24. Cycles of boom and decline are intrinsic to G. William Skinner's theory of independent macroregion development. Skinner, ed., The City in Late Imperial China (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1977). A vivid example of a city caught in successive periods of turbulence can be found in Antonia Finnane, "Yangzhou: A Central Place in the Qing Empire," in Cities of Jiangnan in Late Imperial China, ed. Linda Cooke Johnson (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1993). See also Rowe on the ups and downs of middle Yangzi cities like Yichang, Changsha, Shashi, and Xiangtan. Rowe, "Wuhan," 18–19. [BACK]

25. Xinxing de gongye chengshi—Lanzhou (A developing industrial city—Lanzhou) (Lanzhou: Gansu renmin chubanshe, 1987), 13. [BACK]

26. Year in Lanzhou Municipality, 1:22; Pan Yimin, Lanzhou zhi gongshangye yu jinrong (Industry, commerce, and banking in Lanzhou) (Shanghai: Shangwu yinshuguan, 1936), 5. [BACK]

27. Pan Yimin, Lanzhou, 3–4; Year in Lanzhou Municipality, 2:12–13. [BACK]

28. Pan Yimin, Lanzhou, 7. [BACK]

29. Ren Mei'e, "Lanzhou fujin dizhi yanjiu," 7. [BACK]

30. Xuan Bo [pseud.], "Qingdao," Guowen zhoubao 2, no. 46 (29 November 1925): 5. [BACK]

31. Pan Yimin, Lanzhou, 3. [BACK]

32. Ibid., 1. [BACK]

33. Ibid., 23. [BACK]

34. Ren Mei'e, "Lanzhou fujin dizhi yanjiu," 14–15. [BACK]

35. Developing Industrial City, 12. This source and Ren Mei'e date the factory founding at 1875 and 1877, respectively (Ren Mei'e, "Lanzhou fujin dizhi yanjiu," 14). [BACK]

36. Ren Mei'e, "Lanzhou fujin dizhi yanjiu," 14. [BACK]


37. Developing Industrial City, 12; Ren Mei'e, "Lanzhou fujin dizhi yanjiu," 14–15. [BACK]

38. Ren Mei'e, "Lanzhou fujin dizhi yanjiu," 15. [BACK]

39. Ibid., 8. [BACK]

40. Ibid., 19. [BACK]

41. Year in Lanzhou Municipality, 1:11. [BACK]

42. Clifton Pannell, "Recent Growth and Change in China's Urban System," in Urban Development in Modern China, ed. Lawrence J. C. Ma and Edward W. Hanten (Boulder: Westview, 1981), 98. [BACK]

43. See for example William T. Rowe, Hankow: Commerce and Society in a Chinese City (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1984); Lyman P. Van Slyke, "Merchants, Commerce, and Products on the Move," in Yangtze: Nature, History, and the River (New York: Addison-Wesley, 1988); and Thomas G. Rawski, Economic Growth in Prewar China (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1989). [BACK]

44. Lucian W. Pye, foreword in Shanghai: Revolution and Development in an Asian Metropolis, ed. Christopher Howe (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981), xv. [BACK]

45. Cheng Guangyu, Zhongguo dushi (Chinese cities) (Taibei: Zhongguo wenhua chubanshe, 1953), 24. [BACK]

46. Susan Mann, "Urbanization and Historical Change in China," Modern China 10, no. 1 (January 1984): 83. [BACK]

47. Ibid., 84. [BACK]

48. Zhang Qingjun, "Minguo shiqi dushi renkou jiegou fenxi" (An analysis of the structure of urban population during the Republican period), Minguo dangan, no. 1 (1992): 128. [BACK]

49. Mann, "Urbanization," 84. Emphasis in the original. [BACK]

50. Fang Wenpei, "Sichuan kaocha ji" (An investigative account of Sichuan), Fangzhi yuekan 6, no. 7 (1 July 1933): 3. [BACK]

51. Ren Mei'e, "Lanzhou fujin dizhi yanjiu," 7. [BACK]

52. Zhou Yirang, "Wuhan sanzhen zhi xianzai ji qi jianglai," 79. [BACK]

53. Ren Baitao, "Difang baozhi bianji" (The editing of local newspapers), DFZZ 18, no. 17 (10 September 1921): 98. [BACK]

54. Ibid. [BACK]

55. Cities with other Funu ribao included Changsha and Nanjing (Funu ribao [Tianjin], 12 February 1924, p. 2; 28 March 1924, p. 1). Biographical sketches of Li Zhishan and Deng Yingchao, mentioning their roles in Tianjin women's circles and journalism, can be found in Xu Yuqun, ed., Minguo renwu dazidian (A comprehensive biographical dictionary of the Republic) (Shijiazhuang: Hebei renmin chubanshe, 1991), 285–86 and 1505. [BACK]

56. Funu ribao, 1 January 1924, p. 1; 2 January 1924, p. 2; and 12 February 1924, p. 2. [BACK]

57. For the story of the Baoding Number Two Women's College affair, see Funu ribao, 22 March 1924, p. 1; 24 March 1922, p. 2; 28 March 1924, p. 1; 1 April 1924, p. 3. For the general issue of who should run women's schools, see "Women's Schools and Female School Heads," Funu ribao, 10 March 1924, p. 1. [BACK]

58. Wang Ling, Beijing yu zhouwei chengshi guanxi shi (A history of Beijing and its relations to nearby cities) (Beijing: Yanshan chubanshe, 1988), 135–36. [BACK]

59. Wang Ling also notes that Baoding military academy graduates later become the backbone of the radical Whampoa Academy (ibid.). [BACK]

60. Funu ribao, 22 March 1924, p. 1. Like other women in other cities, the Baoding students were angry at the school's fundamentalist, "revive the ancient" (fugu) attitude. But

they also complained that their teachers were unqualified and could only babble about such topics as economics. [BACK]

61. Wan Shaoyuan, "Shiren zhumun de tushuguan shiye" (Undertaking libraries for the common people), in Minguo shehui daguan (An omnibus of Republican society), ed. Xin Ping, Hu Zhenghao, and Li Xuechang (Fuzhou: Fujian chubanshe, 1991), 954. [BACK]

62. Moshe Lewin, The Gorbachev Phenomenon: An Historical Interpretation (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1991), 30. [BACK]

63. Olga Lang, Chinese Family and Society (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1946), 78. [BACK]

64. Ibid., 78–79. [BACK]

65. Zhang Qingjun, "Minguo shiqi dushi renkou jiegou fenxi," 134–35. Based on a survey of figures from Nanjing, Shanghai, Beijing, Qingdao, Hankou, and Xi'an, 30.86 percent of men and 60.64 percent of women were illiterate. [BACK]

66. Fang Wenpei, "Sichuan kaocha ji," 3. [BACK]

67. Xuan Bo, "Qingdao," 21. [BACK]

68. Lanzhou daxue xiaoshi (A short history of Lanzhou University) (Lanzhou: Gansu renmin chubanshe, 1990), 9. The conduit for these ideas seems to have been a magazine entitled Xin Long (New Gansu), which was published in Beijing by Lanzhou students resident in the capital, and sent back home to be read by college and middle-school students. [BACK]

69. Rhoads Murphey, The Outsiders: The Western Experience in India and China (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1977). [BACK]

70. Rowe, "Wuhan," 31. For a Shashi perspective on the problems associated with building an industrial base against the grain, see Wang Kaibing, ed., Luetan chengshi jingji fazhan lue (On urban economic development strategies) (Wuhan: Hubei renmin chubanshe, 1990), 17. [BACK]

71. Tang Wenqi and Lin Gang, "Shilun 1927–1937 nian Nanjing chengshi jingji fazhan yu noncun fudi zhi guanxi" (A discussion of the relationship between urban economic development in Nanjing and the rural hinterland, 1927–1937), Minguo dangan, no. 2 (1987): 87. A Reconstruction Commission found 847 industrial firms in the city in 1934 in a tally that included handicraft factories and small firms. Only 18 factories met the stricter definition of gongchang used by the Social Welfare Bureau in a 1935 industrial survey. [BACK]

72. The folklorist Tao Xingzhi used the term in a critical sense. This is discussed in Hung Changtai, Going to the People: Chinese Intellectuals and Folk Literature, 1918–1937 (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1985), 14. [BACK]

73. Lang, Chinese Family, 80. [BACK]

74. Hanchao Lu, "Away from Nanking Road: Small Stores and Neighborhood Life in Modern Shanghai," Journal of Asian Studies 53, no. 4 (November 1994). [BACK]

75. For example, in Africa, despite selfconscious efforts by Europeans to make urban centers "bastion cities" they could "claim to dominate, set apart from the mysterious and dangerous bush," "Africans did as much to ruralize the city as Europeans did to urbanize the countryside. Africans would try to mold urban life to their own ways and in their own neighborhoods." Frederick Cooper, "African Urbanization," in Peter N. Stearns, Encyclopedia of Social History (New York: Garland, 1994), 22. [BACK]

76. Zhou Yirang, "Wuhan sanzhen zhi xianzai ji qi jianglai," 75. [BACK]

77. Chen Zhenyi, "Da Shanghai jianshe ce" (The greater Shanghai reconstruction plan), DFZZ 23, no. 18 (September 1926): 10. The article acknowledged that Qingdao in turn had received its excellent harbor plan from Germany. [BACK]

78. Wang Ling, Beijing, 108–10. [BACK]

79. Ibid., 110. [BACK]


80. The theme of decadence and development is explored in David Strand, "Decadence et modernization: Groupes sociaux et action politique a Pekin au debut du XXe siecle," in Les Metropoles chinoises au XXe siecle, ed. Christian Henriot and Alain Delissen (Paris: Editions Arguments, 1995), 32–47. [BACK]

81. Lao She, Luotou Xiangzi (Camel Xiangzi) (Hong Kong: Yuelin youxian gongsi, n.d.), 306–7. [BACK]

82. Dong Xiujia, Guomin jingji jianshe zhi tujing (Avenues of national economic reconstruction) (Shanghai: Shenghuo shudian, 1936), 168. [BACK]

83. One sign of the level of academic and governmental interest in the city as an administrative unit can be found in Lu Danlin, ed., Shizheng quanshu (A complete handbook of municipal government) (Shanghai: Daolu yuekan she, 1931). The volume collects essays published elsewhere by municipal reformers like Dong Xiujia and others and reports on municipal reform efforts in a dozen cities as large as Shanghai and as small as Nanchang and Wuzhou. For Dong's career in municipal affairs as an official and writer, see Xu Yuqun, ed., Minguo renwu dacidian (A comprehensive biographical dictionary of Republican China), 1273. Prior to holding teaching and government positions in China, Dong studied municipal economics and government in the United States. [BACK]

84. Lu Weizhen, "Shihua buyi" (An addenda on city flowers), DFZZ 27, no. 11 (10 June 1930): 87–90. [BACK]

85. A Short History of Lanzhou University. Upon news of the abdication of the Manchu monarch in February 1912, "several members of Gansu educational circles" affiliated with the college demanded that the loyalist Shaan-Gan governor-general proclaim a republic, cease military action designed to maintain the Qing, and start using a Republican "reign title" (nianhao) and a Western calendar (6). [BACK]

86. Ibid. For example, a graduate of the college met Sun Yatsen in Guangzhou in 1917 and accepted Sun's charge to return to Lanzhou and spark participation in the "Constitution Protection Movement" Sun was engaged in leading. [BACK]

87. For the classic statement of an urban-rural gap growing in the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s, see Fei Hsiaot'ung, China's Gentry: Essays on Rural-Urban Relations (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1953). Rowe speculates that this gap represented a sharp break with late-imperial and early-twentieth-century patterns of economic exchange and reciprocity and may have been more the result of political disorder and failure than a consequence of urbanization. Rowe, "Wuhan." [BACK]

88. Mann, "Urbanization," 94–107. [BACK]

89. Dong Xiujia, "Tianyuan xinshi yu woguo shizheng" (Garden cities and municipal government in China), DFZZ 22, no. 11 (10 June 1925): 44. [BACK]

90. This is Chen Duxiu's summary of criticisms related to him by a friend, in Chen, "Beijing shida tese" (Ten outstanding features of Beijing), in Beijing hu: xiandai zuojia bixia de Beijing (Beijing in the words of modern writers), ed. Jiang Deming, vol. 1 (Beijing: Sanlian shudian, 1992), 4 (dated 1 June 1919). [BACK]

91. Xuan Bo, "Qingdao," 6. [BACK]

92. For a comparative perspective on the "city as export," see Mark Girouard, Cities and People: A Social and Architectural History (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1985), chapter 11. [BACK]

93. Gansu minguo ribao, 1 July 1941, p. 1. [BACK]

94. Gansu minguo ribao, 8 April 1942, p. 3. [BACK]

95. See, for example, Kristin Stapleton's discussion of reforms carried out in 1920s Chengdu under the auspices of the warlord Yang Sen: "In the 1920's, new visions of urban

organization and culture developing in eastern China found supporters among a younger generation of Chengdu elites, who briefly looked to Yang Sen as their champion." Stapleton, "Yang Sen in Chengdu: Urban Planning in the Interior," in Constructing the Modern in Chinese Cities, 1900–1950, ed. Joseph W. Esherick (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1999). [BACK]

96. As Lanzhou officials knew. For official statements about the importance of reform in garbage collection, the cleaning of public toilets, and the like, see Gansu minguo ribao, 17 February 1942, p. 4. [BACK]

97. For a broader appreciation of the urban-rural connections involved in nightsoil collection, see Andrew Morris, "Fight for Fertilizer!: Excrement, Public Health, and Mobilization in New China," Journal of Unconventional History (May 1995). [BACK]

98. Zang Qifang, "Shizheng he cujin shizheng zhi fangfa" (Municipal government and methods of advancing municipal government), in Shizheng quanshu (A complete handbook on municipal government), ed. Lu Danlin (Shanghai: Daolu yuekan, 1931), 44–45. [BACK]

99. Chen Duxiu, "Beijing shida tese," 4. [BACK]

100. Zhou Yirang, "Wuhan sanzhen zhi xianzai ji qi jianglai," 77. [BACK]

101. Ibid. [BACK]

102. Xuan Bo, Guowen zhoubao 2, no. 49 (20 December 1925): 19. [BACK]

103. Changtai Hung, Going to the People: Chinese Intellectuals and Folk Literature, 1918–1937 (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1985), 14. [BACK]

104. Zang Qifang, "Shizheng he cujin shizheng zhi fangfa," 45. Zang was particularly angry not only that were these activities permitted but that they were taxed to support the operations of government. [BACK]

105. Ernest P. Young, "Problems of a Late Ch'ing Revolutionary: Ch'en T'ien-hua," in Revolutionary Leaders of Modern China, ed. Chun-tu Hsueh (New York: Oxford University Press, 1971), 227. [BACK]

106. Jian Hu, "Dushi shenghuo zhi meihua" (The beautification of metropolitan life), DFZZ 18, no. 2 (25 April 1925): 1–2. [BACK]

107. Zhongguo yuebao 3, no. 1 (1 January 1935). [BACK]

108. Quoted in Frederic Wakeman, Policing Shanghai, 1927–1937 (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1995), 11–12. [BACK]

109. Yi Jiayue, cited and discussed in Mann, "Urbanization," 99. [BACK]

110. Gansu minguo ribao, 3 July 1941, p. 5. [BACK]

111. Gu Duilu, "Zhongguo shizhi gaiguan" (General survey of the Chinese municipal system), DFZZ 26, no. 17 (10 September 1929): 33. [BACK]

112. Dong Xiujia, Guomin jingji jianshe zhi tujing, 3. [BACK]

113. Ibid., 159. [BACK]

114. Ibid., 161. [BACK]

115. Hu Shi, preface no. 3 to Shizheng juyao (Essentials of municipal government), by Bai Dunyong (Shanghai: Dadong shudian, 1931), 1. [BACK]

116. The scholar Qu Xuanying, writing in 1930, cited by Mann, "Urbanization," 88. [BACK]

117. Zhou Yirang, "Wuhan sanzhen zhi xianzai ji qi jianglai," 75. See also Rowe, "Wuhan," 12, for a discussion of factors leading to "overnight industrialization" in the Wuhan cities. [BACK]

118. Qin Shao, "Making Political Culture—the Case of Nantong, 1894–1930" (Ph.D. diss., Michigan State University, 1994). [BACK]

119. Xu Xueli, "Tuo ling dingdong yundilai," 100. [BACK]


120. A Year in Lanzhou Municipality, 1:11–12. The rubber tires persuaded officials to permit the carts to use modern roads, an important concession since iron-wheeled carts were banned and fuel for trucks and cars was in chronic short supply during the war years. [BACK]

121. For the impact of the New Policies on Beijing, see Mingzheng Shi, "Corporate Interest or Public Good: Public Utility Companies of Early 20th Century Beijing" (paper presented at AAS annual meeting, Chicago, 6–9 April 1995). [BACK]

122. Wang Wang, Xin Xi'an, 27. [BACK]

123. Yu Heping, Shanghui yu Zhongguo zaoqi xiandaihua (Chambers of commerce and China's early modernization) (Shanghai: Shanghai renmin chubanshe, 1993), 23–25, 75–76, 202–3. Yu emphasizes both the importance of the xinzheng reforms in stimulating chamber development. [BACK]

124. Dong Xiujia, Guomin jingji jianshe zhi tujing, 170. [BACK]

125. Ibid., 174. [BACK]

126. Edward Bing-Shuey Lee, Modern Canton (Shanghai: Mercury Press, 1936), v. [BACK]

127. Gansu minguo ribao, 2 July 1942, p. 3. [BACK]

128. Liu Gengsheng, "Zhou Xuexi yu jingshi zilaishui shiye" (Zhou Xuexi and the metropolitan waterworks business), Beijing dangan shiliao, no. 2 (1987–1988): 69. [BACK]

129. See Rowe's account of the building of the Hankou city wall in 1862–64. Rowe, Hankow: Conflict and Community in a Chinese City, 1796–1895 (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1989), 293–94. Rowe concludes that "the state did retain the power of eminent domain, enabling it to condemn and acquire property earmarked for public purposes, for which it usually compensated the owner at a negotiated price" (66). [BACK]

130. This sentiment can be found, for example, in Simon Leys (Pierre Ryckmans), Chinese Shadows (New York: Viking, 1977), 57–60. Ryckmans further traces this modernist fury to a deeper atavism. [BACK]

131. These plans were reportedly made in 1910. See Naito Konan, "Constitutional Government in China," in "Naito Konan and the Development of the Conception of Modernity in Chinese History," ed. and trans. Joshua Fogel, Chinese Studies in History 17, no. 1 (fall 1983): 61. [BACK]

132. Leng Wangu, "Beijing cheng wanbuke chai" (Beijing's walls must not be torn down), Aiguo bao (Beijing), 8 September 1912, p. 1. [BACK]

133. Lee, Modern Canton, 13–14. [BACK]

134. Ibid., 19. The municipal authorities acted "against the will of narrow-visioned capitalists…reluctant to see their property destroyed." [BACK]

135. Dong Xiujia, Guomin jingji jianshe zhi tujing, 171. [BACK]

136. Bian Nofu, "Nanjing gaikuang" (Survey of Nanjing), Xiangdao zhoubao 153 (15 May 1926): 1467. [BACK]

137. Dong Xiujia, Guomin jingji jianshe zhi tujing, 171–72, 179. [BACK]

138. Ibid., 172, 174. [BACK]

139. Ibid., 173. [BACK]

140. Kristin Stapleton, "Police Reform in a Late-Imperial Chinese City: Chengdu, 1902–1911" (Ph.D. diss., Harvard University, 1993), 149–50, 196. [BACK]

141. David Strand, Rickshaw Beijing: City People and Politics in the 1920s (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1989), 96. [BACK]

142. Gansu minguo ribao, 2 July 1942, p. 3. The point was made in a speech by a local GMD official. [BACK]

143. Dong Xiujia, Guomin jingji jianshe zhi tujing, 176 and 182. [BACK]


144. Zang Qifang, "Shizheng he cujin shizheng zhi fangfa," 44. Mann also emphasizes this point ("Urbanization," 91). [BACK]

145. Yang Lihui, "Yantai diaocha" (Investigation of Yantai), DFZZ 21, no. 12 (25 June 1924): 81. [BACK]

146. Leng Wangu, "Beijing," 2. [BACK]

147. Christian Henriot, Shanghai, 1927–1937: Municipal Power, Locality, and Modernization (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1993), 160. In this case the Shanghai Butchers Guild accepted the new tax system when it was allowed to keep control of a general welfare fund for members. [BACK]

148. This is a major theme in Henriot, Shanghai. [BACK]

149. Ibid., 36. [BACK]

150. Hans J. Van De Ven, From Friend to Comrade: The Founding of the Chinese Communist Party, 1920–1927 (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1991), 10. [BACK]

151. Ibid. [BACK]

152. "Shanghai wenti" (The Shanghai question), DFZZ 22, no. 4 (25 February 1925): 6. [BACK]

153. Gu Duilu, "Zhongguo shizhi gaiguan," 34–35. [BACK]

154. Ibid., 36. In 1920 Chen Jiongming, as one might expect, emphasized the importance of independence from central control. [BACK]

155. Ibid., 36–37. [BACK]

156. Ibid., 39. [BACK]

157. Bai Dunyong, Shizheng juyao (Essentials of municipal government) (Shanghai: Dadong shudian, 1931), 12. [BACK]

158. Dong Xiujia, "Zhongguo shizhi zhi jinjing" (Frontiers of municipal government) in Shizheng quanshu, ed. Lu Danlin (Shanghai: Daolu yuekan she, 1931), 105. [BACK]

159. Ibid., 106. [BACK]

160. Henriot, Shanghai, 35. [BACK]

161. Lu Weizhen, "Shihua buyi," 89–90. [BACK]

162. Yi Guan, "Quanguo shanghui zhi xiankuang yu jianglai zhi xiwang" (The condition and future prospects of chambers of commerce throughout the country), DFZZ 16, no. 3 (March 1919): 219. [BACK]

163. Ibid.; Yu Heping, Shanghui yu Zhongguo zaoqi xiandaihua, 75–76. [BACK]

164. Yu Heping, Shanghui yu Zhongguo zaoqi xiandaihua, 220. [BACK]

165. Qin Shao, "Making Political Culture," 107. [BACK]

166. Gansu minguo ribao, 16 March 1942, p. 3. The Lanzhou chamber contributed a hundred thousand dollars to reconstruction efforts at a time when there was only fifty to sixty thousand in the municipal government's budget for such projects. [BACK]

167. Yu Heping, Shanghui yu Zhongguo zaoqi xiandaihua, 25. [BACK]

168. Ibid., 23. [BACK]

169. Ibid., 98. [BACK]

170. Ibid. [BACK]

171. Ibid., 100–108. [BACK]

172. Ibid., 107. The journal was entitled the Chinese Merchant Federation Magazine (Huashang lianhe bao). [BACK]

173. Ibid., 184. A candidate from Gaoyang county in Zhili was defeated by the president of the Wuchang chamber. The Gaoyang and northern faction tried to overturn the results but were defeated by threats of nationwide denunciation (through circular telegrams) of alleged corrupt practices by representatives from Shanghai and Hankou. [BACK]


174. Ibid., 89. [BACK]

175. For an extended discussion of this tendency toward escalating (and sometimes deescalating) scales of organization, see David Strand, "Changing Dimensions of Social and Public Life in Early Twentieth Century Chinese Cities," in La societe civile face a l'Etat: Dans les traditions chinoise, japonaise, coreene et vietnamienne, ed. Leon Vandermeersch (Paris: Ecole Francaise d'Extreme-Orient, 1994). [BACK]

176. Yu Heping, Shanghui yu Zhongguo zaoqi xiandaihua, 89. [BACK]

177. David Strand, "Historical Perspectives," in Urban Spaces in Contemporary China: The Potential for Autonomy and Community in Post-Mao China, ed. Deborah S. Davis, Richard Kraus, Barry Naughton, and Elizabeth J. Perry (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1995). [BACK]

178. See Rowe, Hankow, on guild federations in Hankou. [BACK]

179. Yu Heping, Shanghui yu Zhongguo zaoqi xiandaihua, 158–72. Yu acknowledges that many guilds were oligarchic and exclusive (along the lines of class or hometown affiliation) but argues that the general trend in chamber and guild development was toward greater democracy and inclusiveness. [BACK]

180. Byrna Goodman, "New Culture, Old Habits: Native-Place Organization and the May Fourth Movement," in Shanghai Sojourners, ed. Frederic Wakeman and Wen-hsin Yeh (Berkeley: Institute of East Asian Studies, 1992), 83. [BACK]

181. Wu Zhezheng, "Huiguan," in Beijing wangshi tan (Talks on past events in Beijing) (Beijing: Beijing chubanshe, 1988), 88. [BACK]

182. Yu Heping, Shanghui yu Zhongguo zaoqi xiandaihua, 280–302. For example, many chambers supported Yuan against the Nationalists in the "Second Revolution" of 1913. [BACK]

183. Ibid., 382. [BACK]

184. Ibid. [BACK]

185. Bian Nofu, "Nanjing gaikuang," 1468. [BACK]

186. "Nanjing tongxin" (Letter from Nanjing), Xiangdao zhoubao 60 (26 March 1924): 482. [BACK]

187. Henriot, Shanghai, 58–59. [BACK]

188. Robert A. Dahl, Who Governs?: Democracy and Power in an American City (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1961), 122–24. [BACK]

189. Henriot, Shanghai, 60–61. [BACK]

190. Dong Xiujia, Guomin jingji jianshe zhi tujing, 183. Dong praised the Chinese Shanghai government for its efforts in this area of limited consultation. [BACK]

191. Stapleton, "Police Reform," 325. [BACK]

192. Zhou Junqi, "Guanyu jindai quyu chengshi xitong yanjiu de jige wenti" (Some problems in the study of regional urban systems in the modern period), Tianjin shehui kexue, no. 5 (1994): 107. [BACK]

193. See Goodman, The Native-Place, the City and the Nation: Social Organization and Regional Identity in Shanghai (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1995). [BACK]

194. Hu Shi, preface no. 3, 2. [BACK]

195. Ibid. [BACK]

196. Goodman, "Expansive Practices: Charity, Modern Enterprise, the City and the State," chap. 4 in Native-Place. [BACK]

197. Strand, "City People under Siege," chap. 9 in Rickshaw Beijing. The record of Beijing suggests, however, that this protective reaction required the active leadership of local elites to be effective. [BACK]

198. "Beijing Shimin Oppose Moving the Capital to Nanjing," Yishibao, 30 June 1928, p. 7. [BACK]


199. Beijing dianche gongsi dangan shiliao (Historical materials from the Beijing Streetcar Company archive) (Beijing: Beijing yanshan chubanshe, 1989), 100–101, 118–19. See also Strand, Rickshaw Beijing, chap. 6. [BACK]

200. Beijing dianche gongsi dangan shiliao, 118–19. [BACK]

201. Mingzheng Shi, "Corporate Interest." [BACK]

202. Robert Putnam, Making Democracy Work: Civic Traditions in Modern Italy (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993), 167. Putnam cites James Coleman's use of the term "social capital." [BACK]

203. Ibid., 130. [BACK]

204. See again Hanchao Lu's "Away from Nanking Road." [BACK]


4. Engineering China

Birth of the Developmental State,

William C. Kirby


In December 1926, the engineer Peter Palchinsky wrote to the prime minister of the Soviet Union. Science and technology, he argued, did more—even than Communism!—to shape modern society. The twentieth century was "not one of international communism, but of international technology. We need to recognize not a Komintern, but a ‘Tekhintern.’"[1] Ideas like these would get Palchinsky shot in Stalin's Russia. For the Nationalist movement of China's Guomindang, which three months later quit the Comintern and purged itself of Communists, they were at the heart of its conception of modernity.

Shanghai—as Leo Lee has argued so eloquently—may have been the native place for a new, public culture of private life; but in 1928 Nanjing was the capital of a "new China" whose aim was as much the physical as the cultural remaking of the nation. If in Shanghai modernity could be defined as "the material transformation of everyday life,"[2] Nanjing was consumed with the industrial metamorphosis of national life, planned by a central—and centralizing—government. China would be industrialized and internationalized (for the two went hand in hand) through the mediation of the state. This was a quite different vision of the modern than could be found in Shanghai's kiosks, cafes, and department stores. At a time of permanent national crisis, it was ultimately a compelling one.

The new government aimed to "reconstruct" China to make it modern. A gleaming capital would rise out of the mud alleys of Nanjing, a city twice destroyed in the previous century. The cities would be industrialized, the countryside electrified, and the provinces joined by networks of railroads, motor roads, and— most exciting of all—air routes to get the "stagnant race" of Chinese (Sun Yatsen's phrase) on the move.[3] The landscape would be transfigured through electrification, industrialization, and communications. All this would be planned "scientifically"

by a government imbued with a technocratic confidence and cooperating with advanced industrial nations.

To some extent these transformations were under way well before 1928, even in the absence of a working central government. China was enjoying a "dynamic and robust" industrial boom that had begun over a decade earlier.[4] Its major cities (Shanghai, Beijing, Canton, and even Chengdu) engaged in rudimentary urban planning.[5] An embryonic rail network had been created with foreign capital. But the National Government came to power with an agenda to do much more. Its late leader had proposed a "second industrial revolution" in which a hundred thousand miles of rail would be laid, the Yangzi tamed and its Three Gorges dammed, and automobiles manufactured so inexpensively that "everyone who wishes it, may have one."[6]

Sun Yatsen's Industrial Plan (Shiye jihua, published first in English as The International Development of China six years before the establishment of the Nationalist regime) was the first attempt to design the integrated economic development of a unified China. One author dates the beginning of "modern China" from its publication.[7] Today, many Three-, Four-, Five-, and Ten-Year Plans later, it remains the most audacious and memorable of national development programs. Sun's strategies to develop "the vast resources of China… internationally under a socialistic scheme, for the good of the world in general and the Chinese people in particular" would be shared by his Nationalist and Communist successors.[8] The realization of his Industrial Plan became the cardinal goal of Nationalist economic policy. In the People's Republic, Sun's "great legacy" for the management of the modern Chinese economy would be celebrated.[9]

Sun's more concrete plans also left their mark.[10] His sketch of a national Chinese rail network, which emphasized political aspirations (linking provincial capitals) over economic relationships, provided the framework for Nationalist and early Communist routing plans.[11] His two-paragraph proposal to "improve the upper Yangzi" with an enormous dam spawned seventy-five years of effort and debate.[12] When construction finally began in 1994, it moved an unpoetical engineer, P. R.C. Premier Li Peng, to verse:[13]

As we begin to carry out the blueprint
It is a new era
And the tide is high

Sun was the visionary, not the scientist, economist, or engineer. Yet projects of the scale and complexity of those he advocated would bring scientists, economists, and engineers into the center of Chinese governance. The academies, commissions, and ministries created to "reconstruct" China would, in turn, change the mission of the Chinese state. If Sun Yatsen could admire publicly Lenin's New Economic Policy, praising its promotion of state capitalism and "national socialism,"[14] his successors would lay the foundation for a Stalinist state in China, the economic management of which would be the responsibility of the world's largest bureaucracy.


The result would not be "technocracy," a term that has been rendered in Chinese as "the dictatorship of engineers,"[15] for among Sun's other contributions to the modern Chinese polity were the supremacy of the Leninist party-state and the centrality of the military in it.[16] But with Sun began a dream of modernity to be interpreted by a transformative government. Revered by his disciples as the Republic's founding father, or guofu, Sun was more precisely the spiritual father of the Chinese developmental state.[17]


The National Government aimed to make its mark on China first in its new national capital, the old "southern capital," or Nanjing. Although a former dynastic capital and, very briefly, the seat of the first government of the Republic, it was better known in modern times for "sieges, sacks, massacres, rapine, conflagration and destruction."[18] During the civil wars of the mid-nineteenth century it had been utterly destroyed, first by the Taiping rebels, who made it their "heavenly capital," and then by vengeful Qing loyalists. It had been a battleground again in 1911 and 1913. The Nationalists' "Nanjing decade" began in 1927, with their military occupation of the city, and it would end in 1937 with the city's conquest and "rape" at the hands of the Japanese;[19] in between, however, the Nationalists tried to build a capital worthy of their dreams.

Their model capital was inherited in a sorry state. Writers could praise Nan-jing's scenic qualities because much of the city had become "a veritable rus in urbe" in the past century: "One finds inside the citywalls of Nanking waste spaces, ponds, and patches of cultivated land scattered here and there in the same way as they are outside of the walls."[20] Its population was about one-third of what it had been in early Ming times, when more than 1 million inhabited Nanjing.[21] As a modern city it was "notorious for its dim electric light, narrow and uneven roads, and poor telephone service,"[22] not to mention its mud and mosquitoes. There was no sewage system save the infested canals, which served as a source of drinking water for the city's poor.[23] All this was but a challenge. A new Nanjing might be created from nearly nothing: it could become what we might think of today as a Chinese Brasilia.

Within a year of the founding of the regime, the Office of Technical Experts for Planning the National Capital under the leadership of an American-trained engineer had developed a detailed and beautifully illustrated design for a reconstructed Nanjing.[24] The city's boundaries were vastly expanded to house both the new government and (planning rather too conservatively into the next century) an anticipated population of 2 million. Rail connections were to be enhanced and a huge airport built. Detailed plans were drawn for modern sewage, drinking water, and electric power systems. A new government district of nearly ten square kilometers was be erected on the site just west of the old Ming palace, south of the

Ming tombs and an imposing Sun Yatsen Mausoleum. At its center would be a modern palace complex, on a north-south axis, dominated at its northern end by a massive Guomindang headquarters (Zhongyang dangbu), an international architectural marvel combining features of Beijing's Temple of Heaven and the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. (The site of the National Government was along similar lines on a smaller, subservient scale.) The Nanjing municipal government would get its own quarter with a large but tasteful yamen compound, in traditional style, near the Bell Tower. A Cultural Center, including an Olympic-sized stadium, would be situated on Wu Tai Mountain.[25] Beyond all this the city would be beautified. Twelve new parks would be constructed. In Parisian style, trees would line the avenues. Electric streetlights would be made in the shape of Chinese lanterns. "Obnoxious and dangerous industries" would be located away from the city center, on the northern bank of the Yangzi. A "comprehensive system of parkways and main arteries" was conceived, dominated by the grand, sixlane Zhongshan lu, or Sun Yatsen Road. A "ring boulevard" was to encircle the new capital, but not, as later in Beijing, at the expense of the city wall. The wall would be retained, perhaps with the thought—times being what they were—that it might be needed. So Nanjing's ring road would run on top of the old wall, offering its motorists a panorama of city, river, and suburbs.[26]

It will be obvious to a visitor to contemporary Nanjing, which today looks more a provincial than a national capital, that not all these things were built. A few were, some in dramatic fashion: Zhongshan lu was bulldozed forty meters wide through the city center to honor the guofu and was rushed to completion in time for Sun's interment in his stately mausoleum in June 1929. Residents in the way were given ten days to leave their homes.[27] The new center of the city, Xinjiekou, where Zhongshan lu converged with other main arteries, was turned into a large concrete rotary. The central buildings of the party-state were indeed located near an old palace—but in rather more modest quarters in the old Taiping palace grounds. Government ministries, after several years of being housed in borrowed and occupied buildings, were gradually moved to more properly ministerial quarters. And massive numbers of trees were planted. Seedlings imported from France would later shade a Communist Nanjing.

The most telling point about Nanjing's facelift was that it was planned. Nanjing was the first Chinese city to employ comprehensive zoning and planning regulations designed according to international standards.[28] Its Office of Technical Experts drafted the national legislation for municipal planning and zoning. A National Capital Reconstruction Commission was organized in 1929 to carry out a six-year plan to build municipal services, parks, roads, and housing. In this it was led by its engineering division and a force of city planning engineers.[29] If Nanjing today can lay claim to being "one of the most beautiful, clean, and well-planned cities in China," this is due in part to the determined efforts of Nationalist engineers and public works officials—and to the fact that their most outlandish schemes were unrealized.[30]


There is a long history in China of planning capital cities and their official edifices. What distinguished the Nationalist regime was its confidence in its ability to plan, first for the capital and then for the entire country, on an international technological standard. This was a faith so widely shared in the new National Government that the mission of "reconstruction" was undertaken initially by almost every arm of it.

Electrifying China. A Reconstruction Ministry (Jianshebu) was created in January 1928, fittingly enough with Sun Yatsen's son, Sun Ke (Sun Fo), as minister. "Reconstruction," Sun Ke said upon taking his post, "is of course the first and foremost goal of the Revolution."[31] Sun Ke's faith in government planning had been tested in Canton, where as mayor he had presided over the introduction of modern sewers and public utilities. Sun Ke was reconstruction minister for only six days when he undertook a six-month European tour to win foreign investment for his father's plans. His trip was a total flop, and while he was away his ministry was abolished; but he returned to China undeterred and drafted a fifty-year plan to construct the railways, harbors, and industries that Sun Yatsen had envisioned. This Jianshe dagang cao'an (Draft plan for [realization of] the fundamentals of national reconstruction) became Guomindang policy in November 1928. For a few years Sun Ke could pursue one part of this plan in his new capacity as minister of railways, but the larger task of planning and coordinating "reconstructive" enterprises had fallen to a new National Reconstruction Commission.

Established in February 1928, the National Reconstruction Commission (Jian-she weiyuanwei) was composed of some thirty-nine members, including all ministers of cabinet rank, all heads of provincial Reconstruction Bureaux (jiansheting), and the mayors of Nanjing and Shanghai municipalities. Although deputed to "research, prepare, and complete a Reconstruction Plan for the Whole Country" in the "spirit" of Sun Yatsen's guidelines, it quickly focused on electrification.[32] It seemed to follow (with the proper political substitutions) Lenin's famous dictum that Communism meant "Soviet Power plus the electrification of the whole country."[33] Sun Yatsen had been almost as eloquent on this subject as Lenin: he had urged electrification in writings and speeches since 1894. Civilization, he later wrote, was defined by the "age of electricity." In 1924 he had told his Guomindang comrades that "if China wants to learn the strong points from foreign counties, it should, first of all, try to use electricity rather than coal as an energy source."[34](Just how Sun thought electricity would be generated is not clear.) As Yun Zhen, a young engineer in the National Reconstruction Commission who would later direct much of China's electrical industries, recalled: electric power, which would promote industry and commerce, permit the exploitation of natural resources, and increase agricultural production, was considered "the people's salvation."[35]

The National Reconstruction Commission began by drafting a grandiose, Soviet-style plan for lighting up the country. "Super-power" stations linked by high-tension transmission lines would supply large areas, and their substations

would gradually replace small local stations.[36] But as in Lenin's Russia, where the unveiling of the national electrification plan in the form of an enormous map, dotted with lightbulbs, took enough of Moscow's meager power supply that the rest of the city had to be blacked out, [37] the National Reconstruction Commission had its hands full illuminating the capital city. Its nationalization and reorganization of the Nanjing Electrical Works would count as one of its major successes.

The commission had to compromise both on the scope of its plans and on principles of ownership of the Chinese electrical power enterprise. It was the first National Government agency to confront directly the ambiguities of Sun Yatsen's economic thought regarding what should be "public" (and government owned) and what should remain in the private sphere. In principle, electrical enterprises of the large scale planned by the commission ought to have been of "strategic" importance and under government ownership. The power works at Nanjing were indeed nationalized. But the large majority of China's 575 electrical power enterprises were privately run and of very small size, and the commission had neither the mannor, as it turned out, the willpower to take them over. Only seventeen plants were government owned by 1930, and to preclude further nationalizations a National Association of Private Electric Power Enterprises (Quanguo minying dianye lianhehui) organized in 1929 to plead its collective case to Nanjing.

The commission faced fiscal reality—the small financial capacity of the new government compared with its large aims—by evolving quickly into a regulatory body for what now began to be considered "public utilities": gongyong shiye (publicly used enterprises) that would not be gongying shiye (publicly run enterprises). The government still had a strong role to play, however. Regulations for electrical enterprises promulgated in 1930 standardized technical systems among electric power firms and required government approval for any new electrical utilities or for the issuance of bonds to expand old ones. In its regulatory capacity the commission authored regulations that covered a broad range of other services and enterprises, including public waterworks, gas companies, trolley and autobus lines, radio stations, shipping companies, and (just being formed) commercial airlines. The government reserved the right to regulate prices and profit margins for twenty (later thirty) years, and could determine how "excess" annual profits (defined as in excess of 25 percent of capital) would be reinvested (e.g., in plant expansion, employee pension funds, etc.).[38]

The commission's regulatory initiatives were symptomatic of one pattern of state intrusion into the economy that marked the early Nationalist years. Before 1927, Chinese industry and commerce had been "comparatively free from legislative and administrative control of a regular nature."[39] The first years of Nationalist rule, however, saw passage of a considerable body of legislation affecting commerce and industry, including a Law of Insurance (1929), Maritime Law (1929), Negotiable Instruments Law (1929), Trademark Law (1930), and a new Company Law (1929), which regulated the organizational structure of private corporations.[40] Private businesses were subjected to a broad range of new taxes, inspections,

certifications, export duties, and import tariffs by a government that was now strong enough and close enough to China's industrial and commercial centers to enforce them, when it wished to.

The regulatory approach to economic development was pushed perhaps farthest in the case of government intervention to modernize one of China's oldest industries, that of silk manufacturing, as will be discussed below. But regulation alone could not accomplish the Industrial Plan or entice the foreign assistance that was essential to it. As the National Reconstruction Commission withdrew to an oversight and regulatory role, its original mandate, to coordinate all economic development efforts, fell in 1931 to another bureaucratic superbody, the National Economic Council (NEC, Quanguo jingji weiyuanhui). The list of its putative powers was impressive and included authority over all publicly financed projects for economic development.[41] But it was above all a vehicle for cooperation with the closest equivalent of Palchinsky's "Tekhintern," the League of Nations.


The League of Nations had been active in an advisory capacity in China in matters of public health since the early 1920s. The director of the Health Section of the League's Secretariat, Dr. Ludwig Rajchman, was the moving spirit behind the League's involvement with China after the formation of the National Government. After 1927 he assisted in the formation of China's National Quarantine Service, which recaptured one area of Chinese administrative control from the Maritime Customs. He suggested a larger program of cooperation by which the League, as a multilateral agency, could supply technical aid without political risk to the National Government.[42] Politics would in fact never be absent from the League mission, which could not be separated from the League's condemnation of the Japanese seizure of Manchuria in 1931. (Rajchman would be cashiered in 1934 as Technical Agent for China for his pro-Chinese sentiments.) It is accurate to say, however, that the League program in China that developed after 1931 was "one of the most purely disinterested aid programs of the twentieth century."[43]

The League's work through the NEC was multifaceted but also limited to certain domains, reflecting the international organization's own definition of development assistance. It was not a World Bank capable of financing industrial infrastructure. Its work in China was defined by the three main League organizations represented in the founding of the NEC: those for health, economics and finance, and communications and transit. They provided advice, technical training, and, to a small degree, loans for experimental projects. In addition the League's Committee on Intellectual Cooperation supported educational and scholarly exchanges. As a group, however, these were categories broad enough to involve League advisers in matters ranging from silkworms to highways to higher education.[44]

The League's economic and finance section was employed by the NEC to promote fundamental reform of sericulture in order to revive one of China's most

important export industries. In Japan, a centralized system of "scientific breeding control," government subsidy, and export promotion had overcome China's former dominance in the world market and produced Japanese silk of a standard quality that was both cheaper and better "than the best Zhejiangese."[45] As the Great Depression took hold in the West between 1928 and 1933, exports of the inferior Chinese product fell by two-thirds. The National Government had promoted reform in the industry since 1927 and had worked with provincial officials to establish a "Commission for the Standardization of Sericulture in Jiangsu and Zhejiang" the following year. In 1932 the national and provincial governments worked with private industrialists to set national quality standards for silk manufacture, with government funding for research, agricultural extension, and inspection. To control a blight affecting Chinese silk larvae and to standardize quality, only silk certified by an official silk control bureau could be sold.[46] That same year, the League's expert, Benito Mari, former chairman of the Italian Association of Sericulture, conducted a survey of the silk industry in five provinces. He gave his international expert's imprimatur to "compulsory Government regulation" of the industry, including "a State monopoly for the control of everything pertaining to the cultivation of mulberry trees, to the preparation of silkworm eggs, to the rearing of silkworm and cocoons and to the price and sale of cocoons."[47] Although the government did not go quite that far, it followed Mari's advice by intruding into the industry in three new ways: the spraying with disinfectant of buildings (mostly private homes) used in silk production; the collectivization of silkworm maturation in temperature-controlled sheds; and, as in Japan, the banning of privately grown silkworm eggs (eggs grown on government-licensed sericultural farms were to be used instead).[48] These regulations were highly unpopular with farmers, who made their feelings known in the Zhejiang Silk Riots of 1933, and were highly effective in improving yield and quality in the counties where they were carried out with determination. Terry M. Weidner, who has studied the effort to regulate the silk industry, concludes that it "went a long way toward righting a troubled industry desperately in need of reform," even if at political cost to the regime.[49]

The most publicized aspect of the League/NEC cooperation was the work of the League of Nations Engineering Mission to China (through the League's Communications and Transit Office) in flood control and water conservancy.[50] Cooperation had begun in principle but not yet in fact when, in the summer of 1931, Yangzi River floods resulted in the deaths of six hundred thousand Chinese. As in the case of the silk industry, the League urged greater centralization and government control of all aspects of water conservancy. (This had been urged, too, by the professional Society of Chinese Water Control Engineers [Zhongguo shuili gongcheng xuehui].) Initial work in flood relief and epidemic prevention (70 percent of the deaths were due to disease and starvation)[51] evolved into an integrated approach to national hydraulic engineering under a centralized Water Conservancy Administration. Apart from this administrative coordination, League expertise was

focused on specific regional projects, notably dike restoration on the Yangzi and its tributaries and on engineering plans for the management of the Huai River. Here, short-term successes were most obvious in what did not happen: League-assisted flood control projects were "so effective that renewed high water in 1935 did little damage."[52] The long-term impact—for example, on interregional coordination of water management projects, experience in dam construction, and the training of Chinese hydraulic engineers—has yet to be researched.[53]

Perhaps the most impressive, and certainly the most extensive, result of the League's Engineering Mission was in the building of highways. Sun Yatsen's vision of "one million miles of road built in a very short time as if by a magic wand"[54] had not yet come to pass, but the fast pace of road building in the 1920s by provincial governments and bus companies provided a foundation for the Nationalists' planned national road network. Whereas in 1920 perhaps as little as 100 miles of improved road (theoretically passable by motor vehicle) existed in the entire country outside the foreign concessions, over 20,000 miles had been built by 1928; that number would reach nearly 40,000 in the first two years of the National Government, with a further 35,000 projected. (Beyond this, in more than thirty large cities, city walls were in the process of being torn down for replacement by motor roads.)[55] The majority of this road building took place under provincial Reconstruction Bureaux: in Zhejiang, for example, the Nanjing era saw the construction of a system of all-weather roads "linking every major political and economic center in the province."[56] For provincial and national officials alike, motor roads were the affordable alternative to a major expansion of the rail system, for which capital and investors were lacking in the early 1930s.[57]

Here again NEC and League engineers urged centralization and standardization. Road engineering standards and traffic laws varied enormously from province to province, often from locality to locality. So did road signs and traffic signals, which were mostly "incomprehensible" anyway.[58] Until 1932 cars licensed in one province could not be driven in another. (After extended negotiations, the provinces of Zhejiang, Anhui, and Jiangsu, as well as the cities of Nanjing and Shanghai, agreed to recognize each other's plates; still, thereafter, cars licensed in one province could travel in another only after paying an additional fee.)[59] Integrated planning began under a new Bureau of Roads, while League and Chinese engineers built experimental roads at different locations with local materials.[60]

It was with great fanfare, therefore, that the Shanghai-Hangzhou Motor Road opened on October 10, 1932, as the first section of the Shanghai-Guangxi Trunk Line, itself part of a planned seven-province, eleven-trunk-line project of approximately 14,000 miles. This was a typical "modern" road of this region, with alignment and grades meeting international standards, built on a foundation of broken brick and surfaced with crushed shells and cinders. Some two hundred automobiles motored that day the seven hours from Shanghai to Hangzhou, some completing the return trip the same day. The road was in fact not quite finished (ready or not, it had to open on National Day), and there were some problems: farmer resistance

to the road was expressed by the building of a stone wall across it; T. V. Soong's party knocked down several confused pedestrians; and in traffic the road proved much dustier than predicted—it would later get a cheap oil coating. But on the whole the venture was declared a great success.[61]

Educating Engineers. All of the League/NEC endeavors had implications for another sector, that of scientific and technical education. Efforts in water conservancy and road construction competed with each other, and with railroads and private industry, for the services of a prize group of Chinese civil engineers from Shanghai's Jiaotong, or Communications, University and a small number of other institutions. In the Nanjing decade the number of Chinese specialists, educated at home or abroad, in the employment of the rail lines had finally sufficed to meet the (political) demand for Chinese leadership in the technical positions formerly held by foreigners;[62] but for new endeavors such as the road network the shortage was such that the League Engineering Mission proposed that the Bureau of Roads train its own engineers in a new Technical Civil Engineering Station.

The centralizing, rationalizing thrust of the League mission was perhaps best expressed in its proposal for a nationwide Employment Bureau for Intellectual and Technical Workers. It aimed to place university graduates in positions where they could "best serve the nation…[while supplying] the Chinese central and provincial administrations, as well as public and private undertakings in the country, with the qualified technical persons required." The bureau would have branch offices in Geneva and the United States coordinating the technical studies of Chinese abroad with their future careers in China.[63] Such a comprehensive bureau never materialized, but the "nationalization" of job placement in specific disciplines would begin in the early years of the war.

More immediately influential were League proposals for a fundamental reform of Chinese higher education to meet the needs of economic development. This was the work of the League program on International Intellectual Cooperation, which had been founded with the noble goal of promoting peace by creating a "universal conscience" through the international exchange of scholars.[64] It was a hard-boiled group, however, that the League dispatched to China in 1931, at the outset of its technical assistance program, to propose (as its two-hundred-page report was titled) The Reorganization of Education in China.[65]

This "Becker Commission," named for its leader, the former Prussian minister of education C. H. Becker, decried the "alarming consequences of the excessive influence of the American model on Chinese education,"[66] by which was meant, above all, the then-prevalent curriculum of electives and "credits," which enhanced general education at the expense of specialized knowledge, and the organization of faculty in departments and colleges, which worked against centralization and oversight. Although arguing against vulgar utilitarianism in education, the report was harshly critical of the lack of central planning for China's hybrid system of public and private, Chinese and foreign, colleges and universities.

Its recommendations aimed to strengthen the state's hand in setting educational agendas. It proposed (not surprisingly, perhaps) a continental-style restructuring—for example, academic chairs in place of departments—to centralize administration, including national-level oversight over chaired appointments; to rationalize geographically and fiscally the system of national (guoli) universities; and to establish a nationwide system of entrance examinations that would permit authorities to channel admissions to specific disciplines.[67] Although Chinese officials resented the public criticism, what Ruth Hayhoe calls the Becker Commission's "authoritarian view of knowledge"[68] found a sympathetic hearing in Nanjing.

Many of the commission's recommendations were adopted over the next three years. Chen Guofu, one of the formulators of Guomindang cultural policy, went even further in proposing in 1932 that in order to "train talent to meet society's needs," China's universities should stop admitting students of the humanities and law for a decade.[69] Serious (if not quite so drastic) reform began that same year under Chen's political protégé, Dr. Zhu Jiahua, who was named minister of education. A German-trained geologist long active in Nationalist developmental policy, Zhu brought to his office both strong scientific and political credentials; he began a restructuring of higher education away from the humanities and social sciences—in which enrollment began to be limited—in favor of science, engineering, and, at the secondary level, vocational training.[70] The 1929 organizational law for Chinese higher education had already required that each university have a school of science, engineering, medicine, or agriculture. Government financial support for these areas now increased markedly. Engineering programs at Jiaotong, National Central, and Qinghua Universities, to name the most prominent, were bolstered in areas of existing strength—civil and mechanical engineering—and supported in the expansion of programs in chemical and electrical engineering. From 1931 to 1936, the percentage of students in fields of science and engineering doubled in government-funded institutions. For the decade as a whole (including the early war years) engineering enrollment trebled. In the same period, the numbers of students enrolled in the arts fell by one-third, and those in law and political science by one-half. These curricular priorities were extended beyond the state sector to private and missionary colleges through a process of regulation and registration that had begun in 1929 but was more consistently enforced after 1932.[71] As Wang Shijie, the former chancellor of Wuhan University who succeeded Zhu as minister of education, would argue, knowledge was to be "harnessed to produce results in connection with the economic development of the country."[72]

The League's influence, like its work in China, was spread over the many different areas in which its Technical Advisory Mission was active. League engineers and funds were focused on specific projects of manageable scale. Their efforts had none of the pretense and grandeur of Sun Yatsen's plan. Never was there articulated a developmental philosophy behind all their activities. There was, however,

a consistent pattern of advice regarding economic, technical, and educational development in favor of a state-managed, centralized approach to economic development emphasizing the promise of scientific and engineering expertise. The League's work could only reinforce the more statist tendencies in the Nanjing regime.

In the end all the League could offer was advice, which the Chinese government could give material form in projects of dam and road construction. The road-building enterprise, ultimately one of the signal material achievements of the Nationalist regime, was predicated on further assumptions regarding China's industrial development, among them—as Sun Yatsen had urged—the creation of a domestic automobile industry. This would be the role of the state-owned China Automobile Manufacturing Company (Zhongguo qiche zhizao gongsi), which began as an assembly operation of diesel trucks on a Daimler-Benz model.[73] To knit China together where roads and railroads could not go would be the task of civil aviation, which by the end of the Nanjing decade, through official joint ventures with Pan American and Lufthansa, would connect China's major cities on regular schedules.[74] Airplanes for these routes were ultimately to have been made in China, by another Sino-foreign joint venture, the China Air Materials Construction Company (Zhongguo hangkong qicai zhizao gongsi).[75] To give China the capacity to produce its own industries, machines, and tools on a world-class scale was the aim of still more ambitious joint ventures: to build a Central Steel Works, a Central Machine Works, and indeed an entire "new industrial center" of state-owned firms in central China.[76] These were to be the driving forces of what by the mid-1930s was increasingly called a "controlled" (tongzhi) economy. All this ambition was in the true spirit of Sun Yatsen. To manage it, however, required a rather different kind of government official than he could have imagined.


Neither the National Reconstruction Commission, in its emphasis on regulation and licensing, nor the National Economic Council, whose efforts concentrated almost exclusively on areas of cooperation with the League of Nations mission, had the independent capacity to lead China's economic development, let alone realize Sun Yatsen's extravagant plans. The same could be said of the National Research Institute (Zhongyang yanjiuyuan, or Academia Sinica), which had been conceived by Sun Yatsen as a scientific academy in the service of the state, but which had no straightforward policy function.[77]

The lack of unified direction did not indicate a lack of talent or expertise. It may be that the policy confusion so apparent to contemporary observers—and explained by later scholars in terms of the "cliques" and "factions" of a terminally disorganized regime—was in part the result of a certain degree of success in the creation of new state institutions to manage a modern economy.[78] Scholars who have worked in the archives of the Nanjing-era Ministries of Railroads and Finance,

for example, have stressed their high degree of technical professionalism and bureaucratization.[79] The official vocabulary for public officials was reformed to reflect areas of competence and to emphasize the interchangeability of individuals: hence the proliferation of terms such as xingzheng renyuan (administrative personnel), caizheng renyuan (financial personnel), and zhiyuan (professional staff) of all sorts.[80] In the mid-1930s a strong "administrative efficiency" movement in Nanjing's ministries, stressing the "scientificization" (kexuehua) of administration and the professionalization of civil service, reflected trends already present in the more technically demanding ministries, such as those of Industry and Finance, which made increasing use of standards set by the Ministry of Personnel and the Examination Yuan in their recruitment procedures.[81] These may have remained, as Julia Strauss has argued, "strong institutions in a weak polity."[82] Indeed their success as professional bureaucracies appears to have been directly related to their degree of insulation from political processes. Among public officials, the perceived gap between political generalists (wenguan, zhengwuguan) and technical, or functional, specialists (gongzhi renyuan, shiwu renyuan) was very large.[83] It follows, then, that these very "modern" and increasingly specialized institutions were not easily mobilized for priorities set by political leadership and were ill suited to interministerial cooperation. (Perhaps this is one reason that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to take a quite different example, which Strauss finds to be "one of the best institutionalized state organizations across the entirety of the Republican period,"[84] earned a high reputation for professionalism while having almost nothing to do with the formulation of foreign policy.)

The growth of specialized bureaucracies reflected the ever greater availability of university and technical school graduates—furthered by the educational reforms of 1932—and their gradual incorporation into government service. It mirrored, too, the participation of professional associations in policy formulation. Take the case of engineers.

A Chinese Society of Engineers (Zhonghua gongchengshi xuehui) had been formed in 1912 with 148 members under Zhan Tianyou (Jeme Tien Yau), the daring chief engineer for the Beijing-Zhangjiakou railroad (completed in 1909), which was the most famous and difficult line built entirely under Chinese auspices.[85] The Society's work of establishing the field in China, standardizing engineering education, and promoting a nationalistic agenda was augmented by the activities of the Chinese Engineering Society (Zhongguo gongcheng xuehui), founded at Cornell University in 1918 by Chinese pursuing advanced engineering studies in the United States. The merger of these two groups in 1931 formed a new Chinese Society of Engineers (Zhongguo gongchengshi xuehui) with some 2,300 members; by 1948 its membership would reach 14,000. The drive toward professional autonomy and self-regulation that had marked the earlier engineering associations gradually gave way to greater cooperation with, and reliance on, the state that now educated and certified engineers.[86] Throughout the period of the National Government, the Society took as its central purposes the development of the Chinese engineering industry

and the realization of Sun Yatsen's Industrial Plan.[87] Its thirteen research groups were headed by leading engineers mostly already in government, such as Shen Yi, chief of public works for the Shanghai municipality, and Yun Zhen, the head of electrical engineering for the National Reconstruction Commission. Over time their work (and indeed the careers of many of them) would be incorporated in and become indistinguishable from the work of the new National Resources Commission, the engineers' stronghold in the National Government.[88]

From Industrial Policy to War Economy. The National Resources Commission stands out as the most comprehensive attempt to apply science and engineering to government work and the unfinished task of "reconstruction." It can be distinguished from other agencies of its day in that it became a highly professional, bureaucratized, politically insulated institution that also served the immediate interests of state leadership. Simply put, the National Resources Commission (NRC) was born of a redefinition of "reconstruction" to favor producer industries and national defense. In the aftermath of the Japanese seizure of Manchuria, industrial policy, which had ranged from electrification to reform in the silk industry, became identical with military-industrial development. China's "international development" came to mean cultivation of the kind of international economic relationships capable of rendering China militarily and industrially self-sufficient—or at least able to defend itself—through the domestic production of steel, machinery, arms, trucks, aircraft, and electrical equipment in the interior.[89]

The aims and methods of the new agency were clear enough in nomenclature: the NRC began in 1932 as a "National Defense Planning Commission" (Guofang sheji weiyuanhui), a team of leading scientists and engineers who built on the research of the Society of Engineers to design defense-related industries. It would become a large bureaucracy controlling most of a growing state industrial sector and the trade mechanisms affecting Sino-foreign cooperation, because, as its later renaming (in 1935) indicates, it was empowered to survey and exploit Chinese natural resources, particularly ores and minerals, for national development and international exchange.[90] Through barter-credit exchanges, it was able to import whole plants and provide for the international training of personnel for its Central Steel Works, Central Copper Works, Central Machine Works, and Central Electrical Manufacturing Works, among other state-owned enterprises.[91]

If the managed economies of interwar Europe were to a considerable degree an elaboration of the experience of the "war economies" in the First World War, [92] the reorganization and growth of economic bureaucracy in China in the mid-1930s was above all preparation for the Second. From a longer perspective this should not surprise us, as military agendas were never far removed from industrial plans in the late Qing and early Republic. What is in retrospect astonishing is that they were almost entirely absent as the rationale for Sun Yatsen's Industrial Plan and very understated in early Nanjing-era reconstruction efforts. But many of those

plans (for example, for roads, railroads, and electrification) had important military dimensions and would be continued under the new industrial bureaucracy. Thus the concept of a massive hydroelectric power station in the Yangzi Gorges—one that might serve a relocated regime in wartime—received its first scientific survey under the Defense Planning Commission in 1932.[93]

The strength and endurance of this bureaucracy over two decades (it became China's largest employer, apart from the army, and outlasted its predecessors, competitors, and even the regime) and the rise of its leaders to high political positions were due to its mission, deemed indispensable to national survival, and to a technocratic arrogance based upon unchallengeable expertise.[94] Led by a respected, incorruptible, and crusty scholar, the geologist Weng Wenhao—who also served as president of the Society of Chinese Engineers—the National Resources Commission was better degreed and otherwise academically certified than any other part of government. In making its first recruits in 1932–33, its National Specialized Talent Investigation Committee compiled data on eighty thousand specialized personnel in China and abroad for potential service in state industry, part of which was later circulated as a "Who's Who of Chinese Engineers." Over the next two decades, as it gained control—through industrial construction and a series of nationalizations—of some 70 percent of all Chinese industry, it would serve as the employer of first choice for a generation of Chinese engineers. It in turn was served by an increasingly complex matrix of science and engineering, recruiting its employees from a science-oriented system of higher education and entering into cooperative research relationships with Beijing, Qinghua, Nankai, and Jiaotong Universities.

In the prewar as in the war years, the NRC was a form of "national service" for Chinese engineers. But quite apart from patriotic motives, in a period of economic depression and government intrusion in the private sector, the NRC was an engineer's salvation. Those hired were paid better (on the same scale as management) and lived under more protected circumstances than employees of any part of the Chinese government. For the NRC was not just a de facto ministry of industry and planning. Its enterprises became comprehensive danwei, or work units, and called themselves such. Housing, dining, shopping, schooling (for employees and their children), banking, recreation, and health facilities were provided for engineers and workers alike. Opportunities for study and internships abroad were available, particularly to junior engineers. Engineers would pursue their work in isolation from the "partification" (danghua) efforts of the Guomindang party-state. Their enterprises would be without party branches until 1943 and under only nominal party supervision thereafter.[95]

Chinese engineers shared with their professional counterparts in other nations a "configuration of faith in science, technology, nationalism and industrialism."[96] To a certain degree NRC engineers, like their predecessors in the National Reconstruction Commission and National Economic Council, played the role, in the Nationalist state, of the tekhnicheskaia intelligentsia of the early Soviet Union, the applied

scientists, engineers, and agronomists who comprised the new elite that Kendall Bailes calls the "technostructure" of the state.[97] This was not at the margin of the state but essential to its purposes. In China, the eventual linkage of "reconstruction" with national security promised to strengthen the security of state and nation while broadly promoting the development of economic infrastructure. The achievements of Nationalist engineers and planners (as in the NRC-orchestrated removal of Chinese industry to the interior at the beginning of the war) and even their unrealized ambitions (as in the revival, with much ballyhoo, of the Three Gorges Dam Project in the 1940s) would lend prestige and a certain legitimacy to the government that sponsored them. Above all China's engineers were essential to Nationalist China's survival in an eight-year war against a technologically superior enemy.[98]


The new National Government had sought to control China's progress from the center; one should try sometime to count the extraordinary number of party and government institutions founded in 1927–28 that began with the term zhongyang, or "central." But in considering the Nanjing regime as an embryonic "developmental state," there is no pretending that a single or coherent developmental strategy existed until the overwhelming threat of war brought military-economic considerations to the center. Over forty years ago Douglas Paauw summed up, quite accurately, the Nationalist approach as one emphasizing "some aspects of the technological preconditions for economic growth."[99] What also existed, however, was an ethos of optimism, not describable or even rational in economic terms, that China could be remade physically, and indirectly economically, by the planned application of international technology under the leadership of homegrown scientific and technical talent. For the new National Government after 1927, economic planning was not just policy: it was gospel and ritual. All arms of government were believers and practitioners. There was, in Sun Yatsen's Industrial Plan, a centrally distributed catechism, but no GOSPLAN. But there was the spirit—captured well in an international textbook of the period—that planning, with its "philosophical faith in the power of scientific research and constructive imagination," offered "a new mode of feeling, life, and living."[100]

"Constructive imagination" was certainly at the heart of Sun's grand project, which proved at once an inspiration and, because it could not possibly be realized, a burden to the National Government. Yet this was a burden undertaken cheerfully by a young and talented (at minimum, well-certified) government that, like Sun, dared to think big: to plan a stunning national capital; to electrify the country and dam the Gorges; to tie the country together in networks of roads; and to build overnight the nation's heavy industries.

The effort to accomplish even part of this required more than Promethean values. It compelled an ideal of professionalism (zhiye zhuyi) in the central government

of a kind that only recently had asserted itself in municipal and provincial affairs.[101] The Nanjing government's very partial success in its economic development plans should not conceal the fact that, in the effort, the purpose and makeup of China's central government underwent an important change. National economic development was now the responsibility of the government—one it would ultimately take seriously enough that it would regulate, control, and finally nationalize almost all industry. The private sphere of economic life was correspondingly constricted. Within the regime, bureaucratic superagencies created to manage the economy, such as the National Reconstruction Commission, National Economic Council, and National Resources Commission (which over time absorbed the projects and personnel of all the others), would create an enduring civilian government in which engineers—those who wanted to build things, get things done—would prevail over economists, who knew how little the government could afford. These institutional foundations and policy preferences would survive largely intact on both sides of the Taiwan Strait at least until the late 1950s.[102]

Lenin had once looked forward to the "very happy time" when politics would "recede into the background" while engineers and agronomists would "do most of the talking."[103] This would occur in neither Russia nor China. By 1937, however, when the Japanese rolled into Nanjing on the new Shanghai-Nanjing road, the retreating Chinese government was quite different from the partyled army that had marched north from Canton a decade earlier. It still was no "technocracy," if by that term we mean a government under the political rule of technical elites.[104] Yet an army of engineers now moved with the seat of government upriver, to Chongqing.



AH Academia Historica, Taiwan
AS Academia Sinica, Taiwan
CASS Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Beijing
GYZL Zhongguo jindai gongyeshi ziliao [Materials on the modern history of Chinese industry],
ed. Chen Zhen. Beijing: Sanlien shudian, 1961.
IMH Institute of Modern History
NA National Archives, Washington, D.C.
NRC National Resources Commission archives
PAC Party Archives Commission of the Guomindang, Taiwan
SASS Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences Documentary Collection
SDN Société des Nations [League of Nations] archives, Geneva
SHA Second Historical Archives of China, Nanjing

1. Loren R. Graham, The Ghost of the Executed Engineer: Technology and the Fall of the Soviet Union (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1993), 43. Friends convinced Palchinsky not to mail this letter, but his ideas became well-known. [BACK]


2. The quote is from Wen-hsin Yeh's introduction to this volume. [BACK]

3. Sun Yatsen, The International Development of China (1922; reprint, Taipei: Sino-American Publishing, 1953), 191. [BACK]

4. Thomas G. Rawski, Economic Growth in Prewar China (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1989), 116. [BACK]

5. On the culture of urban progressivism in the provinces, see Kristin Stapleton, Civilizing Chengdu: Chinese Urban Reform, 1895–1937 (Cambridge: Harvard University Asia Center, forthcoming). [BACK]

6. Sun, International Development, 192. [BACK]

7. T'ang Leangli, Reconstruction in China (Shanghai: China United Press, 1935). [BACK]

8. The quote is from Sun, preface to International Development, v. Generally, see Michael R. Godley, "Socialism with Chinese Characteristics: Sun Yatsen and the International Development of China," Australian Journal of Chinese Affairs, no. 18 (July 1987): 109–25. [BACK]

9. See ibid., 119. [BACK]

10. For a review of Republican-era research on Sun's plans, see Zhong Shaohua, "Zhongshan shiye jihua yu Zhongguo xiandaihua" [Sun Yatsen's Industrial Plan and China's modernization (Sun Yatsen University, Gaoxiong)], Zhongshan shehui kexue jikan [Sun Yatsen social science quarterly] 5, no. 4 (December 1990): 134–48. [BACK]

11. Richard Louis Edmonds, "The Legacy of Sun Yatsen's Railway Plans," China Quarterly 111 (September 1987): 442. [BACK]

12. Sun, International Development, 66–67; Hong Qingyu, "A Review of the Work during the Early Stages of the Three Gorges Project," in Megaproject: A Case Study of China's Three Gorges Project, ed. Shiu-hung Luk and Joseph Whitney (New York: M. E. Sharpe, 1993). For contemporary debates see Dai Qing et al., Yangtze! Yangtze!, ed. Patricia Adams and John Thibodeau (London: Earthscan, 1994). [BACK]

13. Li Peng, final lines from his "Qinyuan Chun" [Ode to a great river], presented on the occasion of the formal beginning of work on the Three Gorges Project, quoted in Xinmin wanbao (December 15, 1994). [BACK]

14. Lin Jiayou, "Shilun Sun Zhongshan zhenxing Zhongguo shangyede jingji sixiang ji qi yanbian" [The evolution of Sun Yatsen's economic thought regarding the revitalization of China's commerce], Minguo yanjiu [Republican research] 1, no. 1 (1994): 37. [BACK]

15. Jiang Jiwei, "Jishu yu zhengzhi" [Technology and politics], in Xuexi [Study] no. 16 (1957): 12, cited in Li Cheng and Lynn White, "Elite Transformation and Modern Change in Mainland China and Taiwan: Empirical Data and the Theory of Technocracy," China Quarterly, no. 121 (March 1990). [BACK]

16. William C. Kirby, "The Nationalist Regime and the Chinese Party-State, 1928–1958," in Contemporary East Asia in Historical Perspective, ed. Merle Goldman and Andrew Gordon (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2000). [BACK]

17. The term "developmental state" is appropriated from Chalmers Johnson's study of Japanese industrial policy of the same and later periods, and is used to stress a common grounding in nineteenth-century continental European neomercantilist conceptions, which, in the Chinese case, combined with inherited traditions of state economic regulation and international models of economic intervention in the 1920s and 1930s to define very broadly the economic purposes of the Nationalist regime. See Johnson, MITI and the Japanese Miracle: The Growth of Industrial Policy, 1925–1975 (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1982), 17 ff. This is not to dispute the contention of Douglas Reynolds that the institutional transformation of the Chinese state dates from the xinzheng (New Policy) reforms of

the early twentieth century (see his China, 1898–1912: The Xinzheng Revolution and Japan [Cambridge, Mass.: Council on East Asian Studies, 1993]), but to suggest a selfconscious, developmental mission on the part of the Nationalist regime that distinguishes it from its predecessors. On the Nationalist party-state as the political precondition of its Communist successor, see Robert E. Bedeski, State-Building in Modern China: The Kuomintang in the Prewar Period (Berkeley: Center for Chinese Studies, University of California at Berkeley, 1981). [BACK]

18. Glenn Babb, "Nanking—a City with a Past and a Future," Weekly Review 25, no. 11 (August 11, 1923): 36, cited in Maryruth Coleman, "Municipal Politics in Nationalist China: Nanjing, 1927–1937" (Ph.D. diss., Harvard University, 1984), 1. [BACK]

19. See Iris Chang, The Rape of Nanking (New York: Basic Books, 1997). [BACK]

20. T'ang Leangli, Reconstruction, 330. [BACK]

21. Coleman, "Municipal Politics," 252. [BACK]

22. Ibid. [BACK]

23. Ibid., 18. [BACK]

24. Guodu sheji jishu zhuanyuan banshichu [Office of Technical Experts for Planning the National Capital], comp., Shoudu jihua [Plan for the capital] (Nanjing: Guodu sheji jishu zhuanyuan banshichu, 1929). [BACK]

25. Ibid., 25–32. [BACK]

26. Ibid., passim. The quotations are from Min-Ch'ien T. Z. Tyau, ed., Two Years of Nationalist China (Shanghai: Kelly and Walsh, 1930), 389–94; see also Coleman, "Municipal Politics," 252–54. The restoration of the Ming city wall—without a highway atop it— would not begin until 1995. New China News Agency report 16 May 1995. [BACK]

27. Coleman, "Municipal Politics," 254. [BACK]

28. As in the case of the Chinese city in Shanghai, which quickly followed Nanjing's model, city planners and public works officials tended to be young university graduates who were "enthusiastic and generally honest." See Christian Henriot, Shanghai, 1927–1937 (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1993), 170. [BACK]

29. Tyau, Two Years, 389, 396–98. [BACK]

30. The quote is from Barry Till, In Search of Old Nanjing (Hong Kong: Joint Publishing Company, 1982), 203. Generally, on the physical state of Nanjing and its official structures in the Nanjing decade, see Xin Nanjing [New Nanjing] (Nanjing: Nanjing shi zhengfu, 1933); Chen Jimin, ed., Minguo guanfu [Republican government offices] (Hong Kong: Jinling shu chubanshe, 1992); and "Nanjing shi zhi jingji jianshe" [Economic development of Nan-jing], in Shinianlai zhi Zhongguo jingji jianshe [China's economic development in the past ten years], comp. Zhongyang dangbu guomin jingji jihua weiyuanhui [Commission on national economic planning of the Central Committee] (Nanjing, 1937). [BACK]

31. Wang Shuhuai, "Jianshe weiyuanhui dui Zhongguo dianqi shiye de guihua" [The National Reconstruction Commission's planning for China's electric power industry] (paper presented to the Conference on the Centennial of Sun Yatsen's Founding of the Kuomintang for Revolution, Taipei, 1994), 5. [BACK]

32. The quote is from ibid., 5. [BACK]

33. V. I. Lenin, "Report of the All-Russia Central Executive Committee and the Council of People's Commissars on the Home and Foreign Policy to the Eighth All-Russia Congress of Soviets," 22 December 1920, reprinted in V. I. Lenin: Selected Works in Three Volumes, vol. 3 (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1977), 461. [BACK]

34. For a selection of Sun's comments on the topic, see Wang Shuhuai, "Jianshe weiyuanhui dui Zhongguo dianqi shiye de guihua," 3–4. [BACK]


35. Yun Chen, "Dianqi wang" [Electrical power network], Jianshe yuekan, no. 9 (October 1930): 37. [BACK]

36. Tyau, Two Years, 289. [BACK]

37. This map unveiling took place at a party congress in 1920. See Alec Nove, An Economic History of the U.S.S.R. (New York: Penguin, 1969), 71. [BACK]

38. Tyau, Two Years, 287; Wang Shuhuai, "Jianshe weiyuanhui dui Zhongguo dianqi shiye de guihua," 10–11; Jianshe weiyuanhui gongzuo jiyao [Summary of the work of the National Reconstruction Commission] (Nanjing: Jianshe weiyuanhui, 1929). [BACK]

39. G. E. Hubbard, Eastern Industrialization and Its Effect on the West (London: Oxford University Press, 1938), 209. [BACK]

40. See William C. Kirby, "China, Unincorporated: Company Law and Business Enterprise in Twentieth-Century China," Journal of Asian Studies 54, no. 1 (February 1995): 43–63. [BACK]

41. SHA 44(2) 78, Chin Fen, "The National Economic Council" (March 1935), 1. [BACK]

42. F. P. Walters, A History of the League of Nations, vol. 1 (Oxford: Oxford University Press), 1952. [BACK]

43. Cheryl Payer, "Western Economic Assistance to Nationalist China, 1927–1937" (Ph.D. diss., Harvard University, 1971), 9. [BACK]

44. Generally on the League-NEC endeavors, see SHA 44(1719), "Quanguo jingji weiyuanhui gongzuo baogao" [Reports of the work of the National Economic Council], 1934–1937; Zhang Li, "Yijiusanling niandai Zhongguo yu Guolian de jishu hezuo" [China's technical cooperation with the League of Nations during the 1930s], Zhongyang yanjiuyuan jindaishi yanjiusuo jikan [Quarterly of the Institute of Modern History of the Academia Sinica], no. 15 (December 1986): 381–414; Tzehsiun Kuo, "Technical Cooperation between China and Geneva," Information Bulletin 1, no. 6 (July 1936); Lau-King Quan, China's Relations with the League of Nations, 1919–1936 (Hong Kong: Asiatic Litho Press, 1939); Norbert Meienberger, Entwicklungshilfe under dem Völkerbund. Ein Beitrag zur Geschichte der internationalen Zusammenarbeit in der Zwischenkriegszeit unter besonderer Berücksichtigung der technischen Hilfe an China (Wintherthur, 1965); Jürgen Osterhammel, "‘Technical Cooperation’ between the League of Nations and China," Modern Asian Studies 13, no. 4 (1979): 661–80; Tao Siu, "L'Oeuvre du Conseil National Economique Chinois" (Ph.D. diss., L'Université de Nancy, 1936). [BACK]

45. Terry M. Weidner, "Local Political Work under the Nationalists: The 1930's Silk Reform Campaign," Illinois Papers in Asian Studies, no. 2 (1983): 67. See also Lillian Li, China's Silk Trade: Traditional Industry in the Modern World (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1981), 200. [BACK]

46. Weidner, "Local Political Work," 70. [BACK]

47. Benito Mari, "Summary Report on an Enquiry on the Reorganization of Chinese Sericulture," annex no. 7 in Annexes to the Report to the Council of the League of Nations of Its Technical Delegate on His Mission in China from Date of Appointment until April 1, 1934 (Nanjing, 1934), 231. [BACK]

48. SHA 44(1719), "Quanguo jingji weiyuanhui gongzuo baogao" [Report of the work of the National Economic Council], 1937, 33–40; SHA 44(2) 78, Chin Fen, "The National Economic Council," 67–70; Lau-King Quan, China's Relations, 219–26; Tao Siu, "L'Oeuvre," 73–77. [BACK]

49. Weidner, "Local Political Work," 79. [BACK]

50. See SDN, General 50/R5669–71, Reports of the Engineering Mission of the League of Nations in China, 1932–35. [BACK]


51. Osterhammel, "‘Technical Cooperation,’" 667; J. L. Buck, The 1931 Floods in China (Nanking: Department of Agricultural Economics of the University of Nanking), 1932. [BACK]

52. Arthur Young, China's Nation-Building Effort, 1927–1937: The Financial and Economic Record (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1971), 347. See also 376–86. [BACK]

53. On the maze of regional interests involved in water management, see David Pietz, "The Huai River and Statebuilding in 20th-Century China" (Ph.D. diss., Washington University, 1998). [BACK]

54. Sun, International Development, 192. [BACK]

55. See A. Viola Smith and Anselm Chuh, Motor Roads in China, U.S. Department of Commerce Trade Promotion series no. 120 (Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1931), 2–3, 7, 20 ff. [BACK]

56. Noel Miner, "Chekiang: The Nationalists' Effort in Agrarian Reform and Construction" (Ph.D. diss., Stanford University, 1973), 237. Miner disputes the economic utility of the roads in a curious argument that implies that "passenger traffic," which dominated road use, had no economic value. [BACK]

57. On the economics of roads vs. railroads in China, see Smith and Chuh, Motor Roads, 3–4. [BACK]

58. SDN, General 50/R5669–71, "Engineering Mission of the League of Nations in China, Report No. 7," 7 September 1932, p. 3. [BACK]

59. SDN, General 50/R5669–71, "Engineering Mission of the League of Nations in China, Report No. 8," 19 October 1932, p. 4 and appendix. [BACK]

60. For a review of highway building work through 1935, see SHA 44(1719), "Quanguo jingji weiyuanhui gongzuo baogao" [Report of the work of the National Economic Council], 1935. [BACK]

61. SDN, General 50/R5669–71, report of 19 October 1932, p. 1; report of 10 December 1932, appendix: "Highway Inspection Trip to Hunan Province"; SHA 44(2) 78, Chin Fen, "The National Economic Council," 6–14. [BACK]

62. On the position of some seven hundred Jiaotong graduates in the railway industry, see Chang Juiteh, "Technology Transfer in Modern China: The Case of Railway Enterprise (1876–1937)," Modern Asian Studies (1992). [BACK]

63. SDN, General 50/R5721, "Scheme for the Establishment of an Employment Bureau for Intellectual and Technical Workers." [BACK]

64. "China and International Intellectual Cooperation," Information Bulletin [Council of International Affairs, Nanking] 2, no. 1 (11 September 1936): 1–2. For a broader context see Akira Iriye, Cultural Internationalism and World Order (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997), 60–64. [BACK]

65. C. H. Becker et al., The Reorganization of Education in China (Paris: League of Nations Institute of Intellectual Cooperation, 1932). [BACK]

66. Becker et al., Reorganization, 25. Becker was also an orientalist of some note. Other members of the commission were the French Communist Paul Langevin, from the Collège de France; M. Falsky, a Polish specialist in primary education; and R. H. Tawney of the London School of Economics, who used his time in China well, completing the study published as Land and Labor in China (London, 1932; reprint, Boston: Beacon Press, 1962). [BACK]

67. Becker et al., Reorganization, passim; Ernst Neugebauer, Anfänge pädagogische Entwicklungshilfe under dem Völkerbund in China, 1931 bis 1935 (Hamburg: Institut für Asienkunde, 1971); Ruth E. S. Hayhoe, "China's Higher Curricular Reform in Historical Perspective," China Quarterly, no. 110 (June 1987): 202–3. [BACK]


68. Details of the official response are well set out in Stefan Knirsch, "Reformen im chinesischen Erziehungswesen in der Nanjing-Ära" (Magisterarbeit, Albert-Ludwigs-Universität, Freiburg, 1995); Hayhoe, "China's Higher Curricular Reform," 203. [BACK]

69. Chen Guofu, "Gaige jiaoyu chubu fangan" [Draft plan for the reform of education], in Chen Guofu xiansheng quanji (Taipei: Zheng Zhong shuju, 1952), 169. [BACK]

70. Zhu Jiahua, Jiuge yue lai jiaoyubu zhengli quanguo jiaoyu zhi shuoming [Explanation of the Ministry of Education's reform of national education in the past nine months] (Nanjing, 1932). [BACK]

71. See the excellent discussion of this process in James Reardon-Anderson, The Study of Change: Chemistry in China, 1840–1949 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991), 208–29; Hayhoe, "China's Higher Curricular Reform," 402. [BACK]

72. Wang Shijie, "Education," in The Chinese Yearbook, 1937 (Shanghai: Commercial Press, 1937), 1032. [BACK]

73. Gyzl, 3:1102–3. [BACK]

74. See William M. Leafy Jr., The Dragon's Wings: The China National Aviation Corporation and the Development of Commercial Aviation in China (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1976), 13–16; Bodo Wiethoff, Luftverkehr in China, 1928–1949 (Wiesbaden: O. Harrassowitz, 1975), 104–31; Jack C. Young, "Joint Venture and Licensing in Civil Aviation: A Sino-American Perspective," Stanford Journal of International Studies 15 (1979): 253. [BACK]

75. AH, 2–12.02.I, file, "Zhongguo hangkong qicai zhizao gongsi" [China Air Materials Construction Company] (1934–37); GYZL, 3:921. [BACK]

76. SASS, Ministry of Industry file, "Gongye zhongxin" [Industrial center]: "Guoying gangtiechang" [State-run iron-and steelworks] Ministry of Industry report, August 1932; "Benbu yinianlai choushe guoying gongye gaikuang" [Overview of this ministry's preparations for state-run industry in the past year], March 1933; "Shiyebu chouban guoying gongye" [Ministry of Industry preparations for state-run industries], 1936; GYZL, 3:790–93. [BACK]

77. Guoli Zhongyang yanjiuyuan shiqi niandu zong baogao [Annual report of the Academia Sinica (1928)] (Nanjing: Zhongyang yanjiuyuan, 1929); Lin Wenzhao, "Zhongyang yanjiuyuan de choubei jingguo" [Preparatory process of the establishment of the Academia Sinica], Zhongguo keji shiliao [Historical materials of Chinese science and technology] 9, no. 2 (1988): 70–73; Lin Wenzhao, "Zhongyang yanjiuyuan gaishu" [General description of the Academia Sinica] in Zhongguo keji shiliao [Historical materials of Chinese science and technology] 6, no. 2 (1985): 21–31. An important new study is Shiwei Chen, "Government and Academy in Republican China: History of the Academia Sinica, 1927–1949" (Ph.D. diss., Harvard University, 1998). [BACK]

78. On cliques, see, for example, Hungmao Tien, Government and Politics in Kuomintang China, 1927–1937 (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1972), 45–72. [BACK]

79. Zhang Ruide [Chang Juiteh], Zhongguo jindai tielu shiye guanli de yanjiu [Research on modern Chinese railway management] (Nangang: Zhongyang yanjiuyuan jindaishi suo, 1991); Julia Strauss, Strong Institutions in Weak Polities: State Building in Republican China, 1927–1940 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1998). [BACK]

80. Julia Strauss, "Wenguan (‘Lettered Official’), Gongwuyuan (‘Public Servant’) and Ganbu (‘Cadre’): The Politics of Labelling State Administrators in Republican China," Indiana East Asian Working Paper Series on Language and Politics in Modern China, no. 6 (July 1995). [BACK]

81. Strauss, Strong Institutions, 42. [BACK]

82. Ibid. [BACK]


83. Strauss, "Wenguan." [BACK]

84. Strauss, Strong Institutions, 167. [BACK]

85. Zhong Shaohua, "Zhongguo gongchengshi xuehui jianshi" [Brief history of the Chinese Society of Engineers] (manuscript, 1987); Ralph Heunemann, The Dragon and the Iron Horse (Cambridge: Council on East Asian Studies, Harvard University, 1984), 69–70. [BACK]

86. In this, the history of Chinese engineering associations would more closely resemble European than American professional associations. On comparative methodological approaches, see Charles E. McClelland, The German Experience of Professionalization (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991), 21; Magali S. Larson, The Rise of Professionalism: A Sociological Analysis (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1977); and Hans Hesse, Beruf und Wandel. Ein Beitrag zum Problem der Professionalisierung (Stuttgart: Enke, 1968). [BACK]

87. Indeed the first suborganization established by the Society was its "Committee for Carrying Out Sun Yatsen's Industrial Development Plan." See Zhong Shaohua, "Zhongguo gongchengshi xuehui jianshi." [BACK]

88. Zhong Shaohua, "Zhongshan shiye jihua yu Zhongguo xiandaihua" [Sun Yatsen's Industrial Plan and China's modernization], Zhongshan shehui kexue jikan [Sun Yatsen social science quarterly (Sun Yatsen University, Gaoxiong)] 5, no. 4 (1990): 134–48; Zhong Shaohua, "Sanshi zhi sishi niandai dui Zhongshan shiye jihua de zhuanmen yanjiu" [Specialized research on Sun Yatsen's industrial plan in the 1930s and 1940s], Beijing shehui kexue [Beijing social science], no. 4 (1986): 107–9. [BACK]

89. See SHA 28(5965), "Zhonggongye jianshe jihua shuomingshu" [Explanation of the plan for heavy industries] (1936). On individual enterprises see Ziyuan weiyuanhui yuekan [NRC monthly] 1, no. 2 (June 1939): 85–100, 158–59, 337; 1, no. 3 (July 1939): 163–66; 2, no. 1 (January 1940): 37 ff; Lianqing zongbu [Combined Services Forces] Library, Taipei, materials on arsenal development filed as "Guofang gongye ji wuqi fazhan" [National defense industries and armaments development] (Taipei, n.d.); CASS, Ziyuan weiyuanhui zongyang jiqichang jianshi [Short history of the NRC's Central Machine Works] (NRC internal draft history, November 1940); SHA, 28(5965) 3, "Guanyu choushe Xiangtan zhongyang gangtiechang zhi bangyue" [On the agreement to establish the Central Steel Works at Xiangtan], June 1936. On the selection of sites for the "national defense center," see Wang Dezhong, "Lun Woguo kangzhang ‘guofang zhongxin’ de xuanze yu xingcheng" [On the selection and formation of the "national defense center" during the war of resistance], Minguo dang'an [Republican archives], no. 1 (1995): 62–70. [BACK]

90. SASS, NRC 47 (4) 0007, Weng Wenhao, "Guofang sheji weiyuanhui zhi mudi ji shuoming" [Goals and clarification of the National Defense Planning Commission], December 1932; SASS, NRC 47 (2) 0018, Weng Wenhao, "Guofang gongye chubu jihua caoan, 1933–1934" [Draft preliminary plan for national defense industry]; SHA 47(32) "Canmo benbu Guofang sheji weiyuanhui mishuting gongzuo baogao" [Work report by the secretariat of the National Defense Planning Commission under the general staff (for 1934)]. [BACK]

91. The fullest documentary description is in SHA 28(5965), "Zhonggongye jianshe ji-hua shuomingshu" [Explanation of the plan for heavy industries] (1936). [BACK]

92. William McNeill, The Pursuit of Power: Technology, Armed Force, and Society since A.D. 1000 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1982), 345. [BACK]

93. Hong Qingyu, "Sanxia gongcheng qianqi gongzuo" [Early stages of the Three Gorges Project], Zhongguo keji shiliao [Historical materials of Chinese science and technology]

8, no. 3 (1987): 3–10; Huang Shangzuo, "Minguo shiqi kaifa changjiang sanxia shuili ziliao chouhua shimo" [Complete story of planning the Three Gorges project in the Republican era], Zhongguo keji shiliao [Historical materials of Chinese science and technology] 5, no. 3 (1984): 19–27. [BACK]

94. See William Kirby, "Continuity and Change in Modern China: Chinese Economic Planning on the Mainland and on Taiwan, 1943–1958," Australian Journal of Chinese Affairs 24 (July 1990). [BACK]

95. Author's interviews with Qian Changzhao, Cao Liying, Yun Zhen, Sun Yunxuan, Huang Hui, Xie Peihe, 1988–93. See, for example, Xiangtan dianjichang, 1936–1986 [Xiangtan electrical machinery plant, 1936–1986] (Xiangtan: Yiangtan dianjichang, 1986), 1–5, a fifty-year retrospective; Zheng Youkui et al., Jiu Zhongguo Ziyuan weiyuanhui [NRC of Old China] (Shanghai: Shanghai shehui kexueyuan, 1991), 302–15; and also Xue Yuexun, "Ziyuan weiyuanhui de rencai peixun" [NRC's nurturing of talent], Guoshiguan guankan [Journal of the Academia Historica], no. 50, 183–214. [BACK]

96. See Kees Gispen, New Profession, Old Order: Engineers and German Society (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989), 49. [BACK]

97. Kendall E. Bailes, Technology and Society under Lenin and Stalin: Origins of the Soviet Technical Intelligentsia, 1917–1941 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1978), 15, 418. On engineering and social mobility in the U.S.S.R. (which would make an intriguing study in the Chinese case) see Harley Balzer, "Engineers: The Rise and Decline of a Social Myth," in Science and the Soviet Social Order, ed. Loren R. Graham (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1990), 141–67. [BACK]

98. William Kirby, "The Chinese War Economy: Mobilization, Control, and Planning in Nationalist China," in China's Bitter Victory: The War with Japan, 1937–1945, ed. Steven I. Levine and James C. Hsiung (New York: M. E. Sharpe, 1992). [BACK]

99. Douglas S. Paauw, "The KMT and Economic Stagnation, 1928–1937," Journal of Asian Studies 16, no. 2 (1957): 214. [BACK]

100. L. L. Lorin, The Problem of Economic Planning (n.p., 1931), 31, cited in G. Chen, "Chinese Government Economic Planning and Reconstruction," in Problems of the Pacific, 1933, ed. B. Lasker and W. L. Holland (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1934), 382. [BACK]

101. For example, in the corporatist representation of professional interests in proposed provincial constitutions of the early Republic. See Marie-Claire Bergère, "The Chinese Bourgeoisie," in The Cambridge History of China, vol. 12, pt. 1 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983), 779–80; Sie Ying-chow, Le fédéralisme en Chine (Paris, 1924). [BACK]

102. See Kirby, "Continuity and Change." If this approach is correct, it of course questions the assumption of Vivienne Shue's stimulating discussion of the modern Chinese state, that the Republican era was "profoundly unstable and hostile to economic and political institutionalization." See Shue, The Reach of the State: Sketches of the Chinese Body Politic (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1988), 104. [BACK]

103. Bailes, Technology, 459. [BACK]

104. Space precludes an extended discussion of definitions of "technocracy" here. For one approach in a contemporary Chinese context, see Li Cheng and Lynn White, "Elite Transformation and Modern Change in Mainland China and Taiwan: Empirical Data and the Theory of Technocracy," China Quarterly 121 (March 1990): 1–35. [BACK]


5. Hierarchical Modernization

Tianjin's Gong Shang College as a Model
for Catholic Community in North China

Richard Madsen

As practiced by ordinary Chinese Catholics today, the Catholic religion in north China abounds in paradoxes. On the one hand, it seems profoundly antimodern, sacralizing and idealizing the values of rural life. Most of the devout Catholics whom my colleague Fan Lizhu and I interviewed in Hebei Province in 1993 expressed their commitment by rejecting not only Marxism but much of modern science, as well as modern commerce. They warned their children against any claims of natural science, especially theories of evolution, that would contradict a literal reading of the Bible. As a thirty-three-year-old priest put it, "The education our youth have received [in government-run schools] is materialistic and atheistic. Where do people come from? Does God create people or do people create God? Do people come from monkeys? Never!"

They are also opposed to many of the values of the modern market economy. Says the leader of a village Catholic association, "I agree with what our bishop said [in his Christmas sermon yesterday]: ‘Blessed are the poor.’ The purpose of living in the world is not to seek enjoyment…. Catholic teaching is contrary to human desires. I'm not opposed to making money by working hard. But I feel confused about how to reconcile making money with obeying the teaching of God. I always teach my children not to be too greedy." Finally, the "true believers" among the Catholics were often opposed to urbanization. As a woman studying to be a nun put it, "If Catholics live outside the village, they will forget God, because no one will remind them."[1]

In the first half of this century, however, north China was the home of some of the most progressive thinkers in twentieth-century Catholicism. For example, one of the priests attached to the same French Jesuit community that inculcated the conservative ideas quoted above, was Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, the great Jesuit paleontologist and theologian who boldly and controversially attempted to reconcile modern theories of evolution with Catholic theology.[2]


The conservative rural Catholics whom I quoted above lived in Hebei's Xian county, which even today is 97 percent Catholic and the site of one of the greatest concentrations of Catholics in China. Xian county had been evangelized by French Jesuits from the province of Champagne beginning in the mid-1800s. The Catholic vicariate of Xian county was the center of French Jesuit missionary activity in north China. Although most of the French Jesuits were confined to the rural villages of Xian county, the Xian county Jesuit community also ran an institution for higher education, Gong Shang College (College of Industry and Commerce), in Tianjin, about four hours by car from the famous cathedral in Zhangzhuang, which was the spiritual center of Xian county. It was at this college—one of only three Catholic colleges in China—where Teilhard de Chardin resided and where in 1939 he composed his most famous theological essay, The Phenomenon of Man. The bishop of Xian county today, Bishop Liu Dinghan, who gave the sermon about the blessedness of the poor cited above, received his vocation while attending that college. Although run by the Jesuits of the Xian county community, that college appears at first glance to have represented a vision of modernity completely opposite to that of the antiurban, antiscientific, and anticommercial vision of the rural Catholics in Xian county.[3]

The college was devoted to educating the sons of the bonne bourgeoisie of Tianjin in the subjects of commerce and engineering. In the 1930s, it published a weekly newspaper, Daoguang, which propagated popular science and celebrated modern trends around the world. And it was connected with the world renowned, Jesuit-run Beijiang Museum, which was the research base of Frs. Pierre Licent and Pierre Teilhard de Chardin.

In their rural base, then, the Jesuits tried to protect Catholics from modernity, while in their urban outpost they tried to prepare Catholics for modernity. The French Jesuits did not seem to see any inconsistency in the two approaches. But how could such different approaches be part of the same Catholic community?

The answer lies in a traditional European Catholic understanding of community. The kind of European Catholicism brought to China in the early twentieth century shared with most Protestant and even secular Europeans a commitment to modern science, technology, and industry, but it possessed a different conception of community, a conception more consistent with traditional Chinese views than with Protestant or secular views. Built on individualistic assumptions, these latter—which are by and large still the views of modern Western social science— see community as based on common beliefs: a community is a group of individuals who cooperate with one another because they share the same ideas and interests.[4] If one defines community in this way, it would be difficult to see how the rural Catholics of Xian county with their antimodern ideas could be part of the same religious community as the sophisticated urban Catholics connected with the Jesuit college in Tianjin.

But the Counter Reformation church brought to China by European missionaries in the nineteenth century defined itself less as a community based on shared

ideas than as one based on status within a common hierarchical authority. A person could be a Catholic in perfectly good standing without knowing much doctrine, and Catholics from different social levels with different levels of education could have very different ways of understanding their faith. Furthermore, Catholics could in practice adhere to many different moral standards, because the community inevitably contained a wide array of saints and sinners as well as ordinary flawed people with mixtures of good and bad qualities. There were fervent Catholics and lax Catholics, but lax Catholics were still Catholics as long as they did not completely reject the authority of the church. To be a Catholic, then, was not primarily a matter of intellectual belief or even of virtue, but of living under a chain of authority that descended from the pope down through the episcopacy to local parish priests. This was, moreover, a view of hierarchical community that was still imbued with the aspirations of Christendom. The church would make society whole by integrating all social institutions with its divinely constituted hierarchy.[5]

Sociologically, this hierarchically integrated community could take very different forms, depending on the social ecology within which it was implanted. A crucial factor affecting the forms that the Catholic community took was how it maintained its boundaries—what did its leaders think they had to do in order to protect their flock from those parts of the world that the church could no longer control? The ways in which the French Jesuits ran their school in Tianjin were determined, I argue in this essay, by their perceived need to maintain effective boundaries between their school and a rapidly changing, secular urban environment. They perceived this need because they accepted the assumptions of Counter Reformation European Catholicism that it was the mission of the church to bring as many social institutions as possible under the sway of an ecclesiastical hierarchy—in effect, to recreate medieval Christendom. And insofar as it could not do this, the church should effectively seal off from the non-Catholic world those parts of society under its embrace. The urban environment of the first half of this century posed special challenges to this form of mission. Perhaps unintentionally, this paternalistic, defensive conception of mission reinforced hierarchical and paternalistic tendencies within Chinese culture and thus contributed to a distinctive Chinese way of responding to the challenges of modernity.

In telling this story, I hope to add some complexity to standard accounts of the ways in which Chinese became modern in the twentieth century. Insofar as modernization has meant some degree of Westernization, we must recognize that the "West" is enormously diverse, Western culture extremely variegated, and Western visions of modernity often contradictory. Chinese who wanted to modernize by emulating the West had many different Wests to choose from. The religious, cultural, and social models presented by the French Jesuits in north China were clearly different from those presented by, say, liberal Protestant universities like Yanjing. A Chinese alumnus of Beijing's Yanjing University recently remarked, "When we visited the [Catholic] Fu Ren University [which was in fact less conservative

than Gong Shang College], we used to say that it was like going from capitalism to feudalism."[6]

Moreover, in the changing contexts of the first half of this century, the Western models evolved in ways that their proponents could not have anticipated, the Chinese reactions to them took forms that neither Chinese nor Westerners could have foreseen, and this led to patterns of meaning and configurations of social structure that no one could have envisioned.


According to the Counter Reformation model of Catholic life that was seemingly adhered to by most of the French Jesuits who established Gong Shang College, church authority should ideally be intertwined with all the major social institutions that constituted a Catholic's environment. The church should control the major schools and newspapers, it should patronize the arts, it should be connected with the political authorities, and it should have enough economic power to sustain its cultural institutions and to be the chief source of help for the poor and sick. Catholic missions in rural China tried to realize this "integralist" ecclesiastical vision. It was not enough to convert individuals. The church had to build whole social environments that were under the authority of ecclesiastical hierarchies. So missionaries strove to create whole villages, or at least whole lineages within a village, that were Catholic. And when they were really successful, as the Jesuits were in Xian county, they created a whole region in which all major aspects of life were dominated by the Catholic Church. Even today, in Xian county almost every village is marked by a church spire. Before the Communists took power, almost all elementary schooling was in church-run schools, health care was provided by a Catholic clinic, and economic aid in time of disaster was provided by church-dispensed charity. Local political leaders were Catholics. Local social life revolved around the church. Catholics were under great pressure to marry fellow Catholics. Church festivals provided the most important community activities. To be a Catholic, the people of Xian county say even today, is to live in the "world of God."[7]

In Xian county, the boundaries of that world were fixed by a natural rural social ecology. It was easier to meet most of one's economic, social, and cultural needs by dealing with fellow Catholics than with non-Christians. The major marketing center for the region was in the town of Zhangzhuang, which was also the site of an imposing cathedral.[8] In the compound surrounding this cathedral were concentrated the major cultural and social welfare institutions of the county, all under church control: a seminary, a famous Catholic library, a convent, a clinic, elementary and middle schools, and a Catholic cemetery renowned for its excellent fengshui. These physical spaces were infused by the rhythms of religious time, marked by daily prayer and Sunday Sabbath observance, by great periodic community

festivals like Christmas, Easter, Pentecost, and the Feast of the Assumption of Mary, and by Catholic life-cycle rituals of baptism, confirmation, matrimony, and burial. Since the county was almost exclusively Catholic, residents could be put under considerable social pressure if they sought to fulfill economic or political ambitions that would be against the interests of the Catholic majority. In such an ecological niche, the boundaries between the world of God and the world of non-Christians were clear and secure.[9]

Inevitably, though, when the church sought a Catholic presence in a city like Tianjin, the boundaries between church and world could not be defined in such a clear way. But for all the surface differences between the Catholic life centered on the Jesuit college in Tianjin and the villages of Xian county, there was a fundamental similarity in understanding of Catholic community. As in the villages of Xian county, the Jesuits strove to build a world of God in which as many aspects of life as possible were assumed under the authority of the church. Catholic students, future leaders of society, would study together in a school controlled by the Fathers, live together in dormitories supervised by the Fathers, worship together in a school chapel at mass celebrated by the Fathers. But the boundaries between this world and the non-Christian world were perforce more ambiguous. The Catholic students would have to attend classes together with non-Christian students, for it was neither economically nor politically possible to construct a college solely for Catholic students. The college itself would have to be part of a larger system of non-Catholic academic institutions. To survive and flourish it had to interact constantly with non-Catholic political authorities and to gain the support of non-Catholic social elites. As a modern institute of higher learning it had to teach about ideas in natural and social science, not to mention literature and philosophy, that had been developed by non-Catholics. The challenge faced by the Jesuits was how to keep this non-Catholic social and cultural environment from loosening the grip of church authority on the fledgling urban Catholic community. In other words, how would they maintain the boundaries between the educated Chinese Catholic community and the non-Catholic community? The nature of this challenge was constantly changing as the political and social environment of the college changed.

The twenty-seven-year history of the Jesuit college in Tianjin can be divided into three periods, each characterized by a different way of maintaining the boundaries between this part of the Chinese Catholic community and the non-Christian world. From internal documents written by the French Jesuits for their superiors and supporters, we get a sense of how they tried to preserve their school's Catholic identity by building different kinds of barriers between church and world to adapt to different circumstances. From school yearbooks and catalogues, we can get a sense of how the Jesuit attempt to preserve a Catholic identity influenced the ways in which both Catholic and non-Catholic members of the school—students, faculty, and alumni—constructed their Chinese identities.[10]



The official name of the school changed in the course of its history. Eventually, in 1933, when it was officially accredited by the Nanjing government's Ministry of Education, it was called Tianjin gong shang xue yuan, which in English documents of the time was rendered as "Tientsin Kung Shang College." But in its first years, the school's official name was not a Chinese but a French name, L'Institut des Hautes Etudes Industrielles et Commerciales de Tientsin. The school was a French school in China, not a Chinese school founded and maintained by French priests. It was by socializing Chinese into French culture—and preparing them for jobs in French-run government or commercial agencies—that the Jesuits hoped to separate them from their non-Christian Chinese world and bring them into the hierarchical embrace of the church.

In 1919, the papal encyclical Maximum Ilud had warned missionaries about the dangers of identifying their faith with their country, [11] but the French Jesuits in the 1920s still resisted the warning. Ever since the mid-nineteenth century, the French government had been the official protector of Catholic missions in China, using gunboats if necessary to defend the right of Catholic missionaries to evangelize, and expecting in return missionary support for French imperialistic interests. In the mentality of the French Jesuits, it seemed indeed as if God spoke French. In a publicity statement (probably written for the French press) issued from the school in 1924, its first year of operation, the Jesuits emphasized the role of the French language in their curriculum: "Of six hours of class every day, three are devoted to French…. The assignments in the other courses tend gradually to be done in French. Later the courses in the upper division [facultes superieures] are given in French. As a matter of fact, in all of north China, the Institut des Hautes Etudes is the only French establishment giving secondary education to Chinese students."[12] This was important as a counterweight to the predominant influence of "Anglo-Saxons" in north China. "In the big cities of the North, there are a number of large educational establishments directed by Anglo-Saxons. The American influence is considerable…. English is extremely prevalent in the ruling class. A course in English is obligatory in middle schools; in the Universities, teaching is given in English. French is being placed on a lower level."

The press release concluded with an appeal for French government subsidies: "An enterprise like this cannot be crowned with success without the help of the French government…. Obviously we do not seek any personal profit. It seems good that this work is to the great benefit of France." The Far Eastern branch of the French Chamber of Commerce stated what kind of benefit was envisioned. French business in China needed Chinese managers and engineers who could speak French and were familiar with French ways of working. And the French commercial attaché in China wrote, "Above all, the best agent of French propaganda in China is a technical school of French education," just like the one the Jesuits were establishing (emphasis in the original).


Of course, the ultimate purpose of the school was not supposed to be political or commercial, but religious. As the Jesuits saw it, the main problem with the Anglo-Saxon schools was that they taught Protestantism. The Protestants were making a huge effort in Chinese higher education and had gained a great deal of influence in government establishments. Although they had achieved "minimal success in terms of changing hearts," they had gained "considerable…prestige among the learned classes." Unfortunately, however, "among the upper classes, Catholicism seems to be the religion of the poor and ignorant, in spite of its brilliant role under Kangxi. It is essential to demonstrate to people who take legitimate pride in their ancient civilization and who prize new progress that the Catholic religion is capable of surpassing every other religion in the domain of spiritual culture and moral formation." Besides counteracting the unfortunate influence of Anglo-Saxon Protestants, the school was urgently needed to defend against the even more baleful influence of secularism. The state universities were having a "deplorable influence on the future leaders of China." "Atheism, rationalism, Bolshevism—every sort of unfortunate fruit is found in the new education."[13]

As early as 1910, the Jesuit superior of the province of Champagne had visited Xian county and recommended the creation of such a school. Instability in China and the world war in Europe delayed these plans. But by 1919, the Jesuits received a charge from the Vatican's Sacred Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith (Propaganda Fidei) to construct an institution of higher learning in Tianjin for children of the upper classes (pro filiis nobilium). The need now seemed urgent. The influence of both Anglo-Saxon Protestants and secularist Chinese had increased since the Great War.[14]

Thus, the Institut des Hautes Etudes was finally established on Tianjin's Racecourse Road in the autumn of 1923. Although commonly called "Hautes Etudes," the school actually began as a college preparatory upper-middle school and then expanded to include genuine higher-level education, housed in a handsome stone building set in a neatly tended, walled-in campus. In the school's first year of operation, the student body consisted of fifty students, all but three coming either from "Mandarin families" or commercial and banking circles. "Our vision," wrote the Jesuits, "is to attend to the intellectual elite of the country."[15] In practice, they seem to have identified "intellectual elite" with "social elite."

Established concurrently was the Institute of Research in Natural Science, staffed by Frs. Licent and Teilhard de Chardin and including the Beijiang Museum of Natural History. (In a conference held to celebrate the establishment, Teilhard lectured on a special research project he was carrying out for the museum in collaboration with French scientific circles.)[16] Although Fr. Licent said that the students of the Institut de Hautes Etudes would be the primary beneficiaries of the museum and research institute, the students in fact seemed to have had rather little direct relationship with the latter. Frs. Licent and Teilhard did not teach classes in the school. Although students who were studying geology could

use the library and perhaps some of the lab facilities of the museum, their curriculum did not include much of the pure science that was the museum's specialty.[17] The main benefit that the museum brought to the school was reflected prestige. The museum became world renowned. Frs. Licent and Teilhard both eventually won international honors, including awards from the French and Belgian governments and from the Japanese government. Their fame may have indirectly helped the school by attracting the attention of would-be donors.

The academic structure of the school was thus hierarchical in a way that reflected the logic of the church's religious hierarchy. At the top was a research institute, staffed by committed Jesuit priests, that was engaged in pioneering dialogue with the most advanced levels of secular scientific thought. Under this was a school whose students and faculty had little contact with the potentially heretical ideas being explored by the institute. The Jesuits at the research institute patrolled the boundary between the church and the world and potentially even risked their faith in the process. Underneath them, less advanced students were kept segregated from such dangerous activities while benefiting from the intellectual shelter provided by their superiors.

The "Catholicity" of the Institut des Hautes Etudes was assured by the composition of its faculty—six French priests, one Italian layman, and four Chinese alumni of the Jesuit Aurora University in Shanghai. The initial student body was not so predominantly Catholic, however. Only about one-fourth were members of the church. In accordance with Vatican regulations, the Catholic students lived in a special dormitory and even used a study hall separate from that of the non-Catholics, although Catholics and non-Catholics attended classes together.[18] The school thus protected its Catholics from the world by providing a place where they could be segregated from non-Christian influences under the watchful eye of the Fathers—but one in which they could also be prepared to engage with the world by interacting with a relatively safe buffer population of fellow students who were non-Christian but Francophone and presumably Francophile.

Besides French, the curriculum contained the standard courses of a European-style upper-middle school: mathematics, philosophy, physics, geography, Chinese literature, design, and typing. As the school expanded into higher education, it specialized in business management and a variety of types of engineering. The only place where Catholic teaching might be directly inserted in the curriculum was in the philosophy course, which dealt—it seems in an orthodox, Catholic Thomistic fashion—with "liberty, responsibility, conscience, and moral practice."[19] The view of the French Jesuits seemed to be that what constituted a Catholic education for upperclass Chinese was not mainly the content of the curriculum, but the formal structure of the institution within which the curriculum was enacted. It was hierarchical, with priests at the top. It was French, with people of French nationality in charge and with most of the non-French faculty members having been educated in French universities. Moreover, the French language was at the center of instruction. The Jesuits seemed to assume that even without imparting

any formal religious instruction, a hierarchical, clerically controlled, French institution would transmit the true faith because it was the very embodiment of that faith.

The most important sign that students were being receptive to that true faith would be that they converted to Catholicism. Only a relative few did. The first convert was baptized in 1927, three years after the school was established, and after that, even as the numbers of students expanded to over a thousand, only a handful of students were baptized every year. (Overall, however, about 25 percent of the student body was Catholic, mostly from old Catholic families around Tianjin. This was a higher percentage than the percentage of Protestants in typical Protestant universities.)[20] But even though most students remained non-Catholic, the Jesuits still pointed to the school spirit as evidence that students were being influenced for the better by the Catholic faith. One of the most admirable characteristics of the students, the Jesuits thought, was their docility: "The work is serious. Discipline is imposed without difficulty. We like the students' docility, their good spirit, their respectful deference to their teachers."[21]

During the nationalist movement of 1925, the students at the Institut des Hautes Etudes remained calm and refrained from participation in the agitation sweeping intellectuals throughout the country. This quiescence set a standard for the school. Students from the Institut des Hautes Etudes refrained from actively participating in all of the great movements in the Republican era. In college yearbooks, the students themselves expressed pride in this lack of activism. Even for non-Catholic students, it was a mark of the well-disciplined character of their school.

In its very institutional structures, then, the Institut des Hautes Etudes embodied a common early-twentieth-century European understanding of the nature of the Catholic faith and the mission of the church in the world, a vision of faith and mission that was firmly rooted in sixteenth-century Counter Reformation theology. In that vision, Catholic faith and practice were virtually identified with submission to a clerical hierarchy. To bring people into the Catholic faith was to bring them under the scope of this hierarchy and cultivate within them the virtues that made obedience to hierarchical authorities easy. Furthermore, the faith was deeply identified with national Catholic cultures. In countries like France, where much of the population was abandoning Catholic practice, the Catholic hierarchy often identified the essence of Catholicism with those aspects of national culture that resisted revolution and modern social change.

In this vision, however, not all kinds of revolution and all kinds of modern social change were bad. A revolution such as had occurred in China might be good if it swept away conservative leaders who resisted being influenced by Christianity. Basically, revolution was bad if it diminished the power of ecclesiastical authorities, good if it opened the possibility of extending such power. Social change resulting from advances in science, technology, and industry was by no means bad in itself. The church supported institutions of higher learning such as the

Institut des Hautes Etudes in order to contribute to such advances. But these were potentially bad if they increased human pride, which took the form of decreasing respect for the natural hierarchies of life—which could eventually lead, of course, to disobeying ecclesiastical hierarchies.

Consonant with this vision, it was salutary to offer a clerically supervised higher education to filiis nobilium. The scientific parts of this education might enable them to contribute to the progress of their societies; the humanistic parts might enable them to provide sophisticated leadership in complex societies; the moral parts might nurture a spirit of noblesse oblige. But it might not be good to broadly offer lower-class people the same kind of education. The scientific and technological parts of such education might too quickly raise their expectations and make them dissatisfied with their place in life. The humanistic parts might confuse them and render them skeptical about the moral verities that sustained them within their families and communities.

As long as one accepts the hierarchical view of life central to Counter Reformation European Catholicism, the French Jesuits were not being inconsistent in promoting an antiscientific, unreflexive folk piety in Xian county and a modern scientific education in Tianjin. Different classes of people should have different kinds of knowledge, different levels of sophistication in the understanding of the faith. In fact, these very differences reinforced one of the most important bulwarks of the Catholic faith, a healthy respect for hierarchy.

Catholicism of the kind propagated by the French Jesuits in north China in the 1920s and 1930s was antimodern only in an ambivalent, ironic sense. It in fact helped develop some of the principal institutions of modernization—science, technology, and industry—and it encouraged its believers to contribute to the building of a modern Chinese state. At the same time, though, it maintained an unmodern ideology. Unlike mainline Protestantism or Deweyan liberalism or revolutionary Marxism, it did not encourage, in principle or in practice, a flattening of hierarchies, an approval of social mobility, or a generalized skepticism of traditional authorities. It accepted as natural the deep cultural differences between city and countryside. Its solution to problems posed by such differences was not to try to make everybody the same but to encourage everybody to be satisfied with their station in life. The poor were to be helped by the moral responsibility inculcated in the rich. As long as men were kept aware that they do not live by bread alone, all would be benefited by the material goods made possible through scientific and economic progress.

In the first stage of the existence of the Institut des Hautes Etudes, this traditional, hierarchical vision of Catholicism was seen as virtually inseparable from French culture, at least conservative strands within that culture. By the 1930s, however, a new stage in the life of the school began. The Republic of China was finally gaining enough strength and coherence to set the terms under which foreign educational institutions could work in China. The Institut des Hautes Etudes could no longer be a French institution on Chinese soil. It had to become a Chinese institution,

registered with the state and adhering to Chinese government educational standards. Moreover, the influence of French culture steadily declined because of a lack of French priests available to staff the institution and a lack of funds from depression-ridden France to sustain it.

Under these circumstances, the Jesuits had to confront the question of how to preserve the Institut's Catholic character while discarding its French character. This involved refining their view of what were the boundaries between the Catholic community and the world. As they did so, their changing vision interacted with changing aspirations of the Chinese students who were attracted to the school.


The first part of the school's French identity to be diminished was its devotion to the French language. Students would be attracted to a school that used French as its principal language of instruction, it had been thought, because they would have special access to jobs as engineers for the French-owned railroads or as managers in the French commercial houses. But in north China, the political and economic power of France was waning. As a "Note on French Influence in the Tianjin Institute" observed in 1933, "Railroads that utilize French-speaking engineers have gone into Chinese hands. As far as commerce is concerned, even in the French houses, there is not much place for people who speak only French and no English." Moreover, in the middle schools that were the primary source of recruitment to the Institut des Hautes Etudes, the primary foreign language was English, not French. Therefore, the primacy of the French language was "paralyzing the development of the school."

For a way out of this problem, the Jesuits solicited the opinions of competent persons, "in particular members of the French colony [sic]." They agreed that "English [not Chinese!] was the language of commercial affairs and industry in China." The Jesuits decided, therefore, that they had to adopt English as the school's principal foreign language. "If an evil, this is a necessary evil."[22]

They took great pains, however, to assure their French friends and supporters—and perhaps to assure themselves as well—that, even without the language, the school would still purvey French culture. The school would still use "French methods, French books, translated into English or Chinese[,]… Chinese professors trained in France, and a total system of general education completely different from the American system of departments and the Chinese system, which is a copy of the American." The school had a reputation of being French, and the students who came to it demanded, "if not an education in French, at least the education of France."[23]

The school could maintain a French-style education, however, only if it controlled the shape of its curriculum. In 1933, this capacity, too, was taken away. The school was forced to seek accreditation under the Nanjing government's Ministry

of Education, and to gain accreditation it had to structure its curriculum in accord with Nanjing's educational system—which was, really, as the French Jesuits noted with displeasure, the "systeme Americain."

At first the Jesuits were reluctant about seeking accreditation from Nanjing. From the beginning they had prided themselves on the independence of their school from Chinese political control—though not from French government approval and support. As a condition for Chinese government approval, they would have to appoint a Chinese president and a Chinese prefect of studies and ensure "equal treatment for Chinese personnel." Furthermore they would have to officially register the school's name—a Chinese name—with the Ministry of Education. The formal control of the school would pass from French to Chinese hands, and the formal identity of the school would become Chinese.[24]

In the long run, though, there was no way to resist the need for accreditation. Without official recognition for their degrees, the students could not get jobs in Chinese organizations. Though they could get jobs in foreign firms, these were gradually being taken over by the Chinese; and it was clear that the days of the foreign concessions were numbered. The French Jesuits would be acting within a world in which they could no longer rely on French culture to provide the buffer separating their Catholic community from the non-Catholic world. Finally, the argument for accreditation was sealed by appeal to political and ecclesiastical authority: "the French foreign ministry recommends it"; and Cardinal Constantini, the Vatican's Apostolic Delegate to China, approved it. Thus in 1934, the school was duly registered in Nanjing under the name Gong Shang College.

In the thinking of the French Jesuit missionaries, however, the school could fulfill its religious mission only if it were at least informally under French clerical control. To facilitate the accreditation, they had named as president a Chinese Jesuit with a doctorate in philosophy from Louvain, Fr. Francis Xavier Zhao Zhensheng. Fr. Zhao was chosen, the official Jesuit history says, "to legally represent the Institut in its official relationships."[25] From the tone of their discussion, it seems clear that this talented Chinese priest was only a figurehead. The person really in charge of the college was not the president, but the rector, Fr. Rene Charvet. Once accreditation was granted, Fr. Zhao was replaced as legal president by a Mr. Hua, who had been working in the service of one of the French priests, was "well in the hand" of this priest, had been educated in France, and was a "Francophile."[26] The French Jesuits remained firmly in control of the college.

But their ability to exercise their control gradually waned, not because of anything the Chinese government did, but because of a lack of Jesuit personnel and funds from France. Although the lack of funds caused by the depression in Europe was serious, even more serious was the lack of manpower. Even as the Gong Shang College had expanded in size and complexity—in the 1930s, for instance, it added departments of architecture and chemical engineering—fewer Jesuits were available for the mission in China. Out of fifty faculty members, only six were Jesuits. A report written in 1937 by Fr. Pollet, the vice rector, noted that only 33 out

of 323 hours of instruction given weekly was given by Jesuits. All too often, students were "abandoned into the hands of untrustworthy laity."[27] Priests like Fr. Pollet seemed to have the idea that what now made their education Catholic was simply the presence of a French Jesuit giving instruction. Even if a priest taught engineering or some such subject with no direct religious content, his very presence would ensure a significant connection between the ecclesiastical hierarchy and the academic institution.

The attenuation of priestly influence now meant, Fr. Pollet thought, that the school had to be more discriminating in the work that it undertook. When the Jesuits first established their Institut des Hautes Etudes, they were unclear as to their goals. Now they had to define more clearly what they were about. For instance, the college had recently added a department of civil engineering, even though there were no Jesuits trained as civil engineers to be part of such a department. Should they refrain from adding new departments if there were no priests to be part of the staff?

In response, Fr. Charvet, who served several stints as rector of the college, wrote that the addition of new departments should be based on national need rather than simply the availability of a priest. For instance, it was important for the college to have a chemical engineering department, even though there were no Jesuits available who were trained in that field. Chemical engineering was important for the development of Chinese industry—for making Chinese products meet international standards.[28] It seems that Fr. Charvet's view prevailed.

What was going on in this debate was a further shift in the Jesuits' understanding of how they should draw the boundaries between their Catholic academic community and the world. Now that the distinction could no longer be based on French culture, it was based more exclusively on French clerical authority. The school was Catholic not because it formally taught much that was distinctively Catholic and not even because it inculcated a way of life that made its students visibly different from non-Catholics. It was Catholic because it was controlled by priests, who were themselves under the authority of the Catholic hierarchy.

This way of thinking can be understood in terms of the sociological distinction made by Ernst Troeltsch between church and sect. These two forms of religious life have contrasting styles of origination justified by contrasting ways of thought.[29] The mentality of the French Jesuits in charge of Gong Shang College was typical of that in Troeltsch's model of a church.

Unlike the ideal typical sect, which is an exclusive group of active believers out to change the world, the church is an inclusive institution that conforms to the world. The leaders of a sect would deem themselves successful to the degree that they get all of the members of the sect to fervently believe and practice its common teachings. The leaders of a church would not expect all of the church members to be fervent believers, because the church is inclusive—it embraces good and bad people alike. The success of the church is measured by how many people it brings within its realm. As long as they are within that realm, some bad people will

become good, some indifferent people will become faithful. But this will happen in God's own time through the mysterious grace of God. If few people become fervent believers and fewer become saintly, that is not the fault of the leaders of the church. They will have done their part simply by expanding the sphere of influence of the church, even if this entails making compromises with the world. In the mentality of Counter Reformation Catholicism—which was a typical example of the sociological model of a church—this sphere of influence was conceived of in an even more authoritarian way than before. It was desirable that members of the clergy live exemplary lives and be able to influence the laity by personal inspiration, but it was not essential. What was essential was subsumption under duly constituted ecclesiastical authority. Even when the Gong Shang College could not provide enough priests to exert direct personal influence on its students, it could at least claim that it brought them within the scope of an institution connected at the top to ecclesiastical structures.

But without French cultural or political influence to back up their ecclesiastical authority, the priests had to work harder to patrol the boundary between the Catholic community and world. In the meantime, it became easier for Chinese currents of culture and politics to pour into the school. To an ever greater degree, in other words, Chinese students shaped the school for their own purposes. Nonetheless, they could never completely ignore the boundaries established and still shakily maintained by the Jesuits. The school amplified certain aspects of Chinese culture and dampened others.

Whether they were Catholic or non-Catholic, did the kinds of students attracted to Gong Shang College tend to understand their identity and role in society in ways different from students who attended Protestant or state-run schools? The best available source to consult in order to assess student mentalities is the annual yearbooks issued by the school—I have editions from 1937, 1939, 1940, 1948, and 1950. Like yearbooks in American colleges, these were edited by graduating seniors, under the supervision of some faculty members—usually including, in the case of Gong Shang College, one of the priests. However, the entries have a freshness, a naïveté, a spontaneity that suggest they represent authentic attitudes.

One of the most striking qualities of the yearbooks is what they leave out. There is hardly any mention of religion. Even on the pages of pictures of the school, there is hardly anything—perhaps only a single small picture of a statue of the Blessed Virgin in a campus grotto—that would suggest the college was a religious school. In the 1937 yearbook (published in June, just a month before the outbreak of war with Japan) students each state what person they most admire and wish to emulate. Twenty out of forty-eight students mention Chiang Kai-shek. A half dozen mention Sun Yatsen. Some invoke foreigners like Thomas Edison and Abraham Lincoln. A few cite Confucius or Zhuangzi. Only one says Jesus.[30]

The yearbooks have more to say about morality, but it is not very profound. They are prefaced with platitudinous moral exhortations from the Jesuits. For example, Fr. Pollet, then serving as dean of studies, urges, "Believe what you think to

be true. Do what you think to be right." A commencement speech by one of the Jesuits talks of the need to subordinate the "small self" to the "big self" of the community. Students write that they have learned that having a strong moral character is just as important as having knowledge.[31]

Socially, the students seem naive and sheltered. Consider their accounts of the two months of military training mandated by the Nanjing government, at a military camp near Baoding during the 1936–37 school year. The Jesuits were unhappy with this requirement—concerned about the disruption to the academic year, worried about how the students would suffer from being away from home and living in primitive conditions, and anxious about temptations to the Catholic students' faith and morals. But many of the students seemed to have found this training to be one of the most meaningful experiences of their lives. The yearbook contains a long essay describing one student's experience, and there are a number of shorter references to the training. It is apparent from these accounts that most of the students had never traveled far from home, and certainly not lived in the countryside. They are moved by the poverty and primitive living conditions of the countryside. The long essay describes at great length the barracks, bathing facilities, and meals at the military camp, which were considerably harsher (though probably not nearly as harsh as most peasant accommodations) than anything the writer had experienced before. But the students felt that they gained tremendous benefits from this training. It had toughened their bodies, strengthened their wills, and given them a patriotic way of thinking. One of the students wrote a poem upon reaching a summit after a day's march: "Who says that north China produces traitors and running dogs. / We are still the sons of China who will construct China. / Sleep! / We will use our blood and sweat to cleanse away our fatherland's shame. / Don't forget! / This is a day to remember." Several accounts spoke of the students weeping bitterly when the training was over.[32]

In this extracurricular training, the students gained a toughness and a patriotic determination that their college had not provided. When they expressed their aspirations in the 1937 yearbook, the graduating seniors now talked in the nationalistic, patriotic terms that most of their young contemporaries would have used on the eve of the Sino-Japanese War. One difference between the patriotism developed at Gong Shang College and that expressed in places like Yanjing or Beida, however, was that the Gong Shang students were less willing to take matters into their own hands; they did not want to challenge duly constituted government authority.

For instance, according to a student narrative of the principal events of 1936, "the most satisfying part of this year was the attitude of our fellow students. Anybody who knows anything about society knows about the 1936 student movements. What use would it have been to have carried on demonstrations and to have boycotted classes to indirectly express unhappiness because of some unnecessary events? This was simply an opportunity for some leaders to achieve a kind of success. All of the members of our class—more than sixty of us—knew the futility of boycotting classes and demonstrating. We thought that any agitation that

kept students from carrying out their work under the leadership of the government was irresponsibly disruptive. Therefore, even though we were in the midst of a great tide of student unrest, we did not move, we calmly attended classes. This is undoubtedly because of the training we received in the slogan ‘Seek the truth from facts.’ It was also because the students in our class truly understood the direction of today's youth!"[33]

In their own history of the college, the French Jesuits took pride in having discouraged student activism. However much neighboring university campuses like Nankai University might have been convulsed by nationalist movements of 1925, 1931, 1935–36, the Jesuits managed to keep the trouble out of their campus. It seems that the kinds of students who came to Gong Shang College were mostly willing to internalize this Jesuit attitude. The confluence between Jesuit convictions and student aspirations produced an apolitical school atmosphere. It sustained a vision of China in which intelligent elites of good character who worked hard within the established political system would make China into a better place, for the greater glory of God.

It was a vision that did not challenge the prevailing class system. The students of Gong Shang College were a privileged, indeed pampered, elite. Nothing the Jesuits taught suggested that they would have to give up those privileges. The logic of the school's religious orientation was protective rather than socially activist. If the social gospel encouraged students in Protestant universities to enter Chinese history so as to transform it (as suggested by the Yanjing University motto, "Freedom through Truth for Service"), the Counter Reformation Catholic vision institutionalized in Gong Shang College encouraged students to escape from Chinese history so as to be saved from it. When the Jesuits did encourage the students to engage in social service beyond the walls of the school, they did this only for the school's spiritual elite, a special association of the most devout Catholics among the student body. Members of this association not only attended mass daily but also participated in works of charity, such as visiting prisons, bringing Christmas toys to orphanages, and so on.[34] But it was charity aimed at smoothing the rough edges of a harsh society without challenging the structure of that society and carried out under careful supervision so as to keep its practitioners from being sullied by that society.

In philosophy and social science courses, the Jesuits provided an intellectual rationale for this stance. A course on sociological theory offered in the 1940s was centered on "the social problem: critical examination of the various solutions that have been proposed (liberal, socialistic, Catholic doctrines)."[35] I do not have any more detailed information about the content of this course, or about the content of an article one of the Jesuits wrote in the 1930s—in Beichen (Ave Maris Stella), a magazine for Catholic intellectuals established at Gong Shang College in the late 1920s but later moved to Beiping's Fu Ren University—about applying the teaching of the papal encyclical Rerum Novarum to Chinese society. We may assume, however, that the Jesuit thinking followed closely the principles promulgated by Pope Leo XIII in his 1891 Rerum Novarum and Pope Pius XI in his 1931 encyclical

Quadrigesimo Anno. The social teaching of Leo XIII was against unfettered liberalism and called for the state to intervene to ensure a just wage and decent working conditions and for workers to form voluntary associations to overcome their individualism. Forty (quadrigesimo) years later, Pope Pius XI extended Pope Leo XIII's critique of liberalism to the conditions of the Great Depression. The solution to these unprecedented problems, the pope taught, was not in socialism, because of its collectivist, materialistic, and atheistic orientation. The solution lay in a morally motivated cooperation between capital and labor, a kind of corporatism, but one that avoided the suppression of freedom that had come with Mussolini's fascism.[36]

I doubt whether Gong Shang College students, especially the non-Catholics, were deeply influenced by hearing lectures or reading articles on this Catholic social theory. But the ethos of the school, its cultivation of the bonne bourgeoisie, its discouragement of political activism, its emphasis on moral character development and ameliorative noblesse oblige, constituted a living instantiation of this teaching. Unfortunately, such a vision of society was of little relevance to the brutal struggle that was about to engulf China as the Sino-Japanese War began.


With the outbreak of war, the faculties and many of the students of the great state universities of the north fled to southwest China to continue their intellectual work in such a way as to aid in their government's resistance against Japan. Yanjing, the American Protestant university in Beiping, was closed after Pearl Harbor, and its core students and faculty also went to the southwest. But like Fu Ren University, the Catholic University in Beiping, Gong Shang College remained open where it was. The Jesuits seem not to have given any serious thought to moving to the southwest.

Now the challenge of maintaining the boundaries between their urban university and a wartorn world was more difficult than ever. The Jesuit solution was to defend the boundaries more energetically than ever, even if this meant bearing the moral burden of making personal compromises with worldly powers in order to protect the students behind their walls.

There were good Catholic theological reasons for rationalizing that it was more important for the church to be present in the midst of a troubled society, offering its sacraments to Catholics and incorporating as many social institutions as possible under its hierarchy, than for the church to be effective in pursuing any particular human cause. Thus the Jesuits of Gong Shang College focused their attention on the sheer survival of their institution, and were willing to make what compromises were necessary in teaching and behavior in order to ensure that survival. There was a logic, a moral integrity to this position. But to outsiders unsympathetic to the church, it would look dangerously like collaboration with the enemy.

In other Catholic institutions, theological reasons were found for a more active resistance. Notably, behind the walls of Fu Ren University in Beiping, Chinese

faculty members organized an underground resistance group that later carried out Guomindang work in the area.[37] But it does not seem that the members of the Gong Shang College community did anything comparable. Some students, at least, did want to participate in the resistance, but the Jesuits seem to have discouraged this. Their strategy for coping with Japanese occupation was first of all to avoid doing anything that would invite Japanese reprisals. As the Jesuit history put it, "The presence in the school of elements capable of inciting incidents and the patriotic imprudence of the young, were able at any instant to cause grave difficulties." When such events occurred, "the Fathers of the house were not capable of giving the Japanese the desirable explanations." So, compromising their long-held position regarding the French character of their community, the Jesuits of Gong Shang College asked their Father General for some outside help: "Can we get a priest from [the Jesuit-run] Sophia University in Tokyo to establish a liaison with the Japanese authorities?…a priest knowledgeable in Japanese. Preferably a German."[38]

Thus, in 1938, there arrived from Japan a Fr. Borsch, the first in a series of German Jesuits who would be assigned to the Jesuit community at Gong Shang College to help the Jesuits mediate with the Japanese occupation forces. Fr. Borsch and his successors also ministered to the spiritual needs of Catholics in the Japanese military community. He said mass for them, heard their confessions, and offered spiritual counsel. If the Jesuit educational mission in Tianjin was no longer identified with French culture and politics, it was no longer unambiguously identified with Chinese culture and political aspirations either. Serving China's enemies, as well as Chinese themselves, it projected a vision of Catholicism as standing above all culture and politics. The survival of the church—and the major institutions affiliated with the church—was an end in itself. Even if the church could do nothing, would do nothing, directly to help the Chinese people fulfill their greatest immediate historical need—the need to resist Japan—the church, by surviving, by maintaining a presence through Gong Shang College among the upper classes of Tianjin, could in the long run, in God's mysterious ways, bring them eternal benefits.

In the meantime, the Jesuits did what they could to alleviate some of the misery of the war. They distributed food and clothing to refugees streaming into Tianjin. They continued to carry out baptisms—they rejoiced to report thirty new baptisms in 1938—and to administer the other sacraments. And in Tianjin, they continued their educational enterprise.

In ways the Jesuits could perhaps never have anticipated, that enterprise indeed flourished. Since Gong Shang College was the only institution of higher learning still open in Tianjin, it drew in more students than ever before, students whose affluent families were willing to pay the high tuition necessary to support the college. The number of students in the handsome campus on Racecourse Road went from about six hundred in 1937 to almost two thousand by 1945. In 1943, the expansive tide was running strongly enough that the Jesuits opened a new women's division

of the school. Focusing on a liberal arts rather than a commercial or technical education, the women's division reached about two hundred students by 1945.[39] In spite of the disruption of war, the Jesuits were even able to improve their facilities. In 1938, for instance, they installed a handsome new marble altar in their chapel, the gift of some wealthy Tianjin Catholics.[40]

To all external appearances at least, the school atmosphere remained completely apolitical. There is something eerie about reading the school yearbook for 1940. It is full of stories of athletic contests waged, friendships formed, technical skills acquired, eternal verities learned, good traits of character— "honesty, energy, straightforwardness" —developed. But there is almost nothing that would suggest that a war was raging in China, and for that matter in Europe. The closest one gets to a feeling that there is something amiss is a poem written by one of the graduating students: "We are now preparing to enter a dark [heian] society. We have to change it—make it glorious…. We have to make a new society—or at least not allow ourselves to be corrupted by an evil society. Before you, you see thorns and wild beasts—but this is your chance for glory. Take up sword and spear, and hoe."[41] Whatever agonies such a student would face, however, would come after he left the sheltered walls of the college. Gong Shang College was an island of light and serenity in a dark and storming world.

The Jesuits kept it that way by, among other things, keeping all books "critical of a certain country" out of the parts of the library open to public access.[42] If such books were to be consulted, they could be done so only by specially approved students, and the books could not be taken back to dormitories. Besides suppressing any public criticism of the Japanese, the Jesuits acceded to the Japanese demand that study of the Japanese language be required for graduation. A Japanese teacher sent from Japan was added to the faculty for this purpose. The Jesuits also submitted themselves to regular scrutiny by Japanese inspectors. They seemed to develop good rapport with the inspectors. In 1943, they even received a visit— which "went very well" —by a delegate from the imperial household.[43]

Some students nonetheless carried out anti-Japanese activities, including it seems, in 1944 at least, sabotage against Japanese property. When the Japanese became suspicious of some of the students residing in the school and came to investigate, the Jesuits protected the students by getting rid of any evidence that would have compromised them. If the evidence had been found, "this would have led to the ruin of the University and the condemnation to certain death of the students." Because the Jesuits protected the anti-Japanese students in this way, "some of our students were not willing to accuse us, as they were pressured to do later, of being imperialists and enemies of China."[44]

The Jesuits were indeed eventually accused by the Communists of being Japanese collaborators as well as imperialists. They might claim that they did nothing to advance the Japanese war effort and cooperated with the Japanese only enough to ensure the survival of their college and their mission. They would point to the way that they shielded some anti-Japanese students from prosecution. But they also did

their best to discourage such "youthful imprudence," and in their account they seemed concerned about the fate of the students because of its possible effect on the fate of the school. Was passive survival a sufficient goal for a Catholic institution during the Sino-Japanese War?

Protestants such as those who ran Yanjing University might have answered in the negative. They might have thought that no institution is indispensable for conveying God's grace, since God speaks directly to each believer's heart. They could justify moving their institution away from Beiping to Chengdu so that it could carry out its work without compromise. For Catholics, God becomes present through the institution of the church. The church has to be present in all of its essential hierarchical order in every place under every circumstance for sacramental grace to be conveyed. Therefore the fundamental institutions of the church had to be preserved in north China, had to remain available to the faithful no matter what hardships this might cause its ministers, even if this entailed compromising with the principalities and powers of a sinful society. Of course, there is nothing in Catholic theology that says a church-run college is a fundamental institution of the church. But it is easy enough for people who have invested their lives in building up such an institution, in a belief that this was part of their God-given vocation, to tell themselves that it was God's will that their school continue at all costs.

If for the French Jesuits the effort to keep the school open sprang from a theologically inspired vision of maintaining the presence of the church, for many of the Chinese who attended the school and taught in the school it presented a practical opportunity for making the best of a bad situation. The college was not as good as, say, Nankai, but it presented an opportunity to continue one's education or to practice one's profession in a hard time. Almost all of the nonclerical foreign teachers who had been at the school during the 1930s left at the outbreak of the war. The school provided job opportunities for an increasing number of talented young Chinese scholars. For its increasing numbers of students, the school provided a good technical education and a living space with some serenity and security. During the war years, Gong Shang College became more Chinese than ever. The proportion of non-Catholic Chinese students to Catholic students increased, as did the proportion of secular Chinese faculty to foreign Jesuits. The school gained a place in the hearts of wealthy Tianjin families who in other times would have sent their students to Nankai or Beiyang Universities. But the school became Chinese in a way that associated it with a particular kind of Chinese identity—a kind that would not fare well in the ideological campaigns of the Maoist era.

Whatever the theological rationale for staying in Tianjin, the paternalistic, protective orientation of Gong Shang College provided Chinese urban middle classes with a model for being Chinese in a time of great stress. If you cannot avoid a situation, then passively accept it, make some compromises to stay close to those family members and colleagues for whom you bear special responsibility, try to escape the vicissitudes of a bad time by dwelling on timeless truths, conceal your true feelings from those hostile to you, keep yourself under control—and wait. While the

students and faculty of Gong Shang were waiting, the Communists in Yanan and even the Guomindang in Chongqing were taking a more activist, more heroic posture—striving to change the world, not merely keep it at arm's length.[45] Drawing on the legacy of their most heroic moments, they have represented the true twentieth-century Chinese identity as that of an activist. Over the long run, though, perhaps the wartime stance of the Jesuits of Gong Shang College rings truer to the common sense of the majority of the Chinese people about how best to cope with the calamities visited upon them by the excesses of the activist minority.


Ironically, the Jesuits' religiously motivated effort to keep the world at bay had brought Gong Shang College its greatest degree of worldly success. During the war, it had more students and faculty than ever before and more influence even among non-Catholic social circles in Tianjin. But that very success compromised its religious mission. The success brought the world into the community. Most of the increasing numbers of students were not in Gong Shang College because they were loyal to its religious principles or even to the priests who were in charge. They were there because the college provided a convenient space to get started on their careers in spite of the war. Once the war was over, and better opportunities for advancing their careers presented themselves, they would leave the school.

Soon after the surrender of Japan, the faculties of Gong Shang's major rival universities, Nankai and Beiyang, returned from their exile in the southwest. In an effort to revive these universities, the government provided subsidies that enabled them to simultaneously provide higher salaries and charge lower tuition than Gong Shang. Large numbers of Gong Shang students deserted the school for Nankai or Beiyang, and most of the faculty did so as well. Gong Shang College was forced to replace its well-credentialed teachers with recent alumni who had no more than an undergraduate degree.

While losing its ability to maintain a loyal student body, the college was also losing its ability to gain outside financial support, especially from warravaged France. Then, in the spring of 1946, the last contingent of French soldiers left Tianjin, marking the end of extraterritoriality. The last vestiges of the French protectorate over Catholic missions were gone. The Jesuit who wrote the official history of Gong Shang College did not see this as a victory for the Chinese people. The end of extraterritoriality opened the way to a completely arbitrary form of liberty, he thought: "The Communists were above all the main beneficiaries."[46]

Perhaps it was especially difficult for missionaries steeped in the hierarchical tradition of the Catholic Church to give up a paternalistic sense of control over Chinese Catholic institutions. In any case, the time of the foreign missionaries was coming to an end in China. In response to the Chinese tide of nationalism, the Vatican was finally turning over direction of the Chinese church to a Chinese episcopate. The Chinese church was still extremely hierarchical, but now it was controlled

by Chinese who had no special respect for French hierarchy. In 1945, Bishop Thomas Tian Gengxing of Beijing was made the first Chinese cardinal.[47] Chinese Jesuits, and later in the 1940s Chinese diocesan priests, increasingly took control of Gong Shang College.

Cardinal Tian visited Gong Shang College in May of 1946. The priests at Gong Shang held a grand reception for him, attended by all the elite of Tianjin— "all the civil and military authorities, directors of schools and banks, our entire professorial faculty, and two American diplomats."[48] Over two decades, the work of Gong Shang College had indeed established the connections necessary to call upon all of the established leaders of the city. As stated in a mimeographed report issued by the Jesuits at the end of 1946, "Of the seven Bureaux of Public Works in Tianjin, four are directed by our former students. In all important banks and all large commercial enterprises, one finds our alumni. Because of this, we everywhere find people sympathetic to our work."[49] Unfortunately for the Jesuits, most of their prominent alumni worked for an establishment soon to be overthrown by the Communists.

As they had over the years, the Jesuits of Gong Shang strove to keep themselves aloof from Chinese popular politics. At the end of 1946, large, leftist-inspired demonstrations against American troops stationed in the city swept the student communities. Once again, the priests were able to keep most of their students from participating (though to do so they had to close the college for several weeks). In January of 1947 two inspectors sent by the Guomindang government praised the discipline of the Gong Shang students in the face of temptation to participate in such movements. The approval of the government paid off in 1948, when the college was favorably reviewed and reaccredited under the Guomindang government's new educational system. The Jesuit go-between in this process, as in the earlier accreditation application, was Archbishop Yu Bin of Nanjing, who was and would remain extremely closely tied to the Guomindang. In the process of accreditation, the college's name was once again changed—this time to Jingu College.

The Jesuits had worked hard to get this accreditation, and they thought it was good news. But as they looked at the overall context of their work, they could see that it was a useless piece of good news. Communists were advancing into Xian county, and put their superior, Father Charvet (who had once been rector of the college) under arrest. Priests were fleeing from Communist-occupied rural areas and coming to live in the Jesuit residence at the college. A new world of Chinese nationalism was coming into being, and it was overwhelming any barriers the Jesuits could build against it.

In May of 1948, as the "political sky darkened and the storm approached," and practical efforts to barricade against the storm failed, the Jesuits decided to make special recourse to the Blessed Virgin, Our Lady Queen of China. This is what the villagers of Xian county had done a half century before, during the Boxer uprising. Then, the legends said, as frightened Catholics huddled within their church compounds, the Virgin had appeared atop their church steeples in glorious power

and broken the Boxer siege.[50] Praying for a similar deliverance, the priests of Gong Shang carried a statue of Our Lady Queen of China in a great procession around the college, accompanied by a fervent crowd of Catholics from throughout the city. But during the Boxer troubles, the Catholic communities of Xian county had been relatively self-sufficient villages surrounded by sturdy mud and brick walls. The Catholic community of Gong Shang was part of a large, complex city and, especially now that the French protectorate was gone, its barriers against the unbelieving world were composed of religious symbols and social connections, not sturdy physical stuff. The political sky continued to darken. On January 15, 1949, the Communists took control of Tianjin, and in the semester that followed, there began, as the Jesuit chronicler puts it, "l'agonie des Hautes Etudes."

The Communist Party established a school "soviet," or administrative committee, composed of Chinese professors, administrators, students, and staff. Under the committee's guidance, the students became what they had never been before—political activists. "Liberated" from the supervision of the Jesuits, the students filled the walls of the college with posters "attacking the Americans, attacking religion, attacking our authority, which was put under the name of imperialism." The Jesuits saw this as an example of what happened when impressionable young people were deprived of proper supervision. More accurately perhaps, it was an example of what the Communists could do by manipulating people through their own more aggressive forms of hierarchical supervision.

By the middle of 1949, the new government of Tianjin had made the teaching of materialism obligatory in all schools. They began a violent campaign against Gong Shang College, and by the end of the year they tried to force the dismissal of all Jesuits from the faculty and administration. Employing the "Chinese way," the Jesuits called upon their friends in the Tianjin elite. They gained a temporary victory: the mayor of Tianjin wrote a long letter praising the Fathers for the success of the college and the help given to its students. This temporarily forestalled the dismissal of the Jesuits. "But this was a ‘loss of face’ for our adversaries. In China, this is unpardonable, and must eventually be paid for."[51]

The Jesuits held on in spite of great sacrifices because they felt a responsibility to give protection, help, and comfort to their Catholic students as long as possible. But they could no longer erect adequate barriers between their students and the world. They could no longer even protect themselves. In January of 1951, all of the Jesuits were finally dismissed from their jobs. The priests were placed under surveillance and subjected to long, excruciating interrogations. Some were arrested. The others dared have no further contact with Chinese friends, even with the Catholic students, for fear of compromising them. On July 11, 1951, all the Jesuits were expelled from their residences behind the walls of the college, and, soon after, all the French Jesuits were expelled from China.

The yearbook for the class of 1950 contained no pictures of any priests. Written by the "School Administrative Committee," the preface made no mention of Christianity, but it was full of exhortations for students and faculty to become the

People's intellectuals, not the exploitative intellectuals of the old society. If the college's students, faculty, and alumni followed the principles of Marxism-Leninism, served the people, and followed the mass line, it promised, they would lead the motherland to a glorious future.[52]


In the early 1950s, Gong Shang College was dismantled and its libraries and other resources used to form the basis of the three main institutions of higher education in Hebei Province—Hebei University, which occupied the Gong Shang campus in Tianjin, Hebei Normal University, which was built in Shijiazhuang after 1953, and Hebei Normal School, which is located in Zhangjiakou. During the Cultural Revolution, Hebei University was moved from Tianjin to Baoding. The campus built by the Jesuits is now used by the Tianjin Foreign Language Institute, although a small part is still used to house Hebei University students and faculty who need to do research in Tianjin.[53]

For a few years after the Jesuits left in 1951, the public chapel remained open and one of the Chinese priests came daily to offer mass. Control over the Chinese Catholic Church steadily tightened, however. The government began a movement to force Catholics to renounce foreign ties and to submit to "Catholic reform committees" controlled by the government's Religious Affairs Bureau and the Communist Party's United Front Work Department. Eventually, by the mid-1950s, the government had set up a mass organization called the "Catholic Patriotic Association" to be the liaison between Catholics and the government. The Vatican denounced these arrangements. The government arrested bishops and priests who supported the Vatican, a persecution that reached a high point during the anti-rightist campaign. At the same time, a small percentage of China's priests and bishops supported the Patriotic Association. One of the most prominent among them was the Jesuit Bishop Francis Xavier Zhao Zhensheng, the first Chinese figurehead president of Gong Shang College, who had in 1937 been ordained a bishop and made the Vicar Apostolic of Xian county. In 1957, several Chinese bishops carried out ordinations of new Chinese bishops, who had been elected by the Catholic Patriotic Association but not approved by the Vatican.[54]

Thus was born a tragic split within the Chinese Catholic Church between those who supported the Patriotic Association and were allowed to continue to worship publicly and those who resisted and were forced to carry out their religious activities underground. Most bishops and priests who supported the underground were put into prison, becoming in the minds of most Chinese Catholics martyrs for the faith.

During the Cultural Revolution all religious activity, even that associated with the Patriotic Association, was suppressed, and all churches were closed. In the post-Mao era of "Reform and Opening," the government allowed public Catholic religious life to resume. This led to an extraordinary resurgence in Catholic life.

Newly opened churches were packed with enthusiastic worshipers, churches destroyed during the Cultural Revolution were rebuilt, seminaries and convents were reestablished, new bishops and priests were ordained. All of this was allowed, however, only as long as it was carried out under the official auspices of the Patriotic Association. At the same time, the underground church revived and became bolder, more vigorous, and better organized than ever. This has led not simply to renewed confrontation with the government, and to the arrest and punishment of many underground clergy, but to a bitter, sometimes even violent, split within the Catholic community between those loyal to priests associated with the "public church" and those loyal to priests in the underground. In Tianjin today, there are currently three men each claiming to be the legitimate bishop of the diocese, one a bishop approved by the Patriotic Association (although he himself began his career as an underground bishop) and two underground bishops. Each has his followers, and this has led to a greatly troubled Catholic community.

The troubles of this new situation are the result of the confrontation between a new political situation and the older forms of community we have seen exemplified in the history of Gong Shang College. Now, as then, Catholic identity is defined in terms of status within a hierarchical structure of authority. Now, as then, an important part of the responsibility of the priests and bishops who occupy higher levels of the hierarchy is to patrol the boundaries between church and world and to protect ordinary Catholics from that world.

In the current political situation, protecting one's Catholic flock confronts Chinese bishops and priests with terrible dilemmas. Should they—as the Jesuits did at Gong Shang College under the Japanese—make compromises with the powers of this world in order to protect a space for Catholics in their charge? Or should they resist heroically, even though this might invite a hostile government to completely suppress their community? Many of the bishops and priests who have cooperated sufficiently with the Catholic Patriotic Association to be allowed to work aboveground are not opportunistic collaborators but simply people who are doing their best to protect the church under difficult and ambiguous conditions.

Because the Chinese Catholic community sees itself in such a hierarchical fashion, enormous responsibility is placed on the shoulders of these clerics. But now it is doubly difficult to fulfill that responsibility, because the authority of many of the clerics is questionable. In the first half of this century, during hard times like the Sino-Japanese War, the difficult decisions made by priests like those at Gong Shang College were not open to debate by those under them. But now the Chinese Catholic community bitterly debates the decisions made by its priests. Still following a Counter Reformation model of the church, many of the laity might say that they ought to give unquestioning obedience to a legitimate priestly authority. But it is unclear who is legitimate, because the Vatican has no diplomatic relations with the People's Republic and it cannot send a papal delegate to adjudicate between the claims of, say, the three bishops who claim to be the legitimate authority in the Tianjin diocese.


Although one way to solve this problem would be to reestablish a clear chain of command to the Vatican, another way would be to deemphasize the importance of hierarchy in the Catholic Church. This could be done by emphasizing a biblically based vision of the church as a "people of God." If taken seriously, this would lead to a less paternalistic kind of church, one that did not try to protect believers from the world but inspired each believer to take an active, mature responsibility for his or her actions in the world. In line with the principle of Catholic social philosophy called "subsidiarity," which emphasizes the need for responsible authority to be exercised at the lowest practicable levels, this vision of the church would also encourage believers to govern themselves in most matters from the bottom up, rather than wait for authoritative commands from the top down.[55] In the mid-1960s, the Second Vatican Council, inspired in part by the theological vision reached by Teilhard de Chardin while he was in Tianjin, called for just such a new understanding of the church—a Catholic community that would not try to dominate the world or to set itself apart from the world, but would learn God's will by discerning the signs of the times within the history of the world. Because of its long isolation under the Communist regime, the Chinese Catholic Church is only now, very slowly, beginning to assimilate this modern Catholic vision.

The problems of the Chinese Catholic Church are in some ways reflective of problems of contemporary Chinese culture as a whole. Chinese cultural traditions are very complex, and there are strands that could support an open, entrepreneurial modern society as well as strands that would support a relatively closed, static society. In the twentieth century, the Maoist Communists played on the latter, in effect combining some of the worst of East and West into a political culture that, though changing now, still shapes life in Mainland China. There are many strands too in Catholic traditions, some of which are quite compatible with open, pluralistic modern societies. But the version of European Counter Reformation theology that was propagated in north China in the first half of this century resonated with some of the more defensive, authoritarian strands of Chinese culture—indeed, some of the same strands that Communist ideology resonated with. The Catholic idea that paternalistic authority figures must protect those passive subjects under them has its parallels with Confucian paternalism. The concern about building barriers between the church and the world has its parallel in a Chinese obsession—encouraged also by conservative Communists—with building walls to keep out foreign influences and unsettling thoughts.[56]

And the crisis of China at the end of the twentieth century is parallel with the concurrent crisis of the Chinese Catholic Church. Too much of the population is too oriented to authority, inclined to be politically passive, never having had the opportunity to develop habits of responsible self-governance. But at the same time, they can no longer accept the legitimacy of the authorities governing them. Out of such painful dilemmas, we may hope, might come new forms of religious and political reformation that will combine some of the most forward-looking elements

of Chinese humanism with some of the most flexible strands of Western politics and culture.


1. These quotes are taken from ethnographic fieldwork conducted by Fan Lizhu and myself in the suburbs of Tianjin and in Xian county, Hebei, in 1993, with the support of a Luce Foundation grant. The results have been published in Richard Madsen, China's Catholics: Tragedy and Hope in an Emerging Civil Society (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1998). [BACK]

2. Teilhard de Chardin wrote a number of scientific monographs on the excavations of "Peking Man" at Zhoukoudian. He is best known for his theological works, however. The most famous of these, The Phenomenon of Man (English trans. by Bernard Wall [New York: Harper and Row, 1959]), was written in 1939 in Tianjin while he was confined to the Jesuit residence and unable to do his scientific research because of the Sino-Japanese War. Like his other theological works, this was deemed heretical and its publication forbidden by the church. It circulated in mimeographed form among a small circle of Teilhard's friends and was finally published in France in 1955, after his death. For biographies in English, see Robert Splaight, The Life of Teilhard de Chardin (New York: Harper and Row, 1967); Paul Grenet, Teilhard de Chardin, the Man and His Theories, trans. R. A. Rudorff (New York: P. S. Eriksson, 1966); Leon Cristiani, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin: His Life and Spirit, trans. Martin Jarrett-Kerr (New York: Macmillan, 1960); Henri de Lubac, The Religion of Teilhard de Chardin, trans. Rene Hague (New York: Hawthorn Books, 1966).

There were other important progressive priests and intellectuals who made a base in Tianjin in the first half of this century—people whose work was more directly related than Teilhard's to contemporary Chinese politics. Notable was the Belgian Lazarist Vincent Lebbe, who advocated an identification of Christianity with Chinese nationalism and pressed for the establishment of a church under the direction of a Chinese episcopacy rather than foreign missionaries. Lebbe was controversial, and many Catholic missionaries, especially the French missionaries discussed in this chapter, were not very sympathetic to his approach. Although in the long run Lebbe's vision has been very influential, in the 1920s and 1930s the kind of Catholic vision that I discuss in this chapter represented the mainstream of Catholicism in China. For a good introduction to the life of Lebbe, see Eugenio Menegon, "Catholic Intellectuals in Republican China and Their Search for National Identity" (manuscript, 1995). [BACK]

3. The other two Catholic institutions were Shanghai's Zhendan (Aurora) University, which was also run by the French Jesuits, and Beijing's Fu Ren University, which was established by the American Benedictines but in the 1930s was taken over by the German-based Society of the Divine Word. Zhendan was similar to Tianjin's Gong Shang College in its use of the French language as a medium of instruction and its adherence to French educational methods with emphasis on professional education rather than liberal arts. Zhendan, in fact, clung to the use of the French language longer than Gong Shang because there were more opportunities for French-speaking Chinese in Shanghai. Fu Ren University placed a greater emphasis on the liberal arts and in practice put more emphasis on integrating Chinese and Western cultural traditions. Although there is an extensive scholarly literature on the sixteen Protestant institutions of higher education in China, the contribution

of Catholic higher education to China's modernization is a neglected topic. One of the few articles on the subject is Ruth Hayhoe, "A Chinese Catholic Philosophy of Higher Education in Republican China," Tripod 48 (1988): 49–60. [BACK]

4. See Robert N. Bellah, Richard Madsen, William M. Sullivan, Ann Swidler, and Steven M. Tipton, Habits of the Heart: Individualism and Commitment in American Life (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1985). [BACK]

5. For a sociological analysis (as distinguished from theological and historical analyses, of which there are a vast number) of the Counter Reformation Catholic Church, see Victor M. Perez-Diaz, The Return of Civil Society (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1993), 109–83. The classic sociological study still remains that of Ernst Troeltsch, The Social Teaching of the Christian Churches, trans. Olive Wyon (London: George Allen, 1931). [BACK]

6. Comment made at the conference "Yanjing University and Chinese Higher Education," Claremont McKenna College, Claremont, Calif., May 22–26, 1996. [BACK]

7. Madsen, China's Catholics, 62. [BACK]

8. For recent Chinese histories of the Zhangzhuang Cathedral and its associated community, see Zhang Pingyi and Kang Yu, "Xianxian Zhangzhuang Tianzhu Jiao Congjiaotang de Fandong Huodong yu Dai Dongnan Renmin de Fan Di Ai Guo Yundong," in Hebei Wenshi Cikan Xuanji, vol. 1 (Shijiazhuang: Hebei Renmin Chubanshe, 1980); and Pei Shulan, ed., "Tianzhutang zai Xianxian deng chude Tianchan," Jindaishi Cikan (Review of modern history). [BACK]

9. See Richard Madsen, "The Catholic Church in China: Cultural Contradictions, Institutional Survival, and Religious Renewal," in Unofficial China: Popular Culture and Thought in the People's Republic, ed. Perry Link, Richard Madsen, and Paul G. Pickowicz (Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 1989), 103–20. [BACK]

10. For a complete list of sources, see Edward Malatesta, "Resources at the Jesuit Archives in France Pertaining to L'Institut des Hautes Etudes Industrielles et Commerciales de Tianjin" (paper presented at "International Symposium on Historical Archives of Pre-1949 Christian Higher Education in China," Chinese University of Hong Kong, December 1993). The most important parts of this material were photocopied by Fr. Malatesta and are available at the Ricci Institute of the University of San Francisco. About half the documents are in French, half in Chinese. The French documents include a ninety-five-page typewritten manuscript on the history of the Institut, "L'Universite Tsinkou, Ecole des Hautes-Etudes de Tientsin, Histoire d'Un Quart de Siecle," by Paul Bornet, S.J. This manuscript was written between 1949 and 1951 and based on diaries kept by the Jesuits at the school, as well as on the personal memories of Fr. Bornet, who served on the school's faculty. This history was written for internal use, not for external publication. In the archives, there is a letter to Fr. Bornet from his superior telling him to include the shadows as well as the bright spots in his chronicle. The archive also includes internal memos debating school policy, as well as press releases and brochures written to solicit French support. The Chinese documents include yearbooks, several school catalogues, a report written in support of accreditation, copies of the school newspaper Daoguang (published weekly between 1930 and 1937), and copies of the tables of contents of the religious journal Beizhan, the Gong Shang Xuezhi, and academic journals on engineering and on Chinese law published at the Institut. Unless otherwise noted, all translations from the French or Chinese are by myself. [BACK]

11. Quoted in George Minamiki, S.J., The Chinese Rites Controversy from Its Beginning to Modern Times (Chicago: Loyola University Press, 1985), 190. (See also Eugenio Manegon, "Catholic Intellectuals in Republican China" [manuscript, Department of History, University

of California at Berkeley, 1995], 3.) Issued by Pope Benedict XV, this encyclical was deeply influenced by the views of Fr. Vincent Lebbe. It represented an attempt by the Vatican to circumvent France's position as protector of Catholic missions. Many French missionaries resisted, as will be apparent from this essay. For the political context of the encyclical, see Jean-Paul Wiest, Maryknoll in China (Armonk, N.Y.: M. E. Sharpe, 1988), 45–47. [BACK]

12. This four-page typewritten document is dated Tianjin, 15 February 1924. [BACK]

13. Typewritten draft of a brochure about the Institut, 1931. [BACK]

14. Paul Bornet, "L'Universite Tsinkou," 1–5. [BACK]

15. Report dated 15 February 1924. [BACK]

16. Bornet, "L'Universite Tsinkou," 6.2. [BACK]

17. This is acknowledged in the school catalogue published in May 1935. [BACK]

18. Typewritten draft for a brochure on the Institut, 1931. [BACK]

19. French description of school, 15 February 1924; Chinese catalogue, 1935. [BACK]

20. See Jessie G. Lutz, China and the Christian Colleges, 1850–1950 (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1971). [BACK]

21. French description of school, 15 February 1924. [BACK]

22. "Note sur l'Influence Francaise de l'Institut de Tientsin," 13 February 1933, typewritten. [BACK]

23. "Note sur l'Influence Francaise"; the Chinese catalogue for 1935 speaks of the French influence in terms of a style of education: thorough and practical, proceeding in a methodical manner, and not emphasizing pompous abstractions. [BACK]

24. Memos concerning a consultation of February 1931 on whether official recognition should be requested. Also, Bornet, "L'Universite Tsinkou," 19–22. [BACK]

25. Ibid., 21. [BACK]

26. Ibid., 26. [BACK]

27. Fr. Pollet, 8 January, 1937. [BACK]

28. "Extraitades remarques du P. Charvet sur le rapport du P. Pollet," n.d. [BACK]

29. Troeltsch, Social Teachings, vol. 1, 328–82; and vol. 2, conclusion. [BACK]

30. Yearbook, 1937. [BACK]

31. Yearbook, 1939. [BACK]

32. Yearbook, 1937. [BACK]

33. Ibid. [BACK]

34. Bornet, "L'Universite Tsinkou," 30–31. [BACK]

35. Catalogue of the newly established Women's Division, 1943. [BACK]

36. Jean-Yves Calvez, S.J., "Economic Policy Issues in Roman Catholic Social Teaching: An International Perspective," in The Catholic Challenge to the American Economy, ed. Thomas M. Gannon, S.J. (New York: Macmillan, 1987), 15–26. [BACK]

37. Menegon, "Catholic Intellectuals," 26–28. [BACK]

38. Bornet, "L'Universite Tsinkou," 42–43. [BACK]

39. See the enrollment chart presented in a report by Frs. Charvet and Denys, 10 December 1946. [BACK]

40. Bornet, "L'Universite Tsinkou," 45. [BACK]

41. Yearbook, 1941. [BACK]

42. Bornet, "L'Universite Tsinkou," 53. [BACK]

43. Ibid., 60. [BACK]

44. Ibid., 74. This section of Fr. Bornet's history, recounting events that took place between 1942 and 1946, is less detailed than the rest of the document. According to a note in

the manuscript, the original fifteen pages dealing with this period were destroyed in June of 1951, just before the French Jesuits were expelled from Tianjin, because they made mention of persons connected with Bishop Yu Bin, who had been declared a traitor by the Communists. The new version was written without benefit of the diaries and reports used in the old version. [BACK]

45. See David E. Apter and Tony Saich, Revolutionary Discourse in Mao's Republic (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1994). [BACK]

46. Bornet, "L'Universite Tsinkou," 76. [BACK]

47. Before the establishment of a national episcopate, China was considered a mission territory under direct control of Propaganda Fidei in Rome. Its regions were called Vicariate Apostolates and, though headed by bishops, some of whom were Chinese, were not dioceses. With the establishment of a Chinese episcopate, China was now considered to be a national church, governed (under Vatican supervision) by its own conference of bishops, in the same way as, say, the Catholic Church in France or the United States. The conferral of the status of cardinal on Thomas Tian was part of the recognition of this new status for the Chinese church. Eric Hanson notes that the Vatican gave the red hat to Thomas Tian at this time, rather than to Yu Bin, because Yu Bin was considered too closely tied to the Guo-mindang. Eric O. Hanson, Catholic Politics in China and Korea (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 1980), 95. [BACK]

48. Bornet, "L'Universite Tsinkou," 78. [BACK]

49. Report by Frs. Charvet and Denys, 10 December, 1946. [BACK]

50. Information from ethnographic fieldwork reported in Madsen, China's Catholics, 91. [BACK]

51. Bornet, "L'Universite Tsinkou," 89. [BACK]

52. Yearbook, 1950. [BACK]

53. This information was graciously provided to me by Wang Xiaoqing, a graduate of Hebei University who worked on a project to compile its history. [BACK]

54. See John Tong, "The Catholic Church from 1949 to 1990," in The Catholic Church in Modern China, ed. Edmund Tang and Jean-Paul Wiest (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 1993), 7–27. [BACK]

55. Such theological issues are thoroughly discussed in Kim-Kwong Chan, Toward a Contextual Ecclesiology: The Catholic Church in the People's Republic of China (1979–1983): Its Life and Theological Implications (Hong Kong: Chinese Church Research Center, 1987), 333–412. [BACK]

56. See the discussion in the 1988 Chinese TV series Heshang. For English translation and commentary, see Su Xiaokang and Wang Luxiang, Deathsong of the River: A Reader's Guide to the Chinese TV Series Heshang, trans. and ed. Richard W. Bodman and Pin P. Wan (Ithaca: Cornell East Asia series, 1991). [BACK]


6. The Grounding of Cosmopolitans

Merchants and Local Cultures
in Guangdong

Helen F. Siu


In his study of Hankou merchants in the eighteenth century, William Rowe points to their institutional significance as an autonomous social force in dialogue with the late imperial state. Their physical presence matured well before the forces of modernization, which were associated with the coming of the West.[1] David Faure, however, stresses the lack of an independent identity for mercantile groups. His study of Foshan focuses on the literati concerns shrewdly pursued by a range of town-based elite a century earlier. There might have been powerful mercantile interests, but he sees no conscious cultural identity apart from state ideology.[2]

Scholars have debated about mercantile groups, their trade organizations, family institutions, lifestyles, outlooks, and networking with literati and state. The maturing of marketing systems from the Song dynasty onward is well demonstrated by studies on Shanxi, Huizhou, Fujian, and Jiangnan.[3] Cycles of commercial growth and decline were interwoven with dynastic fortunes. They also contributed to a regional renaissance of the arts and culture, family institutions, and popular religion.[4] Despite the material and cultural impact of mercantile groups, their identities remained as ambiguous in historical records as in the minds of analysts.

The ambiguity has much to do with the fact that successful merchants cultivated a great deal more than their trades. Huizhou merchants during the Ming invested in academies and literati pursuits. Those in Jiangnan excelled in the craft of garden building and fine arts.[5] In Fujian, they built elaborate temples.[6] In Guang-dong, they acquired and developed vast river marshes (sha) in the name of ancestral estates. These estates were the backbone of the evolution of an elaborate lineage complex.[7]

If those engaging in mercantile activities subscribed to the cultural forms of the literati and contributed significantly to the making of local society, we should


Pearl River Delta, Guangdong Province.

[Full Size]

not assume that merchants were extraneous to agrarian institutions and threatening to state orthodoxy. However, such an assumption often frames research questions and historical explanations: the difference between the studies by William Rowe and David Faure thus becomes one of historical time and place. The Foshan elites would be seen as having emerged from a rural political economy and having borrowed state ideologies to legitimize their operations. The Hankou merchants had another century to develop private urban institutions and regional networks in order to "collude, negotiate, and conflict" with the state on their own terms.

The assumed totalizing impact of the imperial order and its hostility to commercial activities continue to shape scholarly imagination for the Republican period. Chinese historians have agonized over the Qing's failure to modernize China's economy. To them, the culprit was state orthodoxy as much as Western imperialism. In their view, when imperial prerogatives weakened, the new Chinese bourgeoisie emerged from under the shadow of the decaying Qing state. They thrived when the preoccupation of Western powers in Europe during the First World War created competitive opportunities for indigenous businesses. Labeled compradors (maiban), capitalists, and national bourgeoisie, depending on the side of the political spectrum they were cast, these groups were seen to have reached a golden age in an emerging metropolitan landscape of treaty ports and coastal cities.[8]

A similar analytical logic is extended to the Chinese diaspora. Wang Gungwu maintains that overseas Chinese merchants thrived due to their distance from imperial control and to their skillful adaptation to colonial and local states in Southeast Asia.[9] Liu Kwang-ching observes the privatization of mercantile activities as reflected in guilds and native-place associations. He chronicles how late Qing compradors used their intimate knowledge of Western institutions to promote new practical philosophies on state and society.[10] New business interests in the early twentieth century were seen as continuing this maneuver between the legacy of tradition and modern Western challenges. Scholarly attention focuses on processes of nation-state building, where an assertive cosmopolitan elite assumed an autonomous identity and public space.[11] Riding on their "marginality," select entrepreneurial groups in Republican Nanjing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou conspicuously positioned themselves as national politics became decentered.

However, one cannot ignore the demise of mercantile groups in other regional cities and towns. The decline of the Huizhou merchants started in the early nine-teenth century, when the monopolistic powers of state licenses were eroded. Many hang merchants in Guangzhou were bankrupted before the system was finally abolished. The devastation of the long-distance traders of agricultural products in Guangdong in the early twentieth century also stood in sharp contrast to the fortunes of the new militarized bosses in the same region.

It remains difficult to pinpoint the predicaments of the range of entrepreneurs in Chinese history, their membership, the nature of their business, their lifestyles

and outlooks, their shifting alliances with power, and their national impact. If the term merchant defies definition as a distinct social category vis-à-vis the state in the Ming and Qing, merchants' differing fortunes in the Republican era are also hard to categorize. It may be more fruitful to treat these mercantile experiences as multilayered processes that intertwined with the making of cultural, economic, and political institutions in particular historical junctures. Granted that there are always winners and losers in history, a discussion of what contributed to the fate of mercantile groups in relation to the fluctuating fortunes of state and local society will sharpen our focus on their identities. Instead of subscribing to the mechanical dichotomies of state/market, urban/rural, elite/popular, and public/private, we may focus on the creative linkages forged by merchants in their efforts to excel in the circumstances in which they found themselves. As a result of those efforts, they changed the terms for dialogue and invented new cultural arenas, which integrated local society, the larger political order, and their own identities.

Once local agency and its historical complexities are analyzed, state institutions and agendas appear to have been nuanced and amorphous rather than restrictive and bureaucratic. At a discursive level, the state could be a fluid cultural idea subject to manipulation and contest. In previous articles, I have argued for a decentered view of the Chinese state. Such a view allows us to appreciate more fully the input from various social groups positioned in different parts of the empire. These groups had emulated what they perceived as literati values of the political center. In the process, they contributed to the creative making of regional society as well as the authoritative language of the state. What became recognized as cultural orthodoxy had much to do with the local resourcefulness of these agents, intentional or otherwise.[12]

The ambiguous nature of merchants and their cultural efforts also allows us to rethink the terms of debate on "civil society" in historical and contemporary China. In a study of contemporary urban China, Elizabeth Perry aptly summarizes such rethinking: "Our Western social science habit of viewing state-society relations as a zero-sum game, in which society's gain is the state's loss, does not shed much light on a China where private ties, public associations, and state agents are so thoroughly intertwined."[13]

What follows will be an exploratory essay, a rethinking of historical and ethnographic materials on the Pearl River delta that I have collected over the years. The maneuvers of mercantile groups in the late imperial period will be contrasted with those in the early twentieth century. If there are visible gaps in the data and a conscious rereading of it, this is because my research has not been focused on mercantile experiences or the Republican period. I shall draw upon the works of historians and, in particular, colleagues who have worked on Guangdong. In the past few years, we have tried to finetune issues in historical anthropology, reset basic parameters on which the map of Chinese culture was drawn, and uncover voices in crucial moments of history that might not have been given the attention they deserve.[14]



If we do not analytically pose state orthodoxy and agrarian institutions against merchant interests, how do we assess the historical efforts of mercantile groups in bridging state and local identities? Scholars often assume that literati were more important than merchants in creating ideological commitment to the state.[15] They may acknowledge that gentry and merchants often overlapped in membership in the commercial regions during the Ming and Qing, but they seldom give merchants a leading cultural voice.[16] However, Yu Ying-shih in a recent article presents ample evidence, from the sixteenth century on, that merchants were able to create cultural space on their own terms while making every attempt to emulate orthodoxy. In the process, they changed the overall philosophical orientation of Chinese tradition itself.[17]

To give due attention to the interactive impact of merchants' actions on mainstream culture and society, Susan Mann argues that, "like all agrarian societies, China offered merchants ideological sanctions and organizational roles that legitimized their status, incorporating them fully into the workings of the body politic…. The Qing call to ‘make people content and facilitate the activities of merchants' (anmin tongshang) recognized the integral relationship between a state agrarian order and a regular flow of commerce."[18] Her study minimizes the assumed incompatibility of state orthodoxy and merchant interests, and focuses on liturgical leadership and market town development made possible by a state that recognized the merits of commerce.

David Faure brings attention to another side of the merchants' bridging functions—the merchants' initiative in making local rural society, the cultural foundation of which was shared, if not synonymous, with the Confucian state. He addresses the problem by highlighting new dimensions of being a merchant and making lineage. Stressing that mercantile activities permeated many social arenas, he observes, "Historians of China recognize that, in the Ming and the Qing, merchants contributed to their lineages and drew from them resources that they put into their business activities. While this view of the lineage gives it a place in business history, it nevertheless characterizes lineage institutions as being extraneous to the world of business. In this short note, I wish to argue that the distinction between lineage and business activities can often be misleading, and that the development of the lineage as an institution must be recognized as an intrinsic element in the history of Chinese business."[19] In a political system where commercial law did not exist, Faure argues, patronage was actively sought to ensure business security. From the Ming dynasty on, the territorially based lineages that rose to dominate the landscape of the towns and villages of south China, with their corporate estates, ornate ancestral halls for ritual and worship, and array of literati members, were consciously cultivated to provide the necessary patronage networks for the fledgling commercial interests.[20]


Faure's analytical point is relevant in other aspects of social life as well. Materials from the Pearl River delta in the Ming and Qing periods largely support the view that corporate lineage estates in the sands (sha), popular religious beliefs and practices, academies, and strong territorial bonds based on settlement rights in the expanding delta grew with the region's commercialization. Although these cultural features were long recognized as major components of a state agrarian society, their making could not have been possible without crucial input from and impact on mercantile interests.[21]

Historical records from Foshan illustrate the point. Foshan was one of the four prominent market towns (zhen) of China. Since the Ming, it had been famous for iron-implements industries, pottery kilns, and dyed-cloth and papermaking businesses. However, it excelled not in industries alone. It was home to the delta's powerful lineages surnamed Xian, Li, Chen, and Huo. From the 1400s to the 1800s, these lineages produced a dazzling array of literati figures and owned extensive river marshes, kilns, lumber farms, ironworks, pawnshops, markets, and river landings. They had mobilized effectively for community defense, especially against the rebellion by Huang Xiaoyang in 1450. They were also promoters of a cult of the ancestral temple (zu miao) in Foshan with elaborate annual rituals.

The career of a prominent native of Nanhai county, in which Foshan was located, illustrates a creative fusion of these multiple interests and experiences. Huo Tao's ancestors supposedly started as duck farmers in the river marshes. They later operated iron-casting businesses, pottery kilns, and lumber farms. Huo Tao succeeded in the literati route. In his rise through the ranks of the imperial bureaucracy in the Ming, his family accumulated vast properties in the sands, which formed the backbone of corporate lineages that David Faure described. As minister for the board of rites in the Jiajing reign (1522–66), Huo Tao sided with the emperor against a majority of the ministers in the Great Rituals Controversy (da liyi) during the 1520s. According to Faure, the debate was one of the most emotionally charged and divisive in the Ming court. By supporting the emperor's wish to give ritual superiority to his blood ancestor rather than to the person from whom he inherited the throne, Huo sided with two other senior officials of Guangdong to stress the primacy of primordial ties. It was not entirely coincidental that, in 1525, Huo built a hall to honor founding ancestors of his lineage in his native village, Shitou xiang near Foshan. After that, there was in Guangdong a proliferation of territorially based lineage formations that stressed blood ties to the focal ancestor, literati achievements, written genealogies, and landed estates.[22]

Faure's observations may lead one to credit Huo Tao with the creation of a literati form of cultural orthodoxy in Guangdong. However, Huo was also known to promote overseas commerce when the Ming court was advocating exclusion. He opposed the court's policy of suppressing sea trade (haijin), noting that trade with Southeast Asia could be mutually beneficial and that China should not commit self-imposed closure (zikun) by rejecting traders from those areas.[23]


The Foshan materials show that the mercantile activities, the development of the sands, the rise of corporate lineages, and literati achievements intertwined to create a thriving regional culture and society. Mercantile activities did not appear to constitute a social force that arose from a previously undifferentiated rural society, nor did merchants eventually develop autonomous voices challenging the state. Instead merchants seemed to function best during the heyday of imperial fortunes and orthodoxy, and when rural society was intimately linked to merchant operations. Mercantile interests and their cultural maneuvers had allowed local, regional, and state identities to complement and penetrate one another. This historical process is summarized by two Chinese economic historians, Tan Dihua and Ye Xian'en. Although framed in Marxist language, the message is clear:[24]

Foshan zhen prospered during mid-Ming when iron-and pottery works developed under the general conditions of an increasing social division of labor and commodity production. However, feudal power privileging descent rose with Foshan's economic prosperity and strengthened its control over and interference in the economy. When prominent merchants continued to become feudal gentry, and when lineages invested in scholarly talents with lineage properties, cultivating droves of feudal bureaucrats, Foshan became filled with these literati types, expanding forever the consuming and parasitic population. A productive city gradually became a place of consumption; a specialized industrial and commercial city ended up being a fortress of feudalism. (163)

Social pluralism, competent self-management, a coherent prosperity, and alliance with officials stressing morality and restraint are themes noted by historians in the characterization of merchant-state relationships in the Ming and Qing in many areas of China.[25] Moreover, as the Foshan materials show, the merchants' intrinsic role in local society was by no means a matter of passive accommodation of a lack of alternative investment opportunities. The security of their urban operations depended on the active cultivation of rural bases and the associated cultural repertoire, which the imperial dynasties had promoted as their own civilizing agenda.[26]


The parallels between Foshan and Huizhou merchants are striking. Despite the span of historical time and space between Anhui province where Huizhou lies, and the Pearl River delta in Guangdong province, which is home to Foshan, some comparisons can be made.[27] First, owners of large private lands in Huizhou were rare. Ye Xian'en observes in his book on the Huizhou merchants in the Ming-Qing period that few private landlords owned over 100 mu of land.[28] This form of investment in land was small in proportion to the enormous wealth accumulated in commerce. However, merchant contributions to ancestral estates were substantial, amounting sometimes to thousands of mu in wooded hilly land.[29]


Many of the estates were rented out long term to rich households who contracted bond servants (dian pu) to manage the wooded lands.[30] These operations assured merchants of a steady supply of products (such as lumber, bamboo, and tea) for their trade, and profits accumulated were often turned into loans for interest collection. The vast sandy land in the Pearl River delta auctioned out by town-based ancestral trusts to tenant contractors for long-term development quite paralleled the cultivation of woods for lumber in the hills of Huizhou.[31] Furthermore, in Guangdong, it was common to find entire villages of particular surnames that were bond servants to established lineages. However numerous their members were, they were treated by their patrons as mixed surnames (za xing), that is, as members of lineages without ancestral halls and subject to numerous ritual restrictions.[32]

Economic functions aside, the estates in both Huizhou and Guangdong and the rituals they financed had a cultural-political dimension. They were set up in the name of founding ancestors. With due recognition by state officials, local populations claimed native roots and the associated rights of settlement and use. Furthermore, the estates were managed by those linked to the town merchants with particular social bonds and obligations. Many of the functionaries had become prosperous entrepreneurs themselves, but cultural rules demarcating status remained strong.[33] The merchants' contribution to the estates legitimized their membership in the community despite their prolonged residence in towns and cities. Harriet Zurndorfer's examination of the Fan lineage estates reveals generations of land and other investments by lineage segments whose members became prosperous in commerce.[34] In a word, lineages were more than kinship and rituals: they were cultural inventions with significant economic and political impact.[35] In an emerging status hierarchy of which lineage became a significant component, a merchant could profit as kin and patron.

Cultural strategies extended beyond the local community. Historical materials on Huizhou merchants point to the elaborate political networking created by the merchants' support of education.[36] In the six counties of Huizhou, there existed fifty-one academies of varying sizes and visibility, most of them built during the Ming and early Qing, when the Huizhou merchants were enjoying great prosperity. From village schools to county academies, merchants' support not only prepared their kin for officialdom but the academies also became the arena for activities other than schooling. At times as a result of territorial bonds, at times as a result of kinship, these institutions were where local leaders, merchants, and officials composed the local and regional versions of a literati language for practical politicking. The numbers of graduates are staggering. During the Ming, Huizhou produced 298 juren (provincial graduates) and 392 jinshi (metropolitan graduates). In the Qing, it produced 698 juren and 226 jinshi.[37] The importance of the Xin'an school of thought (Xin'an xuepai), brandishing leading neo-Confucians as its native sons, can be seen as part of such a process.[38] It may be useful to view the late imperial state as a totalizing cultural idea rather than as political machinery, and as such it allowed local agents to maneuver shrewdly from within.[39]


The Huizhou merchants were also distinguished by their conspicuous elaboration of literati lifestyles, regional drama, and the arts. Major Huizhou opera troupes (Si da Hui bang) had prominent merchant patrons.[40] It would be difficult to dismiss their actions as unsophisticated acquisition of "superfluous things."[41] Ironically, in the merchants' eager emulation of the literati and in their subscription to what they perceived as state orthodoxy, they created new social and cultural space within the imperial order that linked city to country. In a word, judging from the development in Huizhou, merchants could be central to the very cultural processes of state making and of incorporation of local society into the imperial order. Hence their liturgical role during the high Qing.

G. William Skinner's work on the hierarchy of markets confirms the importance of economic nodes for cultural integration. The economic importance of the Huizhou merchants in the Yangzi River system is reflected in a saying that "one cannot claim to have a market if there are no Huizhou merchants."[42] Moreover, their influence on mainstream cultural pursuits could hardly be discounted. It is worth noting that out of the four persons who, at the request of Emperor Qianlong, donated over five hundred types of books and manuscripts to the imperial library (Si ku quan shu guan), three were merchants of Huizhou origin.[43]


While merchant groups were able to maintain integrative links with both regional society and metropolitan politics during the dynastic heyday in the Ming and Qing, the balance was fundamentally disturbed as the nineteenth century wore on. Philip Kuhn and Susan Mann attribute the late Qing crisis to the intensified attempts by the state to reach society directly, after the growth of regional militaristic interests in the wake of midcentury rebellions. The capacity for merchant groups to meet an increasingly interventionist state depended greatly on how rooted the merchants were in the local community. This is illustrated by Mann's description of reactions by merchant groups in Huicheng (the Xinhui county capital) and neighboring Jiangmen city to the imposition of the transit tax (lijin) in mid-nineteenth century. The Xinhui merchants, represented by a locally entrenched fan palm guild and regionally powerful lineage formations, successfully resisted the tax. The Jiangmen merchants, many being transport brokers (and I suspect they had been dan fisherfolk in origin, with no local roots), avoided the tax by leaving the area. (The dan were a floating population of tenant-farmers, fisherfolk, and transport functionaries.) The historian Luo Yixing observes the similar fate of prosperous merchants a few decades later in Lubao, a river market north of Foshan that had thrived on being a distribution center of regional goods. The merchants met stiff competition from rising local bosses in the surrounding countryside, who used the label shuiliuchai (floating twigs, a term for the dan, who often were not given settlement rights in local communities) to disenfranchise them.[44] These labels, imposed on the less rooted by landed groups, were a powerful cultural

means of exclusion and of defining social hierarchy in the late imperial order.

Paradoxically, merchants also suffered when the state faced its own crisis of legitimacy. Problems began to surface in the early nineteenth century in different guises. When the power of the state to grant trading monopolies diminished, the Huizhou merchants rapidly declined.[45] So did the Fu-Rong salt-yard elite lineages in Sichuan at the end of the century, when the structure of state authority governing salt production could no longer be profitably manipulated. Merchants in the regional cities and market towns of the Pearl River delta did not depend on state licenses. They thrived for another few decades in the nineteenth century by maintaining their own local monopolies and regional networks. With the influx of overseas Chinese capital after the 1911 revolution, fan palm and citrus peel merchants in fact reached the height of their prosperity.

However, the fact that the state lost its authoritative presence eventually caught up with them. They had less to draw on to enforce the terms of their trade in the local and regional environments. There were fewer means to redress contractual and credit arrangements that had been broken, and they were vulnerable to encroachment by marginal groups. They experienced tremendous hardships when they lost territorial control in the rural hinterland to local bosses who did not respect the moral authority and the power play embodied in literati etiquette or communal rituals. In Xinhui county, many large enterprises in the trading of grain, fan palm, and citrus peel closed down. Properties owned by guilds and academies, and town-based ancestral estates, were forcibly taken and sold by local strongmen who rose from the regional fringes. Their troops often occupied communal temples that were made into tax collection stations. At times, when negotiations with local bosses broke down, heads of merchant organizations were held ransom. The demise of the merchants accelerated during the war with Japan when central authority completely eroded. In Xiaolan zhen of Zhongshan county, over a hundred of the town's 393 ancestral halls were dismantled by local bosses who maintained a tense truce with the Japanese military and the Nationalist generals.

The merchants' difficulties were partly due to the general disruptions of war and political turmoil that brought great destruction to both villages and cities. In rural north China, Philip Huang has argued, the commercialized areas suffered greatly, especially those where warlord armies passed.[46] Prasenjit Duara stresses the intrusions of the Nationalist state via local agents in regional and county governments.[47] The merchants in the county capitals and market towns of the Pearl River delta, whose businesses provided crucial links between rural and urban areas, were caught at both ends. Some businesses survived, but others declined.[48] While appreciating what Joseph Esherick and Mary Rankin describe as the broad range of strategies available to local elites for maintaining dominance, one wonders if the rise of the new power holders in the Republican era could have been a catalyst for the demise of those who had prospered by traditional means before.


Mercantile groups in general did not face a common enemy—an imperial state clinging to "feudal" traditions. Instead, they were drawn to the political center and local society in vastly different but equally intense ways. New power holders in the early twentieth century, be they mercantile or militaristic, were able to make a new language of the nation and create alternative territorial bonds that attached local regions to the Republican state. Those who depended on the language of the imperial state and its shared cultural assumptions in local community fell by the wayside.

In the sections that follow, I will focus on a less explored factor in the demise of the merchants in the Pearl River delta in the Republican period: their inability to maintain ties to the rural community due to the rise of militaristic local bosses.[49] The cultural resources with which merchants adorned themselves, and which had dovetailed with the imperial order's civilizing enterprise, had been crucial to their social identity and economic prowess in the regional cities and towns during a large part of the late nineteenth century. It seems that the usurpation of a rural base eroded their claim to a legitimate place in the state patronage networks. This correspondingly closed off the arenas for practical networking and political negotiation based on shared assumptions. Moreover, unlike their counterparts in Guangzhou or Shanghai, these merchants were not close enough to the new political centers to develop any alternative cultural arenas to maintain the necessary political dialogues. When the state became less of a malleable cultural idea and more a predatory military power, the predicaments of commercial groups seemed to have become progressively grim. This upset the delicate balance between compliance and resistance that David Strand perceptively describes as the "embrace and foil of state agents" by commercial groups.[50]

If we follow this scenario, we must ask questions different from those already asked: What kind of mercantile groups were major players in the Republican period? How do we disaggregate their access to economic resources and cultural strategies? With regard to partnership in the building of a modern nation-state and cultural identity, whose golden age was it? How do we evaluate the fate of the traditional merchant institutions and arenas in the face of the rise of the new merchant-industrialist groups? Until we remark on their differing local bases and their complicity with imperial orthodoxy or with modern state institutions, it may be difficult to characterize the age of the Chinese bourgeoisie and its part in the restructuring of region, state, and nation, then and now.


To understand how the Guangdong merchants lost to militaristic bosses from the regional fringes, one needs to examine the rural bases of the merchants as they had cultivated them. Since the mid-1980s, I have worked with a team of historians on several sites in the Pearl River delta, which is made up of the West (Xi), North (Bei), and East (Dong) River systems.[51] From the Ming to the late Qing, this part of

the delta underwent rapid commercialization.[52] Marketing networks intensified among the towns and villages from the edge of the sands to county capitals. Regional cities emerged as production and distribution centers for local and long-distance trade in specialized agricultural and handicraft products. As described earlier in this essay, the distinguished products in Foshan were iron implements, pottery, dyed cloth, and paper.[53] In Xinhui, the commodities were grain, citrus peel, and fan palm. Over centuries of settlement, identities were constructed with elaborate ritual complexes that allowed local inhabitants to claim significant affiliations with the expanding Chinese imperial order—as migrants from the Central Plains, and as descendants of royal branches and officials. These processes of cultural construction were marked by important turns in local political economy as highlighted below.

The Development of the Sands

In order to elaborate on how merchants in the towns and regional cities anchored themselves in the delta, one cannot ignore the development of the sands, the associated cultural dynamics, and the power relationships that arose. Various elite interests in the towns were intimately tied to the conversion of vast areas of river marshes into cultivable farmland. They also controlled the harvests for a grain trade that grew in importance as the delta became commercialized. Settlers in Xinhui started to reclaim land on the western edge of the delta from the late Song on.[54] Extensive river marshes matured further southeast during the Ming.[55] The reclamation of the sands accelerated to such an extent that officials in the eighteenth century had to intervene due to massive flooding in the upper reaches of the river delta.[56]

Much of the sands was reclaimed in the name of town-based lineage estates during the Ming and Qing. Merchant groups in county capitals and market towns often financed these highly capitalized projects. They acquired river marshes measured in units of qing and donated them to ancestral estates.[57] Major tenant contractors for long-term rental of these ancestral estates often were managers of the estates themselves. They parceled out the land to give short-term leases to farmers. Being a tenant contractor of an ancestral trust could be an exclusive business. To qualify for the auctioning of the leases from the ancestral trusts, bidders were required to pay large deposits.[58] From the start, merchant wealth was intimately tied to land development and the subsequent grain trade.

The Language of Lineage and Ethnic Hierarchy

Investment in ancestral estates could be profitable. More important, affiliation with an estate enabled merchants to speak the language of territorial community based on patrilineal descent. The language also marked a clear political geography with an ethnic hierarchy. Town residents on the edge of the sands claimed

lineage pedigrees connected with prominent families from the Central Plains, flaunted their wealth and literati connections, and put up severe barriers against those they referred to as dan. Backed by official pretensions and often by force, this lineage complex was an effective tool for claiming settlement rights, mobilizing large capital investment for the reclamation of the marshes, excluding potential challengers, and, not least, assuring business terms. Magnate lineages in the Foshan area that rose during the Ming—in Xiaolan town and Shunde county capital in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and in Shawan xiang during the late Qing—were remarkable examples.[59] Disputes over the boundaries of properties as they changed with the meandering of the rivers were resolved not only with cultural strategies to demonstrate authority: power was also exerted by semiofficial militia organizations and bureaus set up by an alliance of officials, merchants, and lineage trusts in the urban nodes.[60]

However, the dominance of the merchant-gentry alliances was not assured. The remoteness of the sands allowed rapid social mobility among even those most discriminated against. Local functionaries accumulated enough of their own resources and negotiated with their former patrons. The use of force was not uncommon. They eventually acquired the necessary cultural symbols to establish themselves against a new layer of tenant farmers and dan fisherfolk farther out in the expanding marshes. Who could start an ancestral hall in a settled area became a most contentious issue in local life, and led to bloodshed, feuds, and lawsuits among surname groups.

Underlying the intense struggle over the cultural symbol of lineage were shrewd economic claims for rights to control the sands. Community and lineage halls, temples, and academies were public arenas for flexing political muscles. Closer to the county capitals, where one found official bureaus and magistrates, literati institutions and etiquette framed the terms of conflict and negotiation. As one ventured farther into the sands, increasingly control depended on the display of sheer physical might. In these areas, where gentrified rituals ceased to matter and the corresponding political leverage faded, the language of control was mixed with those of popular religious cults, brotherhood, and the outlaw. In a recent essay, Liu Zhiwei and I argue that identities were fluid. In times of peace, some of the floating population who engaged in transport and commerce accumulated enough resources to become respectably "landed." In times of disorder, those who remained in the regional fringes were branded as pirates.[61]

Coastal Trade

The historical circumstances of Guangzhou as a government-designated trading port since the Ming had also encouraged extensive sea-trading networks with Southeast Asia and beyond.[62] The impact of foreign trade along the coast and in the delta was profound. Not only were local agricultural and handicraft production stimulated by tastes and demands outside of the empire, but foreign silver too

entered into daily trading transactions as much as temple contributions.[63] Even before the massive import of opium from the late eighteenth century on, foreign trade created powerful merchant gangs with armed fleets, culturally ambiguous brokers, and sophisticated marketing networks linked to river ports and market towns.[64] The tremendous wealth created was quite beyond the government's capacity to supervise. As in the inland rivers, in peaceful times these trading gangs maintained an appearance of respectability as merchants. In times of dynastic closure, they were labeled as crafty barbarians, local bosses, pirates, and smugglers.[65]

In sum, the political ecology of the sands and the coast allowed (and necessitated) the intertwining of dazzling commercial and landed wealth, the juxtaposition of territorial lineage groups, elaborate rituals, literati pretensions, outlaw imagery, and the blurring of boundaries with unorthodox and overseas interests. These had characterized mercantile life in Guangdong from the Ming through the early twentieth century. Water Margin (All men are brothers), a classic Ming novel about a group of outlaw heroes, was hardly fictional, nor was the idea of an exclusively town-based merchant elite conceivable. Questions remain. What caused the dramatic reversal of fortunes in the first few decades of the Republican era? Why were the merchants no longer able to perform their integrative functions of bridging state, literati, and rural community, which they had done well since the Ming? I would like to use historical materials centering on Huicheng to explore the questions.


Huicheng had been a sizable county capital since the Ming.[66] The four largest lineages in town, the He, Liu, Xu, and Mo, held ownership rights to extensive sands in the south and southeast of the county. The He lineage, numbering over three thousand in population, was particularly powerful because of He Xiongxiang, a minister of revenue in Nanjing during the Wanli reign in the Ming. His family moved from a village at the southern edge of the county capital to the town center at Shangshu fang, a neighborhood named after his official position. During his long retirement, he "mingled in the market with fishermen and peddlers," but he emerged to exert great influence whenever local circumstances required.[67] The other lineages also had ancestral halls clustering at the southern gate of the city, mixing with growing merchants' quarters and grain wharves that were connected by numerous waterways to other market towns and county capitals in the delta.[68] However, the processes of growth were periodically disrupted and local populations were dislocated. There were widespread revolts by bond servants against their lineage masters in the delta in the Ming. The coastal evacuations imposed by Emperor Kangxi in the early Qing also caused hardships.[69] New immigrants eventually resettled in the area. They grew into territorial lineages themselves, with demonstrated claims to settlement rights and eventual literati status.[70]


As mentioned earlier, reclaiming the sands became a capitalized commercial undertaking requiring long-term investment of labor and resources as well as the flexing of political muscles. Merchants in Huicheng and Jiangmen continued to invest in the sands in the nineteenth century in the form of trusts and estates. For example, an ancestral estate, the He Bingru Gong tang, operated the Zhihe grain shop in the Daoguang period and later opened the Hecheng native bank in Jiang-men. It acquired 140 mu of sands.[71] Another record describes a Li surname whose lineage claimed that they once had an ancestral hall at the western gate of the county capital. At the end of the Qing, a site was located at the center of Huicheng. Some members loaned and donated cash for the "rebuilding" of a hall in order to deposit their ancestral tablets. The managers spent 73,000 taels of silver for the building and used the remaining 24,000 taels to acquire river marshes between Xinhui and Xiangshan counties to create an ancestral estate.[72] Vast areas of sands were thus tied to the town through a hierarchy of tenant contractors and functionaries acting as clients and kin.

Grain from the sands was marketed in Huicheng and other towns in the delta. Another dominant commodity for long-distance trading was fan palm. The commodity linked the rural areas to Huicheng in multiple ways. A local historian estimated that by the late nineteenth century, over 250 qing of the county's diked fields were devoted to palm growing. The growers were large, some having 20 or so qing of palm fields, and many dried the leaves for processing as well.[73] Another group of enterprises made the fans. The large-scale ones took up long-distance trading.

Merchant organizations in Huicheng commanded a powerful presence in the surrounding area. Growers, fan processors, and traders belonged to various guilds, which oversaw an elaborate division of labor, credit arrangements, trading etiquette, and shrewd politicking. The overarching organization for the fan palm trade was the Fan Palm Guild (Kuishan huiguan), with its management body the Yuqing tang.[74] Smaller guilds further divided the trade, based on the particular grades of fans to be produced, the location of the workshops, and the region to which they transported their goods.[75] A major concern of the trade organization was control of the supply. Unregistered selling of the fan palm by growers caused prices to fluctuate and made it difficult for traders to maintain the standard of products.[76]

The long-distance traders (chujiang bang) depended on networks of native-place and guild associations, reaching scores of regional cities such as Hankou, Chongqing, Suzhou, Zhenjiang, and Changsha. They returned to Xinhui with a variety of products from other provinces (such as herbal medicine from Sichuan and cotton cloth and jute from Hunan, Hubei, and the Yangzi River delta) to be sold in the surrounding regions.[77] Since the nineteenth century, water transport through Jiangmen was a convenient channel for reaching Guangzhou, Shanghai, and Hong Kong. Sometimes foreign steamboats were employed. At the turn of the century, those of Butterfield and Swire, a British company, carried an average of two to three hundred tons of fan palm per boat to northern China, among other local agricultural products such as sugar and citrus fruits.[78]


Trades organizations had existed before the formal establishment of the Fan Palm Guild in Huicheng in 1848. With the guild, the production and trading of fan palm became more institutionalized. The guild grew into the most formidable political and economic power by the late nineteenth century. It held only a few hundred mu of land, the income of which was used for ritual and politicking purposes. More important, it wielded monopolistic power over the growing, financing, processing, and marketing of the fan palm. Yuqing tang, the management body of the guild, consisted of elected representatives from the various organized neighborhoods (jia) representing the different stages of producing the fans. With membership dues and income from its landed estate, the guild at the time boasted an annual income of about 30,000 taels of silver. It gave 1,000 taels to each of two local degree holders, who were entrusted to perform the necessary etiquette with officials. It maintained a militia for the collection of rent and surcharges and for the securing of the supply of fans from delinquent contractors.[79] When Nie Ergang was county magistrate in the 1860s, the traders in the guild were led by Liang Chunrong, a member of the Gangzhou public bureau. As Susan Mann observes in her reading of magistrate Nie's public announcements, the guild effectively fended off the magistrate's numerous efforts to impose the lijin tax.[80]

Prosperity continued for the dominant members of the guild for at least two decades into the twentieth century. A few of the major fan palm enterprises also traded citrus peel, an equally important commodity produced locally for long-distance trading. Among the enterprises were Lin hengji and Liu yiji. Both were family businesses that lasted generations and held landed estates. They monopolized the markets in Chongqing and, later, Shanghai.[81] Solidarity of the town merchants was made visible by rituals in the guilds and by the celebrations and parades of the deities at Dilintang, a communal temple in the commercial district at the southern edge of town.

Apart from the networks of relationships based on ancestral estates, temples, and guilds, an important arena in which local gentry, merchants, and officials mingled was the county academies.[82] These academies were organized on a territorial basis. According to a Xinhui county gazetteer (1840), Gangzhou shuyuan (academy) was set up by a county magistrate who allocated to the academy 1,100 mu of land in 1752. Local elites in Huicheng and some nearby townships took over its administration in 1806. A magistrate in 1760 established the Jingxian shuyuan in Jiangmen. He granted to the academy some river marshes that had been subject of a lawsuit. Xi'nan shuyuan was set up in 1845 by eight degree holders of different surname groups. Its estate was built through contributions from patrons in two subcounty districts in the southwestern part of the county. The academy forged an alliance of gentry and merchant interests who claimed ties to that region.

Although the academies had explicit goals of promoting education and literati values, their agendas included far more than Confucian schooling. Each of the academies owned between 600 and 1,000 mu of river marshes. Rituals for the birthday of Confucius were performed in keeping with the state's explicit educational

goals. Grants were given to aspiring scholars. However, literati aspirations were linked to territory and kin. The beneficiaries were members of the home areas represented by the academies. The lineage ideal was reinforced, as patrons from a range of surnames from a particular region donated land to build up the academy's estate; the academy reciprocated by putting up tablets of their ancestors for worship. In turn, the legitimizing concern of ties to land and agriculture (wuben) was confirmed in the claims of origin. The question remains: to what extent were these academies reflections of state orthodoxy for social control, and to what extent were they local inventions? The process of mutual appropriation is worth exploring.

I see the academies as visible urban arenas where local nonofficials and, in particular, a growing community of merchants whose economic interests were intertwined with the development of the rural hinterlands shrewdly defined spheres of influence and control by improvising on a repertoire of literati symbols. To borrow Prasenjit Duara's idea for north China, these merchant-gentry institutions were nodes in a visible cultural nexus of power that bridged rural-urban distances, delineated social boundaries, defined statuses and identities, exerted control, and ultimately gave every participant his respective place in an evolving imperial order.[83]

The academies became centers for political mobilization in times of crisis. In the mid-1850s, local rebels associated with the Red Turbans sacked the county capitals of Shunde, Heshan, Jiangmen zhen, and besieged Huicheng for two months. They also ravaged the surrounding townships. The Xinhui county magistrate and a handful of local notables made every effort to assemble community leaders at the various academies to coordinate defense.[84] A meeting was first called at the Gangzhou shuyuan. When Jiangmen was threatened, members met at Jingxian shuyuan. Public bureaus (gongju) were formed within the context of the academies. Contributions were solicited from prominent merchants, while lineages in the surrounding townships provided volunteers. However, the leaders were constantly frustrated by unrest within their own camps from "unworthy members" of various surnames as much as by the reluctance of wealthy families to be involved. Most fled the county capital, and those who remained in the city stayed away from the public bureaus. The Fan Palm Guild, a symbol of mercantile interest in Huicheng, was in fact taken over by rebel troops for a short period.[85]

As in other parts of China, the disturbances in the delta changed the power relationships that merchants and landed elites had cultivated in the countryside. The century that began with the Red Turbans in 1854 and ended with the Communists in 1949 saw general militarism in the region. Both state officials and merchant-gentry organizations in the county capital seemed increasingly unable to mediate or supervise local militia units. The militarized bosses at the regional fringes took matters into their own hands. Various sands protection associations (husha) rose under their leadership with the explicit aim to collect taxes and protection dues. The notorious Dongnan ju (renamed Dongnan gongyue after the public bureaus were abolished) was led by local bosses of three townships in the southeast of the

county.[86] It used armed fleets in the sands to smuggle salt, to force harvest, and to extract taxes and surcharges. The county magistrate Nie Ergang could only express indignation when gentry members of the Xi'nan shuyuan reported to him that farmers within the academy's jurisdiction were arrested, beaten, and jailed by the Dongnan gongyue's militia. When the magistrate's men caught the smugglers, the militia claimed them back. In one case, armed guards from the bureau came with a signed statement from their leaders. They forcibly took the boats carrying the seized goods and sailed away.[87]

By the late nineteenth century, the merchants' participation in Huicheng's social-political life shifted to a new institution and arena—the charitable associations (shantang). Individual charitable acts by merchants were historically well-known, and they were rewarded with academic and official titles. However, large-scale organizations for philanthropy and relief for the poor mushroomed only during the last decades of the Qing dynasty. They involved visible merchant participation in local society that focused on social problems arising from a changing urban landscape.[88] Their functions ranged from providing relief for the poor in the form of free food, medical care, coffins, and burials to maintaining public calm in times of crisis. In Huicheng, the board members of charitable associations were native bankers and leading traders of grain, fan palm, and citrus peel.

The limited focus of this chapter does not allow a detailed exploration of this new institutional form of merchant involvement in local society during the late Qing. My observation is that, in practice, these associations became urban in orientation, although the charitable acts continued to draw moral authority shrouded in Confucian terms.[89] Future research will determine whether the shift of attention to relief for urban poor was a cause or a consequence of the town-based merchants' loss of moral authority, which they used to share with those in the countryside.


When the imperial order faded into the background, social groups attached to particular institutions rose and fell with the political turbulence at the national, regional, and local levels. In the towns and cities of the Pearl River delta, merchants' fates seemed to be intimately tied to the structures of power and influence encompassed in the territorial bond—relationships and resources centering on lineage organizations, market hierarchies, popular religion, and political patronage. As the Qing fell, the languages of local dominance and state authority were reworked.

The Demise of Town-Based Ancestral Estates

In a previous essay focused on the Republican period, I compare the sharply different ways local strongmen in three townships transformed lineage institutions

from within.[90] In Tianma xiang a few miles south of Huicheng, tenant contractors of lineage estates based in the county capital thrived by taking over the land of their patrons and then building ancestral halls in the village to claim settlement rights. The demise of the town-based estates had to do with the structure of land tenancy, rent collection, and the payment of taxes. Cash rents collected from tenant contractors on a long-term basis became worthless in the financial upheavals of the Republican decades. However, the estates were obligated to pay numerous taxes and surcharges imposed on land by local and regional state officials. The tax farmers (who collected taxes for the government but kept any amount they collected beyond the government's quota) happened to be local bosses themselves and often forced or colluded with managers of the estates to "sell" land cheaply. During nearly a decade of war with Japan (1937–45), grain became a precious commodity. The bosses, many of whom sided with the Japanese military that occupied Huicheng, took over palm and citrus fields and grew grain instead. They collected rent in kind from farmers and deposited the grain in the grain mills at Huicheng for speculation.

The changing relationship between the Chens of Tianma and the established lineages based in Huicheng was highlighted in an episode in 1948. At that time, there was a civil war on a national scale. Locally, the political vacuum provided opportunities and economic fluidity. The Mo lineage, landlords with large holdings and merchants in Huicheng, claimed that its ancestors had been settled in the area since the Ming and maintained elaborate ancestral halls. In the first few decades of the twentieth century, local bosses from Tianma, some of whom had been tenant contractors and functionaries of the Mo, had numerous conflicts in and out of court over control of the Mo estates in the sands. In the 1940s, it happened that a landowning family of the Mo lineage in Huicheng ran a county newspaper. The editor, Mo Chaoxiong, was a lawyer and county politician. He published an article written by his father ridiculing the humble cultural origins of the Chens (who were known locally as dan). When mediation by other politicians failed, local bosses at Tianma mobilized over a hundred villagers to march to the newspaper office in Huicheng with the intention of beating up Mo Chaoxiong. Mo managed to escape, but they destroyed his office. The county government officials, having been bribed by the Chens, did little to stop the mob and did not legally charge the offenders.[91]

The ancestral estates of major lineages in Xiaolan zhen of the neighboring Zhongshan county had a slightly different fate. Since the eighteenth century, the town had been dominated by an alliance of landed interests and grain traders from four major surnames whose ancestral estates held vast areas in the sands. For a town of a few thousand residents, the 393 ancestral halls had a towering presence. However, by the 1930s, they too were losing to the military bosses. Local strongmen from the sands did not build ancestral halls in the sands because there was no sizable village. Instead, they moved into town, took over the temples, and dismantled many of the ancestral halls. In the most important community event

for the town in 1934, the chrysanthemum festival—which was held once in sixty years—the surviving ancestral trusts were barely able to keep up appearances. Instead, the active participants were members of mixed surnames who had speculated on financial markets in Shanghai. Their allies were local military officials who were political clients of warlords in Guangzhou.[92]

When the Japanese military occupied the area later in 1939, local bosses in town maintained an uneasy truce with the Japanese unit stationed in Shiqi (the county capital of Zhongshan). Over a hundred of the town's 393 ancestral halls were torn down. A social club, known as the Siyou tang, was set up by the head of the town, in which the different bosses could socialize and work out conflicts of interests. They formed "companies" to collect grain and taxes in the sands, very often by a blatant show of force.[93] Their patron was Yuan Dai, former captain of a crop-protection force and current commander of the third regiment under the Nationalist government. His deputy and cousin, Qu Renze, kept troops in the town, while seven of his captains were stationed in the sands.[94]

In Shawan of Panyu county, a smaller market town further southeast toward the sands, a He lineage had accumulated 60,000 mu of reclaimed river marshes. Members of this lineage, together with smaller surnames such as Li, Lai, and Huang, had built 116 ancestral halls. Annual rituals involving the founding ancestral hall, the Liugeng tang, and the local Beidi temple were formidable spectacles.[95] Residents in town lived off the grain rent. The collection of rent had depended on powerful tenant contractors who were lineage members themselves. In the turbulent decades of the Republican era, auctioning off the land and collecting rent necessitated a show of force. Estate managers and tenant contractors, who were the major participants in these auctions, were escorted by their own entourage of armed guards. The assets of Liugeng tang, the positions of its managers, and the vast power networks it commanded became the center of contention. Identification with the ancestral estate continued to be reinforced because of the intense competition. But local residents clearly distinguished the more "legitimate" managers and tenant contractors from the new local bosses, who, like their Zhongshan counterparts, organized collection companies out in the sands to extract protection fees, and who preyed on the rich and poor alike.[96]

In sum, a new generation of local strongmen rose from the regional fringes. Their power was not culturally recognized, but they were able to accumulate vast assets at the expense of the town-based lineages. They sidestepped the traditional arenas of negotiation by linking themselves directly to new regional military figures in a volatile network of patronage and intimidation. A different language of power prevailed over the cultural nexus that had been cultivated by the gentry-merchants for centuries. As rural communities were drawn into the personal orbit of the territorial bosses, the authoritative presence of the imperial order became increasingly remote in the daily lives of the villagers.[97] Militarists in Guangdong and elsewhere did take on various literati trappings and activities, such as building their own ancestral halls, patronizing schools, running for county government offices,

and financing community rituals. However, these ritual efforts to gain legitimacy were diluted by the rapidly deepening crisis in the large political order.[98]

The Degentrification of Merchants in Huicheng

Commerce was rapidly "degentrified" as well in the early twentieth century due to rapid changes in the larger political environment. After the 1911 revolution, overseas Chinese investment was sought by various warlord regimes. The influx of capital reached its height during the rule of the warlord Chen Jitang, who held power in Guangdong from 1931 to 1936. His regime made great efforts in building an industrial and trading infrastructure centering on Hong Kong and Guangzhou.[99]

Although located at the western edge of the delta, Huicheng was the capital of a county known for its emigrants to Hong Kong and the United States decades earlier. The calls for nation building and modernization presented opportunities and challenges. Huicheng saw an influx of newcomers in the trading of fan palm and citrus peel, which began to break the monopoly of the elite merchant groups.[100]Yuqing tang changed its leadership structure in 1922. The body of representatives from the various jia (neighborhoods where fan palm enterprises were located) was renamed lishi hui (executive committee).

Until the late 1930s, literati figures connected to the former Gangzhou public bureau continued to play a role in the politics of the guild.[101] But real power was concentrated in the hands of Lu Zuonan, who became chair of the executive committee. His career illuminated the political fluidity of the times faced by merchant leaders and the maneuvers they made in order to thrive. Lu entered the fan-drying trade in 1918 through his former profession as a charcoal merchant. He rapidly expanded into fan making and became an upstart in the long-distance trade group. He represented a neighborhood of fan makers in the Fan Palm Guild. He was appointed a board member of the Xinhui Chamber of Commerce (formed in 1908) soon after. In 1922, when Yuqing tang reorganized, he assumed the headship. Two years later, he also took over the chairmanship of the chamber of commerce; its armed militia he transferred to the Fan Palm Guild. The shangtuan (merchants' militia) was first organized in the wake of a massive looting of the merchants' quarters in Huicheng by bandits.[102] It grew rapidly, expanding from five small bands in 1919 to eleven bands with nearly five hundred men and eight hundred rifles. Lu himself headed the band based in Sanya, where his enterprise was. He fought and colluded with local bosses who had taken over palm fields and who often sold their fans to the highest bidder rather than to contractors in town.[103] As a member of the executive committee of the Xinhui branch of the Nationalist Party, he used the same militia, which had been renamed mintuan, to put down a workers' strike in the late 1920s. He was also chief organizer for the parade of deities at Dilintang in 1930, an event organized once in ten years. His role during the Japanese occupation was not recorded, but his business empire survived

into the 1940s. However, none of his networking with the local community saved his life. Branded as a local bully, he was tried in public and shot by the Communists during the land reform.

Similar episodes showed the precarious position of the town merchants, who were sandwiched between the local bosses and new regional military commanders.[104] Soon after the Qing fell, regional warlords rapidly sold various government properties in Guangdong. Huicheng was no exception. A group of merchants of the Yu surname from the neighboring Taishan county had a higher-order ancestral hall next to the old magistrate's office in Huicheng. They offered to buy the property in a secret deal with some officials linked to the warlord Long Jiguang in Guangzhou. A group of local notables learned of the deal and decided to challenge the bid. To claim the property back, they mobilized an odd alliance of the members of the three public bureaus in Huicheng, the chamber of commerce, and a handful of overseas merchants. They activated political networks in Guang-zhou and finally bought the property with the backing of He Jintang, a banker and head of the Xinhui Chamber of Commerce in Guangzhou. The group was keenly aware of the need for broader alliances in politically volatile times, hence the idea of an academy for the entire county. The project stressed the solidarity (hequn) of the three regionally based groups of gentry-merchants in a spirit of "self-government" (zizhi). It took thirteen years, from 1915 to 1928, for the academy to be built. Copying the organization of the older academies, patrons contributed shares in order to place their ancestral tablets in the new hall. A sum of 634,000 taels of silver was quickly collected for the purpose, and the academy was formally established in 1923. However, the resources dazzled the eyes of regional commanders, one of whom in the same year demanded a protection fee of 10,000 taels. Several major gentry-merchants, including the banker He Jintang, were held by the commander until ransom was paid.[105]

The merchants did not subject themselves to the encroachment of the military commanders and the new state officials without a fight. There was the tax resistance incident in 1923. The merchants' quarters in Huicheng were built along a waterway outside the south gate of the city. Over the years, some shops had been built on the dikes. In 1923, during the wave of reassessing government properties by regional warlords in Guangdong, the county government imposed tax surcharges on temples and shops. The shopkeepers were moved to strike when their shops were boarded up by tax collectors. After mediation by the county head, a sum was negotiated, and the government promised never to make another assessment. Yet the bureau for the development of the sands overruled the decision and imposed new taxes. It took repeated petitioning of the provincial government by an alliance of leading merchants in Huicheng before the original decision was upheld.[106]

However, other efforts by the merchants were not as united. When the old city wall was slated to be dismantled so that a new road could be built, four successive county heads had to maneuver skillfully through competing groups of old and

new entrepreneurs for two decades. As it was a lucrative channel for extracting contributions, bribes, and surcharges, there were endless debates as to whether it should be a government project (guanban), a joint government-merchant enterprise (guanshang heban), or a private project (minban). The project was only partially finished when the Communists arrived in 1949.[107]

New energies from Chinese merchants overseas boosted the local transformations of power. This had to do with the gradual shifting of political and economic energies to southern China after the imperial order was dismantled. Dr. Sun Yatsen, himself a native of Guangdong, relied greatly on overseas Chinese in Hong Kong and the United States (where emigrants from the four counties to the west of the Pearl River delta [Siyi] had established themselves). In the name of modernization and nationalism, overseas merchants sought opportunities to reconstruct their "home bases," real or imaginary. Warlords linked with a new generation of self-styled politicians at the provincial and county capitals also tapped merchants abroad for support through charity organizations, chambers of commerce, and native-place and lineage associations. This trend reached a high point when Chen Jitang controlled Guangdong in the early 1930s. There were several years of stability, with active government investment in infrastructure, industry, and commerce.

A few cases in Xinhui illuminate these energies. The idea of a "native place" remained strong. David Faure has reported the reconstruction of an entire lineage community of the Ruan surname in Tanggang (southwest of Huicheng) after its destruction by feuds with other surnames in 1919. The efforts lasted for more than two decades, the 1920s and 1930s, with a board of directors in Hong Kong hiring local managers for the rebuilding. Having gleaned information from an archive of the correspondences between the manager in Huicheng and the board of directors in Hong Kong, Faure points to the continuous frustrations of the board and its ultimate failure to build a lineage community according to the books. A language of authority that the merchants had taken for granted no longer guided local actions. Political dynamics on the ground were quite beyond their imagination.[108]

The port of Gangzhou was a much more elaborate project involving overseas commercial interests. The port was to be located on the southwestern edge of Huicheng. According to the charter drawn up by the initiators, the alliance was broad and forward-looking rather than narrowly territorial. Merchant patrons from other counties and especially Hong Kong were actively invited to the joint venture. It started in 1910 with a few leading merchants in Hong Kong who, through the efforts of the chamber of commerce for Xinhui merchants in Hong Kong, assembled to plan a port. A charter was drawn up, and in the following month the organizers held a meeting with interested merchants in the Minglun tang (Confucian temple) in Huicheng. A few months later, seventy board members were recruited from Hong Kong, and some money committed. Architectural plans for the shops were drawn, and a fort on the opposite side of the river was planned as well. The merchants went ahead even though provincial officials refused

to grant a subsidy for the fort project. I could not find other documents to explore further, but the building of the port seemed to have stalled afterward.[109]

About the same time, a similar project to develop the port of Xiangzhou at the tip of Zhongshan county in fact proceeded beyond the blueprints. Roads and shops were built, and some merchants started settling in. They banked on the idea that the provincial authorities would grant the port tax-free status. Migrant fisherfolk along the coast of eastern Guangdong began to congregate to fill transport and other labor demands. However, provincial officials never granted the port tax-free status. The merchants finally cut their losses and left the area. Local bosses took over what remained of the facilities and turned Xiangzhou into a thriving place for wartime smuggling.[110]

The last of the grand projects involved the building of the Xinning-Jiangmen railway. Again, the initiative came from an overseas merchant, Chen Yixi, a Taishan native who had emigrated to the United States. However, the building of the railroad was blocked by unlikely alliances of local gentry, merchants, and military bosses along its planned routes. The project, begun in 1907, was completed in fourteen years, but not without desperate networking and negotiating with regional government offices and military commanders. Numerous conflicts with local militia included the kidnapping of engineers and workers being beaten. The railroad was never very profitable, as roads and new bus lines posed increasing competition. The railroad was bombed by the Japanese military during the war, and the remains were dismantled by various local parties.[111]


The Pearl River delta during the late imperial and Republican periods saw a drastic reconfiguration of power and authority that had been the bases for "merchant" identities. With their own historical specificity, leading mercantile groups in the Ming and Qing were able to create vigorous dialogues with the state by engaging in a language of orthodoxy. The dialogues took place in the local arenas of lineage, temple, guild, and academy.[112]

After the imperial metaphor receded into the background of political discourse, traditional mercantile groups suffered, as illustrated by those in Huicheng. Militaristic bosses colluded with precarious warlord governments and brandished a volatile language of power. As predatory da tian er carved out territories for control with their guns, the new business arena was far from cosmopolitan.[113] The demise of local merchants extended somewhat to overseas Chinese groups whose repeated attempts to recreate their home bases in the delta largely failed to materialize because they too had grown marginal within the local power configurations. Cultural strategies that had enabled merchant interests to merge with landed groups and rural community while sharing the moral authority of the imperial state faded from the public arenas long before the Communists made their direct attack in 1949.


Although the local bosses were hounded out during the land reform in the early 1950s, new arenas for mercantile activities did not materialize. Instead, as I have argued in previous publications, the Maoist regime virtually eliminated all private commerce. Market towns in the delta shrank drastically in size and impact as villages increasingly became cell-like units, their links to the outside severed. One saw the destruction of traditional hierarchies of marketing, lineage, and popular religion, and their associated cultural meanings. These relationships had functioned to creatively link villagers to region and state and had given local agents in late imperial Guangdong a relatively prosperous and pluralistic arena in which to maneuver.[114]

The analytical assumptions that fuel the debates about the Republican period are relevant to the present period. Can one assume that the post-Mao era signifies a struggle between state and market, and between the weighty bureaucracy and new entrepreneurial interests? Or must we find a less dichotomous framework in order to interpret commercial energies that are given relatively free rein all over China? Moreover, how do we take into account the decades of Maoist politics that might have fundamentally changed social institutions and cultural values?[115]

The Pearl River delta in particular is bustling with mercantile activities. The question remains as to who these "merchants" are. The prosperous operations are often dominated by a new generation of local cadres who have captured the market through their positions in the state system. A new authoritarianism comes hand in hand with dazzling wealth.[116] Market-town officials now stage community rituals and pursue the language of native place with unprecedented zeal and scale. This is to give a new grounding to overseas capital and business connections.[117] The politics of native roots has been played up in local festivals and lavish banquets. They are theaters of power and influence. Such politics attracts investments for factories, sports stadiums, and schools. In an era when the central government promotes modernization and cautious exposure to Western ways, local officials and residents seize the opportunity to negotiate the status of being China's new middle class.[118] The "local bosses" of the 1990s are cadres who clog the roads with their Mercedes-Benzes, who use their cellular phones to call public security officers in order to get out of traffic jams, and who install karaoke bars in their grossly magnificent villas to entertain business friends and mistresses.

In Guangdong as in other coastal provinces, new urban landscapes have emerged with new consumption patterns and political networking. But there are lingering questions for contemplation and further research. In the county capitals (and municipalities) of the Pearl River delta, where the dominance of local government cannot be discounted, and where state and commercial interests had been so consciously opposed during the previous decades of Maoist politics, what are the nature and identity of these new commercial bosses? Do we assume that mercantile agendas were only repressed in the previous era and are now exploding with a vengeance after the state decided to recede? Or should we expect local officials, armed with state mandate, on the one hand, and strategic control of local

resources, on the other, to blossom into new modernizing elites? Using their entrenched power bases, they negotiate with, compete with, and accommodate state authority as much as they reinvent local traditions. Is this their way of being "Chinese" and "modern" when the central government struggles to define a new "socialism with Chinese characteristics"? If that is the case, what must we learn from previous generations of mercantile experience in order to appreciate the ways that the agendas of the larger polity, state agents, entrepreneurs, and localities are energized and reconstituted?


1. See William Rowe, Hankow: Commerce and Society in a Chinese City, 1796–1889 (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1984). [BACK]

2. David Faure, "What Made Foshan a Town? The Evolution of Rural-Urban Identities in Ming-Qing China," Late Imperial China 11, no. 2 (December 1990): 1–31. [BACK]

3. See the works of the Chinese economic historian Fu Yiling on Ming-Qing merchant capital; Ye Xian'en and Harriet Zurndorfer on Huizhou; and Shiba Yoshinobu on Jiang-nan, among others. For late imperial China, the cycles of regional systems are presented in the works of G. William Skinner. [BACK]

4. For family institutions and women, see the works of Patricia Ebrey and Dorothy Ko. For popular religion, see those of Atsutoshi Hamashima, Valerie Hansen, and Richard Van Glahn. [BACK]

5. See the works of Joanna Handlin Smith, Craig Clunas, and Timothy Brook on Ming commerce and culture. [BACK]

6. See Kenneth Dean and Zheng Zhenman, Fujian zongjiao beiming huibian: Xinghua fu fence (Epigraphical materials on the history of religion in Fujian, Xinghua region) (Fuzhou: Fujian renmin chubanshe, 1995). [BACK]

7. See David Faure, "The Lineage as a Cultural Invention," Modern China 15, no. 1 (January 1989): 4–36. [BACK]

8. Marie-Claire Bergère, The Golden Age of the Chinese Bourgeoisie, 1911–1937, trans. Janet Lloyd (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989). See also Huang Yifeng et al., Jiu Zhongguo minzu zichan jieji (The national bourgeoisie in Old China) (n.p.: Jiangsu guji chubanshe, 1990). [BACK]

9. See Wang Gungwu, "The Culture of Chinese Merchants," University of Toronto–York University Joint Centre for Asia Pacific Studies, working paper series no. 57, 1990. He argues that overseas Chinese merchants thrived within their own culture when they were free from bureaucratic restraints. [BACK]

10. See Liu Kwang-ching, "Chinese Merchant Guilds: An Historical Inquiry," Pacific Historical Review 57, no. 1 (1988): 1–23; see also his book Jingshi sixiang yu xinxing qiye (Economic thinking and new enterprises)(Taipei: Lianjing, 1990). [BACK]

11. See Mary Rankin, Elite Activism and Political Transformation in China: Zhejiang Province, 1865–1911 (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1986); Keith Schoppa, Chinese Elites and Political Change: Zhejiang Province in the Early Twentieth Century (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1982); essays by Keith Schoppa, Lenore Barkan, and David Strand in the volume of essays edited by Joseph Esherick and Mary Rankin, Chinese Local Elites and Patterns of Dominance (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1990); see also Susan

Mann, "Merchant Investment, Commercialization, and Social Change in the Ningpo Area," in Reform in Nineteenth Century China, ed. Paul A. Cohen and John Schrecker (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1976), 41–48; Joseph Fensmith, "From Guild to Interest Group: The Transformation of Public and Private in Late Qing China," Comparative Studies in Society and History 25, no. 4 (October 1983): 617–40; Michael Godley, "Overseas Chinese Entrepreneurs as Reformers: The Case of Chang Pi-Shih," in Reform in Nineteenth Century China, ed. Paul Cohen and John Schrecker (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1976), 49–62; Hao Yen-p'ing, The Comprador in Nineteenth-Century China: Bridge between East and West (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1970). [BACK]

12. See Helen Siu, "Recycling Tradition: Culture, History, and Political Economy in the Chrysanthemum Festivals of South China," Comparative Studies in Society and History 32, no. 4 (1990): 765–94; and afterword to The Culture of Scholarship, ed. Sally Humphreys (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1997), 139–86. See also, "Where Were the Women? Rethinking Marriage Resistance and Regional Culture History," Late Imperial China 11, no. 2 (December 1990): 32–62. [BACK]

13. See Elizabeth Perry, introduction to pt. 3, "Urban Associations," in Urban Spaces in Contemporary China: The Potential for Autonomy and Community in Post-Mao China, ed. Deborah Davis, Richard Kraus, Barry Naughton, and Elizabeth Perry (Washington, D.C.: Woodrow Wilson Center Press; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995), 297–301; also Elizabeth Perry, "Trends in the Study of Chinese Politics: State-Society Relations," China Quarterly (September 1994): 704–14. See also ‘Public Sphere’/‘Civil Society’ in China? Paradigmatic Issues in China Studies, the special symposium volume of Modern China 19, no. 2 (April 1993). [BACK]

14. For the materials on Xinhui county, Guangdong, please refer to chaps. 3–5 of Helen Siu, Agents and Victims in South China: Accomplices in Rural Revolution (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1989). For a sample of historical essays on Guangdong produced by our research group, see David Faure and Helen Siu, eds., Down to Earth: The Territorial Bond in South China (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1995). [BACK]

15. See Hsiao Kung-chuan, Rural China: Imperial Control in the Nineteenth Century (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1960); also Frederic Wakeman Jr. and Caroline Grant, eds., Conflict and Control in Late Imperial China (Berkeley: Center for Chinese Studies, University of California, 1975). [BACK]

16. Boundaries were blurred. Merchants emulated literati lifestyles and unsuccessful literati turned themselves into prosperous entrepreneurs. See historical materials on Huizhou, and Shiba Yoshinobu, "Ningpo and Its Hinterland," in The City in Late Imperial China, ed. G. William Skinner (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1977), 391–440. [BACK]

17. See Craig Clunas, Superfluous Things: Material Culture and Social Status in Early Modern China (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1991), and Timothy Brook, The Confusions of Pleasure: Commerce and Culture in Ming China (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1998), on the deeply felt impact of commercial wealth on culture and society during the Ming. See the insightful essay by Yu Ying-shih, "Business Culture and Chinese Traditions—towards a Study of the Evolution of Merchant Culture in Chinese History," in Dynamic Hong Kong: Business and Culture, ed. Wang Gungwu and Wong Siulun (Hong Kong: Centre of Asian Studies, the University of Hong Kong, 1997), 1–84. [BACK]

18. Susan Mann, Local Merchants and the Chinese Bureaucracy, 1750–1950 (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1987), 27–28. [BACK]

19. See David Faure, "A Note on the Lineage in Business," Chinese Business History 1, no. 2 (April 1991): 1–3. For a longer version of the paper, reprinted from the Second Conference

on Modern Chinese Economic History, see David Faure, The Lineage as a Business Company: Patronage versus Law in the Development of Chinese Business (Taipei: Institute of Economics, Academia Sinica, 1989). [BACK]

20. David Faure, "Lineage as a Cultural Invention"; also Faure, "What Made Foshan," 1990. [BACK]

21. See the introduction to David Faure and Helen Siu, eds., Down to Earth. [BACK]

22. See also David Faure, "The Emperor in the Village: Representing the State in South China," in State and Court Ritual in China, ed. Joseph McDermott (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999). [BACK]

23. On the industries and lineages of Foshan, see a series of articles in Guangdong lishi xuehui, ed., Ming Qing Guangdong shehui jingji xingtai yanjiu (Research on the society and economy of Guangdong in the Ming and Qing) (Guangzhou: Guangdong renmin chubanshe, 1985), in particular, the following articles: Luo Yixing, "Ming Qing shiqi Foshan yetieye yanjiu" (Research on the iron industries of Foshan during the Ming and Qing); Ye Xian'en and Tan Dihua, "Lun Zhujiang sanjiao zhou de zutian" (On the ancestral estates of the Pearl River delta); Cao Tengfei and Tan Dihua, "Guanyu Ming Qing Guangdong yetie ye de jige wenti" (On several issues of the iron industries in Ming-Qing Guangdong); Tan Dihua and Ye Xian'en, "Fengjian zongfa shili dui Foshan jingji de kongzhi ji qi chansheng de yingxiang" (Feudal lineage power and the impact of its control over Foshan's economy); Zheng Kecheng, "Huo Tao de zhengzhi zhuzhang he jingji sixiang—du Ming shi. Huo Tao juan zaji" (Huo Tao's political views and economic thinking—on reading Ming History, the Biography of Huo Tao). See also documents from Ming Qing Foshan beike wenxian jingji ziliao (Economic historical materials from stone inscriptions of Ming-Qing Foshan), ed. Guang-dong sheng Foshan shi bowuguan et al. (Guangzhou: Guangdong renmin chubanshe, 1987). [BACK]

24. See Tan Dihua and Ye Xian'en, "Fengjian zongfa shili dui Foshan jingji de kongzhi ji qi chansheng de yingxiang," ed. Guangdong lishi xuehui, 144–64. [BACK]

25. For Jiangnan, see the works of Yoshinobu Shiba, Susan Mann, and Mark Elvin, among others. [BACK]

26. The magnificent mansions of the Huizhou merchants, their lineage organizations, and their academies were public testimonies. In order to secure a solid grounding for their mercantile operations, merchants had tried to cultivate patronage and territorial bonds through native associations, trade guilds, charity, the buying of degrees, and support of popular religion. See the works of Ye Xian'en, Tan Dihua, and Luo Yixing in Ming Qing Guangdong shehui jingji xingtai yanjiu, ed. Guangdong lishi xuehui, 1985. For the relationship between popular religion and commercialization, see Valerie Hansen, Changing Gods in Medieval China (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1990); Richard Van Glahn, "The Enchantment of Wealth: The God Wutong in the Social History of Jiangnan," Harvard Journal of Asian Studies (1991): 651–714; see also Atsutoshi Hamashima on the Chenghuang temples in Jiangnan. For the late Qing, see Madeleine Zelin, "The Rise and Fall of the Fu-Rong Salt-Yard Elite: Merchant Dominance in Late Qing China," in Chinese Local Elites and Patterns of Dominance, ed. Joseph Esherick and Mary Rankin (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1990), 82–112; see also Lynda Bell, "From Comprador to County Magnate: Bourgeois Practice in the Wuxi County Silk Industry," 113–39, in the same volume. [BACK]

27. See Ye Xian'en, Ming-Qing Huizhou nongcun shehui yu dianpu zhi (Rural society and the system of bond servants in Huizhou during the Ming and Qing) (Anhui: Anhui renmin

chubanshe, 1983); Zhang Haipeng and Wang Tingyuan, eds., Ming-Qing Huishang ziliao xuanbian (Selected materials on Huizhou merchants during the Ming and Qing) (Hefei: Huangshan shushe, 1985); Liu Shen, ed., Huizhou shehui jingji shi yanjiu yiwenji (Translated essays on the socioeconomic history of Huizhou) (Hefei: Huangshan shushe, 1987). [BACK]

28. See Ye Xian'en, Ming-Qing Huizhou nongcun shehui yu dianpu zhi, 43. [BACK]

29. See ibid., 42–56, on the small amount of privately owned land and the vast lineage estates in Huizhou. [BACK]

30. See Harriet Zurndorfer, Change and Continuity in Chinese Local History: The Development of Hui-Chou Prefecture, 800–1800 (Leiden: Brill, 1989); see also essays in Liu Shen, ed., Huizhou shehui jingji shi yanjiu yiwenji. Ye Xian'en asserts that apart from bond servants, migrant laborers—known locally as the shed people (pengmin)—were also a source of labor in the lumber, salt, and tea enterprises for which the Huizhou merchants were known (Ming-Qing Huizhou nongcun shehui yu dianpu zhi, 84–85, 110–16). [BACK]

31. See Helen Siu, Agents and Victims, chap. 4. [BACK]

32. The Yuan village (Yuan jia cun) next to Chakang, the native village of Liang Qichao in Xinhui, was one such village of bond servants. In Chaolian, an island off the coast of Jiangmen, the established lineages all had bond servants. See also Tan Dihua, "Ming Qing shiqi Zhujiang sanjiao zhou de shipu" (The bond servants of the Pearl River delta in the Ming-Qing period), in Guangdong lishi wenti lunwen ji (Selected essays on issues of Guangdong history) (Taipei: Daohe chubanshe, 1993), 45–72. [BACK]

33. Ye Xian'en, Ming-Qing Huizhou nongcun shehui yu dianpu zhi; see also Fu Yiling's work on Fujian, where there had been numerous challenges and conflicts over former bond servants who became prosperous and who tried to establish their own ancestral halls. For similar cases in the Pearl River delta, see Liu Zhiwei's chapter, "Shawan of Panyu County," in Down to Earth, ed. David Faure and Helen Siu, 21–43. [BACK]

34. Her study focuses on the Fan lineage of Xiuning county in Huizhou prefecture. Xiuning and Xi counties are the two regions that produced numerous literati and merchants. See Harriet Zurndorfer, "Local Lineages and Local Development: A Case Study of the Fan Lineage, Hsiuning Hsien, Hui-chou, 800–1500," in Change and Development in Chinese Local History (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1989). She argues that the investments in lineage land and charity might not be large, but through financing the compilation of lineage genealogies and occasional charity, merchants were able to confirm their native roots and maintain ties in Xiuning. She uses the example of a Fan Huo, who lived lavishly as a salt merchant in Yangzhou. During serious floods and famine (in 1539 and 1542), he gave huge donations to the victims. However, Zurndorfer argues that these were public acts with political and commercial agendas, just like his giving expensive gifts to friends and officials. He showed no interest in relieving the everyday needs of his kin. [BACK]

35. See David Faure, "Lineage as a Cultural Invention"; Helen Siu, "Recycling Tradition." [BACK]

36. See Ye Xian'en, Ming-Qing Huizhou nongcun shehui yu dianpu zhi, chaps. 3–5. [BACK]

37. See ibid., 187–92. It is important to note that some of the degree holders had had urban residences for generations but claimed various rural counties in Huizhou as their places of origin. [BACK]

38. The neo-Confucians Cheng Hao, Cheng Yi, and Zhu Xi were claimed to be natives of Xi county, one of the six counties within the Huizhou prefecture (also known as Xin'an). See Ye Xian'en, Ming-Qing Huizhou nongcun shehui yu dianpu zhi, chap. 5. [BACK]

39. This runs counter to a top-down approach on state ideology and political control by Hsiao Kung-chuan. [BACK]


40. For example, the grandson of Zheng Jinglian, a salt merchant who resided in Yangzhou, and Jiang Heting were famous patrons of these operas. See Ye Xian'en, Ming-Qing Huizhou nongcun shehui yu dianpu zhi, 227. [BACK]

41. See ibid., chap. 5 on Huizhou. On the elaborate gardens in Jiangnan in the late Ming where interests of merchants and literati mingled, see Joanna Handlin-Smith, "Gardens in Ch'i Piaochia's Social World: Wealth and Values in Late-Ming Kiangnan," Journal of Asian Studies 51, no. 1 (February 1992): 55–81. [BACK]

42. See Ye Xian'en, Ming-Qing Huizhou nongcun shehui yu dianpu zhi, 78. [BACK]

43. See Keith Hazelton, "Ming Qing Huizhou de zongzu yu shehui liudong sheng" (Lineages and social mobility in Huizhou during the Ming and Qing), in Huizhou shehui jingjishi yanjiu yiwenji, ed. Liu Shen, 76–96, fn. 27 (the article was translated by Liu Zhiwei and Chen Chunsheng). The original reference can be found in Yong Rong et al., Sifu chuanshu zongmu, vol. 1, Shengyu (Imperial edicts) (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1965), 2. [BACK]

44. See Luo Yixing, "Territorial Community at the Town of Lubao, Sanshui County, for the Ming Dynasty," in Down to Earth, ed. David Faure and Helen Siu, 44–64. [BACK]

45. See Ye Xian'en, Ming-Qing Huizhou nongcun shehui yu dianpu zhi, chap. 3, sec. 6. [BACK]

46. See Philip Huang, The Peasant Economy and Social Change in North China (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1985). [BACK]

47. See Prasenjit Duara, "State Involution: A Study of Local Finances in North China, 1911–1935," Comparative Studies in Society and History 29, no. 1 (1987); Culture, Power, and the State: Rural North China, 1900–1940 (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1988). [BACK]

48. See Guangzhou gongshang jingji shiliao (Historical materials on business and economy in Guangzhou), a special volume on commercial and industrial enterprises in Guangzhou during the early decades of the Republic, Guangzhou wenshi ziliao 36 (1986). [BACK]

49. See Helen Siu, Agents and Victims, chaps. 4–5. [BACK]

50. See David Strand, "Mediation, Representation, and Repression: Local Elites in 1920s Beijing," in Chinese Local Elites and Patterns of Dominance, ed. Joseph Esherick and Mary Rankin (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1990), 218. [BACK]

51. Our sites were Huicheng (Xinhui county capital) and Jiangmen on the Xi River system at the western edge of the delta, Xiaolan town of Xiangshan county, the settlements (xiang) of Shawan in Panyu county further southeast. There are also Foshan City, and Lubao of Sanshui county where North River joined the delta. [BACK]

52. See Ye Xian'en and Tan Dihua, "Ming Qing Zhujiang sanjiao zhou nongye shangye hua yu xushi de fazhan" (The commercialization of agriculture and the development of markets and towns in the Pearl River delta during the Ming and Qing), in Ming Qing Guangdong shehui jingji xingtai yanjiu, ed. Guangdong lishi xuehui, 57–97. See also Tan Dihua, "Qingdai Zhujiang sanjiao zhou shangpin jingji de fazhan yu tudi wenti" (Commodity production and land tenure in the Pearl River delta during the Qing), in Guangdong lishi wenti lunwen ji, 81–98. [BACK]

53. See Luo Yixing "Ming Qing shiqi Foshan yetieye yanjiu," 75–116. See also Tan Dihua, "Cong ‘Foshan jieli’ kan Ming Qing shiqi Foshan gongshanye de fazhan" (To view the development of commerce and industry in Foshan during the Ming and Qing from reading ‘Neighborhoods in Foshan’), in Guangdong lishi wenti lunwen ji, 225–42. [BACK]

54. See Zhao Shisong, comp., Sanjiang Zhaoshi zupu (The Zhao lineage genealogy of Sanjiang) (Hong Kong: n.p., 1937). The Zhao lineage of Sanjiang xiang (village), which owned extensive diked fields to its southeast, claimed to have descended from the entourage of the last Song emperor, who was defeated by the Mongols in the area. Another record involved

the Chens of Waihai xiang, south of Jiangmen City, where a Chen Xiang claimed 40 qing of sands that yielded a rent of 9,600 shi of grain. See Tan Dihua, Qingdai zhujiang sanjiaozhou de shatian (The sands of the Pearl River delta during the Qing dynasty) (Guangzhou: Guangdong renmin chubanshe, 1993), 76. [BACK]

55. The sands reclaimed were situated in the eastern part of Xinhui county, the northern part of Xiangshan (after 1925 renamed Zhongshan) county, and the southern part of Panyu county. These sands were eventually known as the Xihai shiba sha, Donghai shiliu sha, and Wanqing sha. [BACK]

56. See Kikuko Nishigawa, "Qingdai Zhujiang sanjiao zhou shatian kao" (An examination of the sands of the Pearl River delta during the Qing), trans. Cao Lei, Lingnan wenshi 2 (1986): 11–22, originally published in Tōyō gakuho 63, nos. 1 and 2 (1981): 93–136. See also Tan Dihua, "Qing dai Zhujiang sanjiao zhou shangpin jingji de fazhan yu tudi wenti," in Guangdong lishi wenti lunwen ji, 81–98. [BACK]

57. See Huang Qichen, "Ming Qing Zhujiang sanjiao zhou de shangye yu shangye ziben cutan" (An initial exploration of commerce and commercial capital in the Pearl River delta during the Ming and Qing), in Ming Qing Guangdong shehui jingji xingtai yanjiu, ed. Guangdong lishi xuehui, 187–236. [BACK]

58. See Ye Xian'en and Tan Dihua, "Lun Zhujiang sanjiao zhou de zutian," 22–64. [BACK]

59. See David Faure and Helen Siu, eds., Down to Earth, on the evolution of the lineage complex in the Pearl River delta. [BACK]

60. See the works on Kikuko Nishigawa on the local bureau for protecting the sands in Shunde county; see also Tan Dihua, "Xiangzu dizhu dui Zhujiang sanjiao zhou diqu de kongzhi yu husha de yuanhui" (The control of the Pearl River delta by lineage landlordism and the rise of the sands protection apparatus), in Guangdong lishi wenti lunwen ji, 155–74. [BACK]

61. See Helen Siu and Liu Zhiwei, "Lineage, Market, Pirate, and Dan—Ethnicity in the Pearl River Delta" (manuscript under review). [BACK]

62. The prohibition of sea trade (haijin) was relaxed in 1685, but the Qing government in 1757 closed the coastal ports, except Guangzhou, to foreign trade. See Huang Qichen, Deng Kaisong, Xiao Maosheng, "Guangdong shang bang" (The Guangdong merchant group), chap. 5 of Zhongguo shida shang bang (The ten dominant merchant groups of China), ed. Zhang Haipeng and Zhang Haiying (Hefei: Huangshan shushe, 1993); see also Li Longqian, "Ming Qing Guangdong duiwai maoyi ji qi dui shehui jingji de yingxiang" (Foreign trade in Guangdong during the Ming and Qing and its impact on society and the economy), in Ming Qing Guangdong shehui jingji xingtai yanjiu, ed. Guangdong lishi xuehui, 279–312. [BACK]

63. On the circulation of silver in Guangdong during the Ming-Qing period, see Chen Chunsheng, "Qing dai Guangdong de yin yuan liutong" (The circulation of silver dollars in Guangdong in the Qing), in Ming Qing Guangdong shehui jingji yanjiu, ed. Ming Qing Guang-dong sheng shehui jingji yanjiu hui (Guangzhou: Guangdong renmin chubanshe, 1987), 206–36. [BACK]

64. For comparison, see Fu Yiling, Ming Qing shidai shangren ji shangye ziben (Merchants and merchant capital in the Ming and Qing) (Beijing: Renmin chubanshe, 1956), on the sea trading groups from Fujian; and Ye Xian'en, Guangdong hangyun shi (Gudai bian) (The history of sea transport—volume on the premodern period) (Beijing: Remin jiaotong chubanshe, 1989), on the merchant groups from the port of Zhanglin near Shantou in eastern Guangdong. [BACK]

65. See Zhang Wenyin, "Ming Qing Guangdong zhongxi maoyi yu Zhongguo jindai maiban de qiyuan" (The East-West trade in Guangdong during the Ming and Qing and

the rise of the modern comprador), in Ming Qing Guangdong shehui jingji xingtai yanjiu, ed. Guangdong lishi xuehui, 313–48. [BACK]

66. Some material on Huicheng is drawn from Helen Siu, Agents and Victims, chaps. 2–5. When the chapters were written, they were not focused on the issues I am now exploring. I have also done a conscious rereading of the research materials for this essay. [BACK]

67. See Tan Dihua, Guangdong lishi wenti lunwen ji, 95. Also, according to a local saying, He Xiongxiang accumulated 350 qing of sands in his lifetime, which he divided among his sons before his death. Jiuzisha, a strip of river marshes he nonchalantly gave to his newborn ninth son after he had divided his estate, grew in value to 6,000 mu. While other properties were taken over or sold over the centuries, Jiuzisha remained the property of the ancestral estate He Wenyi Gong tang until the twentieth century. It was a testimony to the power of the He lineage in Huicheng. See He Zhuojian, "Shangshufang He shi fengjian zuzhi" (The feudal organization of the He lineage in Shangshufang), Xinhui wenshi ziliao 1 (1963): 51–56. [BACK]

68. There were the Tan lineage in Chengnan, the Mos of Nanmen, and the Xu of Nanbiantang. According to a document on the rules for the Xu lineage, the author lamented that "for a hundred years or so after the founding ancestor moved from Kaiping to Xinhui, the lineage was prosperous, with literati honors and commercial achievements; but in the last few decades, the lineage has sadly declined." See "Xinhui xiancheng Nanbiantang Xu xing zugang" (The lineage charter of the Xu in Nanbiantang of Xinhui county capital) (manuscript, Huicheng, 1936). In the late 1970s, the ancestral halls of the Mo lineage at the southern edge of Huicheng were still standing. [BACK]

69. For example, two lineage genealogies in the area recorded these events: Xinhui Sanjiang Zhaoshi zupu (The lineage genealogy of the Zhao surname of Sanjiang), and the Chaolian Lubian Lushi zupu (The lineage genealogy of the Lu surname in Lubian neighborhood of Chaolian). A Liang lineage genealogy in the neighboring Zhongshan county also recorded similar hardships. See (Zhongshan) Kanxi Liangshi zupu, 5a-5b, "Qianmu zupu xu" written in the twelfth year of Kangxi (1673), Zhongshan 1927 edition. [BACK]

70. For example, the founders of a Chen surname group settled in Tianma village (xiang) a few miles south of Huicheng during the Ming. A member of a seventh generation who was a degree holder moved to Wufuli, a neighborhood outside the southern gate of Huicheng. An ancestral hall was built for him in the fifteenth year of Jiaqing's reign (1711) in Wufuli. In the nineteenth century, his tablet was deposited in the Xi'nan shuyuan (academy) of Huicheng and in the higher-order lineage hall of the Chens at Xiguan, the merchants' quarter in Guangzhou. See Chen zu shi pu (The lineage genealogy of the Chen surname) (Huicheng, 1923). [BACK]

71. See Tan Dihua, Qingdai zhujiang sanjiaozhou de shatian (1991), 79. [BACK]

72. See "Zhiqing zuci luocheng gongding cigui fu zhengxin lu" (The hall regulations at the establishment of the Zhiqing ancestral hall, with a directory of donors attached) (n.p., 1901). [BACK]

73. Guan Xiekuang estimated that the fifteen largest grower-dryers of fan palms monopolized about 90 percent of the business; see Guan, "Jiefangqian Xinhui kuiye jingying gaikuang" (The fan palm business in Xinhui before liberation), Xinhui wenshi ziliao 12 (1983): 1–28. [BACK]

74. Under it were these guilds: the Lianxing gongzhan for the growers, Lianxing tang for the palm-drying fields, Tongren tang for fan-making shops, and Guangshun tang for the long-distance traders. [BACK]

75. According to a document of Jimei tang, a guild for palm-drying and fan-making businesses, 693 signed on as members between 1713 and 1845. [BACK]


76. See "Jimei tang huigui bu" (The rules of Jimei tang) (manuscript, Huicheng, n.d.). [BACK]

77. See Guan Xiekuang, "Jiefangqian Xinhui kuiye jingying gaikuang." [BACK]

78. See Mo Yinggui, "Ying shang Taigu yangheng jin bainian zai Huanan de yewu huodong yu Mo shi jiazu de guanxi" (The activities of the British company Butterfield and Swire in south China for the last hundred years and the relationship with the Mo lineage), Guangdong wenshi ziliao 44 (1985): 77–131. [BACK]

79. Members often advanced credit for growers with the expectation of a specific supply of fans at a set price. It was difficult to collect during harvest, when growers were tempted to sell to higher bidders. [BACK]

80. See Susan Mann, Local Merchants, chap. 7. See also Nie Ergang, Gangzhou gongdu (Public announcements while in office in Gangzhou) (n.p., 1863). [BACK]

81. See Guan, "Jiefangqian Xinhui kuiye jingying gaikuang"; Lin hengji folded before the Japanese war, and Liu yiji continued into the early years of the People's Republic. Land reform documents from the Xinhui Records Office (dang'an guan) reveal vast estates owned by Liu yiji. Members of these enterprises were powerful representatives in the guild and later in the Xinhui Chamber of Commerce; for the citrus peel enterprises, see He Zhuojian, "Jiefangqian de Xinhui chengpiye" (The citrus peel business in Xinhui before liberation), Xinhui wenshi ziliao 20 (1965): 111–21. [BACK]

82. For more detailed descriptions of the academies, please see Helen Siu, Agents and Victims, chap. 4. [BACK]

83. See also Helen Siu, "Recycling Tradition." [BACK]

84. The Red Turbans disturbance broke out in 1854 and spread to various parts of the Pearl River delta in 1855. The group was put down in the 1860s. [BACK]

85. For a general documentary history of the Red Turbans in Guangdong, see Guang-dong sheng wenshi yanjiu guan and Zhongshan daxue lishi xi, comp., Guangdong hongbing qiyi shiliao (The just uprisings of the Red Turbans in Guangdong), vol. 1 (Guangzhou: Guang-dong renmin chubanshe, 1992). For events around Huicheng, see Chen Xiangpu, Gangcheng zhenge ji (A chronicle of preparing for battle in Gangcheng) (n.p., 1855); Tan Zu'en, Xinhui jingbian shilue (An account of rebel suppression in Xinhui) (1855; reprint, Guangzhou: Zhongshan tushuguan, 1960). A record in Tan's accounts mentioned that the Fan Palm Guild was taken over by some rebel troops for a moment. [BACK]

86. The three townships were Chaolian (with established lineages of the Lu, Chen, Ou, and Pan surnames), Hetang (with the Rong and Li surnames), and Waihai (the Chens). Some notorious rebel leaders during the Red Turbans attacks also came from these townships. [BACK]

87. See Tan Dihua, Guangdong lishi wenti lunwen ji, 155–74, who quoted from "Yan chi Dongnan gongyue geshen lun" (On putting the gentry of the Dongnan alliance under strict order), in Gangzhou gongdu by Nie Ergang. [BACK]

88. In Guangzhou, for example, there were the jiu da shantang (Nine Great Charitable Associations). Apart from offering the usual relief for the poor, they diversified quickly into promoting new technologies, women's education, training for local self-government (difang zizhi), and maintaining public order. See Tang Yusheng, comp., Chuan Yue shehui shilu chupian (The initial compilation of social records of all Guangdong) (Guangzhou: Diaocha chuan Yue shehui chu, 1909). For a detailed analysis of the cultural and political impact of merchants in Hong Kong in the late nineteenth century, see a study of the Tung Wah Hospital by Elizabeth Sinn, Power and Charity (Hong Kong: Oxford University Press, 1989). A summary of her argument is found in "Philanthropy and the Business World," in Dynamic Hong

Kong: Business and Culture, ed. Wang Gungwu and Wong Siulun (Hong Kong: Centre of Asian Studies, the University of Hong Kong, 1997), 230–52. [BACK]

89. See "Xinhui cheng Tongshen shantang Renji yihui Taoze yihui Zequn yihui xizi shicha zhimai baigu ershiwu qi zhengxinlu" (The twenty-fifth directory of donations for Tonshen, Renji, Taoze, Zequn charity associations for welfare and burial in Xinhui) (Huicheng: Yixing, 1936). [BACK]

90. See Helen Siu, "Subverting Lineage Power: Local Bosses and Territorial Control in the 1940s," in Down to Earth, ed. David Faure and Helen Siu. [BACK]

91. See Lun Haibin, "Mani ren daohui ‘Minhui ribao’" (People from Mani ransacked ‘Minhui daily’) Xinhui wenshi ziliao 6 (1983): 47–50. [BACK]

92. The opening ceremonies of the festival were officiated by Liang Bingyun, head of the third district and an appointee of the Nationalist government, and He Naizhong, a local resident and onetime adviser to the warlord Feng Yuxiang. A trade fair was organized in Hefeng Shuyaun (academy), which had been built by lesser surnames in town to compete with the established lineages. [BACK]

93. See Zhongshan wenshi ziliao, nos. 1–3, for descriptions of the local bosses in the sands of Zhongshan county. The most powerful companies were the Minsheng gongsi (company), based in Xiaolan, and the Minli gongsi, based in Minzong, an outpost in the sands. [BACK]

94. He Yanggao, formerly a large landlord in Xiaolan and a local historian, estimated that in Sisha, a strip of sands southwest of Xiaolan, the area held by these bosses increased from 400 mu to about 7,500 after the war (personal interview, 1986). [BACK]

95. On a detailed analysis of the rise of the He lineage in Shawan, see Liu Zhiwei, "Lineage on the Sands: The Case of Shawan," in Down to Earth, ed. David Faure and Helen Siu, 21–43. Beidi was a popular deity in south China. In Shawan, local inhabitants had made it to symbolize the authority of the first emperor of the Ming dynasty. His temple, together with the Liugeng tang of the He lineage, was the cultural and political center of Shawan. [BACK]

96. The former were referred to as "female guns." They used force for defense. The latter were branded as "male guns." They supposedly used force to prey on others. [BACK]

97. I see this as the beginning of the cellularization of the villages in the twentieth century. The process reached its height in the Maoist period, when the administrative machinery of the Communist Party reigned supreme. See Siu, Agents and Victims. [BACK]

98. Ibid., chap. 5. See also chapter by Siu in Down to Earth, ed. David Faure and Helen Siu, on the reworking of the lineage tradition in three communities in the Pearl River delta. For the ritual efforts of militarists in other areas, see Edward McCord, The Power of the Gun: The Emergence of Modern Chinese Warlordism (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1993). [BACK]

99. See Nantian suiyue (The times under the southern sky), a special volume of Guangdong wenshi ziliao 37 (1987), on the warlord Chen Jitang in Guangdong during the 1930s. [BACK]

100. See Guan, "Jiefangqian Xinhui kuiye jingying gaikuang." [BACK]

101. There was Liang Hongye, whose father was a juror and who himself bought a minor degree. The other gentry leader was from the old He family of Huicheng, a He Ruoshan, who was head of the Xinhui Chamber of Commerce. [BACK]

102. See Mai Bingkun and Huang Xiaonan, "Xinhui cheng shangtuan shimuo" (The entire account of the merchant militia in Xinhui), Xinhui wenshi ziliao 3 (1965): 1–19. [BACK]

103. A document in 1948 listed members of the guild and their contracted growers. Among the growers were known local bosses. The documents also showed that many growers

did not deliver the contracted amount to the traders. See Xinhui xian kuishan shangye tongye gonghui, ed., Benhui huiyuan shanghao damai cewei yedian sanqi boli changbing shengbi shengshan laokui yi qingqi wei qingqi yi lan biao (A survey list of varying types of fan palm delivered [or not yet delivered] by the growers at Damai Cewei to member enterprises of our association) (Xinhui: n.p., 1948). [BACK]

104. See Siu, Agents and Victims, chaps. 4–5. See also Xinhui shuyuan dongshi licaiyuan, comp., "Choujian Xinhui shuyuan zhengxin lu" (The directory of donations for building the Xinhui Academy) (Huicheng: Yixing, 1927); and "Xinhui shuyuan gongding changji ji guanli zhangcheng" (The estate rituals of Xinhui Academy and its operating regulations) (Huicheng: Yixing, 1927). [BACK]

105. See "Xingjian Xinhui shuyuan de jingguo" (An account of the building of Xinhui Academy), Xinhui wenshi ziliao 2 (1964): 30–36, compiled by the journal's editors. [BACK]

106. See Xinhui cheng yuanhe shanghu weichi tuan, comp., "Chenghui Huihe lian'an puwei shimuo ji" (An account of redeeming the land attached to shops along the banks of Huicheng) (Huicheng: n.p., 1924). [BACK]

107. See Mo Rongfang and Xu Zhongtao, "Xinhui xian caicheng zulu de jingguo" (The account of tearing down the city and building roads in Xinhui county), Xinhui wenshi zilaio 2 (1964): 20–30. [BACK]

108. See David Faure, "Lineage Socialism and Community Control: Tanggang xiang in the 1920s," in Down to Earth, ed. David Faure and Helen Siu, 161–87. [BACK]

109. See Guangdong Gangzhou shangbu zhangcheng quanjuan (The complete constitution of the Gangzhou commercial port in Guangdong) (Hong Kong, 1911). See also an account of the planning of the port in Zhongguo shangye xinshi (New knowledge on China's commerce) (n.p., n.d.), 178–82. [BACK]

110. See He Zhiyi, "Xiangzhou kaibu jiqi shengshuai" (The opening of Xiangzhou port and its rise and decline), Guangdong wenshi ziliao 46 (1985): 87–97. [BACK]

111. See Liu Bogao, "Xinning tielu xingjian shi zai Xinhui yudao de difang shili de zunao ji qita" (The obstacles from local power groups met by the building of the Xinning Railway in Xinhui), Xinhui wenshi zilaio 9 (1983): 9–11. See also Zheng Dehua and Lucy Cheng, Taishan qiaoxiang yu Xinning tielu (Taishan, a land of emigrants and the Xinning Railway) (Guangzhou: Zhongshan daxue chubanshe, 1991). [BACK]

112. In Down to Earth, the contributors argue that local society in the delta was integrated into the Chinese imperial order through constant redefinitions of lineage, territory, ethnic identity, and religious rituals. They focus on the symbolic and instrumental means used by local inhabitants to position themselves within an evolving Chinese culture and polity. [BACK]

113. The term da tian er came from the Chinese domino game. It was used locally to describe local bosses who exerted dominance over a territory. [BACK]

114. This is the main argument in Agents and Victims, a historical account based on my ethnographic fieldwork in Xinhui. [BACK]

115. I have tried to deal with this question in previous publications: see Helen Siu, "Socialist Peddlers and Princes in a Chinese Market Town," American Ethnologist 16, no. 2 (May 1989): 195–212; "The Politics of Migration in a Market Town," in China on the Eve of Tiananmen, ed. Deborah Davis and Ezra Vogel (Harvard University Press, 1990), 61–82; and "The Reconstitution of Brideprice and Dowry in South China," in Chinese Families in the Post-Mao Era, ed. Deborah Davis and Stevan Harrell (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press 1993), 165–88. [BACK]


116. There may be conflicts of interest among levels of government and between center and region, but the connections with the state bureaucracy remain important for good business. See Elizabeth Perry, "China in 1992: An Experiment in Neo-authoritarianism," Asian Survey 33, no. 1 (January 1993): 12–22; see Dorothy Solinger, Chinese Transition from Socialism: Statist Legacies and Marketing Reforms, 1980–1990 (New York: Sharpe, 1993); see also Jean Oi, "The Role of the Local State in China's Transitional Economy," China Quarterly 144 (December 1995): 1132–49, on local state corporatism. [BACK]

117. See Siu, "Community Festivals in South China: Economic Transformation and Cultural Improvisations," in China Review, ed. Lo Chikin et al. (Hong Kong: Chinese University Press, 1995), chap. 16, 1–17. [BACK]

118. See Helen Siu, "Redefining the Market Town through Festivals in Contemporary South China," in Town and Country in China: Identity and Perception, ed. David Faure and Tao Tao Liu (Basingstoke, England: Macmillan, forthcoming). [BACK]

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