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2014 Lien Ling-Ling, Paola Zamperini & Louise Edwards

Popular Media in Republican China

Reading popular media is a way of approaching contemporary life styles and experiences, or dreams thereof. Popular media provide access to what Raymond Williams has called “actual culture“—the meanings and values of everyday life. To penetrate this level of culture, this seminar focuses on the shifting literary, linguistic, visual, and social registers embodied in China’s popular media. The course makes use of a number of new databases available to the study of these media.
Three distinguished scholars attempt to restore the ways these periodicals were read, viewed, and received to address issues of life style, class and gender and to retrieve to what extent and how these media have played an important role in creating role models in the long 20th century. Reading popular media in this course will thus be a way to gain new insights into the complexity of historical experience and the foundations of mental imaginaries as they became sedimented in the cultural memory of this period.

Moodle password:

Late April/early May
Introduction (Barbara Mittler)

Part I: 26.5.-30.5.
Globalizing Entertainment: Republican Xiaobao and Department Store Publications
(Dr. Lien Ling-ling, Associate Research Fellow, Institute of Modern History, Academia Sinica) <>

This section of the course will focus on department stores in Republican Shanghai to see how mass media was intertwined with capitalist culture, which in turn reshaped urban landscape and daily life. First appearing in the mid-nineteenth century, the department store represented “a revolution in retailing.” Among those innovative strategies stood out the advertisements that not only conveyed information about new commodities but also transformed consumerist mindsets. In particular, the department store took advantage of mass media to recreate commercial culture that justified entertainment-oriented consumption as essential to modern life.
This part of the course will introduce department stores’ publications, including xiaobao and magazines, to see how the new media served the entrepreneurial purpose while bridging the realms of modern business and new culture. In format, the course consists of a series of mini lectures that provide the basic background of each topic and group discussions of reading assignments in both Chinese and English.
Please note: All the Chinese texts listed below are chapters of my book manuscript “Making the Paradise of Consumption: Department stores and urban living in modern Shanghai.”  Please do not cite or circulate without my written permission.


The coming of global entertainment: department stores in modern Shanghai
Ling-ling Lien, “Genesis of the Entertainment: the Emergence of Department Stores in Modern Shanghai” (in Chinese).
Ling-ling Lien, "From the Retailing Revolution to the Consumer Revolution: Department Stores in Modern Shanghai," Frontiers of History in China 4:3 (September 2009), pp. 358-389.

27.5. 14-16

Guides to a global paradise: department stores’ entertainment parks and their newspapers
Catherine Yeh, “Guides to a Global Paradise: Shanghai Entertainment Park Newspapers and the Invention of Chinese Urban Leisure,” in Christiane Brosius and Roland Wenzlhuemer eds., Transcultural Turbulences: Towards a Multi-Sited Reading of Image Flows (Heidelberg: Springer, 2011), pp. 97-131.
Ling-ling Lien, “Entertainment on the Rooftop” (in Chinese).

28.5. 14-16

Envisioning modern living: advertisements of department stores
Barbara Mittler, “Gendered Advertising in China: What History do Images tell?” European Journal of Chinese Studies 6:1 (2007), pp. 13-41.
Ling-ling Lien, “Shopping: Vision of Fashion Consumption” (in Chinese).

28.5. 16-18

Cultivating lifestyles: mediasphere of department stores
Joan Judge, “Everydayness as a Critical Category of Gender Analysis: The Case of Funu shibao (The Women’s Eastern Times),” in Research on Women in Modern Chinese History 20 (2012), pp. 1-26.
Ling-ling Lien, “Leisure Reading: Cultivation of Lifestyles” (in Chinese).

30.5. 14-16

How “small” are the “small newspapers” (xiaobao)?  Tabloid press in the late Qing and Republican eras
Wang Juan, “Imagining Citizenship: The Shanghai Tabloid Press, 1897-1911,” Twentieth-Century China 35:1 (November 2009), pp. 29-53.
Catherine Yeh, “Shanghai Leisure, Print Entertainment, and the Tabloids, xiaobao,” in Rudolf G. Wagner ed., Joining the Global Public: Word, Image, and City in Early Chinese Newspapers (Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 2007), pp. 201-233.

Part II: 20.6.-21.6.
Globalizing Narratives in Republican China: Fictions and Canons of Femininity in Republican Discourse (Prof. Paola Zamperini, Associate Professor, Chinese Literature and Gender Studies, Northwestern University)
paola Zamperini <>

This part of the course explores the dynamic and protean spaces in which editors, film directors, actresses, and authors imagined, explored and performed possible configurations of modernity and femininity in the Republican period. The course will focus specifically on three sites of narrative production and consumption in terms of visual and literary fictionalities, namely the women’s journal, the film, and the short story. Such locales will allow us to think in depth about “women” as at once sites of cultural discourse, subjects and objects of representations, as well as performers, authors, and accomplices in creating new fabrics for female (and, by default) male identities. We will thus especially focus on the notion of narrative spaces as architectonically meaningful in the formation of new jing 經, meant here as both warps and canons, intended to guide, reflect, and shape new articulations of identity for Chinese readers wedged between the local and the global at the beginning of the twentieth century.

Recommended readings:

Leo Ou-fan Lee. Shanghai Modern: The Flowering of a New Urban Culture in China, 1930-1945. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1999.
David Der-wei Wang. Fin-de-siecle Splendor: Repressed Modernities of Late Qing Fiction, 1849-1911. Stanford: Stanford University. Press, 1997.
Eileen Chang: Romancing Languages, Cultures and Genres, edited by Kam Louie. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2012. Johannesburg: Picador Africa, 2011. (Please note that this entire book is available as e-book through Project Muse).

20.6. 9-11

Weapons of Mass Reproduction. Fabricating Fictions in Funü shibao 婦女時報
Assignments: For this first class, I will ask each of you to read architecturally, as it were, and examine closely Funü shibao 婦女時報’s Issues No. 1 (11 June, 1911), No. 15 (01 November, 1914), and No. 21 (31 March, 1917), available at the website
Specific guidelines will follow for both readers and non-readers of Chinese. Kindly make sure to read also all the four sections that introduce the magazine’s history and other details available here

20.6. 11-13

A Thousand Modernities— Staging Women in Xinnüxing 新女性 (and Beyond)
Assignments: Watch Xinnüjing Xinnüxing 新女性New Wome/an, available streaming
For those students who do not know Chinese, you can find the translation of the movie’s dialogue and intertitles here
Please also watch Center Stage (1992) by Stanley Kwan

Story of the New Woman as a tragedy: the journals that created the space destroy her!
What are the difficulties on the path of superwoman?
Money as bad! Influence and power is in men’s hands, but they are doing
Women have talents, music, writing etc. sets of skills and talents, but not able to put them to productive use! Restriction in terms of ressources, exemplified by money…
Suicide as a traditional motif
Wei Ming vs. Ah Ying why is Ah Ying not the “new woman”…after all
Question of sexuality: as a problem not a solution, FREE LOVE as a problem not a solution
Sexuality in the women’s journal…
The New Woman Incident
Ai Xia killing herself after she stars in the film she herself wrote called xiandai yi nüxing 現代一女性
Reality meeting the narrative of the new woman.

Funeral of Ruan Lingyu attended by more people than at an emperor’s funeral. Laid in state and visitors are numberous, corpse in public display
Retains a very strong audience in spite of the journalists’

NEW LOVE Suicide as the way out, here, too, does that show that the system has not changed at all?
Narrative of vengeance in female suicide that connect it to traditional suicide, injustice suffered in the letters that are left.

Aspirations of a modern woman simply cannot be taken up, sublime aspirations possible from the point of view of imagining, but as acutally women enter these new spaces, they encounter overwhelming challenges
Hypocrisy about the new possibilities for women which indeed turn out to be no possibilities after all

Lu Xun 人言可畏 1934, but what about on Chastity in this context it is very early 1918
Difficulty of occupying a stable subject position, almost impossible
Does not find alternative modes of masculinity and femininity

Reading the suicides can be read as acts of empowerment and resistance, but they can also be seen as utterances and expressions of these challenges.

1939 Hollywood Movie The Women, parallel situation? Reputation tainted by journalists who expose their husbands’ affairs…  gossip and a woman’s identity.

21.6. 14-16

A Woman’s Heart— Warped Subjectivities in Xinjing 心經
Assignments: Zhang Ailing’s story Xinjing Heart Sutra, in its entirety. As no translation of this story exists in English, as far as I know, if you do not know Chinese, I will make available a short synopsis of the text; Kam Louie, Introduction, 1-13, in Eileen Chang: Romancing Languages, Cultures and Genres, edited by Kam Louie.
Recommended reading: Paola Zamperini, “A Family Romance. Incest and Filial Piety in Zhang Ailing’s Xinjing,” draft paper, as yet unpublished.

Part III: 23.6.-27.6.
Globalizing Gender in Republican China: Readings of Women in Magazines and Pictorials (Prof. Louise Edwards, Professor, Modern Chinese History, University of New South Wales, Sydney) <>

This part of the course explores the varied roles that representations of women have performed in the commercial and political publications of Republican China as readers, authors, illustrators and publishers became increasingly conscious of China’s position in a rapidly globalizing world. We explore the gendered aspects of a changing China in this tumultuous period through various magazines’ and pictorials’ depictions of fashion, film, politics, war, and feminism. We examine the ways anxieties about globalization are manifest in a gendered frame. Each lecture explores an area of current or previous research by Louise Edwards and one of the readings for each session is a paper authored by her. In addition, students will be introduced to excerpts from a variety of Chinese magazines as well as secondary sources on Republican China.

23.6. 9-11

Changing conceptions of beauty:
100 Beauties in the late Qing and early republic—modernization as westernization?

Core text:

Edwards, Louise (2014) ‘Modern Beauties of Republican China: Desiring a Civilized Woman’. Draft paper, as yet unpublished.

Primary Sources and Additional Texts:

Ding Song (1918, rpt. 2004) Minguo fengqing baimeitu (One Hundred Beauties of the Republican Mode). Beijing: Zhongguo wenlian chubanshe. [predominantly illustrations for preview skim viewing]
Shen Bochen (1913, rpt. 2010) Xin xin baimei tu (Brand New Illustrated One Hundred Beauties). Ed. Wu Haoran. Jinan: Qilu shushe. [predominantly illustrations for preview skim viewing]
Wu Youru (1893, rpt. 1998) Gu jin baimei tu. Changsha: Hunan meishu chubanshe. [predominantly illustrations for preview skim viewing]

24.6. 9-11

Chinese imaginings of a depraved America—Linglong magazine creating new space for women

Core text:

Edwards, Louise (2012) ‘The Shanghai Modern Woman’s American Dreams: Imagining America’s Depravity to Produce China’s “Moderate Modernity”’ Pacific Historical Review, vol. 81, no. 4: 567-601.

Primary Sources and Additional Texts:

Mittler, Barbara (2007) ‘In spite of gentility: women and men in Linglong (Elegance), a 1930s women’s magazine,’ in Daria Berg and Chloe Starr eds, The Quest for Gentility in China: Negotiations Beyond Gender and Class. London: Routledge.
Lin Zemin (1931) ‘Modeng nüzi de mingjing—Shang & Xia’ [Mirror for the modern girl, Parts One & Two] Linglong 1 (March 18): 18 and Linglong 2 (March 25): 55.
Liang Peiqin (1931) “Wo de jiaoji” [My social life], Linglong, 1 (March 18): 10–11.
Linglong can be accessed through this website:

24.6. 11-13

Localizing cinema celebrities in 1930s Shanghai—Linglong magazine creating intimate strangers in global film-star consumption

Core text:
Edwards, Louise (2014) ‘Localizing celebrity: Hollywood stars in 1930s Shanghai’—Draft paper, as yet unpublished.

Primary Sources and Additional Texts:
Long (1933) ‘Li Lili bu shi Lu Xun’ [Lillian Li doesn’t know who Lu Xun is], 109 (September 6): 1585.
Long (1934) ‘Li Lili de qianming shouce’ [Lillian Li signing her books], 132 (28 February): 445.
Long (1934) ‘Li Lili de shenghuo’ [Lillian Li’s life], 150 (August 15): 1641.

5.6. 11-13

War and propaganda—the use and abuse of illustrations of women’s bodies

Core text:

Edwards, Louise (2014) ‘Drawing Sexual Violence in Wartime China: Anti-Japanese Propaganda Cartoons’ Journal of Asian Studies, vol. 72, no. 3 (August): 563-586.

Primary Sources and Additional Texts:

Wang Dunqing (1937) ‘Manhua zhan’ [Cartoon War] Jiuwang manhua, 1 rpt. in Shen Jianzhong ed., Kangzhan manhua (Shanghai: Shanghai kexueyuan chubanshe, 2005): 5-6.
Wang Zimei (1937). ‘Manhua jiuwang shidai’ [Cartoons in the age of national salvation] Jiuwang manhua, 2, rpt. in Shen Jianzhong ed., Kangzhan manhua (Shanghai: Shanghai kexueyuan chubanshe, 2005): 21–22.
Liu Shaofei (1938) ‘Kangzhan yu manhua’ [War and Cartoons], Kangzhan manhua 1 (January 1): 7218-19.


Prof. Dr. Kam Louie (Prof. em. Hong Kong University)
Journey to the East:
Global Travels of Chinese Masculinity Ideals in the 21st Century

In this presentation, I show how Chinese masculinity ideals have transformed more fundamentally in the last 20 years than any other time in the last two thousand. I will briefly rehearse the main characteristics of the wen-wu 文武 dyad (cultural attainment - martial prowess) that I have identified as a uniquely Chinese masculinity ideal and how it was designed and used by the (male) privileged classes for dominance in traditional and modern times. I then trace the trajectory of wen-wu symbols as they move abroad after ‘China’s Rise’.
I will put forward several reasons to explain how the wen-wu paradigm has changed beyond recognition in the 21st century. Many commentators claim ‘Westernization’ as a transformative force in this process. Without downplaying this simplistic explanation, I go further and look at ‘Easternization’, that is the influence of Japan and Korea. I will also look at the role played by women and adolescents. I argue that Chinese masculine ideals are no longer molded or possessed just by Chinese men, but it is now inclusive of women, children and foreign men as well.


War and internationalism—International Women’s Day in wartime women’s magazines

Core text:

Edwards, Louise (forthcoming 2014-2015) ‘International Women’s Day in China: Feminism meets Militarized Nationalism and Competing Political Party Programs,’ Asian Studies Review.

Primary Sources and Additional Texts:

Shen Zijiu (1937) Xie zai sanbajie zhi qian’ [Written before IWD], Funü shenghuo 4(4): 1.
 ‘Jinnian’ (1937) ‘Jinnian de “sanba” jie’ [This year’s IWD], Funü shenghuo 4(6): 26-29.
Ji Hong (1939) ‘Shanghai, Wuhan, Chongqing: Guanyu benshe jinian “sanba” de huiyi’ [Shanghai, Wuhan, Chongqing: On the meetings of this association to commemorate IWD], Funü shenghuo 7(3): 10.

2.7. 11-13

Final Discussion (Barbara Mittler)