This book argues that modernity first arrived in late nineteenth-century Shanghai via a new spatial configuration. This city’s colonial capitalist development ruptured the traditional configuration of self-contained households, towns, and natural landscapes in a continuous spread, producing a new set of fragmented as well as fluid spaces. In this process, Chinese sojourners actively appropriated new concepts and technology rather than passively responding to Western influences. Liang maps the spatial and material existence of these transient people and reconstructs a cultural geography that spreads from the interior to the neighbourhood and public spaces.
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Through reading contemporaneous literary and visual sources, the book charts a hybrid modern development that stands in contrast to the positivist conception of modern progress. As such it will be a provocative read for scholars of Chinese cultural and architectural history.
"The great strength of this book is its focus on the spatial rather than the temporal; Shanghai’s urban spaces are brought vividly to life. The book contributes greatly to our understanding of what modernity really meant to the Chinese residents of Shanghai." - Jonathan Howlett: The China Quarterly, December 2011
"Studies of modern Shanghai have disproportionately focused on the city in the early twentieth century, particularly in the Republican era. Liang’s work is a welcome remedy to this obvious imbalance in the field. For its glimpse of life in late nineteenth-century Shanghai and for its rethinking of issues related to city, gender, and modernity, it will be a useful handbook for historians and students of cultural studies." - HANCHAO LU, Georgia Institute of Technology; The Journal of Asian Studies
Introduction 1. Fluid Tradition, Splintered Modernity 2. The Convergence of Writing and Commerce 3. Ephemeral Households, Marvelous Things 4. The Meeting of Courtyard and Street 5. Ultimate Ingenuity, Amorphous Crowds 6. The Mingling of Magnates and Masses Conclusion